Creating Your Own Family Holiday Traditions

The holidays are upon us and although there are lots of various cultural traditions to take part in—like Santa Claus parades, milk and cookies left out on Christmas Eve, Christmas caroling, and more—this is also a time to create something new for your own family.  When my husband and I first got together, he already had a son, and thus Christmas was family-oriented from the start.  We each had our own Christmas traditions from our own families, lovely, personal memories of Christmas from our own childhoods.

Of course we wanted to share our memories and keep things in a way that seemed “best” simply because it was how we’d done it, but we realized very quickly that it can’t work that way.  The joy of individual holiday traditions is that they are developed and suited to those who are taking part in them.  This is where the need to create your own family holiday traditions comes into play, although not all families find it easy to find something unique to them or, more saliently, agree on what these traditions should be.

How to start?  What to think of?

Part of the reason you probably loved your traditions so much is that they spoke to you so you have to think about who you’re creating these memories for: yourself or your child?  Hopefully both, but it means in many ways you’ll have to follow your child’s lead in this for some elements that will remain special to them.

In thinking of child-led traditions, think about the elements of the holidays that mean the most to your child.  In our case, my daughter loves to dance and do dance parties and so we’ve incorporated this into our Christmas tradition.  Each year when we decorate the tree, we make a big to-do about it.  Everyone is there, everyone decorates, but at the same time we’ve got Merry Axemas playing (yes, we do guitar rock Christmas music) and we enjoy a special Christmas-themed dance party at the same time.  I already know this is something she finds special for as soon as Christmas takes over everywhere, she’s asking when we’ll do our dance party.

For my eldest, it’s the time together and the Christmas movies that make it special for him so as soon as December hits, we allow ourselves to start watching the laundry list of Christmas movies that are banned to us the rest of the year.  We tried allowing us to watch some favourites during the year, but we quickly discovered it took away the magic during the Christmas time, so banned they became.  As he gets older, he gets to partake in more adult, non-tradition, but still Christmas movies (we introduced Gremlins last year, this year may be Rocky IV).  The joy of pulling out old favourites (including Home Alone, Elf, and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation) once a year is something that is truly meaningful to him and his time with us.

Then of course there are the traditions you build with your partner-in-crime.  It can be as simple as putting on Die Hard Christmas Eve for the two of you to enjoy or cooking Christmas dinner together while dancing to the Christmas music that’s been playing all day or buying that not-so-innocent gift to enjoy.  We try to make sure we get away for a few days over the holidays, just to unwind and relax.  Not a full trip and not far, but we pack up (kids too) and head somewhere “away from it all” to help us relax and recharge.  It’s a tradition that has become one of our favourite parts of the holiday season and one we’ll go to all lengths to maintain.

At the end of the day, the goal as parents is to make sure you’ve built memories for a lifetime and only you can know the best ways to do that for your family.  Just remember that you don’t have to follow in the footsteps of everyone else – what works for your family is just perfect!


By Tracy Cassels

December 15, 2014