Simple Christmas Traditions You Have Time to Start Today

Does the Christmas season overwhelm you, Mama. I’ve admitted that it has a tendency to overwhelm me. One result of this when my children were young is guilt, so much guilt.

You see, Christmas would sneak up on me- or I was avoiding it. And in mid-December, I would realize that Christmas was almost upon us, and while other moms were sharing all these cool, fun traditions they were doing with their kids, I was feeling even more frustration and overwhelm because now my kids were missing out. I wasn’t doing all those fun things, and I hadn’t planned for any of them! I was so behind!

Here’s what I learned, though. Traditions don’t have to be big, elaborate events. They don’t have to be an added source of stress or have Pinterest-worthy photo opportunities. Traditions can be spur of the moment, done on the fly. And sometimes those crazy, quick and easy, family moments turn into the big moments that the kids remember fondly.

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If you’re a little overwhelmed with the season or just feel like you’re running out of time to make some fun family memories, here are ten fun ideas for simple family Christmas activities you can do right now, with very little planning, and with few materials to gather.

Decorate sugar cookies. 

You don’t have to spend lots of time making cookie dough by hand. Buy the already-made dough and let kids use cookie cutters to cut cookies out, and icing and sprinkles to decorate them.

Make Christmas candy. 

This is also really simple. Get some Christmas candy molds and candy melts or white or chocolate chips. (You can find these at most Walmarts as well as at the link.) Melt the candy melts, pour in the molds, and let it harden.

Make a paper chain to count down how many days are left until Christmas. 

Don’t worry if you didn’t start on December 1, do it today! Alternate red and green strips of construction paper and staple together to make a chain.

Start an Advent Wreath tradition.

The Advent Wreath is a symbolic way to remember and look forward to the birth of Christ. The wreath is round with three purple candles and one pink on the outside and a larger white candle in the center. There are several variations on what each of the candles means. We use this version. All are intended to point to the birth of Christ. It’s never too late in December to start. We relight each candle each week when we do our Advent Wreath anyway, so just jump in wherever in December you happen to be.

Make homemade Christmas cards.

These don’t have to be Pinterest creations, Mama. Get out some red and green paper, markers, stamps, and whatever scraps you’ve got for decorations and let the kids get crafting. The grandparents will love a homemade card from the kids!

Drive around and look at Christmas lights.

This really takes no planning and preparation, and you can do it any night after dark. When my kids were younger, our tradition was that Daddy would take the kids out driving to see the lights and stop for hot chocolate while I wrapped Christmas presents. It was very inexpensive and something the kids looked forward to tremendously. If you want to get fancy and see “the best” lights, you can search for light shows near you. 

(I will say, though, that the year we drove forty-five minutes to see the lights on the Concord, NC Speedway, sat in traffic for thirty minutes to get off the exit, waited in a line in the car for another fortyish minutes- with no bathroom around, drove through the lights in about thirty minutes, and then waited another forty minutes or more in line to get out of the Speedway was much, much less fun than driving around town and finding neighborhoods with lots of lights.)

Open a special gift early.

When I was little, I can still remember that we opened pajamas on Christmas Eve. We started that tradition with our own kids, but as our kids got older we ended up making Christmas Eve our big Christmas morning event since we had to go to family on Christmas day. Now we do the big Christmas morning opening- four presents each- on Christmas Eve and then stockings and “Daddy presents” on Christmas day. No matter how you do it, the fun thing is being able to look forward to that year after year.

Build a gingerbread house.

Again, Mama, stay away from Pinterest. Really. Just drive down to Target, pick up a gingerbread house kit, and drive home. Then open it up and let the kids at it. It doesn’t matter what the houses look like in the end. The fun is in the process. You can help by having that attitude yourself. Don’t expect some great photos you can put on Instagram. Instead, laugh with the kids when the whole mess collapses and they just start eating it.

Make simple ornaments.

Ornaments can be a fun keepsake for the kids, or they can make great gifts. Add a child’s homemade ornament to Grandma’s present for lots of “Oohs” and “Ahhs”. Again, the process is what is fun. Let the kids create! Here are some great simple ideas to get you started.

Track Santa with NORAD.

Want to encourage a little geography with your Christmas traditions? Check out the Santa tracker beginning on December 24. Now, whether or not you “do Santa” can be a huge debate that I won’t address here. We always told the kids there was no Santa, but we also played pretend with Santa like we would with other make-believe things. So tracking Santa with NORAD was lots of fun.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the whole Christmas season, Mama, don’t let the mom guilt add to your overwhelm. Take a deep breath and do something fun with the kids. Who knows? Maybe it will become a fun, simple tradition that your family comes back to year after year.

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