Traditions vary greatly from family to family, and culture to culture. But for most Americans, the image of the "traditional" Christmas is pretty clear. The kids wake up at the crack of dawn and run to the Christmas tree where Santa Claus has left them gifts. A very sleepy Mommy and Daddy, sit in the corner with camera in hand recalling their own childhood Christmases. Soon after, family comes over for Christmas dinner, and you spend the evening getting along and singing Christmas carols. But what if you are looking for untraditional ways to celebrate Christmas with your kids?
Because the idea of the perfect holiday is so embedded in people's minds, anything that even slightly strays away from the ideology can be a huge disappointment. It seems like no Christmas can live up to your memories and, because of this, a lot of people get the holiday blues. One way to break this cycle is to change up your holiday plans. There is no rule book that says you have to stay home, go to your in-laws, or even decorate for the holidays. OK, who am I kidding? Everyone loves to decorate for the holidays. But even so, changing up the tradition can keep your holidays exciting for years to come.
Here are some untraditional ways that you can celebrate Christmas with your kids this year.
Depending on where you live, you might be utterly sick of the cold weather and snow by the time Christmas rolls around. Change things up a bit and book a Caribbean cruise for your next holiday. The kids are out of school, and you'll get to have a tropical vacation instead of shoveling snow. Some cruise lines even have an in-house Santa, holiday shows, and a Christmas Captain's Dinner.
Instead of complaining that you have to go to Christmas breakfast at your in-law's house and then to Christmas dinner at your mom's house, remember that there is a whole community of people who may not have a house to go to or food to eat this holiday season. Contact your local food pantry or homeless shelter and ask how you can help feed the homeless and underprivileged this year. Make sure to include your kids, so that they can learn that the greater value is in giving rather than in receiving.
I live in Florida, so my family rarely gets a cold Christmas. One of the "non traditional" holiday traditions we have is to take a road trip up into the Low Country of Savannah or Charleston, or up into the mountains of North Carolina. We might get lucky and see some snow in the mountains, but at the very least we will get our fix of cooler temps and have a reason to throw on a scarf and drink a cup of hot chocolate.
If funds are tight, consider having a handmade holiday. This is when you and your kids create gifts rather than buy gifts for each other. Items such as photo albums, scrapbooks, drawings, paintings, handmade jewelry, or even furniture if you or your spouse are super handy, can mean so much more than something bought off the shelf.
Christmas is a great time to learn about the traditions of other cultures. I'm Cuban-American, so I grew up celebrating Noche Buena, the traditional Spanish, Latin American, and Filipino Christmas Eve celebration complete with a roasted pig (el lechón) and lots of music and dancing. I didn't realize until I was a teenager that a lot of families didn't celebrate Christmas Eve the same way. This was especially true when we introduced Noche Buena to our non-latino friends. They loved it so much that they have kept the tradition going in their own homes, as well.
When my husband, kids, and I were living out of state, holidays were especially hard on us. We didn't want to crash someone else's family event, but we were lonely at home alone. One tradition we started was going to the movies on holidays. So many great films come out on Christmas Day. Load up on candy and popcorn and enjoy a flick this holiday.
If you're anything like me, Disney World is your happy place. Sure, theme parks can be crowded on Christmas Day, but they are decorated so beautifully during the holidays. There are usually parades, Santa is sure to make an appearance, and you will hear Christmas music playing from the loud speakers. What can be better?
A great tradition to start this year is participating in an Angel Tree program. Founded by the Salvation Army, the program involves selecting an "ornament" from a tree at a participating church, school, or office, is adorned with paper ornaments. Each of these ornaments describes one toy, clothing item, or personal item that a person in need would like to receive this Christmas. It can be as open as choosing a toy for a child of a certain age, or it can be specific.
You and you children will experience the joy of picking out a gift for a person who will truly benefit from your generosity, which is the greatest gift you can give your family.
Another tradition my family started when we lived out of state was going out to dinner on holidays instead of cooking at home. You haven't lived until you've eaten Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant where you don't have to spend all day cooking or wash a bunch of sticky casserole dishes at the end of the night. Your kids can hang out at home on Christmas Day playing with their new toys and when dinner time rolls around, your family can get dressed up and head out for a lovely dinner together.