Last year I once again pretty much let the Christmas season pass us by with minimal fanfare. But I swore then that Christmas 2011 would be different. So here are 10 easy, inexpensive and/or eco-friendly Christmas traditions that we are trying to do this year.
Put out a basket of Christmas books.
After Thanksgiving, I got out all of the children's Christmas books and put them in a large basket in the living room. The kids have been enjoying reading them alone or with adults ever since. I hope to get a few new (to us) children's picture books about Christmas each year (the library has a great holiday collection too). Earlier this year I picked up a few used ones that were recommended by my friend Megan on her blog. I also want to be sure to read the Luke account of the nativity with my children several times before Christmas this year.
Use an advent calendar.
Ideally, I would like to make an advent calendar that we could reuse every year, or maybe make a new one periodically from upcycled materials. But that didn't happen this year. Instead, we are using an advent calendar I bought on clearance from the Metropolitan Museum of Art last year (actually, I bought two different ones, so we're all set for next year too!).
Decorate a real Christmas tree.
My husband took my son to pick out a real Christmas tree the weekend after Thanksgiving. It took another week to acquire some LED Christmas lights and put up the ornaments. My kids have been undecorating and re-decorating our tree ever since. I love having a real tree! Sort of makes up for the fact that I've been meaning to (but have yet to) populate our home with houseplants for 5+ years. I found out about an actual Christmas tree farm in our area where you can cut down your own tree, and I'd love to try that place next year.
See the lights.
We don't decorate the outside of our home. And in previous years, we haven't even so much as walked around at night to see the neighbor's lights. But this year I'd like to take the kids to a couple of nearby attractions that go full-out with the Christmas lights. Might as well benefit from their energy use, right?
Display friends' and family's Christmas cards.
This is one of the few traditions I have managed to do every year, even with kids. Every year I drape long stretches of ribbon along the kitchen and living room walls. Then we clip on Christmas cards and photos as they arrive with clothespins or paper clips. In fact, the Christmas card photos of close family members from last year are still hung up in my kitchen, waiting to be replaced by this year's photos.
Two items I'd like to have every year: countdown chain and paper snowflakes. This year I'll save any red and green used paper that comes my way to make paper chains at the end of November. In the last few months, I've managed to make part of a fabric chain (still haven't finished 25 links, but I finished 15 links by December 10, so that's good enough for the time being). I'm still hoping to make some snowflakes with my kids. My 4-year-old loves loves loves to use scissors, and he's pretty good at it too.
Get out the child-friendly creches.
I have two creches I'm happy to let my children play with. One is felt figures glued onto 2x4 pieces of wood and the other is a beautiful wooden set inherited from my husband's parents when they moved into a smaller place. Both are displayed at my children's eye-level in accessible locations so that they can move the pieces around and enjoy them all season long. This was a favorite activity of mine as a child.
Watch holiday shows.
Currently, we are enjoying watching A Charlie Brown Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the 1966 animated one, of course). I'll have to watch for some of the old animated specials on TV or Hulu too. And, most importantly, we watch a beautiful and realistic version of the nativity on Christmas Eve and a few other times throughout December.
Help kids make cards/gifts for family.
This one falls in the aspirational category. This probably won't happen this year, except for a very few relatives (maybe). This tradition possibly needs to begin in October or November to actually happen. Hopefully we'll at least manage to make some cookies together for (ourselves and) the neighbors.
Sing Christmas carols.
I own several books of Christmas music, and this year I made sure to get them out December 1 and put them on top of our piano. My kids love to sit at the piano with me and sing songs. This year I'm making sure plenty of Christmas songs make it into the mix! I also got out some favorite Christmas CDs to put in the CD player (yep, I still have one) and the car.
What is your favorite winter holiday tradition?