As the temperatures dip, holiday excitement begins to soar. Kids start making wish lists, and adults plan time off, respond to party invitations, and get the house in order. It’s a festive time, but sometimes it can be a bit much.
Fortunately, the most wonderful time of the year doesn’t need to be stressful or expensive. Here are five ways you can create priceless memories without maxing out credit cards or driving yourself up the wall.
1. Keep It Local
You don’t need to plan expensive trips to make memories. When family members visit from out of town, take them to the holiday light festival in your city. Even if the snow is faux, visit the winter wonderland shows. If you live up north, embrace the snow-tubing or ice-skating options around you. Afterward, share the local hidden gems that offer the best hot chocolate and coffee.
Planning family excursions usually means managing children of different ages. Some kids may be new to your town, have a sugar (cookie) rush, or just be overwhelmed by crowds. Don’t ruin your holidays with a “Home Alone” scenario of leaving a child behind or having one of them wander off at the mall. Pin your cell phone number to the jacket of the very little ones and teach them to ask another mom for help if they cannot find you.
For their safety — and your sanity — give older children a safe kids phone to stay in touch. These devices allow your child to call and text you, but they can’t download annoying games or access social media. Many such phones today are also equipped with a GPS tracker, which can make your holiday outings less stressful.
2. Hold a Home Movie Marathon
Sure, you could watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” for the umpteenth time, but old home videos are even more special. So grab the popcorn and candy and cue up movies where family members star. You’ll roll with laughter at the time Jeremy fell off his chair or the year Sarah’s green hair made her look like the Grinch. Home videos give you a chance to reminisce about loved ones who have passed away as well.
You could also surprise everyone by adding in short holiday messages from those who couldn’t make it home for the holidays. Whether these loved ones are serving their country abroad or unable to leave their nursing home, their video messages will make them feel present. In turn, record video greetings from the assembled relatives so absent family members will feel included in the festivities.
Just for fun, create new family movie memories in TikTok style. Dance to a trending song together or create a transition reel with Grandma. Your TikToks are sure to get some likes now and make memories forever.
3. Find Joy in Service
When the kids make their wish list, have them add one or two items to donate to a child in need. It is such a beautiful concept to teach kids to give others what they would have liked for themselves. Regifting the huge sweater from Uncle Joe is OK, but using your allowance to donate the same Lego set you want is priceless.
The entire family can also participate in an annual service project together. You could make no-sew fleece blankets for kids in the hospital over the holidays. All ages and skill levels can knot the pre-cut fleece to create colorful, fuzzy blankets.
You can also join hands to put together care packages of gloves, hats, and travel-size toiletries for the homeless. Add some fast-casual chain gift cards to help them warm up with a soup or sandwich indoors for a couple of hours.
4. Throw a Photo Palooza
Everyone is always sharing pictures on social media and in family chat groups. But holding a printed photograph in your hands is so much better than swiping a tiny image on a screen. This holiday season, print all your favorites and have some scrapbooking supplies ready for when the family is over. Photos cost just a few cents each when you order in bulk online or at your local drugstore. You can easily upload them directly from your phone.
You don’t need to be a crafting guru to glue down some special photos and add stickers and embellishments on beautiful paper. Throw in some fancy-edged scissors and washi tape from the craft store, and see the magic happen.
Make your photo crafts even more meaningful by adding handwritten anecdotes and behind-the-scenes jokes. You think you’ll remember the wardrobe malfunction on graduation day, but it might become a blur many years down the road. All family members can take home a few pages that they helped put together. Your efforts might not be Pinterest-perfect, but you’ll make priceless memories and perhaps launch an annual tradition.
5. Host an Heirloom Cookie Bake-Off
Take the annual cookie exchange up a notch by having each family bring printed copies of their recipe to share. Stock up on festive cookie tins, and everyone goes home with a medley of treats and a stack of new recipes to try. Who knows? Daughter Emma’s triple chocolate chip cookies could one day be Grandma Emma’s famous prized recipe. You could even have the grandparents judge the best cookie of the evening and award a prize.
Always make sure to check for allergies and let the participants know of any beforehand. This way everyone can enjoy all the cookies, and you won’t put a damper on the event with a trip to the emergency room. You could also include some gluten-free or vegan cookie options to be more inclusive.
Whether you go down memory lane with photos or make new memories with cookies, your family fun will leave a lasting impression. With just a little planning, you can create treasured holiday memories that won’t break the bank — or your back.
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