Making New Holiday Traditions This Year? Try These!

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celebrate the holidays2020 has been a difficult year, and for my family, the holidays will be tough as well. Our extended family lives far away, and we won’t see them in person this season. Instead of focusing on the negative, my family will be using the opportunity to develop new family traditions. We have the choice to make the most out of the season, so we are taking it!

Are you also looking for some fun ideas for new traditions this holiday? Here are a few socially distanced activities you can share as a family:

Holiday Lights/Decorations Scavenger Hunt

Create a list of holiday decorations you want to find, and then go for a drive (or a walk around your neighborhood). Check off what you see as you go! First to find everything wins!

Cut Your Own Christmas Tree

There are several local tree farms in and around Westchester. If you are looking to stay local, we have two farms right here in the county: Stuart’s Farm – Granite Springs and Wilken’s Fruit and Fir Farm – Yorktown Heights. Make sure to get tickets if you need them!

Neighborhood Thanksgiving Parade

Car parades have been an “it” thing for celebrations in 2020. Why should Thanksgiving be any different? In the absence of a typical Macy’s Day Parade, why not get together with friends and/or neighbors and put on a show of your own? Just decorate your cars and go for a drive to bring cheer to others!

Hot Cocoa Bar

Make up cups of your favorite hot cocoa, and put out goodies to add on. Here are some of our favorites:

  • Marshmallows
  • Candy Canes
  • Whipped Cream
  • Caramel Drizzle

Family Hiking/Snow Shoeing

We have some amazing local hiking areas in Westchester. Here are some family-friendly spots that are perfect for checking out bare branches, fallen leaves, and frost-covered terrain:

Make Your Own Christmas Ornaments

There are tons of kits out there to make your own, or check out Pinterest for DIY options using materials such as clay/playdough, cardboard, paper, felt, etc. You can also piece out ornament creation kits using basic ornaments from a craft supply store, plus paint, glitter, etc. This can become a yearly tradition, creating precious mementos to treasure for years to come.

Latke Toppings Bar

What are your favorite toppings? Here are some ideas, if you are looking for new options!

  • Sweet – Top with chopped fruit, fruit/chocolate syrup, or chocolate or butterscotch chips.
  • Classic – Top with apple sauce or chopped apples.
  • Savory – Top with ketchup, mustard, sour cream, shredded cheese, chives/scallions, or bacon bits (if you aren’t kosher, of course! If you are, you can try turkey bacon if you choose not to do dairy, or vegan bacon bits if you want to pair dairy with the salty flavors of bacon while literally keeping it kosher).

Holiday Movie Nights

Pick a night of the week, and watch holiday-themed movies, along with popcorn, hot cocoa, latke topping bars, etc. Create a list with the family, and check them off as you go.

25/31 Days of Gratitude

Each night leading up to New Years, write one thing each family member is grateful for in a shared journal. Add new pages each year. If your children are too young to write, have a nightly family discussion over dinner or before bed, and write their ideas in the journal. You can also have them add pictures!

Send Letters of Gratitude 

Christmas/holiday cards are frequent traditions, but they are often either cookie cutter well wishes, or self-aggrandizing letters discussing how great of a year the family has had. While these have their place, what about those near and dear to your hearts that you don’t see often, even during typical holidays? In the era of social media, it is easy to forget to genuinely connect with those who matter, but whom we don’t see face to face or speak to often. Pick one person you care about, and have each family member to do the same. Send them each a thoughtful holiday card or letter (along with, or instead of, the normal Christmas/holiday card or letter). You can email it, send it via social media, or snail mail it (because who doesn’t love getting a nice handwritten letter)?! In a year like 2020, gestures like this are ultra meaningful, but this tradition is one you can keep year after year.

Build a Gingerbread House

Make your own gingerbread, or just buy a kit from the store. Either way, this is a fun and delicious holiday activity the whole family will love!

Send Holiday Cookies

This is another fun and delicious holiday activity. And, who wouldn’t love a plate of fresh-baked cookies? What a nice way to show others they matter to you!

Christmas Caroling

This year, you may need to keep your distance, but that is no reason not to organize a time to spread some socially distanced cheer! Meet friends at a park or the town center, or do a walk around the neighborhood together. And if you were wondering, yes, you can sing in masks. Don’t believe me (yes, I’ve tried, it works)? Ask Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande!

Holiday Book Marathon

Read a new holiday or seasonally themed book each day. Many libraries are doing online orders, which makes finding tons of new options free and safe!

Year in Review Scrap Booking

This year has been a difficult one, but much like the days of gratitude, there are still likely things you and your children can identify as positives. Make a scrap book, individually, or as a family (either together, or each doing your own page), of things that were meaningful this past year. You can do a new book each year and create a family library, or use one scrapbook and add a new page each year.

Have other fun holiday tradition ideas? Be sure to share with us in the comments!

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Erin is the mother of one sweet, rambunctious toddler and wife to a talented chef. Professionally, she is a former special educator and preschool teacher, and is currently a cognitive neuroscience researcher and Ph.D candidate in Cognitive Science in Education with specializations in neuroscience, cognitive development, and neurodiversity/autism. She holds masters degrees in cognitive science, and neuroscience in education, from Teachers College, Columbia University, and undergraduate degrees in special education (with an additional concentration in elementary education and a minor in English) and early childhood education. As the wife of a chef, food is a huge part of her family culture, and she enjoy both cooking and baking. Some of her other hobbies include hiking, traveling, jogging, meditation, animal rescue, playing piano and guitar, crafting, reading, and of course, writing. You can follow her parenting journey and pick up tips on great kids activities here on Westchester Moms Blog, as well as her website (www.themindfullyscientificmama.com), Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest accounts.