The last five years we have lived over 650 miles (12.5 hours) from family. We have loved living in Indiana, but around the holidays it can seem lonely. The first year we traveled back for Thanksgiving, but were unable to make the trip again for Christmas, so we decided to start creating our own traditions. A couple years later, we couldn't make the trip for Thanksgiving and that's when we realized that we needed to make the most of the holidays with our own little family.
Over the last few years we have come to love our time at home as a family and have had fun creating our own traditions. Whether you live near family and want to create family traditions or live miles away, these are simple and easy ways you can start creating yours this year!
Make it special – A couple of years ago, we were spending Thanksgiving alone and decided to make it our own. We began the tradition of using our china, which is never used – especially with 5 kids. We set the table with the plates, silverware, napkins and even placemats, some of which our kids had never seen. They loved having a special dinner and using the fancy dishes!
Change up the meal – Our kids are not all big turkey and ham eaters, so the year we used the china, we decided to ditch the norm and make our own meal. We had BBQ grilled chicken, mashed potatoes, corn, green beans, but of course, pumpkin pie for dessert! The kids loved it, we had very little leftover and we didn't spend a lot of money on a turkey or ham that wouldn't be eaten. My in-laws have even had lasagna for their Thanksgiving meal!
Make a craft together – Making crafts together is my girls' love language. They love crafts, especially if they can do them with me. I try to find simple and cute crafts that don't take a lot of prep work or clean-up, so we can enjoy our time together, rather than worrying about the mess. The craft can be holiday related or seasonal!
Play games – Our family loves games. I grew up in a family that loves playing games together. We love to take the day(s) off to play some of our favorites as well as find a new one or two. From card games to board games, we love them all! My kids will play card games for hours – from Go Fish to Spite & Malice to Knock-Knock and more!
Movie Marathon – My family loves movies. Our kids especially love movies that are part of a series – Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, The Chipmunks, to name a few. Frequently they will request our “off” days to be movie marathon days. They will pick a series and we'll watch all of them in order. They love it. It is a great way to relax. Plus…they get popcorn and who can resist fresh air-popped popcorn?!
Decorate for Christmas – The first year we spent Thanksgiving alone in Indiana, we decided it was the perfect time to put up all our Christmas decorations! I know some people, *ahem* Heather here at Life of a Homeschool Mom put them up earlier, but this is a great time for most families. We turned off the television, turned on some Christmas music and got to sorting. It was so much fun and we had a blast with the kids!
Go look at Christmas lights – Back in our hometown in Oklahoma, there were several very large light displays that came on Thanksgiving night. For years my family had the tradition of driving around together to see all the lights. We even found some that were programmed to music, which our kids love! So, load the car…turn on some Christmas music and just take a drive!
Polar Express Christmas PJ Party – One of my kids' all-time favorite Christmas movies is Polar Express. Every year we plan a night to have a Polar Express PJ Party complete with fun snacks and printables! The wonderful thing is you can do this at any time – right after you decorate Thanksgiving night or plan an evening in December!
Do a Family Advent Study or Calendar – As Christians, we love doing Christ-centered activities during the month of December. Several years ago we started doing Family Advent Studies. We love being able to focus on Christ together as a family as well bringing in some fun printables and activities for the kids. Some of our favorites include: Truth in the Tinsel, The Jesse Tree, Melk the Monkey and The Christmas Angel. You can also create your own Advent Calendar with treats your family enjoys and focusing on what is important to you about keeping the focus on Jesus this Christmas season.
$5 Christmas – When our oldest was little we decided to forego the big Christmas celebration and instead opted for a “less is more” option. With 5 kids, or even one kid, the toys pile up quickly. We wanted to take the focus away from the gifts, so we created our own family tradition of a $5 Christmas. It has been such a blessing for our family and something I treasure each year.
Family traditions can as simple or elaborate as you want! We have friends that have a family gingerbread house building contest every year and others that have a snowman building contest. And still others that live near each other and have a light decorating contest on their houses. The only rule is to have fun!
Do you have your own family traditions during the holidays? I'd love to hear them!
Annette has been married to her husband and best friend since 2003. Together they are raising their five children to follow the Lord’s will, no matter what. Annette longs for the day when she will meet her 9 angel babies who have entered heaven before her. She enjoys creating Free Printables for homeschool families and she gets her scrapbooking fix in by making Subway Art for herself and her readers. You can follow her crazy life at In All You Do where she blogs about marriage, parenting, homeschooling all while maintaining her sanity. She is also the owner of Thrifty Homeschoolers, where she shares free printables and resources from around the web as well as deals on curriculum and homeschooling resources. You can also keep up with her via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.