Add a new twist to your
By Bernard Freeman
Ornaments and holiday traditions go hand in hand. How many of your children’s ornaments from when they were small still hang on your tree to this day? Ornaments are sentimental in that they bring us down memory lane, prostate helping us connect past holiday seasons with what was going on in our lives at that time.
The best ornaments can be funny, sweet or downright goofy — but they all have one thing in common: personalization. Including handmade or monogramed ornaments on our Christmas trees helps remind us of the love we have for our friends and family members.
Don’t have an ornament tradition in your home? Start one today. Make a pledge to your significant other to buy or make a special ornament every year. You’ll soon have a box full of meaningful treasures to open every Christmas season when the time comes to decorate your tree.
Your children will likely bring home handcrafted ornaments throughout the years. Hang them proudly. Take it a step further by prompting your kids to make similar creations to decorate at home. Plan an afternoon of ornament-making that involves Christmas caroling, special treats and hot chocolate to make the experience a fun one.
Once your children’s ornaments are finished, ask them to hang them on the tree. Involving them in the decorating process will help them take pride in their creations, and may even convince them to become more creative in other areas of everyday life.
There are many military-focused groups and organizations looking for volunteers this time of year. You can check with your local veterans’ associations to help provide volunteer hours during a holiday event.
You also can find volunteer opportunities at your local hospital or nursing home — any kind of facility where people may be spending time away from their home during the holidays due to physical issues.
Many hospitals and nursing homes schedule holiday dances, meals and even trips from Santa Claus for kids in children’s hospitals. All of these efforts require a strong force of volunteers to aid in planning and coordinating.
Contact the auxiliary arm of your local hospital to find out their needs and how you can meet them.
Traditions are by definition stable and unchanged activities that serve as pillars of special occasions. But that doesn’t mean creativity can’t come into play.
Cooking is one of the most instrumental parts of any holiday celebration. Some families stick to the same ham, potatoes and dessert recipes for decades. But why not mix it up a bit? This year — and every year from now on — add a new recipe to your repertoire. You might just find something that you enjoy cooking throughout the year.
Keep it Simple — At First
Maybe you’re intimidated to try out a new recipe with so many guests coming to your home. That’s OK. Besides trying it out weeks ahead of time, one tip is to keep the dish as simple as possible.
Once you become more practiced in various cooking techniques and unique ingredients, you should feel confident enough to test the waters and try complex dishes. Until then, remember that oftentimes during the holidays, simplicity wins out when it comes to our favorite recipes.
Consider Your Guests
Can you see Uncle Dave sitting down to a fancy French-inspired dish with a smile on his face? Consider who you’re serving when trying to come up with your new menu item.
If your friends and family look forward to your special potato casserole every year, don’t try replacing it now with something more unique. Think about what might complement your most popular dishes and build your menu from there.
Scavenger Hunt for Gifts
Why not combine classic American traditions from Christmas and Easter during the holiday season?
The Easter egg hunt is a classic staple of Easter. Children enjoy the anticipation of finding — and eating — their Easter treats while adults have fun thinking back to their own childhoods participating in their own hunts.
Consider starting a new Christmas tradition that involves sending your children on a search for their presents.
Hide the Presents
If Christmas morning is your dedicated time to open presents with your children, set aside a few to hide for your scavenger hunt. You also can hold a hunt for smaller items such as candies, gag gifts or Christmas cards.
Whatever you choose to hide, spread them throughout your house to make the chase more exciting.
Create Your Clues
Depending on the age of your children, think of clues that will challenge them to think. Using riddles or rhymes is a great way to make younger kids use their brainpower, while older children may be more challenged by more complicated brain puzzles.
Write down your clues on gift tags to infuse a bit more holiday spirit into your scavenger hunt. You also can tie a candy cane onto each clue as mini gifts before your children uncover the main present.
Many people have turned going to the theater into a Christmas Day tradition. Hollywood has taken notice, holding many major blockbusters for around the holiday season.
But if you aren’t excited about any of this year’s releases, why not host a holiday movie night from the comfort of your own home? From the Griswolds to Charlie Brown and his friends, we all have our favorite Christmas movie characters. Enjoying the classic holiday films of our time is a great way to spend time together with friends and family members.
Here’s how to throw an amazing holiday movie party that will surely turn into an annual event:
Step 1: The Movies
You can’t have a memorable holiday movie party without great holiday movies. Plan to play two to three movies during your get-together. If guests can’t stay for that long, choose one.
Poll your guests ahead of the party to gauge their interests in film options. Are they in the mood for slapstick holiday humor or a sentimental tear-jerker? Keep the movie list a surprise.
Keep your guests waiting in anticipation until you hit play and watch their faces as they start quoting their favorite parts before the movie even starts.
Step 2. The Food
Popcorn and soda are the traditional snack options for a movie, but why not get fancy with your menu? Treating your guests to more substantial treats, such as grilled steak tips or chicken wings, will help satisfy their cravings while they take in the flick.
You also can go with more of a potluck style, asking guests to bring along their favorite appetizers and drinks. Just make sure you plan accordingly with the amount of food needed for the number of guests.
Step 3. The Trivia
Every great holiday movie has great trivia associated with it. Consider turning your viewing party into a game of sorts, full of pauses to answer questions about upcoming scenes or about factual tidbits on the movie’s star actor.
Divvy up your guests into teams and have them battle it out for a prize. Add a scoreboard on a dry-erase board to keep track of points.
Your friends and family members will admire your creativity, and your holiday movie party will become a must-attend for years to come.
One way to start a tradition while also getting some exercise is planning an outdoor adventure — even a simple one in your own backyard.
Playing outside is a great idea for all ages around the holidays. Kids need to run off energy, and adults need to run off the extra cookies they’ve consumed.
Even if the weather is cold around Christmastime in your neck of the woods, there are plenty of ways you and yours can enjoy the great outdoors.
If you are fortunate enough to live in an area that features places to ice skate, you can enjoy one of the true outdoor treasures of the cold weather season. Ice skating is one of the most popular holiday activities because it can be enjoyed by all ages.
Local skating rinks are a great place to strap on the skates because they provide safe, supervised skating areas. Make sure to be fitted for skates before heading out on the ice to make sure you’re getting enough ankle support.
Make it a Game
Starting an annual football or ice hockey game on Christmas Day is a great way to combine family fun with a little healthy competition. If you have a large holiday party every year, you should have plenty of available players for your game.
Whatever activity you decide to make into a tradition, it can be fun to make it a competitive event. Keeping score every Christmas can establish bragging rights for the rest of the year. This will help strengthen the tradition and make it one that everyone looks forward to each holiday season.
The key to enjoying the outdoors during the colder weather is safety.
Follow these tips from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons to prevent injuries while enjoying the most common wintertime activities:
- Adults should always supervise children during any outdoor activity.
- Children should always wear helmets when sledding, skiing, skating or snowboarding.
- Never go down a hill headfirst; always sit facing forward and steer.
- If you’re playing in the evening, make sure the area is well lit and away from roadways.