I’d forgotten the excitement the twins used to show when we’d open the boxes filled with Christmas decorations. Now they’re 13 and too cool (I think they still dig it) to show it. But 2 year old Zoe is all about asking “where did we get those stars?” And “is it time to see the ZooLights yet?” If you’re looking for some new ideas to try, these are good thought starters…
Five New Holiday Traditions To Try:
1. The Christmas Tree Ring Memory String: The Todd thought of this our first Christmas together, when he grabbed the slice we’d just taken off the tree stump and labeled it “T+E 1997.” It’s so fun to add a new tree ring every year…and now the Memory String stretches clear across our living room.
2. The 12 Days Of Christmas Melee: I’ve tried doing the “12 Days of Christmas” tradition, and it’s exhausting. But if you do it with your family or a group of friends, it becomes fun, intriguing, and usually stupidly entertaining. Assign one or two of the 12 days to each family member or friend. They need to do something for another member of the group, in secret, giving nothing away. It can be as small as cleaning the snow off the car and having it heated up and ready when that person goes to work, or as fancy as a Singing Elf Delivery Gram (don’t ask, my friend Steve delivered it to The Todd, and let’s say Steve enjoyed wearing those Elf tights, dancing and singing a little too much.) On Christmas Eve, everyone has to figure out who did what or gave what to whom. There’s laughter, shrieking and some really brilliant ideas that come to light.
3. Project Adopt Grandma/Graduate Student/Refugee Family: Bear with me. Sometimes this means coming out of your comfort zone a little. But there are thousands of people in your city or town that think a day spent with you would be amazing, and it doesn’t need to be on Christmas, or Kwanzaa or Hanukka, or whatever you might celebrate.
- For older folks in a care facility, they may not be able to get out to shop for loved ones, mail packages, get their hair done, buy a nice red coat for church. A day with your patience, friendly kids and transportation would make their holiday. Check in with your local Elder Care facilities and Meals On Wheels for a referral.
- Graduate students at your local college are likely broke, new to town and maybe new to this country. Some of our very best Christmas Eves were spent going round the room and having everyone talk about what “Higher Power” meant to them. To Jennika from the Ukraine, Higher Power was the feeling she got from her music as a concert pianist. For Yen from Communist China, the joy he felt from complex math equations “filled his spirit” as he said. Check with Student Services and the school church groups.
- Refugee families are my favorite: the courageous little families make their way to our country from every corner of the globe. I have never worked with one that wasn’t thrilled and grateful to be here and wanting so much to be part of the community. But it’s scary: language barriers, confusion over customs, transportation problems–they are frightening and discouraging for anyone. Teaching the families about the Holidays and some of the different ones everyone shares is a wonderful experience. We help the kids make small crafts and gifts for their parents, take the family to see the lights or a concert. Check with your local Catholic Refugee Services for placement suggestions.
4. The Epic Tour Of Lights: this needs to only cost you a gallon of gas. Everyone in the family maps out their favorite lit-up houses for the holidays. Plug ’em into your iPhone or make a little map. Pass out the cocoa and get the car started. Try LightMuse or ChristmasLightFinder to get you started. Locals here along the Wasatch Front — here’s an incredible list that’s either free as a drive-by (F) or nominal cost ($):
- Frosty’s Winter Wonderland (F) (Salt Lake City)
- Willard Bay Fantasy At The Bay ($)
- Lights at Temple Square (F)
- The Gallivan Center Skating Rink ($) to skate, free to look
- Spanish Fork Festival Of Lights ($)
- Christmas Street (West Valley City)(F)
- Winder Dairy Light Display
- Thanksgiving Point Festival Of Lights ($)
- Downtown Ogden’s Christmas Village (F)
- Zoolights At Utah’s Hogle Zoo ($$)
- Christmas Street (Sugarhouse) (F)
- Candlelight Christmas At This Is The Place Heritage Park ($$) but love the pioneer dance lessons and crafting!
- Christmas Utah (Murray) (F)
5. Japanese Sky Lanterns & New Year’s Eve Wishes: my favorite of our new traditions. Japanese sky lanterns are inexpensive and heart-stoppingly beautiful. Just before midnight, we take our lantern and write a wish for the upcoming year on one side, and a worry from the year we’re leaving on the other side. As the clock turns 12, we send our lanterns into the sky, carrying our wishes to the heavens as our worries burn away with the paper. I’ve found inexpensive sky lanterns in bulk here, or you can learn to make your own here. (Editor’s note: this is very important: many municipalities will have their own laws about the use of these lanterns. Please check first, and make sure you use a clear space with an open skyline to set your lanterns into the sky.)