There are so many activities we think of when we think of Christmas togetherness. Baking cookies together, building gingerbread houses, decorating the tree, sharing big meals around the dining room table – all of these represent traditions families across the globe regularly celebrate.
Tradition is a beautiful thing. It creates a sense of history, a sense of belonging, a ritual that can be carried on for generations to come. But sometimes traditions can become tired.
To help you shake up the family visit a bit, here are some creative ideas that will be fun for the whole family.
1. Cellophane ball of surprises
Gather together small prizes that will fit in a ball of cellophane. Think lottery tickets, pieces of candy, cash, gift cards, lip balm – really, the sky’s the limit just as long as it’s a small item. Then create a ball that encases the gifts throughout. Be sure to cut different lengths of cellophane because this is what ultimately makes this game challenging.
The game goes like this: Gather your family in a circle and roll two dice. The first to get a double starts. That person must find the start of the cellophane and start unwrapping. Immediately, the rest of the group takes turns trying to roll a double, at which point the person must stop. He or she can keep whatever treasures they unwrapped before a double was thrown.
Talk about a game that makes everyone laugh! Kids, with their smaller fingers, often do well, and we all know if the kids are happy, everyone’s happy.
2. Christmas scavenger hunt
If you’re looking for a way to stretch out Christmas morning and avoid the onrush of rapid-fire present-opening and the ensuing anti-climax, the scavenger hunt is for you. The idea is to lay a series of clues around the house, the yard, or, for the truly adventurous, the neighborhood. The family must work together to solve the clues until they finally land on the prize.
I enjoy writing and riddles, so I used recycled Christmas cards to write 4-line rhyming riddles that called on family members’ memories and things we know about each other. For instance, my mom used to hide my Easter basket in the washing machine, so I referenced “the place where the bunny left the basket” in one of my clues. You can tailor your clues to different family members so everyone has a chance to lead the pack.
At the end, the prize can be anything, but to get away from the gift-heavy nature of Christmas, I created a hot chocolate bar as the final gift. It had a thermos of hot cocoa, a variety of mini chips, mini marshmallows, whipped cream, peppermint sticks, and even Baileys for the adults. I highly recommend this option, as it created more time for the family to be together.
3. Stocking contributions from the family
Let’s say Santa is tired this year. He’s exhausted from all the years of trying to think of unique stocking stuffers that actually fit in a stocking. I know you can’t imagine this, but maybe you’d like to help him out this year anyway.
One interesting way to do that is to have every family member contribute to the stockings. Set a dollar limit so no one feels pressured to go overboard. When no one is watching, each person must stealthily stuff the others’ stockings.
The beauty of this is that each stocking will be filled with a variety of gifts hand-chosen by other members of the family. You can be funny, silly, or practical (a deck of cards, a can of silly string, or a pair of socks). And poor Santa can cross at least one thing off his list. You decide if you want to divulge who gave what.
4. A church tradition
Not all traditions grow tired, and this one should be an every-year occasion. No matter how hectic your holidays might be, there’s nothing more important than keeping the emphasis on the birth of Christ and His entrance into a world that desperately needed Him. Even if your kids are grown, you have non-churchgoers, or the time of your favorite service clashes with your dinner-making time, go to church anyway. There’s nothing – and I mean nothing – that can compete with soft church voices singing “Silent Night” by candlelight.