Well, don’t fear. There are tons of fun and unique ways you can celebrate with your family this year, both at home and on the road. Here are 12 new traditions to start with your family this season.
1. Catch the sunrise
On Christmas morning, or even over the weekend before, get the family up to watch the winter sunrise. Whether you’re in a cold climate or celebrating a warm-weather Christmas, a serene and silent sunrise – over the mountains, at the beach, in the slumbering city or just in your backyard – can give your entire family a new perspective on the holiday. Keep the phone in your pocket and experience the wonder with your own eyes.
Bring along a thermos of hot chocolate to scare away the chill. And maybe even head to a diner afterwards for an early family breakfast.
2. Make your own presents
Anyone can fill up a cart at Target or pick out a recommended item on Amazon. But for a truly special gift, build, paint, craft or grow a homemade present. You don’t even have to have a special talent. DIY presents can be the most special and memorable. Let the kids make anything they want for you.
Make it a family trip by first heading to a craft store like Michael’s or AC Moore, and give everyone a 10 dollar bill to spend on a project for each family member.
3. Celebrate a different culture’s holiday
Pick a day leading up to Christmas and throw a celebration based on a different country’s traditions. Wear candles on your head like at St. Lucia Day in Sweden. Be Norwegian and hide your brooms. Roller skate to church like a real Venezuelan. Have a Kentucky Fried Christmas from KFC like they do in Japan or a meal of chestnut-stuffed turkey, oysters and foie gras like a real French person.
For a unique perspective on the holidays, invite over a friend of a different faith and learn about other celebrations. Let them help you throw a Hanukkah or Kwanzaa party!
4. Do good deeds
What better time of year than Christmas to give something back? There are so many things you can volunteer to do for your community on Christmas.
Cold weather kids can shovel driveways for elderly neighbors and warm climate youngsters can mow unkempt lawns. Bake some cookies and make some cocoa and bring them to the cops and firefighters that have to work on Christmas. Or give everyone a box and have them fill it with clothes they don’t wear anymore and do a family drop off at Goodwill or a homeless shelter.
5. Throw a Christmas pizza party
Christmas week can be a dizzying array of big, filling dinners of turkey and ham and all the trimmings, plus plates and plates of Christmas cookies. And all that cooking and baking can be overwhelming and exhausting.
Take one night during Christmas week and have a family pizza party. Sit around the tree and share your Christmas wishes over a few slices. No prep and no clean up – just toss the box in the recycling bin.
Get creative and order your pizza with pepperoni and green peppers for a festive Christmas-colored pie!
6. Start a scavenger hunt
Take the family on a Christmas display scavenger hunt! Make a list of things you might find in a yard decorated as awesomely as Clark Griswold’s house. Include items like a Santa in a snowglobe, an inflatable Disney character or a mechanical reindeer. Then, pile the family in the car and drive around to all the colorful houses in your town and see how many items you can check off your list!
7. Write a story
Reading a story like “Twas The Night Before Christmas” or “A Christmas Carol” to your kids might be an old family tradition, but why don’t you start a new one by writing your own story!
Gather the kids and ask them questions about what kind of story they want to write, like who are the main characters, where does it take place and what kind of Christmas mischief does everyone get into. Make it Mad-Lib style.
Together you can write an entire short story about Christmas you can retell around the tree every year.
8. Screen a Christmas movie festival
Set aside a Christmas week night for a real holiday film festival at home! Curate a list with two or three underrated family films like Jack Frost, Jingle All The Way or Snow Day rather than Elf or A Christmas Story yet again.
Gather the family around the living room television and fire up the Netflix. Toss a bunch of pillows on the ground to lie on, pop a giant bowl of popcorn and pour everyone an eggnog. It’s like a Christmas Cannes right in your house!
9. Hold a neighborhood block party
Why have a Christmas celebration with just your family when you can have a Christmas celebration with a whole neighborhood of families? Send out invitations to everyone on the block, in the building or around the complex.
If you live in a warmer city, have an outdoor potluck Christmas dinner with community tables in the street or common area and set up game and craft stations for the kids. You can even put up a projection TV and show a football game or classic Christmas movie.
For the cold winter folks, enlist a neighbor with a backyard or open up the summer grilling area and throw a fire pit party. Gather packs of marshmallows, boxes of graham crackers and bars of chocolate and have kids (and adults) make s’mores over the fire. Let the eggnog flow as everyone tells Christmas stories around the circle. You can even decorate an outdoor Christmas tree!
10. Sing Christmas karaoke
Take your caroling to the next level with Christmas karaoke. Set up a karaoke machine in front of the tree or fireplace with the entire family and belt out some of your favorite Christmas classics or modern rockin’ Christmas songs.
Don’t have or want to rent a karaoke machine? There are dozens of great free karaoke websites with all sorts of holiday songs. Gather around the laptop and sing along – no microphone needed!
For an added bit of sharing, invite all your friends and distant family to watch (or sing!) along on Facebook live or FaceTime.
11. Lunch with the animals
Did you know that many zoos around the country stay open on Christmas Day? A bunch of America’s best zoos are open for business on Christmas, including the San Diego Zoo, Milwaukee County Zoo, Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita and the San Francisco Zoo, many with special Christmas programs or community lunches. Spend the day celebrating with the animals, and even buy them some treats for Christmas (or make a donation to the zoo’s wildlife fund).
Your local zoo not open Christmas day? Then visit another day during the holiday as most zoos present unique holiday programs, parties and light shows.
12. Spend the night in a nice hotel
Can’t afford to or don’t have the time to take the family on vacation? That shouldn’t stop you from getting out of the house! Find a reasonably-priced hotel in your city, a cool Airbnb in the woods or a family-friendly bed and breakfast and celebrate Christmas in style (and with a bathroom you don’t have to clean!).
Many hotels and inns serve special Christmas Eve dinners and warm communal Christmas morning breakfast buffets. Your hotel might even have a fireplace in the living room serving hot chocolate!
If you’re lucky enough to live near a resort amusement park like Dollywood, Hersheypark or the bi-coastal Disneys, you can even grab a hotel room at one of the themed resorts and spend the day before or after exploring Christmas at the park!