Holiday festivities—the parties, the presents, the glorious days off—are fun. But as much as we enjoy the break in routine, we need the connection with others even more. That’s really why we bake the cookies, light the candles, take the long trip home…creating meaningful traditions are ways to make our favorite people feel loved, and opportunities to feel like we’re all part of a much bigger world.
Here are some ideas for activities and rituals with extra thought and meaning behind them.
Inspired? Create and share by tagging @HallmarkStores.
One of the best things about the holiday season is seeing family and friends we call family. Surrounding ourselves with people who know and believe in us is one of the best ways to renew and center ourselves.
Here are a few ways to celebrate the time we spend together:
Tech Away! Tech Away! Tech Away All!
Spending time with our favorite folks is the true gift of the season. Make the most of every minute by being really present—it’s the best present we can give our loved ones.
To show you’re serious, designate days, times, or occasions as “no phone zones.” Place a clearly labeled phone drop at the front door or another prominent place, and attach one of these signs to the container of your choice:
Oh, snap! Your phone needs a long, winter’s nap!
Go ahead, give it a rest
and join our live network…in the kitchen!
Place phone here.
Now, it’s YOUR turn to recharge!
Hugs this way ⇒
We really need to talk.
So put down that phone!
(Santa thanks you
for your cooperation.)
Enjoy the actual face-to-face time.
Gather ‘Round the Family Tree
Celebrate the people care about you by personalizing an ornament for everybody. Round up the following:
• Jar lids
• Craft supplies (scissors, glue, markers, paper—whatever you have handy)
• Old magazines, gift wrap, and greeting cards
• Photos of family and friends
Put the photos face-down on the table, and have everyone draw one (or more, if you’ve got tiny kids or more photos than people around the table). Use the jar lids as frames and make Christmas tree ornaments using your photos—decorate them with craft supplies. Finish up by adding names—and maybe a few fun facts or favorite things on the back—and attach a ribbon for hanging.
Count your blessings
Whether the year was nice or a bit naughty to us, we all can recognize the comforts and joys we’ve been fortunate to have in our lives. Embracing a thankful spirit is good for the soul, and even more fulfilling when we share our gratitude with the ones we’re grateful for. Here are a few different ways to capture and relive what you’re thankful for:
Many of us think of light as the dreamiest part of the holidays: the festive glow of the Christmas tree, the flickering candles on the Menorah, the storefronts glistening with dazzle and cheer. Why does light brighten our spirits so much?
Maybe it returns us to an innocent time of wonder and imagination. Maybe it brings us a sense of peace or a feeling that we’re not alone. Maybe the warmth goes straight to the place in our hearts where we need it most.
Of course, driving around to see Christmas decorations and turning on the tree isn’t the only celebration of lights during December. Learning about—even participating in—different faiths’ and cultures’ rituals can open our hearts to others.
Light the Menorah
This Hanukkah tradition is a time of togetherness for Jewish families: an age-old custom where candles are lit in the evening and blessings recited for eight nights. The Festival of Lights puts the glow in big and little hearts year after year. (Many families light the Menorah and decorate a Christmas tree, celebrating both faiths.)
Light the Kinara
For African-Americans and some people of African descent around the world, Kwanzaa is observed to honor family, community, and culture. Every candle on the Kinara represents one of seven important principles: unity, self-determination, cooperative economics, creativity, collective work and responsibility, purpose, and faith. While a beautiful sight, the deeper meaning within each flickering candle is even more beautiful.
Light candles and lanterns for Día de Las Velitas
In Colombia, this traditional holiday falls on December 7 and means “Day of the Little Candles.” Family and friends gather outside to light candles and paper lanterns, kicking off the holiday surrounded by enchanting light and people who mean the most.
Does it seem like we’re hungrier than usual at Christmastime? While special foods appeal to our bellies, they also have a way of comforting our hearts. Dishes we love remind us of people we love, which makes it a win-win for meaningful holiday traditions.
Here are a few ideas to feed your spirit and your family:
Gather with friends
Friendsgiving an increasingly popular celebration: typically, it’s a low stress, low fuss, low drama gathering of your chosen family. And it’s its own thing—not just a substitute for Thanksgiving. The menu might be a potluck, or a pre-turkey day trial run, or leftovers. We know one group that calls their plant-based version “Thanksvegan.”
Bring back a special menu
It might seem like holiday meals are centered around hams and turkeys—but that doesn’t mean yours has to be. In the American Southwest, Mexican-Americans make and eat tamales together on Christmas Eve. Many Jewish families eat Chinese food on Christmas. What kind of meal would you look forward to the most? A Christmas morning bloody mary bar, or breakfast for dinner? An overflowing meat and cheese tray, or a fancy meal of steak and lobster? Comfort food and casseroles, or a lavish salad bar to off-set all the treats? Decide what sounds best to everyone, and make it your go-to year after year.
Throw a non-party party
As much fun as it can be to dress up—in ugly sweaters or New Year’s Eve formal wear—sometimes it’s nice to just show up, relax, and focus on your friends. Maybe you recover from Black Friday and rest up for Small Business Saturday with a pajama and pizza party. Or host a Hallmark Channel watch party with delivery food and stretchy pants. Or move your annual celebration to New Year’s Day, and invite guests to bring the last of their holiday left-overs to a super-casual, all-afternoon recovery day. Play board games, watch bowl games…whatever you do, make it all about being together.
We know the saying: “’tis better to give than to receive.” Especially during the holidays, it feels good to do something for others—and to teach kiddos the importance of generosity. Why not…
Share your holiday spirit
Do you know someone who won’t be celebrating with their family this year? Bring them into your fold. Take a gift basket to the single person down the street, or a home-cooked meal to the college student can’t get home for the winter break. Invite a coworker over to light the Menorah and feast on Hanukkah latkes. Bonus points for including or following up with a thoughtful note about what they mean to you.
Play Secret Santa for a stranger
Donate to someone who’s struggling financially through an “adopt a family” program or online donation campaign. Contact a department store to anonymously pay off someone’s layaway account. Surprise a server with an extra-generous tip after a holiday meal.
Choose a non-profit organization to support
What are you passionate about? Have a family meeting about what not-for-profits do and why they’re important, then pick a cause you want to get behind. Research some local organizations and find out about opportunities to volunteer and give. Do they accept donations? Need on-site volunteers? Have annual events? Make a commitment to get involved as a family—year round.
Want to share some of your meaningful family traditions? We’d love to hear your stories! Tag @HallmarkStores in social media when you share your traditions. We may feature some ideas here!