Starting New Holiday Traditions with Your Family

My family had some unique holiday traditions when I was young. I knew very early on in my marriage I wanted to add new family traditions of our own, once we had children. If you’re like me, one of the best parts about being a parent is watching the glee in your children’s eyes during occasions like birthdays and holidays. So how did we decide on new traditions to start? I let them organically happen once my daughter was born. Looking back at the traditions we started, all of them are in line with three major values we hold: family, giving, and community. Here are some of the fun traditions we have adopted and a few we’ve lovingly continued:

A couple’s holiday outing

Traditions With Family

  • The Present Game” – a loud, raucous, hilarious game that’s been played in our family for 50+ years.  How do you play? Get the entire family, usually 20+ people, around a collection of mismatched folding tables. Pass around several pairs of dice – if you roll doubles, you win a gift from the mountainous pile of wrapped prizes in the middle of the table. (It’s basically a requirement to use the left-over scraps from the end of your wrapping paper rolls so that there are perennial patterns from the depths of your wrapping bins.) There is competition, laughter, and camaraderie. All the makings of a great family tradition.
  • The Magic of Santa – For me, the Christmas season begins on Thanksgiving. It starts with Santa’s debut at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade on TV while we prep for company and wait for football to start. For my daughter though, Christmas starts post-Thanksgiving dinner, when we sit down and write her letter to Santa. Once written, she and her Grandpa take it to the mailbox to top the day off with the excitement of the beginning of the Christmas season. Then we anxiously await Santa’s return letter. Santa, or rather my extremely talented and creative stepmom, returns a letter, gilt in gold and sealed with Santa’s official North Pole seal (a Cricut masterpiece). We open the amazing parcel while sitting around the Christmas tree. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the look of pure magic and belief on my daughter’s face the first time she opened that letter. Having a participating crafty person help you to create the perfect, personalized letter from Santa (and have it dropped in your mailbox on an agreed-upon day) is a way to not add a task to your holiday season to-do list, and get favorite loved ones involved in the magic.
A golden letter from Santa

Giving Traditions

  • Donating to a charity that aligns with our family’s values – Charitable giving hasn’t always been in our family’s budget. However, since we’ve been able to afford to give, we chose charities that touch our hearts. Whether it’s St. Jude’s or the Greater Lansing Foodbank, the charity we choose always speaks to us personally and usually offers a convenient way to give online. And as always, with these charities, every dollar counts.
  • Hope for the Holidays Campaign – Each year, Child and Family Charities hosts the “Hope for the Holidays” campaign. Through this local program, you can choose how much your family wants to spend and the ages of the children you’d like to shop for. Based on that, the organization will assign you a family in need to provide holiday gifts for. Our family attempts to shop for a child near my daughter’s age for two reasons. First, we’re sure to know what the children are into and would be excited to receive. Secondly, getting our daughter involved in picking out the gift really helps to plant the seed of charity early on. The fun of shopping for others and the warmth of giving is what has become the tradition for us.

Community Traditions

  • Wonderland of Lights at Potter Park Zoo – Right here in the Lansing area, exists a great event that combines animals, Christmas lights, hot cocoa, and of course Santa! Our hometown zoo offers the Wonderland of lights. Throughout the holiday season families can take an evening trip to the zoo to enjoy a spirited light display. Bundle up and bring your favorite warm beverage, and don’t forget to swing by Santa’s shop. We’ve recently made this a tradition in our family and love to join our favorite neighbors for this one. The kids love to be together and get some energy out. Check out the Potter Park Zoo website for times and dates.
Potter Park Zoo’s Wonderland of Lights
  • Holiday Music Concerts – The holidays are not just for the kids. My husband is the exact opposite of the Grinch is. He just loves the Christmas season. Early on in our relationship, we started the tradition of attending a holiday concert during the season. There are usually plenty of options right here in the Lansing area, whether at Wharton Center or even your nearby high school’s choir or band concert – whatever it takes to stay in the spirit of the season.

As you can see, our family traditions span the years past and recent times. For us, it’s about turning the family experiences that we’ve come to love into intentional traditions moving forward. Whether they’re time-tested traditions from your childhood or ideas you plan to adopt, it’s never too late to make unique memories with your family this holiday season!

Kristin Ray
Kristin is a children’s author, blogger, and public speaker. She is the proud mother of one amazing daughter and wife to a supremely supportive husband. She is dedicated to intentionally equipping women and girls with the knowledge and power to move through life with confidence. Kristin is a native of Lansing, Michigan, and a graduate of Michigan State University.


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