7 Holiday Traditions Worth Your Time


Holiday Traditions

The countdown to Christmas is game on and if December has been busy all on its own, you might find keeping up with popular holiday traditions a thorn in your stressed out side.  Lets take the Elf on the Shelf.  I’ll be honest.  Having to remember to move that Elf at the end of each incredibly busy day this month has found me secretly hoping we can find a graceful exit for him to leave our holiday traditions forever.  Added not because he held some heartfelt meaning but simply because I fell pray to some seriously savvy marketing and he seemed like a cute idea. Fast forward 8 years and the Elf on the Shelf mania has lost its marbles, complete with all kinds of suggestions online about how you can make your Elf have the most wonderful antics on the block, entertaining your children while somehow giving them pause to behave well.

Our youngest is 10.  She doesn’t believe the Elf has any power over her but is really more for younger children when it comes to reporting behavior to Santa. But it’s clear that he can’t be touched at anytime or we’ll ruin his magic forever.  You realize how incredibly tempting that is?  Just one little touch and that Elf is dead to her, worthless in our holiday traditions forevermore.  But it seems heartless, which just even typing that is all the more ridiculous.  Its a stuffed elf that honestly looks a bit creepy. So I’m trying to be fair.  This year, the Elf has had three unfortunate falls from his perch, entirely unprovoked.

Holiday Traditions

Holiday Traditions

Holiday Tradiitons

I’d be lying if I said those perches weren’t just a smidge precarious to begin with so the falls were a hopeful outcome.  I’ve shared with our daughter that he really only has nine lives like a cat.  This season he’s three down, only six to go before he can’t come back.  With only a week to go its just too unlikely to happen given that we have the occasional days where he simply hasn’t moved. We blame those on him being nervous about falling again.  So far its totally working…and completely ridiculous.  I’m trying to kill off a tradition one fall at a time because I don’t want to blow the magical cover of it all.  Because if the Elf isn’t real before she is ready to let him be a stuffed Elf, then what about Santa?

Which leads me to this post.  I want to make sure that the holiday traditions we honor are worth every second of our time.  I’m not opening the door for comments about Santa and the true meaning of Christmas routed in religious values.  If you believe sharing the magic of Santa with your children is dishonest or not respectful to the meaning of Christ’s birth, then stop reading now.  That isn’t the point of this post. I’m all in for celebrating Santa and the birth of Jesus as part of our holiday traditions.  Its how I was raised and it works for us. But if you are tapped for time and want to make sure that the holiday traditions you choose instill in your children are worth your time and their memories year after year, then here are my top pick for holiday traditions that will stick:

Pictures with Santa

My children span eight years from top to bottom. That means that clearly my high school senior has outgrown writing letters to Santa and wanting to visit with him to talk gifts but my elementary aged child still looks forward to every part of that tradition.  We’ve made it clear to our teens that taking a picture with Santa isn’t optional, its simply part of the holiday drill and to be good sports for her sake.  The best part is the older they get, the less they mind.  They get how important it is to protect her innocent wonder and to foster it for as long as we all can, that its a team effort that’s worth it.  It doesn’t hurt that just last week I could share with them the story of the two brothers who have taken a picture with Santa for 34 years straight.  Seriously. 34 years.  And counting.

Baking Cookies

Baking together makes memories that will last a lifetime.  Baking is the experience of making something special both with and for the ones you love. Its the magic of making the entire house smell incredibly sweet and delicious thanks to hours of baking a batch at a time.  Its the memories of decorating (and eating) your creations in whatever way you wish.  And if you are incredibly lucky, its done with at least one recipe that was handed down in your family from generations before, connecting you to your extended family no matter how many miles or years have separated you this year.  Baking cookies for the holidays is worth every ounce of time you can spare.  And for my crowd, the pre-made Gingerbread House in the easy to assemble kit works just fine.

Looking at Christmas Lights

Planning one night when you take a drive through your neighborhood or travel to the nearest “Best Lights in Town” location is magical.  Plan to head out one night after dinner, in your jammies with blankets and hot chocolate if you like, all cozy with holiday music to carry you along.  Slow down and enjoy discovering the beautiful displays your community has put together for all to see.

Watching Holiday Shows

Such a simple thing to do, this is yet another tradition that closes the years between my children. Each with their own personal favorites, from Rudolph to Charlie Brown, the Sound of Music (original of course) and Santa Clause, the list goes on of a holiday shows the kids all enjoy.  Planning time to watch together gathered in our family room, Christmas tree lit and lights dim, connects us on a level playing field of fond memories for all and I love how often this down time happens in December, even if I have to switch gears to make it work.

Sending Holiday Cards

The real deal ~ an actual Christmas card that comes in the mail with a hand addressed envelope and a stamp too!  Love to send them. ADORE receiving them.! And in our home we leave them hanging on the wall all year long.  These days its rare you get a holiday card from someone you don’t know well and we enjoy having those smiling faces and kind notes from dear friends and family look over us throughout the New Year, wishing we could have them all with us in person.

Acts of Service

Time, Talent, and Treasure.  Have you ever noticed how the words Time and Talent come before Treasure?  When plentiful, it is easy to give money and of course that money is so very needed.  Thank goodness it’s so easy to donate toys because those are also always in short supply for children who already have so very little.  But it takes commitment to give our time and talent at the busiest time of year, the willingness to let someone else dictate our time and perhaps even a little inconvenience on our part to make it happen. Yet these are the two things that can have the greatest impact on the recipients of your efforts and they are the most tangible for your children.  While donating a toy can connect the dots that there are kids who may not get toys like I do, including your children in a  holiday service project where their time spent in person working to support a cause plants seeds for a lifetime that this season is not about the receiving but always about the giving without expectation.  Our family has found a local outlet for this in The Christmas Store, an amazing event sponsored by a local church and ministry that services hundreds of families in need.

Lighting Luminaries

There is nothing more magical on Christmas Eve than a neighborhood aglow with luminaries.  Long before kids my husband and I started this tradition with our first home and no matter where we live, we will always include it.  Another great family activity to assemble and place them together, the luminaries set the stage for the wonder of the night and draw everyone into the quiet awe that is the spirit of the holiday season.

Clearly I love Christmas and this list could go on and on about holiday traditions that are worth your time.  And clearly, if I had to do it all over again, I’d never have included the Elf on the Shelf in our mix.  His memories aren’t long lasting, his presence while novel has never been earth shattering, and his value to what Christmas really means for us isn’t tangible.  Wish me luck in figuring out a graceful way to exit him next year since he’s still going to have a few of his nine lives left this year.

My goal with this post is to help you focus on traditions that make memories ~ ones that you will love having passed onto your children that they will carry in their hearts ~ and into their families for years to come. Christmas is love and family is where our story begins.  Giving my children a story full of traditions that are easy for them to honor no matter what each December throws their way means I’m giving them memories to cherish and even more memories to make.  Tell me..

What are holiday traditions are worth your time?

Thanks so much for stopping by ~ we’ll see you next time!

Happy Holidays!


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  1. Kelly {the Centsible Life}12-17-13

    We love family traditions! We’re cultivating new ones each year. :)

    We don’t do the Elf since he came out after we formed most of our traditions.

  2. MamaBear12-17-13

    We bake bread for our neighbors and the kids make a homemade card to go along with it. I know you are trying to phase out your elf, but our elf, Red, becomes a great way to start the month of December since his birthday falls on December 1st. My older two (7 and 9) wanted to give him gifts which started the conversation about giving of our time and talents rather than THINGS. So my oldest used his creativity to put together a scavenger hunt for Red to find his gift – some of my son’s precious candy stash. My daughter has a gift for hospitality so she set up a tea party for Red and set out some of her precious candy stash.

    We also lit luminaries before family arrived for dinner last week – SO pretty and they stayed lit for three hours! (we make ours out of branches, cranberries/odds & ends from garage sale Christmas decor that get frozen in water that we put in an ice cream bucket with a smaller container taped inside to set the candle in..

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