When I was a kid, every Christmas Eve my grandparents invited family, friends, neighbors, and acquaintances to visit their home and celebrate the joy of the season. With what seemed like half the city in attendance, this was an event not to be missed.
The outside of the house was always decked out with thousands of white lights. Home-made luminaries flanked the long driveway, glowing warmly in contrast to the glistening snow. Inside, guests enjoyed tons of traditional Polish foods and plenty of adult beverages while the children anxiously awaited the arrival of Santa, who always showed up at the peak of the party bearing the exact gift you had been wishing for.
While I certainly loved everything about these magical evenings, the best part about them was the traditions that made them happen. I have so many fond memories of family gatherings where we came together to make thousands of cookies and perogies in preparation for the event. I loved spending hours out in the snow setting up the luminaries, and, once I got older, helping Santa get dressed and prepare for his big arrival.
It’s traditions that make holidays special. Without them, otherwise festive days would feel much like any other day. Whether you’re happily single, starting a family of your own, or somewhere in-between, now is the perfect time to start some new holiday traditions of your own.
Not sure where to begin? Here are eight ideas to help inspire you.
Make a grown-up advent calendar
Just because you’re not a kid anymore doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy counting down the days until Christmas. There are tons of adult advent calendars for sale and even more DIY ideas. Whether you fill yours with snacks, small wrapped gifts, mini liquor bottles, or something else, the grown-up versions are just as much fun (if not more!) than the ones our parents gave us. Gather a group of friends who want to join in on the fun and exchange calendars so you can all enjoy fun surprises.
Decorate a tree
Even if you live alone, you’ll feel far more festive if you make the effort and put up a tree. Whether you choose real or artificial, a tabletop tree or a 12-foot monstrosity is completely up to you. Invite family and friends over to help you decorate and turn it into a fun event.
Plan an annual holiday party
Holiday parties are a great way to celebrate the season and they also give you plenty of opportunities to create new traditions. Inviting your guests to bring their favorite holiday food to share makes everyone feel special and guarantees you’ll have a memorable meal.
Plan an inexpensive gift exchange and turn it into a game. Setting a limit of $5 of $10 makes it friendly for everyone’s budget and forces them to get creative. The results are often hilarious and will leave your guests looking forward to next year’s event.
Start an ornament collection
Buying or making a special ornament every year turns your annual holiday decorating into a walk down memory lane. If you’re in a relationship, exchanging ornaments is the perfect way to commemorate the special year you’ve spent together. Not in a relationship? No worries! Start a “travel tree” by picking up an ornament each time you go on vacation or choose your own ornament to represent something you want to remember from the previous year.
Practice an attitude of gratitude
With all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it’s easy to forget the true meaning of the season. Take a break away from the material side of things and work on cultivating an attitude of gratitude. Decorate a jar and keep small pieces of paper next to it. Ask everyone in the house to write down something they’re grateful for each day and drop it in the jar. On Christmas Eve, gather together and read them all out loud. What better way to remind yourselves of how blessed you truly are?
Check out the holiday lights
Awesome light displays never get old, no matter how grown up we are. Map out your city’s best-decorated homes and make an evening out of it. Gather up your friends, fill your travel mugs with hot cocoa, and take a drive. Make the evening fun by blasting holiday music and having a sing-along while you travel from house to house.
Plan a movie marathon
Whether it’s “Elf,” “A Christmas Story,” “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” “Home Alone” or some other classic, nothing says Christmas quite like a movie marathon. Let your friends suggest their favorite movies and plan one epic night to watch them all. Pop some popcorn (and maybe some bubbly) and enjoy your new tradition. Who knows, you might just find a new favorite!
Volunteer for a good cause
Volunteering during the holidays isn’t just a nice thing to do, it will also make you feel great. There are tons of opportunities, so it’s easy to find something you’ll enjoy. Consider helping out at a local soup kitchen, “adopting” a less-fortunate family, or collecting Toys for Tots. If there’s a local organization you’d like to support, contact them and simply ask how you can help.
The holidays only come once a year, so why not make the most of them? Start a fun new tradition this year and you’ll make memories you and your friends can cherish for years to come.