New Traditions to Start with Your Family This Holiday Season

6 minute read

By Jordana Weiss

This Christmas, make meaningful memories and escape the relentlessly materialistic Christmas messaging by instituting some new traditions with your family. Start a search today to find new traditions to start with your family this holiday season.

These traditions should be things that bring you together and allow you to bond over a new shared experience. To help decide what to do, we’ve gathered together a few tried-and-true suggestions for you to try this year!

Switch Up the Menu

One of the easiest ways to start a new tradition for your family’s holiday celebration is to switch up the menu. Most of us fixate on food as one of the most important aspects of a family gathering, and by making a few small changes you can change the overall feel of the feast.

If you’re used to making a large cut of meat (like a roast turkey, pot roast, or brisket) surrounded by several side dishes, switch it up this year by making appetizers and small dishes instead. Or go completely crazy and do a fun, interactive dinner, like fondue.

Cook a New Cuisine Together

Another way that you can shake up your family traditions is to get the whole family involved in learning a new cuisine together. On average, most cooking during the holidays is done by the same people – grandmothers, moms, and aunts tend to shoulder the heaviest cooking load.

This year, take some of the load off by suggesting a meal that everyone can make together. With a little research, you can throw together a really interesting meal that no one has tried before. Gather some recipes and ingredients to make sushi, curry, or even a stir fry, and push people out of their comfort zones.

Cook a Dish from Your Cultural Heritage

Another way to institute a new tradition this holiday season is by looking back into your family’s cultural heritage and pulling together a menu of traditional dishes, rather than sticking to the usual contemporary American options. Even if you were born in the United States, there are probably tons of dishes that your grandparents ate as children that would be fun to resurrect.

Many Americans come from different cultural backgrounds, and there may be several cultures represented within one family – explore your heritage through your palate this year!

Check Out a Live Event Together

There are so many live events scheduled around the holidays – booking agencies know that people have more free time than usual in December and cram all the theaters, arenas, and event venues full of different fun, holiday-themed options. This year, bond as a family by taking in a live show like a concert, play, movie, or even a circus act! It’ll give everyone something to talk about around the dinner table, and the fun of seeing something together is a great way to connect.

Get Outside Together

Depending on where you are in the world, the weather may be perfectly crisp and snowy, or it may be extremely warm and humid. It’s easy to use the weather as an excuse to give in to holiday laziness, but one way to make a new family tradition this year is to get outside together. Play a game of football, hockey, or just throw the ball around. If you’re not into sports, find a nearby trail and go on a family hike.

Have a Tournament

A little friendly competition among family members is a fun way to bring excitement to an otherwise quiet gathering. Whether your game of choice is poker, blackjack, or even a crossword competition, inject your holidays with a bit of fun by organizing a competition or tournament.

You can run it for a single afternoon, or the entire month – just make sure that the rules are clear, and it’s a game that everyone can play! If your family is competitive, avoid playing with large amounts of money, and stick to something where no one can get hurt – especially if you’re playing after the drinks are poured!

Limit the Amount of Money Spent on Gifts

During the holidays, it’s tempting to spend as much money as you are able to on gifts, food, and seasonal décor in order to make the season as festive and special as possible. While this impulse is great, it’s easy to slide into the mentality that money is the most important aspect of the season.

If you find that your family is going overboard with presents, press the reset button by suggesting a spending limit on gifts. Setting a limit will encourage you to be more creative and will make purchasing gifts easier on your wallet!

Set a Gift Theme

Another way to make a change if your family’s holidays have been too focused on expensive presents is to institute a gift theme. Each year, get together and decide what you want the theme of this year’s gifts to be. Some popular ones are experiences, gifts that encourage learning, food, décor items, or even clothing. Make sure that it’s something everyone can enjoy, then get shopping!

Drive Around Town to See the Lights

Another way to bond with your family this December is to set aside some time to drive or walk around your town and check out the amazing holiday light displays. Depending on where you live, you may have to drive from house to house, or there may be a central location that the town has decked out. Either way, this activity is cheap, and a great way to carve out intentional time together.

Bonus points if you fill up mugs with coffee or hot chocolate for the drive!

Read Stories Together

There are tons of stories that have been written about the December holidays –  Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa. This year, take some time out of your schedule to read some stories about the season together. This is a great activity to do with young children, but there are stories out there that are perfect for every age group.

If you don’t have any kids in the family, look for adult-oriented stories like David Sedaris’ Santaland Diaries, or Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Whether you read them out loud, or find an audiobook version, your family can share in the heartbreak and hilarity together.

Learn About Your Family History

This year, when everyone is together during the holidays, take some time to talk about or research your family history. The holiday season, and the end of the year, makes many people nostalgic. Take advantage of that this year by asking the oldest members of your family for stories about their childhood and the way they used to celebrate the holiday.

If you don’t have anyone you can ask, do some sleuthing online via websites like, or, then share what you find with your family members.


This holiday, if you have the means, take your family and travel! Traveling opens your mind to new ideas and opportunities, and the more that you’re able to experience together, the more it’ll bond you together.

It doesn’t have to be a big trip. Even just getting away from your normal routines for a day all together can have a huge impact. Explore your own backyard, or take yourselves out of your comfort zones entirely. Where you go is up to you, but the experiences that you’ll have together will be life changing.

Institute a Phone Ban

If you want to encourage togetherness this holiday season, suggest a temporary phone ban during the time that you’re together – or even just during meals. Stating it outright at the beginning of the day will make sure people don’t feel like they’re being targeted. If you need help enforcing the ban, deputize the youngest children by offering them a treat every time they catch someone stealthily checking Facebook.

Volunteer Together

One of the best ways to celebrate the holidays is by giving back. This year, volunteer with your family at a community organization that needs help. Go to a food bank to sort food, or help serve a community meal. If you don’t want to leave the house, use the time together to write letters to your member of Congress on an issue you care about, or pack lunches to deliver to people living on the streets.

Jordana Weiss