12 days of family traditions for an extra special season

The mere concept of a family tradition prompts a warm and fuzzy feeling, which makes it a perfect plan to execute during the winter holidays. Here are 12 traditions that hone in on togetherness and the magic of the season.

1. Dedicate a corner to crafts. Sugar cookies, wooden ornaments and plain gift wrapping are blank canvases for littles. Convert dining room tables into a craft station once a week or leave kid-friendly supplies, like coloring books, out to keep creative wheels rolling while school’s out.

2. Shop for gifts. Asking each of your little elves to weigh in on their parent’s or sibling’s gifts can be surprisingly helpful, always heartwarming and most likely humorous. Get kids involved in the gift-giving process early to enhance their sense of generosity at a young age.

3. Decorate the Christmas tree. This one seems like a given, but the busiest time of the year can take a toll on this tradition. Although it may be easier for a parent to take charge of dragging the tree out of the attic and setting it up, decorating it all together is time well spent.

4. Tend to the gratitude tree. That gratitude tree you started for Thanksgiving can keep growing through the new year. Cut leaves from felt or colored paper, write a blessing or something that you’re grateful for on each leaf and then hang it from a vase of branches. You could also hang these as ornaments for the Christmas tree.

5. Pass around a guest book. Shower your home with even more gratitude by passing around a guest book during family gatherings. Although it sounds formal, a guest book doesn’t have to be fussy or fancy. Simply dedicate an empty journal for guests to log their favorite memory of the party. Convert a guest book into a scrapbook by pasting photos in later.

6. Mark movie night on your calendar. Although National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation seems to get funnier every year, you don’t have to endure the same movie for family movie night to turn into a tradition. Cozying up on the couch to whatever is playing on TV or taking a trip to the theater on the same day every year is an easy tradition worth trying.

7. Give game night a chance. A good game is a golden ticket to a winter-break win. Whether it’s a classic board game, Christmas trivia or your family’s own spin on the dreidel game, you really can’t go wrong.

8. Host a holiday party for kids and parents. Getting to know your children’s friends and fostering a relationship with their parents can be helpful down the road (like carpooling for Girl Scout meetings). Coordinate an annual “Friendsgiving” potluck for everyone to mingle over some cocoa and cookies. Party ideas include a gingerbread house contest, a Secret Santa gift exchange and a holiday-themed craft.

9. Try a cherished family recipe. Cooking can certainly feel like a chore this time of year, but baking something for yourself is a treat. Gather ‘round the cookbook and pick a secret family recipe that sounds particularly pleasing that you don’t typically have time or reason to make.

10. Drive around the block. Combat cabin fever by getting out of the house and into the car. Tune into the songs of the season and take the scenic route through your very own neighborhood. Take a poll on the brightest light display or the biggest yard inflatable.

11. Snap a photo. A picture with Santa is a classic snapshot, but only for a few years as kids get older. Instead of - or in addition to - Santa’s lap, pick a spot around the house for a yearly family portrait. Dress up the sofa on Christmas morning with matching pajamas or snuggle together in front of the hearth.

12. Make a donation. The new year usually sparks a whole-house decluttering effort, especially as you try to make space for new clothes and toys. Ask each family member to give every toy chest and armoire a critical look and to form two piles of items they’ve outgrown: one to donate and one to ditch. Replacing one old item for every new one is a minimal effort with a big impact that you and your local resale store will appreciate.

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