8 Great Holiday Traditions to Start This Year

Traditions give us a sense of belonging and build strong relationships among people. But no matter how you choose to celebrate the holidays, it is also good to start a new tradition. Here are eight ideas to help you get started.

1. Winter solstice

The winter solstice marks the day with the longest night of the year. Welcome the new solar year with light. Gather around a fire and decorate your home with strings lights. Keep the electric lights low and light plenty of candles. Your celebration can be as simple or as elaborate as you wish. Put a birthday candle in your solstice dessert. Ring bells. Ask each person to offer a wish for the planet for the coming year.  This may also be a good time to celebrate your ethnic or cultural heritage with traditional foods and customs.

2. Historic holidays

Make your holidays historic. Choose an ear from history and build your holiday around it. Think medieval, Victorian, or pioneer. Dress up in keeping with the times. Plan a meal using foods from that era and decorate the table appropriately. Make some mead, mulled wine, or spiced cider and watch a movie set in your chosen time. The holidays are also a perfect opportunity to visit a local museum or historic site. Most of them offer special programs and are decorated beautifully for the holidays.

3. Have a Book Exchange

If you and your family love to settle down with a good book on a cold winter's night, you may want to adopt this lovely, literary tradition. In Iceland, people give books to one another during the holidays and then spend the night reading. You can also give your family and friends a book you especially loved. Or you can host a book swap during the holidays. Gather your fellow book nerds and ask everybody to bring one or more favorite books to trade. It's an inexpensive way to stock up on reading material for the long winter months. Just ask anybody in Iceland.

4. Form an impromptu band

Holiday "crackers" have been a British staple ever since they were invented in the late 1840s. They usually come 8 to a box and contain a hat, a joke, and you can get them with a set of musical horns or little hand bells. If you use the sheet music provided, you can easily organize your friends and family into a band of sorts. You may not sound great, but there's always plenty of laughter in the process.

5. Sing

If you like group singing, now is your chance. It's fun, and it's good for you. Singing, like exercise, releases endorphins and improves your mood. You don't have to be a trained singer. As long as you are all singing the same words, you'll sound great. Get some loved ones together and go caroling in your neighborhood. End with hot chocolate and cookies.

6. Sledding

Remember the thrill of speeding down a hill on your sled? How about skimming over the ice with bells on your skates? If you live in a warm climate, you can go ice blocking, which is like sledding down a grassy hill on a block of ice. Or find a nearby indoor rink that rents skates. Simple winter activities like sledding or skating were fun when you were a kid, so make them part of your new holiday traditions.

7. Plan a film festival

All you really need is some like-minded friends and a theme. You can show holiday movies, classic comedies, or movies featuring your favorite movie star. If you are showing a series, such as Star Wars or Harry Potter, encourage your guests to come in costume. Have everyone bring a snack or drink related to the film. Or serve movie theater style popcorn. It's a fun, relaxing break from the traditional holiday routine.

8. Volunteer

This is not a new idea, but it goes to the heart of the holidays. What you can do is look for new, different, or meaningful ways to do your holiday volunteering. You can participate with friends or family members, or alone. You are guaranteed to meet interesting new people, and you can warm yourself in the glow of helping others.

Traditions keep us connected to the people we love. This year, keep the best of your traditions and start some festive new ones.

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