One of my favorite things about the Holiday season is getting together with friends and family and creating meaningful traditions that we all look forward to each year. We are often so busy we don’t get a chance to see each other at other times of the year. As I get older, the holidays are less about exchanging gifts and more about spending time together. Creating traditions is a great way to bring friends and family together during the season.
1. Tree Trimming and Home Decorating Parties
Each year, we start with our tree trimming and decorating party. Usually, it’s just family and as the years have gone by, we put out fewer items. It’s a tradition we all look forward to each year. We cap off the evening with a holiday movie, Moose Munch and eggnog. Until our tree was completely overloaded with ornaments, tree trimming was also when I gave the first gift of the season; an ornament for each person, or representing a memory we shared during the year.
Variations include ornament exchange, and ornament making parties. The mother of one of Brooke’s grade school friends hosted an ornament exchange for our daughters. We participated for several years. The girls now have a small collection of ornaments for their trees and fond memories of the parties and the friendships they shared to go with them.
We love crafting at our house, and among the easiest of crafts are ornaments for the tree. Whether you collect pine cones and tie them with ribbons to the branches of your Christmas tree or you go in for more elaborate decorations, making ornaments is a great way to bring family and friends together to make memories.
A funny aside, we still have a styrofoam ball with patches of glitter that I made with my father when I was a little girl. It’s crazy looking, and I don’t put it on the tree, but it brings a smile when I see it each Christmas.
Bonus tip: Crafting is a great way to keep kids busy during parties. I would often hire a baby sitter, set up a craft table, turn on Christmas movies and the kids were happy and entertained.
2. Baking and Making Together
Over ten years ago, one of my friends started a gingerbread house decorating party. It was the first party of the season, and always one of the best. She served a lovely catered tea, it was a great opportunity to make new friends, made a gingerbread house to bring home and catch up with friends each year.
Next came a cookie exchange, each of us brought our favorite cookies to exchange. We caught up of the books we read, exchange a year’s worth of friendly gossip, sample great cookies, exchange recipes, and come away with cookies for the rest of the gatherings we’d host as well as a few sweet gifts to pass on. We’d often create a simple cookie cookbook as an “after” gift with photos of the guests and their special cookies along with the recipes. When I see the little cookbooks each year, I remember fondly each of the events and how lucky I am to have such amazing friends.
3. Meals and More
I love hosting brunch over the holidays. It’s a great opportunity to invite friends to wear their festive p.j.’s—maybe even have a contest for the cutest snuggly outfit.
I know people get a kick out of ugly sweaters and neckties, but I’m a fan of dress up cocktail parties, even though I don’t drink anymore. I’m happy with sparkling cider or tea, visiting with friends and any excuse to get dressed up!
One of my favorite gifts is a friendship ball. I love exchanging the ball each year, just adding a simple little trinket in the ball and remembering all the years we have been exchanging it.
Friendship bracelets, and lockets with special messages are also thoughtful ways to let your friends know how much they mean to you. It’s sort of cool to have things to pass back and forth over the years, it give an excuse to keep in touch, so often, we forget.
5. Other Traditions
Each year, we have lunch in a small nearby town, the restaurant is especially festive, and the food is crazy amazing. I’m always on the look out for activities that we can share and memories to cherish.
Secret Santa gifts are so much fun, though I’m not a fan of gag gifts, nor the kind of gift exchange where you come home literally with junk. Perhaps a variation would be canned goods or a gift for charity.
Some times I wish we didn’t feel so pressured to give gifts, it can be so hard to find the right thing. We end up giving gift cards (essentially just exchanging money) or silly stuff that creates clutter, gets tossed out or donated to charity.
Like Cindy Who from the Grinch Who Stole Christmas, sometimes I think we need to get to the heart of Christmas which is expressing love and making happy memories.
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