Holiday Traditions in a Non-Traditional Year

christmas traditions holiday family fun virtual holiday ideas

As this year of UGH comes to a close, we’d like to encourage you to dive into the holidays. Whatever your family tradition is, do it. And do it up big! Even if no one will see your gorgeously decorated tree or your beautiful cookie tray, it matters and it will make you feel better. Think of it as a gift to yourself. And take a bunch of pictures while you’re at it.

Keeping family rituals going and doing most of the things you always do during the holidays is particularly important if you have kiddos in your house (of any age!). Even the teenagers need just one little piece of “normal” right now and that can be as simple as making a giant mess in the kitchen while you make a Gingerbread House together.

The good news is none of this comes with all the usual holiday pressure – you don’t have so many deadlines, you don’t have to keep the house sparkling clean because no one’s coming by, and you maybe have a little more time to slow down and enjoy the simple things you still have in front of you.

Here’s a few simple ideas that don’t cost hardly anything and will be fun (we promise).

Look at the lights. Bundle of the kids, pack some tasty snacks (our recommendation here), and go for a drive looking at lights. Even if you’ve done this every year, spend some extra time this year oohing and aahing over how beautiful they are. Or if it’s safe weather wise, walk through the neighborhood on a quiet evening and just soak in the peace.

Start a new tradition. Is there something you did as a kid but don’t do anymore? Is there something new that you could try with the kids? Many families have used this time to institute a no-electronics night (yes, the kids will not like it at first!). All you need is about one hour – use the time to look through old pictures, play a game, or put together a puzzle. Snap a pic and send to the grandparents.

Make a family someday plan. You may be stuck at home right now but soon we’ll all be able to go places again. Get everyone in the family to help with planning a dream vacation or the perfect museum tour or summer hiking trip. Research together, start a bucket list, and plan out exactly what you’ll do.

Find gratefulness. Start a family gratitude jar. This is a great reminder to all of us that we do have blessings all around us (even if they’re hard to see during these difficult times). Every night after dinner or before bed, have each member of the family write their gratitude of the day on a slip of paper. Some families start this every year on January 1st. Fill the jar up (no peeking) and then next year during Christmas break, read through the slips of paper. You will be reminded of the little things that might have slipped your notice in the hustle and bustle. You might also be surprised by the things your kids noticed!

Go virtual. Even though we are all so over Zoom meetings, it’s still a good option to share time and “see” your loved ones. And the grandparents especially are missing their little ones. So, fire up one more Zoom to end the year! Wondering what you can actually DO on your Zoom? Try these ideas that have worked for our friends:

Ugly Sweater Contest

You know you have a few (probably gifted to you by a relative!) or you can make one to wear to really impress the family. Pair with some fun Christmas music and maybe even a little sing along and you’ll have everyone smiling in no time.

Cookie Baking and Favorite Family Recipes

This is a great way to pass on favorite family traditions and it’s fun for every age. Pick your theme – cookies, candy, or just favorite dinner dishes – send out the recipe and ingredients list ahead of your virtual gathering. Assign the “instructor” and then everyone can bake along with Grandma or the Aunties and cousins. For the more competitive families, have a little cookie decorating or gingerbread house contest in real time.

Family Trivia

This takes a little bit more prep work but can be a really fun and memorable activity for all ages. Gather stories from holidays past and turn it into a guessing game. If you’re really techy, create your own family Kahoot game – the basic plan is not expensive and it’s a fun interactive way to play a virtual game.


Have the grandparents read a favorite holiday tale to all the grandkids at once. You’ll want to record this one! Snuggle the kids up in jammies, make some hot cocoa, turn on the twinkly lights and give Grandma or Grandpa the floor.

We’d also like to encourage you, if you’re able, to help out your neighbors this season. Some may need just a friendly smile (from afar), some may need just a little help around the house, and some may need a little more assistance like a bag of groceries. Food shelves this year have been taxed to their limit and they could really use donations. Let your kids help out with this – it’s a good learning activity and they will enjoy knowing they helped someone out.

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