Family Holiday Traditions To Start This Year

Christmas with kids is magic, and I’m so excited for the holidays with our girls this year. Over the last month, Kate has turned into a little person (she’s 17 months) and getting to start some traditions and make memories as a family is what it’s all about. I didn’t really grow up with any of these family traditions, but have found my own unique ways to make the holidays special for my family. Today, I want to share some of the holiday traditions that we have been doing as a family, and the one we skip. 

Holiday Traditions To Start This Year (and the one to skip)

Annual ornaments

Every year, I purchase one new ornament for our family, and another ornament for each of our children. I include a note explaining why I chose it, and by the time the girls are adults, they’ll each have a small collection. I really like Cody Foster ornaments for the girls – they’re really whimsical and fun. 


Donating toys to our local hospital

After my daughter was diagnosed with Leukemia in 2020, I started donating toys to our local hospital’s oncology department. There are a lot of families who are inpatient with their kids during the holiday season. I know firsthand how meaningful it is when a nurse or child life specialist brings a little something to your child. It makes being at the hospital a little less scary, and anything we can do to make these kids smile is so worthwhile. You can shop our hospital’s hematology and oncology wish list here

This year, I had my girls help choose gifts for the hospital, and we will drop them off at our next clinic appointment. 


Sponsoring a family in need 

I love this tradition – we’re have sponsored families through Sarah’s Inn and Holidays for Hope. It’s been really special getting my kids involved involved, too. Lighthouse for Hope provides support to families going through pediatric cancer treatment. You can sponsor a family, make a donation, or host a toy drive. The families that benefit from Holidays for Hope are going through the unimaginable and would otherwise not be able to afford to give their children Christmas. Donating to a food bank is also a wonderful way to give back. 


Sending Christmas cards

This year, my 4 year-old helped stuff all our Christmas cards and stamped every single one. It’s a fun and simple way to get your kids into the holiday spirit. We talked about who we were sending cards to, and she loved the sticker stamps! 


Matching family Christmas pajamas

This is about as basic as it gets, but holiday pajamas are so fun. Our family always wears holiday pajamas on Christmas morning. I really like the idea of a new pair right when the tree goes up. In normal times, new Christmas pajamas for the Thanksgiving parade would be fun. A friend told me about this and I thought it was so cute – we’re going to have Rudolph drop them off when we put up our tree. 


Elf on the Shelf

Ok, before you roll your eyes at this one, our Elf isn’t visiting from the North Pole, doesn’t report to Santa, and there are zero elaborate setups. This is low key, easy, and pretty lazy. She’s just here for the occasional (festive) game of hide and seek. Side note: we don’t do the whole naughty or nice thing, there is no naughty list,  and we really shy away from saying ‘good” or “bad” too. The girls also get one or two very simple gifts from Santa. 


Christmas time in the city

Last year, we rented a hotel room downtown. It was so fun to order room service, see the decorations, and watch Christmas movies. 


Holiday lights

I did this every year when I was growing up and always loved it. We’d drive through Candy Cane Lane (in Los Angeles). We attended the Shine Light Show and Sparkle Light Festival, and the girls loved both of them. I’d choose the Sparkle Light Festival over Shine – it’s a lot more fun and exciting. 


Holiday baking

This is something we love to to together. We usually make a gingerbread house or two (the Target kits are great for little kids). It’s always fun to bake  cookies and cinnamon rolls. And you can’t forget the hot chocolate. These treats are all nice to have this time of year, but are especially festive on Christmas Day. 


Christmas movie nights

Every Friday or Saturday, it would be fun to order take-out and watch a Christmas movie. There aren’t that many toddler-friendly Christmas movies, but as the girls get older, this will be a good one. We’re also renting a movie theater (she’s never been!) and taking Margot to see The Grinch this week. 


Holiday books

We have a whole box of Christmas books that I pull out at Christmas time and read them every night. 


Skype with Santa

We did this during the pandemic and the kids loved it. It’s a great option for little kids who are afraid of being face-to-face with a stranger, but are still excited about Santa. You’ll fill out a form with your kids names, toys they want/are getting for Christmas, and even their best friend’s name. It’s so sweet and such a special (and safe) way to meet Santa. And that brings me to the tradition we skip. 


No crying photos on Santa’s lap

First, if this is a tradition you’re into, that’s great! It’s up to us to decide what’s right for our families. If my girls ever want to do this great, but I’ve made the decision not to force them to sit on Santa’s lap. When Margot was almost 1.5, I asked if she wanted to say hi to Santa and she said no, so we didn’t go near him. We raise our kids to understand boundaries, but in the name of “tradition” throw that out the window at Christmas to sit them on the lap of a strange, bearded man. For many kids, it’s not magical – it’s scary. I believe it’s important to be mindful and respectful of our kids. I know it’s a perfectly fine thing to do, but it’s just not for me.