Hooray! December is here; it’s time to cheer! You already have your home decorated for the holidays, and you may or may not be wearing an ugly Christmas sweater all month long (we won’t judge), now it’s time to get your holiday traditions in order!
Whether you have holiday traditions that span generations, or you want to start new family traditions, it’s always interesting to hear about what other families and cultures do for the holidays. Here are some holiday traditions, from other countries, classic American traditions, and some unique holiday traditions to try with your family and friends this holiday season.
Make Your Own Ornaments
What makes a Christmas tree special? It’s ornaments! And what better way to make your beautiful tree special than to decorate it with things made by you, your kids, family, and friends. Let each ornament tell a story, reflect one’s personality and express that holiday cheer. You can make anything from wine cork reindeer’s, to stuffed Christmas balls, even a 3D deer head! The possibilities are endless, and every ornament will bring meaning and love to your home’s holiday decor.
For ornament decorating ideas, visit Countryliving.com.
Japanese Christmas Traditions: Though Christmas is not indigenous to Japan, Christmas is still celebrated in some areas. Most holiday traditions are in line with western practices but there are some Japanese touches added. One tradition is that the ornaments are made of paper and are created using the ancient art of paper folding (Origami).
Source of Japanese Traditions: The Museum of Science & Industry.
Writing Letters to Santa
Get your kids excited about the holidays and have them practice their writing skills too. Write a letter to old Saint Nick himself! Have your little ones write a nice letter to Santa Claus, explaining what they would like for Christmas and why they’ve been a good boy or girl this year. This is not only a fun, festive tradition but in years to come you will be able to look back and enjoy the letters.
English Christmas Traditions: In the United Kingdom children send letters to Father Christmas by burning them up in the fireplace. It is thought that the requests are carried to Father Christmas in the smoke. On Christmas Eve it is traditional to leave a carrot out for the reindeer and mince pies, brandy or other warming drinks for Father Christmas.
Source of English Traditions: The Museum of Science & Industry.
Christmas is about giving, so why not start a tradition that gives back to the less fortunate. Volunteer at a soup kitchen, local homeless shelter or even a retirement community. Help others celebrate their holiday and put a smile on someone’s face. Giving back to the community during the holidays means so much to that receive the help and is a great lesson for the kids. This tradition is a great reminder of all that you have and the whole family will feel amazingly proud afterwards. Do something amazing this holiday season!
Irish Christmas Traditions: Ireland celebrates an old custom called “Feeding the Wren.” On December 26th, St. Stephen’s day, Irish children scour the countryside for a Wren, a small bird similar to a sparrow, or they purchase one. The wren is placed in a cage and the children go door to door collecting money for the poor.
Source of Irish Traditions: The Museum of Science & Industry.
Opening Christmas Presents
Opening Christmas presents is the most exciting part of the holidays for the kids. They wait all month, staring at those presents under the tree and when the big day finally arrives, it is incredible to see the excitement and emotion on their faces. But sometimes the opening of presents portion of Christmas goes by much too fast. This year, try to open one present per hour. Instead of ravaging through all your gifts at once, throwing wrapping paper left and right, enjoy the process and enjoy the time with family.
Netherland Christmas Traditions: In addition to the gifts received from St. Nicholas, the children play a game of hide and seek. The children will look in the cupboards and cubbyholes of the house for special gifts, and they are rarely disappointed.
Source of Netherlands Traditions: The Museum of Science & Industry.
Use Christmas gnomes or Elf on the Shelf to not only get your kids in the holiday spirit, but also keep them on their best behavior. Everyone plays this game a bit differently, but basically the kids are told if they have been behaving, a gnome or elf will appear somewhere around the house and sometimes bring little gifts. Either the gnome or the elf will appear somewhere around the house each morning, or will magically move from place to place every few hours if the kids have been behaving! This tradition is hard work and will tap your creativity and ingenuity but will be well worth it when you see the excitement of your little ones.
Swedish Christmas Traditions: After the Christmas Eve dinner, there is a visit from Santa. In Sweden the Santa figure is represented by an gnome (Tomte) who it is believed lives under the floorboards of the house. The Tomte watches over the family and livestock. He arrives at the house on Christmas Eve with a large sack of presents that he gives out to the children personally.
Source of Swedish Traditions: The Museum of Science & Industry.
Traditional Holiday Baking
Get your tummies excited each year for something traditional and delicious! Much like the enthusiasm most have for a big Thanksgiving feast each year, create your own sweet holiday baking tradition to look forward to. Each year, bake a few special holiday treats that the whole family will love, anything from cheesecake, to apple pie, to gingerbread men or Christmas cookies. Start a baking tradition and make this holiday one to remember and to look forward to each year!
French Christmas Traditions: The Yule Log is a tradition that dates back to the 12th century, observed in the rural areas of France. The family would go out on Christmas Eve to select a tree, which was then cut down. The men would carry the enormous log of freshly cut wood called the Yule log (ceppo) into the house. They circled the room three times and the log is placed in the fireplace. It was said that the cinders of this log could protect the house. The great log was later replaced by a smaller one, often embellished with candles and greenery, placed in the center of the table as a Christmas decoration. Today, the Yule log has become a log shaped cake (Buche de Nol).
Source for French Traditions: The Museum of Science & Industry.
Holiday Light Display Tour
In some areas decorating a house or boat for the Christmas holiday can be quite the experience. Home holiday displays can include thousands of lights, yard art, moving displays, and even music. Get the family together, pick up your friends and jump in the car and take a drive around your community and check out all of the holiday lights that are up.
Find out if there are any light shows going on in your area, you can find listings of great local light displays on the neighborhood network, Nextdoor, Yelp, and through local websites and news sources. Whether it’s a single house that has gone all out or a specific event, holiday lights bring holiday cheer and great memories, so enjoy it while you can!
Canadian Christmas Traditions: Public parks and buildings across Canada are traditionally lit for the holidays at the same moment: 6:55 on the first Thursday in December. This tradition began in 1986 and is one uniting aspect of the country’s many Christmas celebrations.
Source for Canadian Traditions: The Museum of Science & Industry.
Spending time with the ones you love is what the holidays are all about. So make this holiday one to remember.