After writing “Is the Magic of the Holiday Season Missing for You Too?” the problem-solving, practical side of me would like to offer you these tips for creating holiday magic in your home:
Play a board game, card game or puzzle. Struggling to find time to all head out on an outing? Stay in. Bring out Monopoly, Clue, Uno, whatever but put away the phones, tablets and watches and turn off the TV. If you so oblige, play holiday music in the background and have hot chocolate. If that’s too much extra, then just opt for the game. You’d be surprised at the fun you can have just with time at home together.
Instead of cookies, how about hot chocolate? Don’t want the mess or don’t have the time? Allergic to cookie ingredients? How about a hot chocolate bar instead and make an assembly line of goodies down the row. Turn your kitchen table into a barista and don’t forget the sprinkles, chocolate syrup and whipped cream! You can keep it super simple or get really creative with the ingredients and toppings.
Take a walk in your neighborhood at night. Whether or not Christmas lights are on your to-do list, seeing them fulfills the beauty without the work of stringing them yourself. If your neighborhood gets into the outdoor decor, take a walk with your family on a mild, or snowy, evening together. Long or short, hot cocoa or water, bring the dog or don’t. The goal is to get you all out together for a simple stroll to see a world of color that you can’t see every day of the year.
Set up the tripod. Whether you send Christmas cards, New Year’s cards or none, capturing family moments can make memories last. But if you have more than two people involved, matching clothes, making poses and trying too hard for photos can turn togetherness into torture. Instead of a planned photo shoot, just set up your camera on a timer and tripod and snap pictures of you and your family just doing what you do. These Christmas card outtakes are likely to have way better - and funnier - stories to go along with them.
Make any mealtime together-time. Busy schedules, packed calendars and kids running in all different directions might make it difficult to be together let alone find time for cookie-making and holiday baking. Take a look at your weeks during the month and see if you can come up with meal times where you’ll all be together in the same place. It doesn’t have to be a hefty Sunday dinner or even busy mid-week meal, but make the time you have together count by being intentional and remembering that you don’t get this time often. There doesn’t have to be a reason to celebrate to want to have a meal with your family. Choose a time that works and build around that.
Learn the words to a holiday song and maybe even the story behind it. With so much time spent in the car running errands, driving to sports and after school activities or headed to see family or friends around this time of year, why not make it a challenge to learn the words to your favorite holiday song together and/or how it came to be.
Listen to a holiday audiobook in the car on your travels. How about an audiobook for your travels if the song doesn’t pan out? An old-fashioned holiday story, a new spin on an old favorite, or nothing related to the holidays whatsoever. An audiobook or podcast can be a great thing to bring a family together on the same thing.
Watch a favorite movie together. Take the time and take turns wrapping up the evening or weekend with a movie for everyone. With three weekends to go, there’s still plenty of time for Netflix.
Create a family favorite playlist. Invite your family members to add to the playlist you create so you all feel part of it! Music is connection and can add so much fun to any time.
Make a family photo album or photo collage together with everyone’s favorite phone pictures. Even the little ones can carry a phone around and snap photos! Use the outtakes to celebrate them and where they’re at in their age.
Pull together a must-do list from everyone. Everyone has their favorites when it comes to holiday traditions. Grab a pen and paper and start asking your family what their favorite holiday event or activity is or one they’d hate to miss this year.
Attend a church or temple and take part in the celebration. Togetherness is spiritual. Faith can bring deep connection with those you love and connect you to a higher power and greater good. There is something incredibly magical about celebrating this time of year and the meaning behind it all in a church or temple. Many holy places have plays and activities that are open to all. Practicing spirituality is beyond a great way to add meaning to your holidays and deepen your sense of community.
Connect Over the Year. This is a great dinner or desert conversation that can be simple or more elaborate depending on the ages and interests of your children and family. Together talk about family changes, accomplishments, or even unfulfilled wishes for the past year and maybe something you’re hoping for next. Use the time to listen for what might have been missing or what you’ve done really well together. Make plans and write them down but just use pen and paper to keep the tech distractions away. Games like Table Topics are also awesome conversation starters if you’re having a hard time getting started.
Check out a local town’s holiday festivities. Most towns this time of year have a winter or holiday celebration of sorts. Plan an evening to explore the holiday and winter decor somewhere else that isn’t too far away. Or, if you have the time and the want, head into your nearest big city. Make reservations for a new restaurant, coffee shop or see the local Christmas tree. Look at park district guides, newspapers or other local publications for the event dates and times.
See a holiday play, movie or head to a holiday concert. Live entertainment is always a great reason to get out and a movie in theatres can be the next best thing! With so many fun entertainment options this time of year, it can be hard to choose.
Remember, no matter what you decide to do with your family or friends, it’s about the togetherness and connection that comes from being together, playing and getting out of the everyday roles and responsibilities we all have for just a little bit. Time together making memories is best done when it’s without distractions, as much as possible. So be intentional; be in the moment and the minutes with your family by putting down the devices, take photos to remember for yourself and the people you love, not necessarily for the world to see. And try to remember that the best parts of our lives aren’t the ones we screen for and edit for social media. They’re the ones happening the rest of the time.