Paul and I are newlyweds, and it has occurred to us that we don’t have any family holiday traditions together. We each have our own individual family traditions, but no traditions that help to define us as a family and household.
While traditions are often born from a whim, I have been thinking of some frugal ones to try in our own household and thought it would be great to share them with you as well. I think we will try a few new holiday traditions this year, see what feels like ‘us’, and cherish them in all of our years to come.
Hide a Pickle Ornament in Your Tree
I used to date someone whose mother would hide a green pickle ornament within their tree—and let me tell you, she hid it very well. Whoever found it first would get a special gift. It was quite the friendly competition and made the holidays that much more fun. You don’t need to use a green pickle; you could use anything that you want.
Reading of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas
Gather around on Christmas Eve in your pajamas and have someone read this classic, warm book. Hopefully it will send you asleep to sweet dreams.
Open One Gift on Christmas Eve
This will obviously not work if you have small children who believe in Santa Claus (although in this case you can open up one present from each other, if your family gives personal gifts to each other). Our family used to do this growing up, and it was such a fun Christmas family tradition!
Midnight Mass/Service on Christmas Eve
I had the pleasure of attending a Christmas Eve Midnight Mass one year with a friend, and it was glorious. Candles were lit all around, a choir was singing, and we sang several tunes as well. The fact that it was at midnight was also special, as most children are not allowed up this late. Even if you are not religious, I recommend trying this Christmas tradition out to get you in the holiday and community spirit.
Share What You are Thankful For
Around the table while you and your family sit to eat, have everyone share what they are thankful for. If you are too shy, have everyone write down three things they are thankful for and put them in a hat. Everyone can take turns picking the pieces of paper out and reading them out loud.
Cut Your Own Christmas Tree
Instead of purchasing a tree at a typical Christmas tree lot, head out into the country and cut your own down. You can find tree farms that will allow you to do this  (with this website you have to keep scrolling down after you click on a new hyperlink), and your cost should be cheaper than a normal tree because you are doing the work. For a bonus, ask the farm for excess cuttings to use to decorate your windowsills and make a wreath for your front door.
Host a Night of Baking
Set aside a weeknight leading up to the holidays where you, your family, or friends sift through favorite cookie, cake, and pie recipes and bake for hours. Perhaps you can use this time to teach your son/daughter or niece/nephew a treasured family recipe, as well as some basic cooking skills. The bonus is that you can give some of the baked goods away as gifts.
Make a Complicated and Amazing Recipe
One of the things that holiday brings is lots of time off (hopefully for everyone). Go ahead and take advantage of that by cooking one dish you only cook for the holidays due all that is involved. Everyone will be quite appreciative, and when the season comes again and again, they will salivate for your dish’s taste! Some ideas are making your own cider  (you will need several weeks for fermenting), homemade egg nog , a two-day chili, a recipe from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking , etc.
Watch a Favorite Holiday Movie Together
Each year I watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation several times beginning around Thanksgiving. To me, this movie helps to usher in that holiday feeling. Test out several movies this holiday season and see if it helps you and your family to feel cozy and give you guys a sense of togetherness. This could be an older movie, such as A Christmas Carol, or a newer one such as Elf with Will Ferrell.
What are your family holiday traditions? How did they begin?
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