As Christmas quickly approaches, we are all starting to feel the spirit of the holidays in the air. With that, comes the stress of the season… the events, the parties, the visitors, the commitments and of course, the inundation of commercialized craziness. Let’s face it, we all want to make the season magical for our kids, but are we all going to need a holiday from our holiday?

Bring on the friends and family, the laughs, the tears, and the moments. This year, I invite us all to continue creating those Christmas traditions and make those real memories for our kids. The ones that bring a smile to their faces, long after the toys and gifts have been forgotten.

Here are 12 Christmas traditions that you can share with your kids, that are ‘relatively’ stress-free and won’t break the bank:

1. Advent Tower of Books

We have adopted this tradition in our house and it’s become a family favourite. I pick up books throughout the year at yard sales and discount shops and we start opening one each night in December. It adds new books to our library and helps the little ones to visualize the days until Christmas. It also means I don’t have to deal with 24 straight days of chocolate.

2. Cookie Decorating

Let the kids get creative with this one! The floury mess and sneaking cookie dough until you get a bellyache are what memories are made of, right? Maybe you have the patience for a gingerbread house, maybe you are happy if you get a half dozen edible cookies in the end. Either way, the kids will remember the mess they made, the beaters they licked and the fun they had!

3. Cutting Down a Tree

Nothing says Christmas more than the smell of a fresh-cut tree! Make an afternoon of it and head to one of the many tree lots, just a short drive from the city. I would not suggest cutting down your neighbour’s tree in the late hours of Christmas Eve as my brother once did, but if you have a tree in your own backyard, even better! Check out our listing of U-Cut Tree Lots in and around HRM.

4. Homemade Ornaments

An afternoon of ornament making will keep the kids busy and fill your tree with decorations that will bring about many laughs as you dig them out year after year. Try some old-school ones from back in the day. You remember the ones…paper snowflakes, pipe cleaner skiers, clothespin reindeer, and popsicle stick Christmas trees. The ones that didn’t cost a fortune in craft store supplies. Our parents used the stuff they had around the house and we can too. I know this because my popsicle stick Christmas trees still have purple, pink, and orange stains!

5. Visit Santa

There really is something magical about a child’s visit with Santa. The look in their eyes, the innocence, the fascination. But if not, the terrified, screaming picture is always a keeper for the scrapbook, too! Here is our list of Best Places to see Santa in HRM.


6. Donate a Toy/Make a Meal

After a visit with the big guy, I try to explain to the kids that there is a little Santa inside everyone. The younger generation seems to be very motivated with ‘bucket filling’, and other youth empowering ideas. Get their thoughts on ways to give back during the holiday season.

7. Christmas Light Hunting

Back in the day, Snow’s Nursery in Fall River was the place to go see the magic that Christmas Lights can bring. They were the pioneers of ‘Griswalding’. There really is something special about spending time with your kids when they should be in bed. This is quality time and since they know the alternative, they are always on their best behaviour. Take advantage of this time! A friend of mine gets her kids all ready for bed, bath, story… and then surprises them with a ‘late-night look at the lights’ in their PJs! Grab a hot chocolate, jump in the car, or if you are lucky enough to live within walking distance, grab your boots, maybe a sled, and go walking in the winter wonderland! Check out our list of the best Christmas Lights in HRM!

Tree Lights

8. Holiday Playlist

Christmas music. We love it. We hate it. Go make the playlist because it wouldn’t be the holidays without it. Listen to the sweet sounds as the kids belt out the songs completely out of tune, while only knowing half the words. Listen to Alvin and the Chipmunks for the 11 billionth time and maybe sneak on some ‘Pogues’ and ‘Drop Kick Murphys’ to keep your sanity.

9. Movie Night

Everyone has a holiday favourite! Put on your PJs, snuggle up on the sofa, and have popcorn for supper. It’s the holidays!

10. Tobogganing

Do you remember trekking up a hill for what seemed like an eternity with a GT Racer in tow or crazy carpet rolled up under your arm? And good luck ever getting that crazy carpet unrolled long enough for you to get on before it went careening down the hill! Those were the good times, my friends. So let’s ask Santa to bring us some snow this Christmas. Grab the toboggans, old inner tubes, garbage can lids, laundry baskets, or cafeteria trays…and hang on for the ride! Looking for a place to go sledding? Check out –  the best places to go sledding in Halifax.

Child on Sled

11. Christmas Eve Food

Ah, Christmas Eve. It brings a smile to my face thinking about the house full of people – family, friends, neighbours and even strangers. Everyone was always welcome to stop by for a visit and for some of my Dad’s famous Christmas Eve Stew. Dig out the old recipes and make a classic from Nana’s book or start your own tradition!

12. Christmas PJs/Picture

Christmas Eve in our house always meant new pajamas. At some point, we would have needed them anyway so what better time than Christmas to get a new pair. You can take the famous picture by the tree and watch the kids grow from year to year. Some people take the same picture every year with the same pose and I love that idea! We would look back on those pics of the years gone by and laugh at our bowl cuts and Hulk-a-mania PJs while asking our parents, “what were you thinking?” The memories… Christmas traditions. Someday, we will all be asked that question so let’s have fun with it while we can.

Happy holidays, everyone!