1) Count down to Christmas
Build suspense for Santa’s arrival with a countdown calendar. Feeling crafty? Follow this step-by-step tutorial that uses paper cups, a bulletin board, and tasty treats to create an Advent calendar. Or, transform a magnetic board into a countdown calendar with tiny tins, magnets, and glue. If you’re not so DIY, a store-bought calendar will still equal big-time fun for cuties who can’t wait until Christmas!
2) Write letters to Santa
If you haven’t already, adopt an Elf on the Shelf—who can get letters to Santa at lightening speed! The coolest part of this fun family tradition: you get to shrink your letters to elf-size (seriously!), then keep them as holiday keepsakes to hang on tree.
3) Visit a tree farm
Start your family’s holiday festivities off right by bundling up and heading to a local Christmas tree farm to search for the perfect tree. Chances are, you’ll get to enjoy more than finding the perfect fir: Many tree farms offer hayrides, sleigh rides, and other family-friendly activities (Santa may even show up!). Hot cocoa so not optional!
4) Trim the tree together
Your Christmas tree is your home’s focal point for several weeks, so deck it out in style. Step one to achieving an Instagram-worthy tree: Fluff those branches, then hang lights (make sure to perform a Clark Griswaldesque bulb check first) starting at the base and working your way up, before stringing garlands. Be sure to supervise the unpacking of ornaments and hooks to avoid breakage or injury to little hands. Then, take turns hanging fave ornaments on the tree. A boost from mom or dad to reach high branches is sure to induce giggles and a photo-worthy moment. Just remind eager tree-trimming tots to be careful with the delicate ornaments and family heirlooms.
5) Start an ornament collection
Capture memories in the form of special ornaments that grow your collection each year. Commemorate your baby’s first Christmas, a child’s special interest, frame school photos to hang on the tree, or even personalize ornaments with names and dates. Another idea: DIY one together with your kids as a fun craft project. You can give one each year when you trim the tree, or attach them to wrapped gifts as a special decorative touch.
6) Make a tree garland
The finishing touch on the tree can be as simple as construction paper rings kids can easily make, or a more ornate garland created with pinecones and silk poinsettias hot-glued to twine. Another festive garland to try: paper snowflake cutouts strung along pretty ribbon. Of course, nothing is out of the question when it comes to putting your own stamp on the holiday, so get creative and have fun!
7) Set up a Christmas Eve hot cocoa bar
Break out the hot cocoa and Christmas cookies—but step up your presentation a notch: Instead of just serving everyone a mug of cocoa, set up a hot-cocoa station complete with mini marshmallows, whipped cream, colored sprinkles, candy canes, and more.
8) Go holiday “light-seeing”
Whether your house is aglow in holiday lights or you prefer to let others do the outdoor decorating, pick a night where you all pack in the car and drive around to see the dazzling displays in your neighboorhood. Pack hot cocoa or apple cider in insulated sippy cups and set off!
9) Bake cookies with the kids
Invite family and friends over for a BYOCC (bring your own cookie cutters) holiday baking party. Kids love pressing out the shapes and decorating (and over-decorating) the finished cookies. Make it easy by starting with pre-made dough, or picking a versatile dough recipe that serves as a foundation for a variety of different holiday treats. Either way, just make sure you’re fully-stocked on icing and sprinkles!
10) Wear matching holiday PJs
Admit it: Matching holiday PJs are just fun—and not just for your kids, either. Start a Christmas Eve tradition where you all open up one special gift that you can use right away—coordinating pajamas—and start the holiday off in sweet matchy-matchy style.
11) Pose for a picture
Whether you’re all about matching family PJs or prefer a more formal look in your holiday finest, be sure to take a beat, and capture your holiday with a special photo sesh. Try taking the pictures at the same location each year, and watch everyone grow. Sniff. You can kill two calling birds with one stone and use these photos for your holiday card, and even preserve these memories with a digital scrapbook incorporating a holiday theme.
12) Incorporate a new cultural tradition
Broaden your family’s cultural awareness and spice up a typical holiday celebration with traditions from around the world. Look to your own roots for inspiration, or explore a culture that has always fascinated you. It can be as simple as teaching the kiddos how to say “happy holidays” in another language, or as elaborate as fixing a traditional holiday food from across the globe. One idea: Celebrate Nochebuena. Another idea: invite friends over for a multicultural holiday soiree!
13) Give back
Make others’ lives merry and bright during the Christmas season. Some fun ideas for giving back: Wrap gifts to help kids who need it have a happier holiday season. Volunteer at your local homeless shelter or senior living community. Or, send supplies and greeting cards to soldiers stationed abroad, and away from their families, for the holidays.
14) Create a holiday playlist
Whether you’re trimming the tree, preparing for a party, or just in the car or getting dinner ready, help your family get their groove on with a customized holiday playlist. Ask everyone to add their favorites, from classics like ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ to Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want for Christmas is You.’ Add different artists’ interpretations of familiar songs, and challenge each family member to discover a festive new find.