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Traditions with a Twist

I grew up in a wonderful home with traditions that have shaped how I try and make the holidays special for my husband and two kids. I remember year after year listening to German Christmas carols as we decorated the tree.

My mother wrapped every picture in our house up like a present and then hung it back on the wall while we each had our favorite hot drink. In my opinion, traditions are incredibly valuable so I collected some favorites from Calgary families. I hope to add some new twists to keep the holidays exciting, engaging and relevant for all the unique personalities that make up a family.

Gingerbread… forest?
Gingerbread houses are a great activity that can involve family members of all ages and abilities. Try shaking it up and creating a cowboy town, a mountain lodge or Santa’s workshop! If you don’t have a store-bought house or have the ingredients to make your own from scratch, just use graham crackers and get everyone to bring whatever candy they have in their house.

Advent calendar of activities. Advent calendars with chocolates are a wonderful way to count down to the big day. It is very easy to add a little extra surprise for the kids by adding some activities to do, written on the inside of the door. You could also draw pictures so the kids would see, for example, that on December 14th we get to go tobogganing! You could add ice skating, baking cookies, making snowmen or decorating the tree.

Camping under the Christmas tree. It could be for even a half-hour. Sleeping bags, hot chocolate and the family (animals included!). A great opportunity for conversation with your little ones and sharing excitement of the holiday.

Pajamas on Christmas Eve. Many people I have talked to get new pajamas for their kids on Christmas Eve. Why not save them and bring them out to see how your kids have grown each year? The jammies with a fuzzy bunny riding in a sleigh may momentarily embarrass your teenager but it is sure to bring a smile to mom’s and dad’s face.

Ornaments. If you let the kids get involved in choosing an ornament for their siblings, you may get to get a glimpse into how they see things. They can use what they know about others’ favorite color, animal, sport or toy to show love to their family.

Letters to Santa. I think writing to Santa is a great activity for children and parents to do together. As a former volunteer ‘helper’ to Santa (for Canada Post), I know that he liked it when children included wishes for those in need or when they shared how they showed kindness to others throughout the year.

Secret Santa gives back. Many holiday parties include a $5 or $10 secret gift exchange. How about pooling that money and picking a charity to donate to? Change it up every year and get your children involved in the decisions.

Hot chocolate-mocha-frappa… what? Children have great imaginations and why not let them use it to create their own special holiday drink? Display a buffet of choices, such as marshmallows, caramel, sprinkles, chocolate chips, whipped cream and candy canes.

Christmas lights. Everywhere! Spread the magic of Christmas lights into your child’s bedroom, the basement or the kitchen. Why not?

Personalized wrapping paper. Get some brown (cheap!) parchment paper and let the kids get into the holiday spirit. Grandma and Grandpa will likely love seeing the little handprints, letters and pictures and appreciate the extra involvement from the kids.

I still decorate the Christmas tree in our home listening to those German Christmas carols, pictures wrapped, as my mother would have done. Now I have a few more traditions to sprinkle into my children’s memories and hope you do as well.

Tamara has a Bachelor of Applied Child Studies degree and a Children’s Mental Health certificate. She has been working with children and families for over 12 years, and is a proud mother of two.


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