'Tis the season for shopping for presents, cooking fancy meals, decorating our homes for the holidays, and celebrating with friends and family. The holidays are a fun and exciting time, but all of that fun can start to stretch the pocketbook. No matter your budget, families can still enjoy meaningful holiday traditions.
1. Make cookies for Santa (and for others). Bake some special cookies for Santa, but set aside a few dozen for local firefighters or police officers and deliver them with your kids.
2. Have a holiday movie marathon. Watch your favorite holiday movies as a family while enjoying popcorn, hot cocoa, and candy canes.
3. Make an ornament. Each year as a family, make a new ornament for your Christmas tree. When the kids move out, they will have a box full of decorations for their own tree. Easy ideas could be salt dough ornaments or filling a plastic ball with photos, ticket stubs, or glitter and adding the date.
4. Christmas countdown. Create a homemade advent calendar with construction or scrapbook paper.
5. Holiday tunes. Play holiday music each morning as you are getting ready for your day.
6. Lights tour. Load up the family car and go on a tour of holiday light displays around the city.
7. Provide a meal. Check the needs of a local food pantry and help them stock up on items that can be used for holiday dinners.
8. Family pajamas. Pick out matching pajamas for the whole family to wear on Christmas morning. For a lower-cost option, use plain colored T-shirts and basic flannel pants.
9. Bless others. Have the kids pick out a new toy to donate to a local charity that provides gifts to children in need. Also consider sorting through old toys and clothing to donate to charity before any new gifts arrive.
10. Visit Santa. Take the kids to visit Santa, or write him a letter and mail it.
11. Coat drive. Start a coat drive by going through your closet and donating gently-used items no longer needed to those less fortunate. Collect new socks, toques, and gloves in your community to donate as well.
12. Go on a sleigh ride. A sleigh ride is a great way to get into the holiday spirit! (Don’t forget the hot cocoa.)
13. Caroling. Gather friends and family together, and go caroling at a local nursing home.
14. Holiday hunt. Fill Easter eggs with Christmas candy or hide candy canes around the house and let the children loose!
15. Make reindeer food. Mix rolled oats with red and green sugar sprinkles. Have the kids sprinkle it on the lawn before bed for the reindeer to snack on while Santa is visiting your home.
16. Holiday reads. Collect holiday books, wrap them in festive paper, and have the kids open and read one each day leading up to the big day. Consider adding one new book each year.
17. Campout. After trimming and decorating the Christmas tree, get out the sleeping bags and ‘camp out’ under it for the night.
18. Breakfast. Make a big breakfast Christmas morning. Make a breakfast casserole that can be prepared the night before so you can enjoy the morning with your family.
Sarah is a wife, and a mother of six children.
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