I am a bonafide Christmas lover-my three little boys tell me I’m “cuckoo for Christmas!” I wait all year for these special weeks and I’m not ashamed to admit it, for me the Christmas season starts anytime after Halloween! I love the twinkling of a Christmas tree in the background of my home, the smell of cinnamon and pine, the familiar holiday tunes I’ve grown up with. Notice I didn’t say anything about shopping or stress?
Yeah, those things aren’t my favorite.
I like to focus on the meaning and tradition of the holidays-here are 10 Family Holiday Traditions that help keep Christmas focused on family fun and the true meaning of the holiday!
1. Elf on the Shelf
I know some of you are groaning right off the bat but give me a moment to explain!! First of all, I wish I was the marketing genius behind the Elf on the Shelf idea-it’s totally taken Christmas by storm the past few years! I think it’s a super fun way to mark the season and my kids LOVE it! My oldest, who is 8, actually figured the whole “secret” out last year and now he likes to help think up funny things for our elf to do each night for his younger brothers. I think as long as you spare yourself the pressure to be Pinterest-worthy, the antics are a fun light-hearted tradition. (Remember your kids are not looking at Pinterest and judging your Elfish adventures-they just see it as a good time!)
2. Random Acts of Kindness Advent Countdown
I don’t know about you but we’re still drowning in leftover Halloween candy come December so the prospect of chocolate Advent calendars has never been very appealing to me (although I loved them as a kid!) Four years ago when my husband was in Iraq and my boys were all under 5 I started a new tradition of counting down to Christmas with good deeds. I’ve shared a printable list of good deeds and random acts of kindness we try to do each December.
3. Give to Children in Need
We like to pack shoeboxes for children overseas in November and then give to our local angel tree in December. This tradition helps us to focus on blessing others and not forget just how much we have been lucky enough to have in our lives. I have three boys so I love to take the chance to shop for little girls this time of year, here is the shoebox I packed this year full of pink!
4. Write a Letter to Santa
As a homeschooling mom of reluctant writers I’ll use any excuse to get them to write-letters to Santa are the ultimate in writing motivation. I’ve even been known to ask for revisions and 2nd drafts, you know, so that Santa can be sure to know what they are wishing for!
5. Watch NORAD track Santa Christmas Eve
The technology is a lot more advanced nowadays but this is a tradition I loved in my own childhood as well. I love checking online to see where Santa is (or calling!) on Christmas Eve and I’m the first to admit that I continue to watch his progress even after the kids go to bed. The magic of Christmas is so fun, isn’t it?
6. Make Christmas Cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve
Unfortunately as my boys get older they have less interest in participating in the actual baking of Christmas cookies but I don’t mind really…I love baking and they are still very enthusiastic about the eating portion of the event as well as leaving them out for Santa before bedtime!
7. Take a drive to see Christmas Lights
Talk about a fun free activity…driving around looking for fancy Christmas light displays is the ultimate in free holiday entertainment! When I was growing up we always knew which neighborhoods to go to to see the best holiday displays but now as a military family who moves every couple of years we tend to have to hunt for them a bit. There’s always more formal light displays in most areas as well to see.
8. Open 1 present on Christmas Eve
Did you do this tradition growing up? Both my husband and myself had this tradition in our families and we continue that with our children. I always loved getting to open that one present before bed-it helped with all that anticipation of the morning to come!
9. Go Caroling
Depending on where we live we’ve gone caroling at nursing homes, assisted living facilities or even for Wounded Warriors. We love Christmas music and sharing that with others is an easy way to help brighten someone else’s day.
10. Christmas Movie Marathon
After Thanksgiving I break out all of the Christmas classics-Rudolph, Frosty, Polar Express-we have them all. We keep them in regular rotation and usually add a couple each year. Last year my boys were finally old enough to watch Home Alone, which came out when I was a kid, so that was a fun blast from the past (and of course little boys love that physical humor!) This is a great time for hot cocoa as well (or a hot chocolate float!)
Like I mentioned earlier all of these traditions focus not on the commercialized “spend, spend, spend” mentality we’re bombarded with-they are simple pleasures that focus on making memories with those we value the most, because that’s what #holidaymeans to me.
To help keep the meaning in your holiday, try this Holiday Planning Guide from SunTrust, it has great statistics about how people spend during the holidays and ways to help you plan your holiday spending wisely. They also have an invaluable holiday budget worksheet you can print out to help you stay on track. Like I mentioned in this post last year, Suntrust if my go-to resource for holiday budget planning and inspiration for keeping the true meaning in the holidays…see all of their #holidaymeans resources here!
The holidays are for focusing on moments that matter. But for many Americans, financial stress can get in the way. This year, you can make small changes that make a big difference for your financial well-being.
In this holiday planning guide, you’ll find tips for getting organized and making a plan for holiday spending so you can feel confident in your ability to stay on track with your budget. You’ll see how other Americans are shopping, traveling, celebrating and giving in ways that make the holidays cost less, but mean more.
For more holiday planning advice visit holiday resources
Meaningful spending made easy with a budgeting tool to help you make a plan and stay on track with your holiday spending. Download here.
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of SunTrust. The opinions and text are all mine.