35 Meaningful Holiday Traditions That Prioritize What Matters Most

The holidays are coming and there’s so much to look forward to. Before we know it, we’ll be surrounded by loved ones, enjoying each other’s company, sharing amazing food, oohing and aahing over our children’s heartwarming holiday decorations, and of course giving and receiving gifts. 

Anticipating all that celebration fills the air with excitement and possibility...it’s almost like being a kid again, myself!

But all too often, we can find ourselves frantically striving to get everything just right,  dampening that childlike exuberance and sucking the joy right out of the season. Given the typical rush of shopping, consuming, cleaning, and preparing, the whole focus of the holidays has become clouded, making it all but impossible to be truly present with the ones who matter most to us.

That’s why we’re decidedly taking back the holidays, opting out of all that chaotic, unhealthy frenzy, and creating our own new traditions. 

After all, if I had to boil the holidays down to their essence, all that would remain is the simplicity of sharing sweet moments with loved ones and feeling eternally lucky for the magic we get to experience in this life together. The wonder, the joy, the feeling of oneness with all of humankind, and deep, permeating gratitude—this is what the holidays are all about. 

Once we were reminded of this simplistic and joy-giving purpose, we knew in our hearts that there’s really not all that much to do other than bask in those irreplaceable memorable moments together. So I’ve made a list (and checked it twice) of 35 family-based holiday experiences and traditions that focus less on “stuff” and “to-do’s” and more on what really matters: slowing down, being present, and connecting with those we love most. 

  • Prepare a family feast together
  • Start or end each day with each person in your family sharing something they are grateful for
  • Spend an afternoon as a family selecting items to donate to those who are less fortunate
  • Bring home a tree to decorate (or find a perfect one in your yard!)
  • Take a hike through the woods 
  • Make paper snowflakes
  • Have a homemade popcorn party 
  • Create a holiday play
  • Learn a new holiday song
  • Find natural decorations to bring indoors
  • Schedule family yoga time
  • Host a winter solstice candlelit dinner
  • Bake cookies for Santa and the reindeer
  • Make eggnog
  • Create holiday cards for family and friends 
  • Make homemade snow globes 
  • Watch a holiday movie
  • See a live theater or music show
  • Volunteer at a local non-profit 
  • Make candles (old crayons add a pop of color!)
  • Create a memory or photo book of the year
  • Sing together 
  • Hang mistletoe
  • Learn about holiday traditions around the world
  • Deck the halls
  • Give meaningful, heartfelt, and even homemade gifts (or give experiences instead!)
  • Take a family technology fast for 24 hours (more if you are daring!)
  • Play board games
  • Complete a challenging jigsaw puzzle
  • Take a tour of neighborhood holiday lights (hint: hot chocolate makes this a home run with the kids!)
  • Build a snowman
  • Roast marshmallows over an outdoor firepit
  • Make a gingerbread house
  • Build a cozy indoor fort for PJ day
  • Go sledding, snowshoeing, or ice skating

For my family, I’ve decided that the best way to ensure we remain intentional throughout the season is with an advent calendar. What I do is pick my favorite 24 items and write them on a piece of paper designated for a day between December 1st and 24th. Each morning, we wake up and see what it’s store for us that day. The anticipation may indeed be the best part as we all get so excited to see what fun awaits us, and it has really done the trick in reminding us daily to make space for what matters most in life...savoring our precious moments together. 

Regardless of your traditions and how you incorporate them, one thing is certain—all that really matters is connecting with those we love.

What are some of your family’s traditions for savoring the season? I’d love to know! 

Come share your ideas with me on Instagram.

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