How to Start Your Own Holiday Traditions

Sure, the parties, food, and decorations certainly have something to do with the thrill many of us feel throughout this season. But I think that special magic in the air is really rooted in the rituals we do each year: our holiday traditions.

Whether you’ve started a family of your own or can’t make it home this year for Christmas, taking responsibility for your own holiday traditions is a surefire way to inject the magic into whatever situation you happen to find yourself in this year. For those of us who grew up assuming that our family traditions just “happened,” intentionally starting new traditions can feel a little unnatural. But remember: the beauty of traditions is that they’re meant to be built over a lifetime, not in a single season. Maybe you want to get back to the roots of your childhood Christmas or Thanksgiving, or maybe your traditions don’t have anything traditional about them. Either way, dig into what feels right, and start making some memories of your own.

image by kristen klipatrick

image by New Darlings

Think About the Activities You Love…

When it comes to setting up your own holiday traditions, think back to what you loved to do as a kid (or even what you loved doing last year). Maybe it was trooping the whole family up to a tree farm with hot chocolate in tow to cut down a Christmas tree, or maybe it was teaming up with your dad to help put lights in the tree of your front yard. List out all of those things that you love and toss out a few ideas to the people you’ll be spending to holidays with this year to see if anything sticks.

image by kristen klipatrick

…And the Ones You’d Like to Ditch

Now this is the real beauty of starting your own traditions. There’s no need for you to continue to put yourself through an hours-long gingerbread house making session if you know you’re terrible at cookie architecture! There’s no need to make that weird family stuffing recipe if you think it’s gross! Don’t just continue to do things because they’re traditions your family has had forever, and instead focus on the things that fill you with joy.

image by kristen klipatrick

Start Small

Remember that those magical Thanksgivings or Christmas Eves you remember as a kid were likely not some elaborately planned affair. Instead, they were a steady stream of the small stuff — making fudge with your siblings or gathering everyone around for a game of cards after stuffing yourselves at dinner. Those small things all add up, so focus your energy there and pick out a few you’d like to try. And don’t stress if they don’t “go together” so to speak — let the traditions evolve naturally and continue to do what feels right.

image by kristen kilpatrick

Think Outside the Box

Go back to that list of all of the holiday traditions you love and take a close look at what’s there. You’ll likely start to see some common themes — like spending time with your loved ones or flexing your artistic muscles, for example. Once you identify a few of those, you can start to think outside of the box when it comes to traditions. Maybe you apply that artistic spirit to spend an afternoon making your own holiday wreaths or ugly Christmas sweaters, or maybe you gather up your loved ones for a day of volunteering. As long as you honor the root of those traditions you love, you’ll be sure to make memories that will last a lifetime.

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