There are more ways to enjoy a festive winter beyond just celebrating the traditional holidays. Here are ideas on how to start new winter traditions with your family.

By Erica Jackson Curran
November 26, 2019

We're all used to celebrating (or at least acknowledging) the holidays in December. But after the winter solstice arrives, there are still three full months of cold weather fun to be had. Instead of ending the celebrations at the start of January, your family can honor the season all winter long with some fun ways to embrace the shortest days of the year. Here are six parent-approved ideas for celebrating winter as a family.

1. Deck the halls in non-holiday winter decor.

Avoid the annoyance of having to take down holiday decorations after a certain date and the sad, empty feeling your house gets after a month of cheer. Instead, opt for warm, welcoming, winter-themed decorations that will look right at home until spring. Emily Farris, the Kansas City, Missouri-based blogger behind The Boozy Bungalow, has a tradition of making paper snowflakes out of copy paper with her toddler son and installing them in all of the windows. "They're really great for my design-obsessed self since they're neutral and delicate—they make the house feel festive without a bunch of tacky decor," she says. Also try soft white twinkle lights, little ceramic white houses, fragrant citrus, and natural greenery like pine and eucalyptus.

2. Make a winter bucket list.

Jotting down your goals for the season is a good way to stay enthused all winter long. Kierste Wade, the blogger at Old Salt Farm and author of Simply Tradition: 70 Fun and Easy Holiday Ideas for Families, recommends sitting down together and listing all of the things you want to do, getting input from each family member. "It could include outdoor winter activities like sledding and ice skating, a hot chocolate party, festivals or concerts happening in your area, seeing a new movie, visiting a museum, or going to the library," she says. "Plan a movie marathon, baking day, or game day—whatever your family likes to do together. My kids love being a part of planning fun things for the winter, and getting them on the calendar means you make time to make them happen."

3. Bond over baking.

On a cold winter's day, there's no warmer place to be than a kitchen with a roaring oven and a few loved ones. Boston-based mom Sarah Shemkus meets up with her friends and family every December for Cookiefest, a tradition that's 11 years old and still going strong. "It's not just a cookie swap—we actually make all the cookies then and there in my aunt's double-oven kitchen," she says. "And we drink a lot of mimosas. By the end of the day, we have made literally thousands of cookies. We split them among ourselves and also donate a share to a local shelter or soup kitchen."

4. Head into the woods.

Hiking isn't just for the warmer months. Discover the wonder of the forest in the wintertime by gathering the family for a day or two surrounded by nature. Angie Ebba looks forward to cabin camping and hiking with her family near their Portland, Oregon, home every winter. "We find a fallen branch to bring back and decorate with random pine cones and leaves that we find, play board games, and eat foods cooked over a fire."

5. Celebrate the Winter Solstice.

Landing on Dec. 21, 2019, the winter solstice marks the official beginning of winter, and the shortest day—and longest night—of the year. This astronomical event has been celebrated around the world since ancient times, and there are countless customs associated with it. You can start your own family tradition by lighting some candles for a cozy meal (with a traditional yule log for dessert) and heading outside to gaze at the stars and warm up by a bonfire.

6. Create a new winter holiday.

Meg Cox, author of The Book of New Family Traditions: How to Create Great Rituals for Holidays & Every Day, recommends picking a day during the winter and creating your own special holiday at home or as a weekend away. "Pack in activities beloved by your tribe such as outdoor sports or indoor board games," she says. "If you are a musical family, sing or play together. Cook together. This could be a time to watch old home movies or just a certain movie that makes you all laugh. Wear silly hats, blow bubbles, eat treat foods, whatever will get everyone laughing. And come up with a fun name for your new holiday: It could be based on your last name, your pets, the street where you live or anything else that helps tell the special story of your family."

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