Creating Holiday Family Traditions

Blog_Family Traditions

In these days of busy, busy, busy and the stress (and joy!) holidays can bring, family traditions can bring a sense of normalcy to the season.

We look forward to our traditions every year. There is something wonderful about creating a custom that will hopefully be passed on to future generations.

It’s what makes each family unique and creates an emotional connection.

As I sat down to write this, I thought back to my own childhood. At the time, I didn’t know we had ‘traditions’ per se, but when I remembered the holidays I realized we had some of the best family traditions such as spending time with family, filling our bellies with the same delicious food and giving to others.

How Do You Create Family Traditions

According to Wikipedia, a tradition “is a belief or behavior passed down within a group or society with symbolic meaning or special significance with origins in the past.”

Anything we do regularly with our kids can become a tradition. That might be Tuesday night board games or Fright night movie night.

Think about the things you did growing up to make the holidays special. Did you eat certain foods at Thanksgiving? Did your family serve or give to a particular charity?

Our Family Traditions

I wanted to share a few of our favorite holiday traditions to perhaps spark a few ideas if you are looking to create new ones of your own.

1. Delivering Thanksgiving Meals to the Homebound

A friend told us how her family delivered meals on Thanksgiving morning prepared by a local nonprofit to assist with outreach in our community.  

We had been looking for ways to include our kids in serving others and this seemed perfect since we could do it together as a family.

We aren’t always in town on Thanksgiving, but when we are, we deliver meals on Thanksgiving morning. We have done so for three years and will do so this year.

It has sparked some great conversations with our kids about those who may not have family to spend the holidays with, those who are homebound and about visiting certain parts of the city where we don’t venture as often.

2. Cranberry Sherbet

You read that right! A frozen dessert in the middle of the frozen tundra of Nebraska!

This is a Thanksgiving and Christmas tradition passed down from my husband’s family for many, many years. It is delicious and eaten in chilled sherbet dishes WITH the meal (not after).


6 cups water

4 cups sugar

1 package cranberries

  • Stew (almost boil) above ingredients until all berries pop
  • Strain, smashing to get some pulp, but mostly just the juice

Add: Juice from 4 lemons


Add: 4 beaten egg whites

Mix and freeze (foam will stay on top). When semi-hard, take out and re-beat, then refreeze OR when frozen, let soften awhile and then re-beat and refreeze.

It sounds like a bit of work, but I promise it is worth it!

3. Bell Ringing

Each December, we sign up to ring bells at our local grocery story to benefit the Salvation Army. Yes, it is often really cold outside to ring bells, but so worth it. We get hot cocoa from inside the store and sip it while wishing others a Merry Christmas.

It has taught our kids that even if you give a small amount, it can add up to a big amount. That no matter how much you give, it is in the giving that matters.

Our kids aren’t naturally comfortable welcoming the shoppers with a ‘Merry Christmas’ or ‘Happy Holidays’ greeting. This has taught them to get outside their comfort zones. A smile and greeting you give to someone may be the only smile they’ve received all day.

4. Advent Calendar

We have an Advent Calendar that is shaped like a house with 25 little doors. The kids LOVE it each morning when they open a new door to see what’s inside.

Each door reveals one little piece of paper with something written on it. One day it might be watch a Christmas show that evening, another day it might say ‘Give someone a compliment today,’ or drink hot cocoa, or call your grandparents.

We mix it up each day so some days are random acts of kindness while other days are a guilty pleasure.

And do we forget at times to put a slip of paper behind the door? Absolutely! The kids don’t let us forget for long though!

5. Grinch Party

We’ve hosted a ‘Grinch Party’ for the last several years. What is a Grinch Party you might ask? Well, it is a party for families where ALL is Grinchy!

I will write another post about how to throw a fun Grinch Party in the future!

6. Christmas Lights

We take the same route every year in our city to look at Christmas lights. There is something beautiful about familiarity. There are houses each year that never disappoint. The kids will put on their jammies and we’ll sip hot cocoa while listening to holiday music in the car. Love this tradition!

7. Visit Santa

We’ve brought the kids to sit on Santa’s lap every year since they were little. Our 12-year old told me the other day he is not sitting on Santa’s lap this year. Which means the younger two will soon follow suit. Watching them grow up is so bittersweet!

8. Tom and Jerry

My mother-in-law makes these from scratch every Christmas. And they are a real treat. Added alcohol is optional.

Recipe – Makes 2 quarts

12 eggs (separate whites and yolks and beat separately)

Add to yolks:

  • 2 ½ pounds powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp all-spice
  • 1 tsp baking soda

Mix the above and fold together with egg whites. Don’t beat too much after adding whites.

Put large Tsp of above batter in a large cup with 1 oz rum or 1 oz whiskey and fill with hot water. Add a dash of nutmeg on top and enjoy!

What Are Your Traditions?

Family traditions are an emotional connection to our childhood and family. They frame our sense of self.  

We hope our kids look back fondly on the holidays and pass on some of our traditions to their families one day.

What are your traditions?

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