Family Traditions for the Holiday Season

Photo credit: Marco Verch

Photo credit: Marco Verch

Whether you are spending the holidays getting cozy indoors with your loved ones or preparing for a big trip, the holidays can be an exciting and busy time for any household.  Family traditions also come into play during the holidays and depending on your family, these may be time-honored traditions passed down from a cultural background or new ones you have just started.  These traditions are especially important to young children, and are the things that will leave the biggest impact on them (and that they may pass down themselves one day).

One tradition that seems to be universal during this time of year is a child’s experience of receiving lots of presents.  The commercial gift giving side of our holiday is most heavily focused on young children and this festive season of giving can very quickly turn into a season of expecting to receive for the child.  I like to ask my students during this time of year, “What happens on Christmas?”  and the enthusiastic response is usually, “You get presents!”.

Now there is nothing wrong with giving presents to children, and every child should experience a sense of abundance and joy during this festive season.  But we should also be encouraging children to experience and partake in more traditions during the holidays than just gift receiving.  Like being close with our family and showing each other we care, giving to those less fortunate, and making homemade gifts for others.  And most importantly, bonding with our family and having experiences with those we love that we will carry in our hearts forever.  The potential to create memories with our children is so strong this time of year and so today let’s think about what kinds of traditions we would like to build with our children.

Family Traditions to include this Holiday Season


There is nothing better than getting out some recipes and baking in the kitchen!  Young children can participate in measuring and mixing ingredients, crushing spices in a mortar and pestle, rolling out dough, kneading, and cutting things out with a cookie cutter.  For the young child, you can even set aside a bit of dough that the children can sit or stand at the counter and use as play dough while you prepare the food that may be a little more sanitary to serve to guests.

Get Crafty!

No matter if you are short on materials or time, there are so many crafty projects to make with your child during this time of year. For a quick and easy project, you could make paper snowflakes, decorations for the house, or have your child get in the habit of making one card a day for a loved one.  More involved projects might involved sewing or knitting with your child, woodworking projects, or handpainted wrapping paper.

Donating Gifts or Time

There are so many opportunities especially during the holidays to donate time or items to local charities.  Look in your local paper, which will usually list ways to get involved this time of year.  Your child can also participate in selecting some old toys or clothes to donate to charity.


Family Outings

Even with busy schedules and cold weather keeping many of us indoors, try to spend some time bonding with your child in a special way this holiday season.  Get some holiday or winter themed books from your local library that you can read together at bedtime.  Shovel a big pile of snow to jump in together or go hiking or sledding.  Teach your child to make a snow angel.  Or simply go on a walk to see the lights.  These are the things your child will remember and carry in their hearts more than the gifts they receive.


Adding a new Christmas ornament to the tree each year in the form of a found object can be a great family tradition. It could be a shell you found on the beach that year, or a collage of pictures from that year’s events, glued in a popsicle stick frame.  Whatever you choose, this tradition can be something the whole family enjoys for years to come.

Preparing the Feast

Have your children help set the table for your special meal, cook seasonal favorites, and make the table decorations or name cards for table settings.  Encouraging your children to participate will make the festive days more memorable and special for everyone.

Sharing and Caring afterwards

Now is a great time to start teaching your children to say thank you for gifts, ask others how their holiday was, and make thank you cards.  Children can also call or skype loved ones who were not able to attend the family festivities and learn to connect and share with others, telling them about a toy they received or memory they made.

Lisa MarunaComment