Create new Christmas traditions

How to establish lovely, familiar routines that mark this magical time out as something special for your family

Many of us like to draw on our own childhood memories when we plan how to celebrate Christmas. Added to these, other traditions emerge when we try new ideas that everyone loves. However, as the kids get older, friends and relatives move to new places, or there’s a divorce in the family, how do you share traditions so that everyone’s happy?

What is a Christmas tradition?

Essentially, traditions are about doing the same thing every year. Your annual festive habits might be different to your neighbours’, but to you they should be routines and experiences that you revisit every year because they’re an enjoyable part of your family time. Never feel a duty to keep up a tradition if you don’t really like it. For example, if you don’t really like turkey, perhaps it’s time you tried beef as your new Christmas lunch!

Christmas is all about the kids

If you have a family, Christmas should be child-centred. This is especially important if you’ve got divorced or you’ve perhaps lost a loved one over the past 12 months, because familiar habits (traditions) will help children feel more secure and therefore more able to adjust themselves to the new experiences they have no control over.
Make the most of those fun aspects of your regular Christmas routine to help your children relax. For example, here are our Bedtime secrets for Christmas Eve.

Encouraging new Christmas traditions

Lots of the preparation for Christmas can easily involve the children, which is a great way to keep busy and create new traditions. How about some of these fun activities?

  • Decorating the tree – choose the same day every year (eg the first Saturday in December) to put up your tree and decorate it. Maybe get the children to choose a favourite movie or music that you always play while you’re decorating, which you all then associate with this fun task.
  • Craft decorations – every year get a big box of paper, card, pencils, glitter, recycled wrapping paper etc and sit around the table getting creative. Make paper chains or snowflake cut outs for the windows. And while you’re feeling creative you could try some of our easy but effective ideas to Make your own Christmas cards.
  • Cook up Christmas – lots of the baking jobs can be done in advance because cakes will last in a tin or can be easily frozen. It’s really lovely to assign specific Christmas tasks to specific children. If one of the kids knows they’re in charge of stirring the fruit cake or cutting the biscuits, they take ownership of that role and look forward to it next year. Try our tips for Get-ahead Christmas cooking.
  • Remembering the big day – again, children love being in charge, so give them specific tasks, like writing a ‘presents received’ list so you know who to send ‘thank-you’ cards to, or get the kids to take photos through the day so they can spend Boxing Day creating a Christmas scrapbook. Make one new scrapbook every year of photos, favourite sweet wrappers and comments from everyone, so the following years you can look back and have a giggle at your memories.
Christmas in two-family homes

Traditions can be challenging to create and preserve when parents are divorced. Each might have a separate idea of how and where to spend the holidays, which can be confusing for kids.

  • Keep your plans simple and stick to them each year – this way you can help your children establish new traditions. For example Christmas Eve and Day might be spent at one parents’ home and then Boxing Day at the other’s home.
  • Establish new traditions on these days and make it fun by involving the kids in what they think might be the exciting ways to make your time together special.
  • Stick to the same plan each year so your children have something they can look forward to. This also reduces the risk of argument, because there’s no need for new negotiations the following year. If everything feels a bit different and a little out of sorts this year, check out our ideas for creating Quality holiday time together.
What’s your Christmas tradition?

What makes Christmas in your house? Perhaps it’s a particular favourite food you serve, or your present-opening ritual. Please tell us what makes Christmas in your house special in our comments below.