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New Holiday Traditions

It’s safe to say the holidays will look a little different this year, and that could mean some of your family’s tried and tested traditions are off the table.

With festive events around Calgary limiting their capacity - if running at all - and gatherings are being reduced, it’s the perfect time to start a new close-to-home ritual. If all goes well, in the years to come you can tell the story of how this custom came out of uncertainty and grew into a loved family event.

Here is a list of classic and unique family traditions to start in 2020!

Make a yearly tree ornament. Decorating the tree every year is a family-favorite tradition, so why not up the stakes by making a new ornament with the kids every season? In the years to come when you hang it on the tree, you will reflect on that year and have stories to share with each other.

Do a holiday scavenger hunt. If the weather is good enough, it’s nice to get out and about - even if there aren’t the usual events around the city. Put together a list of things you might see on a walk around your neighborhood, have the kids check them off, and reward everyone afterward for participating by enjoying hot chocolate topped with marshmallows. 

Christmas Eve sleepover. Let the kids all sleep in one room on Christmas Eve. Sure, it could be chaos - or it could be the memory they cherish for a lifetime!

Ice skate on a frozen lake. Indoor events may be a bit trickier this season, but it gives light to new ways of doing things. Around Calgary, we have some of the most beautiful lakes in the country, and by Christmas they are usually ready for skating. If the time is right, you can catch a lake with no snow just perfect for a family glide. My personal favorite is Lake Minnewanka because of the phenomenal methane bubbles frozen into the icy depths.

Read 'Twas The Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve. You’ve seen it in all the movies - and there is a reason. Reading Clement Clarke Moore’s 'Twas The Night Before Christmas before tucking the children into bed invokes the perfect Christmas memory.

Custom advent calendars. Who needs more chocolate over Christmas? Or wants to spend a ton of money on toy advent calendars that your kids don’t touch the moment they finish opening the daily door? With enough foresight, you can create your own custom advent tradition. Buy a refillable calendar from a local business or get creative and leave the daily gifts in certain spots around the house for your kids to find every morning until Christmas day. Custom advent calendars allow you to tailor the surprise to your family (and include more than chocolate or cheap plastic toys).

Connect via video conferencing. It might not be an ideal way to see your relatives over the holidays but if all else fails, there are many video-conferencing programs that can connect your loved ones virtually. You can still share a Christmas dinner or watch each other open gifts, even if you can’t physically be together.

Ugly sweater party. Laughter is the best medicine, so why not get the family dressed up in ugly sweaters for a fun night, and take a silly picture while you are at it? Any excuse for a family photo is a good one; especially when it might make you giggle to look back on in the years to come.

Christmas Eve pajamas. Let the kids open up one gift on Christmas Eve - and make it PJs every year! Bonus: everyone will look super cute when they wake up on Christmas morning.

Neighbor stockings. Everyone can use a bit of cheer this year, so why not play the role of Santa around your neighborhood? Hang little gift bags filled with holiday items on your neighbors’ door knobs. It’s socially distant and super fun for the kids to help with. Plus, it teaches the gift of giving!

Gingerbread decorating contest. Decorating gingerbread is a classic holiday activity, so why not throw a little spin on things with a family challenge? Either make your own gingerbread pieces or buy some premade from the store, gather all the decorating supplies, and set up a big space for the family to get messy. Choose the winner by random draw or do blind voting between the participating family members (you can’t vote for yourself, of course!).

Christmas Eve dinner delivered. Who has time to cook all holiday season? Why not start a tradition of ordering food in on Christmas Eve? It saves dishes and valuable time. A win-win!

Other traditions to start in 2020:

  • Write a year-in-review email to send to family.

  • Work on a large Christmas puzzle over the holidays.

  • Research another country’s holiday traditions and incorporate one into your own each year.

  • Have a Christmas movie marathon.

  • Write a letter to Santa.

  • Donate to a charity of your choice.

  • Go for a drive to look at Christmas lights.

  • Read a different holiday book the 24 nights in December leading up to Christmas.

  • Create holiday cards and send them to hospitalized children or nursing homes.

  • Go socially-distanced carolling around the neighborhood.

Genevieve is a mom of two, works in marketing, and writes in her (very minimal) free time. Follow her funny mom alter-ego on Instagram @CryItOutMom.


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