Festive Family Activities

To Make the Season Bright

Memories of my Appalachian childhood Christmases play in my mind like vivid snapshots.  Singing “Jingle Bells” with cousins.  Searching the sky for “Rudolph’s nose” or signs of Santa’s sleigh.  The children’s nativity plays in our crowded country church. Bluegrass Christmas music with some of the best pickers you ever heard.  Fruit baskets, goody bags, homemade candy, and banana pudding…. These shaped my memories and traditions for a lifetime. 

In total transparency, it’s not just the idyllic moments that I cherish but the missteps too!  One of my favorites is from my dad’s childhood.  His Sunday School class was to present the star poem for the Christmas service.  As they each held a letter, they went in reversed order and spelled “RATS”. 

What about the times the Christmas tree falls over or the meal is burned?  Perhaps you open your grandfather’s long underwear on Christmas morning while your grandfather opens your new action figure? Or the angel falls off the Christmas parade float?  (Don’t worry.  No angels were injured in the making of that memory.)  Our traditions, flawed and all, become greater than the sum of their parts.  They become awe-inspiring lasting memories and some of the best stories when mixed with a little time and nostalgia.  In many ways, it’s our traditions that make the holiday.

Here are 15 simple ideas that will inspire memory making opportunities for your family:

  1. Check out Christmas themed books from the library to read at bedtime.
  2. Have Christmas movie nights with popcorn and hot cocoa.
  3. Have a family slumber party by the Christmas tree.
  4. Make a Christmas treat basket to surprise someone.
  5. Make a Christmas playlist to listen to in the car.
  6. Cut paper snowflakes to hang in your window.
  7. Do some Christmas coloring pages.
  8. Make a paper chain to count down to Christmas.
  9. Make a gingerbread house.
  10. Go caroling.
  11. Try new recipes.
  12. Play board games and work on puzzles.
  13. Make ornaments.
  14. Read Matthew 1-2.
  15. Read Luke 1-2.

As parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles… we are memory makers.  This is a high calling, not only to be shapers of traditions but to be shapers of childhood for the next generation.  While the world rushes about doing, going, and buying, let’s slow down and embrace family more than ever.  Let’s make the most of what this time of year can offer in simple ways of learning, crafting, reading, gifting, and eating.  Let’s rediscover the joy of being together and savor the moments. Home isn’t four walls but the relationships within them.  May our homes burn bold and bright this season as we create new holiday traditions that our families will treasure.

What are the most memorable holiday traditions from your childhood?  Do you remember any of the things that went wrong? What do you want your children to remember about your holidays together?

Previously published in Hampton County Guardian and Bluffton Today.

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