Seems like we've just cleaned up the Thanksgiving leftovers and now the Christmas season and its preparations are in full swing. During the countless shopping and wrapping sprees are good times to think about family holiday traditions. Your family may have traditions that have been carried on for decades or maybe, if you’re a newlywed or first-time parents, it’s time to start your own family traditions.

Although Thanksgiving has already passed us this year, you can still make plans for next year. Before you ask the blessing for your meal, have each family member briefly state what they are thankful for this year and you can include the children. Have all the cousins under age 21 draw names for exchanging Christmas gifts. This greatly reduces shopping costs for all the aunts and uncles.

For the Christmas season, there are countless traditions to pass down to each new generation, or use these ideas to create your own:

  • Have each of your children and yourself give up one gift each so that you can sponsor an Angel Tree child.
  • Hang a Christmas Countdown Calendar on your refrigerator for the kids. You can buy one or make your own with festive magnets and magnetic tape.
  • Join a caroling group that is visiting local nursing homes.
  • Bake and decorate cookies with your kids then let them each pick one to leave for Santa on Christmas Eve.
  • Have a day of baking cookies, making fudge and other goodies to make “goodie tins” for neighbors, friends, teachers, and your Pastor.
  • As a family, gather Crows Feet, Holly, Magnolia and Pine to decorate. Make easy crafts with the kids for them to give to Grandparents, such as small pillows or potpourri sachets made from wash cloths, filler, and iron-on decorative trim.
  • Take a day to help prepare and deliver meals to the countless homeless people and shut-ins.
  • Decorate your Christmas tree and house as a family, the weekend after Thanksgiving.
  • With your teenagers or older kids, plan a Christmas Eve dinner or party for family and friends.
  • Do a family picture Christmas card annually so friends can watch your family grow and change year to year.
  • Take time to plan together a New Years Eve gathering for family and friends.

Our family has steamed shrimp every year with a house full of family and the kids pass up outings with friends if it will keep them from this tradition. Then, during your New Years Eve party, have everyone share their hopes and plans for the upcoming year and whether or not they reached their goals from the previous year.

Family traditions are part of what make the holiday season so special. Decide which traditions you want to continue and which ones you'd like to start this season!