We spend a lot of time each year repeating beloved holiday traditions.  How we decorate, what we eat, even where we go for the holidays are all built on tradition.  But what happens when the tradition fails or isn’t helping you to appreciate the holiday anymore.  Maybe changes in your family or where you live makes the old traditions obsolete or difficult to fulfill.  And now you need to know how to create new holiday traditions

Below are some new things that I’ve done in the past for the holidays.

Christmas Lights and Hot Chocolate

Each year, we love to go look at the Christmas lights.  In some places, you can park your car and walk around the lights to get a better look.  But, baby, it’s cold outside.  We started bringing a thermos of hot chocolate with us.  For us, this is our Christmas Eve tradition.  There are fewer people on the roads because everyone else is at church or at Christmas parties.  As a Chef, my husband works crazy hours during the month of December and we rarely get to see each other.  But Christmas Eve is slower and he gets out of work earlier than usual.  It’s a nice way for us to reconnect and enjoy a couple of hours together before the craziness of Christmas Day.

An Ornament Party

Years ago, after my divorce, I bought a condo for my son and me.  We moved in during December and started decorating for the holidays, but soon realized we didn’t have enough ornaments for our tree.  Someone suggested an ornament party so I decided to hold a housewarming party and asked guests to bring an ornament for my tree instead of any other housewarming gift.  But not just any ornament.  I wanted something that they either made or that reflected their traditional holiday.

I was overwhelmed by the thoughtful gifts.  One friend brought an ornament that her family made after a niece was tragically killed in an accident.  Another friend printed out holiday sayings on different colored paper and then made origami peace cranes out of the paper.  I received a couple of store-bought ornaments as well, but they were steeped in family tradition.  Each of these ornaments still holds a special place on my tree 14 years later and I think of my friends as I put their ornaments on my tree.

You can change up this tradition by hosting an Ornament Swap, similar to a Cookie Swap.  Each person brings enough ornaments for the guests at your party.  You swap the ornaments and tell the stories behind your ornament.  Everyone has fun sharing their personal story about the ornament and leaves with new ornaments for their trees.  And the new ornaments will hold even more meaning for you than just buying a bunch at the store.  You’ll know the tradition behind each ornament and you will remember the person who gave it to you.

Gift the Gift of Gratitude

My husband and I create a Gratitude Jar each year.  It’s just a simple jar that we fill with slips of paper upon which we’ve written something that we’re grateful for.  You can read more about our first Gratitude Jar in A Jar Of Gratitude.  This is something that you can gift yourself or gift to other friends and family.  Better yet, gift yourself and your friends and family.  Everyone talks about gratitude lately, but it’s more than just something you should talk about.  It’s important to really look back on the events of your day and share what you’re really grateful for.

For us, the tradition extends right to New Year’s Eve.  We take the time to read all the slips of paper we added to the jar.  And then the following day…we start over again.

Hang a Skeleton on Your Tree

Ok.  Maybe not a skeleton, that’s what we do.  You’ll need to find your own keepsake.  Yes, my keepsake, the one that brings me back to a warm holiday memory with my son, is a skeleton keychain.  It’s a reminder of a trip we took to New York City to see A Christmas Carol.  While there, we went out to dinner at one of those kitschy kinds of places, Jeykll and Hyde.  The food was simple but expensive and the laughs were cheap.  But with friends (more teenagers than adults) it turned into a hilarious event.  In the end, we were each given a cheap skeleton keychain that is now part of my main Christmas Tree decorating scheme. You can see a picture of the keychains in What Do Skeletons Have To Do With Christmas?

Now it’s your turn.  What fun holiday memories do you have?  Do you have ornaments that capture the moment?  In our case, we used something that we brought back home, something that, to others, is out of place on a Christmas Tree, but to us is just the right amount of perfect.  Perhaps you can make one out of something that reminds you of that moment, a flyer from an event can be decoupaged into an ornament or placed in a frame.   Or buy an ornament, I’m sure there’s something that will always bring you back to that special memory. They make ornaments that now commemorate so many different things now.  From sledding to cooking to sitting on a beach.

Create A Christmas Morning Breakfast Tradition

To save money after my divorce, my son and I shared a house with my best friend and her son.  Christmas breakfast became an event for friends who had no other place to go.  We would make eggs or crepes with apple cinnamon filling.  There would be coffee, tea, juice, and mimosas. And there would be kinship, and laughter, and love.  After I moved out into my own place, and even after I got married again, we would return on Christmas morning for our annual breakfast.  Only after breakfast was eaten would we turn to the presents.  When my friend moved to Maine, my husband and I started our own Christmas breakfast routine which my adult son now returns to, sometimes with friends, sometimes not.

New Year’s Eve and Pinterest

My husband and I stay in for New Year’s Eve.  We enjoy the quiet time together, especially after a month of barely seeing each other because of the crazy hours he worked.  Christmas Day is usually split between two families and New Year’s Day is traditionally something done at my mother’s house with lasagna.  But New Year’s Eve was different, it was our time to enjoy each other. And Pinterest helped us to create a new tradition.  All year long, I save new recipes to my Food Board on Pinterest.  And I want to try them all, but let’s be serious for a moment…I don’t cook. And while you’d think my husband would be all cooked out after a whole month of cooking 12 hours a day, you’d be wrong.  The week after Christmas is a slow, recovery mode week.  By New Year’s Eve, he’s ready to rock again.

During the week after Christmas, I pick out a few new recipes to try and my husband and I agree on what we’ll use and when each item will be cooked and ready.  We plan the evening as if we’re having a party because we are, but a party for two.  Here’s one of the recipes we’ll use this year because I love both cranberries and brie.

What are your favorite holiday traditions?  Have you ever tried adding new ones in with the old ones?

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