Here are 10 holiday traditions you can do with your family.
1. Feed the reindeer. If you haven’t made cut-out and decorated sugar cookies for Santa, try it, but don’t forget about Santa’s reindeer. Rudolph and his buds need a snack, too. Have your kids make a mixture of oats and red and green colored sugar and sprinkle it on your front lawn. The reindeer, and perhaps the birds and squirrels, will thank you.
2. Make gingerbread men, women and children together that look like your family and make them the place cards for Christmas or Christmas Eve dinner. You can even make a gingerbread house together or buy a kit and decorate it.
3. Go shopping for another child. While many of the deadlines for many holiday toy drives have past, Dell Children’s Medical Center always needs things like new pajamas, new coloring books and crayons, new action figures, small Lego kits and Play-Doh. SafePlace always needs new art supplies, playing cards and board games, children’s and young adult books, nonviolent toys, and sports equipment. Austin Children’s Shelter needs new clothing of all sizes, journals, MP-3 players, basketballs, makeup kits, Lego kits and science kits. Remember, you’re donating something new, not unloading your worn-out stuff.
4. Start a multigenerational conversation. Have your kids ask your parents questions they want to know about your parents’ childhood and record the conversation on video or audio or have your parents write down the answers in a letter. Some questions to start with: Who was their favorite teacher in school? What did they do for fun after school? What was their favorite form of entertainment? What was their favorite Christmas present ever? If your kids and your parents don’t live close, you can do it by phone, Skype, email or letter.
5. Make cards for celebrating one another. Sometimes siblings need to be told to put down in words something nice about each other, and sometimes we as parents, need to celebrate our children in ways that don’t involve buying them something.
6. Play a new game together. There’s a lot of time between now and when school is back in session. Instead of getting lost in technology, try charades or Pictionary as a family. Or for older kids, bring out the deck of cards and learn a new card game. Or pick up a board game everyone can enjoy.
7. Go outside. Christmas dinner and the other heavy holiday meals can have you feeling like a slug. Time to go outside, but if you told your children to go out and play, they might balk at that. Instead, create a neighborhood or local park scavenger hunt. You can paint egg carton sections different colors and have them try to find something to bring back that matches those colors. Or you can give them a list or pictures of objects. If you have a big family, divide into multigenerational teams.
8. Pick a new charity to give to in the coming year. Charity doesn’t just happen at the holiday season; it should be all year long. Kids who are old enough can do the research and make a presentation. Younger kids can choose from preselected options. How will you give? How will they give? Money, time or things? Decide together.
9. Make art together. Use one of these vacation days to take a painting class at a place like Painting with a Twist or paint ceramics at a place like Cafe Monet. Or you can get a kit at a craft store to do together. You also could get a friend to come to your house to teach everyone how to knit or make beaded jewelry.
10. Enjoy an Austin holiday tradition that you haven’t tried. If you haven’t yet gone to Ballet Austin’s “The Nutcracker” or Circus Chickendog’s “The Muttcracker (Sweet!),” this is your year. If you haven’t gone to the Trail of Lights or gone ice-skating at the Whole Foods Market downtown, what are you waiting for? Or wander around the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar as a family and shop for unique gifts for one another.