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For those of us who don’t practice spirituality in formal terms, the holiday season can be more of an American cultural tradition than a religious celebration. I love family traditions and having young children is a fantastic opportunity to start new ones! The holiday season has become a sentimental time of year for me. It’s easy to rush through life, checking tasks off our to-do lists and doing the necessary daily chores of life, but forgetting to stop and think about what truly matters. The holiday season is the perfect time to reflect on the best experiences of the year and be grateful for wonderful friends and family. These 5 non-religious holidays cultivate reflection, gratitude, and being present during time together.
- A Tree of Memories. Hanging ornaments on the Christmas tree as a child was always a delightful walk down memory lane, as I remembered receiving or making each ornament. I want to ensure our children also have fond memories as we hang ornaments. Each year we select a new ornament for each child that represents one big important memory for the year. When we decorate our tree we think about each ornament and the memories it represents as we hang it. Another fun twist on this is to have a photo made into an ornament each year. Shutterfly is an easy way to accomplish this 🙂
- Crafting. Craft an ornament or any creation that can be displayed for years to come. For our son’s first Christmas, a friend who also had a new baby, (but had her act together WAY more than I did at that point,) invited several of us with new babies over to create footprint “mistletoes” on a small canvas. This is something I never would have taken the initiative to do on my own since I’m not crafty, but now I treasure those special footprints so much that it has inspired me to make a fun craft every year.
- Gingerbread Houses. I’m not artistic, crafty, nor a good baker, but that’s partly what’s so fun about our annual tradition of having friends over and making gingerbread houses. This activity is very different from anything else we typically do throughout the year. A house full of toddlers who eat at least as much candy as they add to their gingerbread house is sure to be an adventure. I take a photo of our son’s creation each year and it will be fun to see how his construction and decorations evolve over time.
- Framed Santa Photos. We’ve taken our children to see Santa every year and I always frame my favorite one. The outing is always a fun family date! The photos go into a simple 4″x6” frame and we only get them out at Christmas. So far they all fit on the mantle above the fireplace and I love reflecting on the memories of fun and festive holidays past. We also set our family yearbooks on the coffee table to remember the fun of years past.
- Funny Christmas Card. I know a lot of people don’t do holiday cards anymore because most people are on social media and keep in touch throughout the year. However, there’s something special about a holiday card. There are plenty of people I’d send a holiday card to who are not on social media. A fun twist is to make the holiday card photo into a family project. What’s a clever or fun family photo that you could take? I have one friend who NAILS this every year and we look forward to her card the most. (She has gone as far as painting her daughter green to be the Grinch and dressing their dog up as a reindeer.) I’m not nearly as creative as she is, but ugly Christmas sweaters or wearing swimsuits on a snow-covered beach are possible. (Disclaimer: This year we did a birth announcement, so I let myself off the hook for a holiday card ;-))
The holiday season doesn’t have to be all about the frenzied shopping for gifts or hours spent in church, it can be an opportunity to actually SLOW DOWN and appreciate the little things and savor the memories. It’s the perfect time to reflect on what we did as a family and what we enjoyed the most. This serves as a great foundation for setting priorities for the New Year to ensure we do more of what we love. A tree of memories and some family activities are great traditions to enjoy this year and every year thereafter. These 5 non-religious holiday traditions help us savor the memories of a year well spent and enjoying laughter, happiness, and joy of the holiday season!
What are your favorite non-religious holiday season traditions?