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Simple Holiday Traditions to Start with Your Family

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Every second Saturday in December, we tell our kids to stay in their rooms after we tuck them into bed, no matter what, and our friends flood our house with laughter and bedazzled bottles of wine. Our main floor becomes a place for them to lounge and relax, and our basement becomes a night club where we blast music and dance until 2 a.m. Without fail, our kids write notes they toss down from the upstairs landing to let us know that we should “keep it down,” which we thoroughly ignore because we say the same thing to them the other 364 days a year every year, and they always ignore us.

This event reminds our kids that their dad and I are a couple with grown-up friends who we deserve to celebrate with, and it feeds us with a kind of no-pressure fun that keeps us going through the next couple weeks of much more stressful Christmastime responsibilities. I highly recommend that everyone inject some easy and fun traditions like this — plus plenty that include the kids — into their holiday season. Here are a few ideas to start with:

1. Light up the INSIDE of your home and take a tour. No ladders needed! Simply give everyone some strings of lights to fancy-up their room of choice—bedrooms, bathrooms, whichever one they want to claim—and let them get creative. Once everyone’s masterpiece is ready, walk together room to room to see what everyone came up with: It’s much warmer than driving around to see the fanciest lights in town!

2. Get the kids involved with the holiday cards. Not just being in the photo, but put those elves to work by addressing the envelopes (How adorable is their handwriting? SO. ADORABLE.), stamping them, even making little drawings on the envelopes to make each one more personal.

3. Create a holiday movie-themed home version of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Teach your kids the value of a good-natured live-action heckling! You’ve all seen these holiday movies countless times, so work on your timing to one-up each other with commentary during the movie and see who the funniest person in the room is.

4. Skip the cookie swap and do a wine swap, instead. All that shopping for supplies, baking, cleaning, and boxing up is exhausting. Why not save yourselves tons of time—but keep the fun—by having everyone get a case of inexpensive wine (which is often sold at a discount) and trade those for (you guessed it!) more wine? This way everyone goes home with a nice assortment that can be either served at dinners or given away as hostess gifts. Did I mention there’s no clean-up?

5. But still make cookies! Not just any cookies. Really do your research and find exactly the cookies each member of your family likes best. Doesn’t matter if it’s a simple oatmeal cookie recipe or a complicated truffle type of thing. Pick a weekend and treat each member of the family by everyone chipping in to make a batch of each kind…and don’t give any away as gifts. Gordon Gekko’s most famous line is “greed is good,” and when it comes to cookies, I think he’s absolutely onto something.

6. Bring the kids to see The Nutcracker Suite. My mom used to take me to see all sorts of different productions, from the public schools’ to the Boston Ballet’s performance and everything in between. It was cool to see all the things they do differently in each one (and cute to see the ones starring little kids from local dance schools), and to have a date with my mom to look forward to each year.

7. Re-write their favorite holiday books as action films. Your kids know their favorite wintery bedtime stories about trains and grinches and snowmen by heart. Why not challenge them to twist the stories into something different, like a superhero tale, or throw in a new character (like a naughty elf who hang glides to get around)? Maybe with a little practice, you will have some new favorite (handmade) books to read for years to come.

8. Make an ornament. No, not those boring foam-sticker ones from the dollar section. Make some that LAST, like the kind we made when we were kids: tiny seed-filled hourglasses being held by gnomes, Big Birds out of molded Styrofoam and yellow feathers, and popsicle-stick log cabins. Get your hot glue gun on, my friends, and make some memories that last FOREVER.

9. Feed another family. Or a bunch of them. Find a local food pantry and see if they will allow you to do a food collection to donate. Work together to figure out ways to get as much food as you can from your community to donate, then bring your kids with you to deliver it. Make it an annual project to remind everyone how really good it feels to give to those who truly need it.

10. Amp up the silly in the season! Start one of these 21 hilarious family holiday traditions. You know what they say: The family that laughs together, stays together.

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Photo: Getty