Finding traditional activities for winter holidays can be overwhelming. Especially since the end of year season is already a very busy time of year. But it’s a very special time of year. So, here are 7+ traditional activities you and your family can engage in to brighten the season.
I may be in love with autumn but winter runs nearly neck and neck for first place in my heart. So, I’m always excited in November to get a jumpstart on this season once again. It’s a cosmic mix of fall ending and winter starting. I realize a lot of people feel more stress than anything though.
But it’s special to me because my parents did a few of the same things each year as a child. Those traditions help set the tone for how I feel now as an adult. We’d watch certain movies, go to holiday parties, drive the neighborhood looking at Christmas decorations or sip on hot cocoa after playing in snow.
Now, as a young adult, I continue doing some of those same things. When I met my husband in college, I was over the moon to share and swap traditions with him. That hasn’t changed even after nearly 8 years of marriage. But along the way, we’ve carved out some new family traditions too. Things unique to us, our relationship and the family we’re building now.
Having a plan before entering one of the busiest times of years is extremely helpful. It’s also the best way to incorporate all the traditional family activities everyone knows and loves.
Yet, sadly it can’t ALL be done. Time is limited. But this year, we decided to do something a little different. The first step was to pare down our bucket list. It really helps to identify the most important activities. That’s the systematic way of going about it. And if anything does need to be let go, you know exactly what.
The next step was to add activities to the calendar in a semi-uniform way. Choosing specific days or evenings that can be entirely devoted to fully embracing the traditional family activity. Doing so decreases some of the usual places for stress. Like – overload on activities, having to choose between this party or that dinner, etc. Getting lost in holiday commercialism. Losing focus on what really matters. Or ultimately feeling like a disappointment to family.
Rather than having a wish list of activities but never enough time to do them, we’re taking charge. At the time we began planning (early November) there were only 7 weeks between then and Christmas. But if your family likes to make special plans including the New Year too, by all means extend the calendar!
With 7 weeks, we selected 7 activities in each of 2 main categories and 1 bonus group (just for me). Seven felt like a very manageable yet equally enjoyable amount. But combined, we actually made time and space for more than 20 special family moments.
The categories are movie watching and family activities. The bonus is a baking category. Until last winter, it was just my husband and I most of the time. But, boy do we love being together. Now that we have a kiddo, we’re beyond thrilled he gets to join us this year.
Here’s how we planned our end of year this time.
The first round of family traditional activities begins each week with baking a treat on Sunday.
Though not an “official” category of the family, baking made it on the calendar. I enjoy baking tremendously but don’t feel I do it enough. That’s because I oftentimes don’t feel justified in baking since it’s just the 2 of us. Plus, Mr. Traditional prefers fruity sweets while I prefer brownies and ice cream type sweets.
But then I realized that anything we make can be shared with neighbors or at the office! And there are so many office lunches or parties this time of year too. So each Sunday, I enjoy making some sweet treat. And I’m incredibly happy that my husband and son join me too. It’s official now – this is one of our traditional family winter activities.
Of all the things I’d LOVE to make, here are the 7 we chose.
- Gingerbread (for decorating cookies or houses) – Recipe from Jessica @ThreeRiversHomestead
- Peppermint bark
- Rugelach Cookies – Heartway Farms
- Apple crisp (a family favorite)
- Challah bread or Monkey bread (seems like a great breakfast option!) – via Heartway Farms
- Cinnamon coffee roll – Heartway Farms
- Pumpkin Crumb Muffins with cream cheese – via Heartway Farms
Won’t they just be delicious?
Watching classic movies is truly a favorite traditional activity of mine. Especially holiday themed films!
We selected Tuesdays to snuggle cuddle up together and watch a good movie. With previously baked goodies of course! While there are tons of great season holiday films, these are the movies we selected.
- White Christmas – 1954 Musical Comedy starring Bing Crosby
- It’s a Wonderful Life – 1946 Comedy Drama starring Jimmy Stewart
- Home Alone 1 – 1990 Comedy starring Macaulay Culkin
- Home Alone 2 – The 1992 comedy sequel
- Miracle on 34th Street – 1947 Comedy Drama starring Edmund Gwenn, Natalie Wood & Maureen O’Hara
- Mr. Magoo’s Christmas (1962 Musical) & It’s a Charlie Brown Christmas (1965 Short film)
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas – 1966 Short starring Boris Karloff
We don’t have a TV or use our computer to watch many movies but I’m looking forward to this. Especially since I love movie-going and movie-watching. My baby won’t sit through any of these classics, but he may be entertained for a moment by the cartoon films. It’ll be a special treat for him too since we don’t give him screen time any other time.
Finally, the third category: traditional family activities or crafts. For what winter welcome is complete without them?!
Since other weekdays are busy for us, we chose Friday’s to jumpstart our weekends. Here are 7 family activities or crafts we’ll be enjoying until Christmas.
- Christmas tree picking (& decorating)
- Gingerbread House Decorating
- Baking/Decorating cookies
- Ornament/Snowflake making
- Viewing local Christmas light displays
- Polar Express Train experience
- Singing carols, sipping cocoa & reading the birth of Christ story from Luke 2
Mr. Traditional and I have enjoyed most of these activities in previous years. But last year, we were introduced to a new experience while visiting family. The Polar Express experience is a 2-hour train ride where cast members dress and re-enact the story from the celebrated children’s book. Rather than stop there though, we’re making it something of our own this year.
We found the book at a local thrift store last year. And we added it to our other seasonal books. To help my baby recognize what’s going on when we read the book (or watch the movie), I’ve been playing the soundtrack around the house. If possible, we plan to take him to a local train station where we will be able to see trains.
And perhaps, in a gift shop, we can buy a model train kit for Daddy and son to put together.
The real reason we celebrate the coming of winter and the holidays is this.
We planned these days based on the already-busyness of life and planned events. One of those being my son’s first birthday. But when the season is busy, there’s even more reason to put time aside for bonding over traditional family activities. Time passes so quickly, snatching moments in the evening or on weekends helps slow it down a bit.
At this particular time in our lives, there’s a possibility Baby #2 is born in the midst of all the festivities. Although that might change my mobility for some things, I don’t mind. Another birthday would be lovely to add. But the activities or marketing isn’t the real focus.
This time of year (like any other) is the perfect time to spend with family we love. Develop deeper bonds while creating lasting memories. It’s my opportunity to model peace in the midst of chaos. Patience in high stress times. Joy when many others may feel depressed. And it’s another chance to be hospitable too.
At the heart of it all, it’s a time to reflect on our many blessings. And give thanks for the tiny babe Jesus born in a manager. He would eventually go to the cross for my sins and everyone else’s. But He’d miraculously rise again 3 days later conquering death & the grave!
If you’re looking for more traditional family activities this season, here are a few other options.
- Reading seasonal or holiday-themed books as a family
- Host or attend a harvest/cider party
- Go see a play at a local school or performance venue
- Volunteering with local organizations like churches or food pantries
- Winter-sport activities (if you’re fortunate enough to have snow in your area)
- Making Thanksgiving, Christmas or otherwise-seasonal cards for family and friends
- Explore the library for resources to learn about the fall/winter traditions of other cultures
You can stay up to date with all the happenings of this apartment-homestead by following us on IG @BecomingTraditional. And get connected with other like-minded women in the Village by joining the Becoming Traditional FaceBook group!
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