Like many people, the holidays are my favorite time of year. In a phenomenon that no one seems to understand, people are more generous, kind and patient than the rest of the year combined. We share joyful sayings on street corners, give gifts and are all around better people. There’s also the added bonus of festive music and food- but that’s not why I love the holidays.
I love this time of year because of the many memories I have celebrating them throughout my life. Much of those are rooted in family traditions that were created and carried out by my parents for most of my childhood. I never realized how important they were to me until I got married and foisted them upon my new husband. To me, they were non-negotiable. Now, one of the most exciting things about having a family of my own is giving the same experience to my daughter, and capturing them forever on film and with products from wonderful brands like Tiny Prints.
Traditions, or rituals, aren’t just the mindless habit of doing the same thing, year after year. They are the symbolic representation that gives each family their unique identity. Even though most of us have the strongest traditions during the holidays, any consistent routine of regular dinners and outings help define the identity of your family, as well as foster a sense of belonging in our children. In turn, kids who come from families where parents place a high emphasis on maintaining traditions are more likely to have increased emotional skills, overall happiness and even more success in academics. At the very least, your children will cling to their traditions and will probably carry on strong relationships with you as their parents into adulthood. I know I have!
Creating traditions is not difficult, and the perfect time to start is during the holidays. You don’t have to go overboard, just start with a handful that you can carry on through the celebratory season. Over the years, the number of traditions may grow, or you may adapt new ones as your kids get older. I’ve come up with some simple ideas that you can use to jump start your new family traditions.
1. Create Family Holiday Cards
Photos are one of the best ways to capture memories, and what better way to showcase your beautiful family memories than with a holiday card? This year, I designed our holiday card with Tiny Prints. Whether you took your family photos in September or just this morning, Tiny Prints has awesome customer service that works 7 days a week and they’ve designed their site to help get your card designed, created, and mailed to you quickly. Tiny Prints has introduced a great new collection that includes foil, glitter and gate fold cards in addition to their traditional flat cards for this upcoming holiday season. Let me tell you, it was difficult to pick just one, but I settled on the “Wonderful Shine” glitter design (because can you ever have enough glitter around the holidays?). Tiny Prints has professionally designed styles that range from traditional to modern. To make your life ever easier, Tiny Prints has kicked it up a level- they now offer FREE address printing with a purchase of custom envelopes! No more sitting at the dining room table addressing tons of envelopes because Tiny Prints will take care of it for you! You can also pick out tons of other details, like designs for the back of your card and coordinating labels for a full custom experience. No matter how late in the game it is, you can still create a gorgeous card with Tiny Prints this holiday season. Besides, It’s not just a holiday card, it’s a wonderful memory preserved for years to come!
2. Pick Out A Christmas Tree As A Family
If you’re a family that has a live tree (as opposed to bringing down your fake tree from the attic), a great way to create a new tradition is to visit a tree lot as a family. Here in Southern California, this is definitely a novelty and there are just a few places where we can pick out a tree that’s still growing in the ground. It’s also pretty warm here still in November, which is why you can see us dressed quite cooly in our photo above! No matter where you live, you can still make the family trek to a local tree lot and create wonderful memories. Take your camera and capture the kids going down the rows of trees, as well as a family photo op. This is destined to find it’s way into your annual scrapbook!
3. Make Homemade Ornaments
In our house, I love making salt dough ornaments. They are inexpensive, easy and so simple to involve your kids. You can use cookie cutters to make shapes, or have the kids make handprint or fingerprint ornaments. I love having one for every year, so I can see how big my daughter is growing. They also make great grandparent gifts! You can find a recipe for salt dough right here!
4. Give New Pajamas On Christmas Eve
If you love having the kids matching on Christmas morning in coordinated pajamas, turn it into a tradition! In our family, we open 1 gift on Christmas Eve and it’s always new holiday pajamas. It’s a great way to help the kids contain the excitement of opening ALL their gifts on Christmas morning, but to also give a gift with a purpose.
5. Decorate Your Tree As A Family
Some people have their trees decorated professionally every year, but in my house, we are definitely more of the “hodge podge” style when it comes to our Christmas tree. Colored lights, homemade ornaments and family heirlooms are the focal point of our tree. Turn the process of decking your tree into a tradition. Put on some Charlie Brown Christmas, bust out some cookies and serve hot chocolate while you string up lights and hang ornaments. Don’t forget to take lots of pictures!
6. Make Cookies Together
One of the strongest memories around the holidays from my childhood is the hours I spent in the kitchen with my mom making cookies. It seems baking and the holidays are synonymous anyways, what with all the parties, cookie exchanges and overall indulgence of sweet treats. Your children will love looking forward to making even the most simple cookie recipe with you every year, if you make it special. Let them pick out the cookie cutters and frost their own cookies. It may result in a huge mess, but the memories are worth it. I’ve shared my family’s “secret” recipe for the best butter cookies and you can find it right here.
7. Look At Neighborhood Christmas Lights
A family favorite of ours is packing up in the car and driving around neighborhoods that boast beautiful Christmas lights. It’s so fun to blast Christmas music while looking at the festive lights from the warmth of your car. Or, if you’re like me and December nights are sometimes just in the 60’s (like they were when I took this picture, as evident by my daughter’s light sweatshirt), park, hop out of the car and take some hot chocolate with you as you roam your neighborhoods. There are few things as magical as seeing your child take in the simple beauty of a house laden with Christmas lights!
I hope this holiday season brings you wonderful family memories as you cultivate new traditions with your children. Happy Holidays!