Timeless Traditions

More than just a season for gift giving and good cheer, the holidays offer the opportunity to spend more time with loved ones. Here, ten ideas to bring your family closer.

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1. Pick the Perfect Tree.

Bundle up, tote some hot cocoa, and spend a day at a Christmas tree farm. On the way, talk to your kids about the type of tree you want. Once you're there, kids will love hunting up and down the field for that ideal find. For a tree farm near you, search the National Christmas Tree Association's database at www.realchristmastrees.org.

2. Christmas Adventure.

Instead of a traditional Advent countdown, use a December calendar page with boxes large enough to write in. Cut around three sides of each box from December 1 to 25, leaving the top intact to make a flap. Glue the page to poster board, being careful not to glue the flaps down. Then, underneath each flap, write a different family activity -- for example, play board games, visit Santa, make popcorn, or watch Miracle on 34th Street, and so on. It's fine to include items from your to-do list too, such as writing out Christmas cards or baking cookies. If you do these activities together, they'll seem more like family rituals than chores.

3. Keepsake Tablecloth.

Use an inexpensive table cover at your holiday meal, and pass around a permanent marker so the guests can write their names, ages, and a brief Christmas wish. Younger guests can draw a picture. Each year, as you add to it, you'll enjoy looking back over previous years and remembering who shared your table.

4. Pajama Party.

When I was growing up, my siblings and I could count on a new pair of pajamas to appear under our pillows. We'd put these pj's on for our Christmas-morning photo. The same elf must still be on duty, because for years my own children have found pajamas under their pillows, and I expect he'll still be working when they have children of their own. Consider inviting this elf to your home for the holiday season.

5. Twelve Days of Giving.

On each of the 12 Days of Christmas, beginning on December 25 and ending on January 5 (Twelfth Night), pick an activity your family can do for someone else. Bring groceries to the food bank, serve at a soup kitchen, donate toys to a local drive, collect coats for the homeless -- there are endless ways to give. The important thing is to do this as a family, so that your children see that they can make a difference in the world.

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