holiday baskets 1469491People of many faiths and cultures gather together to celebrate during the holiday season. Christians exchange gifts, others give gifts only to the children, some sing carols or bake cookies, and some celebrate quietly. Some homes receive a visit from Santa, Christians decorate a Christmas tree, and Jews place a menorah in the home. Africans display the seven symbols of Kwanzaa and the colors of the African flag - red, black and green.

Some families share Christmas Eve with one set of relatives and Christmas Day with the in-laws. All these practices are traditions, which are “statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc.,” passed down from generation to generation (Merriam-Webster).

Decorating trees, baking cookies, and even making a holiday meal are all familiar traditions. This year, why not break away and establish some new traditions? Here are a few ideas for starters:

Celebrate with Chosen Family
If you can’t spend the holidays with your blood relatives, celebrate with your chosen family – friends or acquaintances with a common interest.

Give Back
Volunteer as a family at your community’s food bank this season or find another opportunity in your town to serve the community together.

Donate Toys
To teach children about the importance of generosity, donate gently used or new toys to an organization in your community that is collecting during the holiday season.

Hang an Annual Ornament
Let kids make an ornament each year. You’ll have keepsakes of every holiday, and the tree will be filled with heirlooms that you can pass on to your kids for their future trees.

Have a Book Exchange
Host a holiday book swap. Share the books you’ve loved this year with your family and friends.

Honor Blended Families
Blended families are a growing trend. If you have a family celebration with new step-grandchildren or in-laws, it can be especially important to find a way to include everyone in the holiday tradition. Before a get-together, perhaps you could reach out to your blended family members and ask them for ideas – what kinds of holiday family traditions do they most enjoy celebrating on their side of the family, and how can you use the holidays as another way to bring the family closer together?

Take a Holiday from Technology
If everyone is gathered in the same place, try a new holiday tradition of making your holiday a “technology free day” so everyone can be fully present in the room together and spend time chatting, singing, eating and resting.

Celebrate Cultural Heritage
Find ways to celebrate your family’s unique cultural diversity. If you have in-laws who speak a different language than you, try to include them in the holiday celebration by learning a song or a holiday greeting in their native language, or watching a movie in their native language. Or try serving a diverse range of dishes from various cultures and countries represented by your family (or even representing the countries where your family has traveled).

Celebrate with Family from 600 Miles Away
Schedule a “Skype” or Facetime party if you live far from family. Open gifts with Grandma – with you in your home and she in hers - or celebrate New Year’s Eve with your sister.

Whatever your tradition, make sure it is spent doing something meaningful to you and your faith.

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