Please share your favorite free or low cost holiday traditions! - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 13 Old 11-30-2011, 10:23 AM - Thread Starter
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Hello there!


I know there have been threads like this in past years, and I remember finding them so wonderful and inspiring that I am hoping we can have another.  I would love to hear about your free or very low cost holiday traditions, particularly where your children are involved. We have some, but I want to incorporate some more. 


Here are a couple of ours . .


I have a cloth, reusable advent calendar.  Each day I write a little poem that sends the kids on a treasure hunt of sorts.  (I often save the little poems from year to year and am always very grateful I did so, because sometimes my creativity runs a little dry, and the kids sure don't remember a specific 2 line poem from last year . . )  The "treasure" is something tiny, like a Hershey's kiss, or an activity we will be doing that day.  The activity is usually something out-of-the-ordinary for us, like having a picnic on a blanket in front of the fire for dinner.


On December 1st we always have hot chocolate and whipped cream with breakfast.  The advent calendar note for 12/1 will be a treasure hunt leading them to where the hot cocoa jar has been stashed with the whipped cream.


Every time it snows in December we make hot cocoa and popcorn.


I hit the salvation army for cheap little things for the advent calendar gifts.  I can always find neat little ceramic Santas and things like that.  Sometimes I even re-use them for the following year - my kids really do not notice since I pack away all Christmas-related things after New Years, and so everything seems very new to them.


We bake cookies for certain friends and neighbors, and then after packaging them, we ring their doorbells and leave them on the front steps with a note saying only "Chris Cringle was here!"  We are often caught, but that just adds to the fun and we dash away laughing.


We bundle up for nighttime walks to look at Christmas lights.


We have a few of the kids' friends over to decorate cookies.  They will be denied admission unless they are wearing PJs.  After the cookie decorating we watch the Polar Express.


I would love to hear your ideas!



Mama to 2 mopheaded rascals
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#2 of 13 Old 12-01-2011, 10:12 PM
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We make decorating a family thing.  Light a fire, put on music and decorate.  


Make cookies of course!


I take DS out to pick out a gift for his sisters and ODD to pick gifts for the others also.


We pile in the car and go look at lights.  





Mommy to 3 gifts from God! 
Nate dog 5/15/04
Lil' G 11/8/07
My Shamrock 3/17/10
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#3 of 13 Old 12-01-2011, 10:24 PM
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Subbing :)


We are a pretty young family so not really any traditions yet. DS is just old enough to enjoy and participate this year. 

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#4 of 13 Old 12-02-2011, 02:50 AM
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We go ice skating and sledding. I made an advent calendar this year for the first time. Its a hit. Make Christmas decorations. Chop a tree at the university's tree forest. Play in the snow. Go downtown for hot chocolate and look in the stores. Visit people and family. Buy/serve food as if I am hosting a party, even though it may just be us - we make a cheese plate, bowls of peanuts, walnuts to crack. Some kind of drink for the kids that we dont usually get....

Sara - Mum to C (10/02) ; m/c 10/07; 7/08; 3/09; Lucy Olive Feb 28, 2010 !
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#5 of 13 Old 12-02-2011, 09:35 PM
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Subbing this one! We're a young family and especially since we're not big on gifts, I'm excited to see what gets posted here. 


I don't know if they're unique, but I'll share ours:

*Prolong the gift opening experience: After kids open their gifts individually (rotating through ages), each adult takes a turn opening one gift at a time while everyone else watches. It's fun to see what everyone has gotten, emphasizes the importance of giving as well as receiving, and makes the fun last that much longer! (And keeps the screaming and chaos to a minimum!)

*I'm drawn to an Xmas Eve drive to see the lights.

*I also used to LOVE Christmas caroling with my musically talented family (4part harmonies and trumpeter included!) to deliver Xmas cookies to our neighbors, but have NO idea how to keep that one going since I'm the only musical one under our roof now :-(


*Another one I saw online is one I may adopt, and will share here: 

Plan on buying (during this after-Xmas sale season) 24 of my most favorite children's christmas books and wrapping them up. Then, in the years to come, place the wrapped books in a basket by the tree and use them as an evening advent leading us up to the last book on Xmas eve (Twas The Night Before Christmas (of course!)


Things my friends and sisters are big on that MAY be worth adding here:

*Giving only 3 gifts per child (like Jesus received)

*Cutting their own Xmas tree off their own property or a friends property (making a point to always find a Charlie Brown looking one!)

*Reading the biblical Xmas story as a family the morning of. 

*Kids opening their new set of 'Xmas PJs' on XMas Eve to be wearing them Xmas morning (for pictures).

*Leave a special, new "activity" gift outside the kids' doors that they're allowed to open and play with among themselves UNTIL the adults get up at their own leisure. (No jumping into M&D's room that morning...)


Lastly, here's a site that might be helpful: CAFE TRADITIONS 

Married: 02/04   -   SAHM to Son: April '09   -    Pregnant: Due April '12

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#6 of 13 Old 12-03-2011, 03:18 AM
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creddy, don't give up hope.  My oldest didn't "become" musical until he was 11, and the others soon followed -- I had given up on the idea of a musical family, and I was totally wrong!


Our cheap traditions:


Make paper chains out of red/green/white paper.  I use the scraps from when we make Christmas cards.  We hang them all over the common areas of the house.  Also in past years the kids have made other decorations and we just put them all over the walls.  I try to encourage a lot of red/green so it really screams "holiday" -- when they were little I would cut out tree or wreath or holly shapes from green paper and let them go at it with stickers, crayons, etc.  Snowflakes or snowmen on the windows, etc.


Make our own Christmas cards - the kids do the art, etc.  They LOVE this and really get into it; we have done it every year.  When they were too little to draw I would give them cut up paper to glue onto card paper as collages, or glue sticks and glitter, or a snowflake stamper.  The recipients love it, too.


Light candles in the evening.  We have gotten a lot of candles free from friends, and also candle stubs that we have melted down and made new candles from. 


Play holiday music.  There always seem to be holiday CDs at our thrift shop, or you could make a holiday station on Pandora (I did this.)


Read holiday storybooks together as a family (mostly in the evening with the candles lit and the music playing!)  Our library has a lot of them.


On Christmas Day our tradition is to sit around in our pajamas all day (not even new pajamas), eat and drink and be merry and mellow at the same time (LOL), have the same special foods each year, play games or read or do puzzles or whatever.  Same thing, holiday atmosphere, candles and music.  By not schlepping around to relatives' houses, one benefit is that my kids don't see other traditions and they don't realize how totally homegrown and simple/frugal ours is!


Hot cocoa with marshmallows in front of the fireplace on Christmas Eve.  The marshmallows only come out at Christmas and camping time, so that's special.


Tree-decorating...if you have a hard time affording a tree, buy it Christmas Eve day and put it up that evening - you can often get a discount on Christmas Eve.  We have a collection of ornaments but a lot of them are handmade and the kids always seems to want to make more out of paper and other scraps. 


If you live where you can scrounge greenery and/or pine cones, you could make decorations with those.


I know a lot of people like driving around to look at other people's holiday lights.  I have heard of people who do this with a Thermos of cocoa in the car.  Sounds like a great idea to me.  We live rurally and have a gas-hog car, but whenever we drive to/from town at night, we ooh and aah over the lights (maybe even take little detours to see more).

creddy likes this.

- single homeschooling mom to 16, 15, 12, 11
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#7 of 13 Old 12-03-2011, 07:59 AM
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I love taking drives to see everyone's decorations!  Also, a fire in the wood stove, popcorn, and most of all having family meals together -- both kids are away at school now, and this time of year is the one reliable chance for the four of us to be in one place.  It's really nice!


Our nativity set has separate figures, around two inches high, and I move the Three Kings around between the time we decorate (day after Thanksgiving) and January 6.  They start at the far end of our living area and make their way over through the season.  Right now, they're in front of a foot-high gargoyle asking for directions.

Empty-nesting SAHM to DS1 (1989), DS2 (1992), and an overachieving mother (1930). Married to DH since 1986.
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#8 of 13 Old 12-03-2011, 10:40 AM
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Originally Posted by MariaMadly View Post


Our nativity set has separate figures, around two inches high, and I move the Three Kings around between the time we decorate (day after Thanksgiving) and January 6.  They start at the far end of our living area and make their way over through the season.  Right now, they're in front of a foot-high gargoyle asking for directions.

Now that is super cute!!!!




- Look at lights with hot cocoa in the car (warm for the kiddo -- no second-degree burns at Christmas lol)

- I have about 8-10 Christmas-themed books we've gotten through the years that we read every other night or so around Christmas. I keep them with the decorations during the year and leave them in a basket near the tree when we decorate.

- Listen to Christmas carols on the 24 hour Christmas music stations and have family game night.

- decorate as a family

- make paper snowflakes as a family. I save them all and even make a bunch of my own and make a path to the presents on Christmas morning from the kids' room.

- bake little treats for neighbors

- go to tree-lighting events or neighborhood light ceremonies. We bring popcorn and our own cocoa to keep it free.

- we've been ice skating the last two years, now that our oldest is old enough to actually skate.


Gosh, we do other things too but I'm drawing a blank. I absolutely ♥ the Christmas season.


Grace-based wife & mama to 2 unschoolers! One & . We live simply & mindfully. Expecting another blessing Feb 2015 Praying for another
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#9 of 13 Old 12-03-2011, 09:31 PM
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We focus on the million Christmas themed community events offered in our metro. Every small city has their own tree lighting ceremony with activities with kids. There's miniature train displays, Christmas themed playground, breakfast with Santa, mall visits to see Santa, ginger bread house display, and lights in the park (all free). Our church also has free activities such as a Christmas art workshop for kids and music concerts. We also make Christmas cookies, decorate ginger bread houses ($6 kit at Aldi), and do lots and lots of Christmas crafts.      

Kate~ Mama to two.
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#10 of 13 Old 12-06-2011, 07:13 AM
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We have several different traditions that we do throughout Advent.  On the first day of Advent we make and decorate an Advent wreath with candles that get lit each week of the season (a church tradition), then we make and decorate strips of paper to have a chain that we take off one link each day.  We also do "Advent adventures" each day.  This can be something small like watching a Christmas special on TV with a big bowl of popcorn to something big like tonight for St. Nicholas day we are having a special dinner and we had presents in our shoes this morning.  We also open our immediate family gifts on St. Nick day since Christmas is spent traveling and this makes it special with just our family.  Some other Advent adventures we have done: make ornaments to put on the tree and give to cousins, various crafts from, shopping for and taking food to the local food bank, buying a gift for someone on the "giving tree" from our church, go to local attractions where we have memberships, ride bikes around the park, etc.  We also have several books that we've been given or I've bought through the years that we read only during Advent.  Of course one day we decorate the house! 

Laura, Troy, Seth 6.24.06 , and Aaron 7.13.09
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#11 of 13 Old 12-06-2011, 02:34 PM
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I love all the ideas!!!!

Something I used to do as a child and I plan on doing with my kids, when they are a little older (they are 4 years old and 17 months now),  during cold winter evenings, we would drink hot chocolate, listen to carols and make homemade Christmas cards for all family members, instead of store bought (my 4 year already made some cute cards), also homemade Christmas tree ornaments, using things like acorns, matchboxes, etc. Also, making homemade gifts from the kids for family members. For example, I bought some inexpensive plain glass ball ornaments, and my son colored them, put stickers, glitter etc. on them.... So far he made some ornaments for his teachers, and homemade cards which he signed himself!! Fun activity:)

i , , mom to DS 7 and DD 4 and a wife to DH for 13 years vegan,
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#12 of 13 Old 12-06-2011, 06:48 PM - Thread Starter
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I love the idea of the snowflake trail leading from their doors on Christmas morning!  :-)


Here is a special one for us:


On the day after Thanksgiving, thumbing our noses at the idea that there is a mandate to spend money to be good Americans, we go into the woods to collect pinecones.  We live in an urban area, but on the edge of a huge park.  We all have big canvas totes that we fill up.  Later, when they have dried a bit, we use them in our holiday decorating (on wreaths, on the mantel, massed in a big, cool, footed gold bowl, etc.) and we make fire starters with them.  The fire starters are a super fun activity, and quite easy.  We tie raffia ribbons around each pine cone and them pile them into attractive baskets, tied with a huge bow, for some of the various people we give gifts to.  (My parents have come to love and expect their fire starters, and each spring recycle the basket by returning it to me to use again the following Christmas.  Other baskets we find at yard sales and the Salvation Army.)


Last night my DH was away and the girls and I had a picnic on the floor for dinner - super fun!  We lit candles and listened to carols as we ate our dinner.


Tomorrow night our activity will be to light a fire in our fire pit outside and toast marshmallows and make smores with a couple of neighborhood kids.


Another cheap-o advent activity we will do this week is a "spa night" - we will soak toes, use fancy creams and do foot rubs.  My older Dd loves this and my toddler is kind of clueless but willing to go along with anything big sis thinks is cool.


We also decided tonight to have a contest with one of DD's best friends.  We will each try to identify, over the next couple of weeks, the three most "exuberant" lights displays in our neighborhood (a pretty well-defined geographical area).  We will then go on a tour together and show one another our "finds."  We will probably vote on the craziest one.  We think we found it tonight!


We also, living in an urban area, take advantage of everything holiday-related & free we can find.

Mama to 2 mopheaded rascals
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#13 of 13 Old 12-06-2011, 11:46 PM
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We buy a new board game and open it on Christmas Eve and play/eat snacks. Then we open the rest of the gifts on Christmas day.

~Mama to my boys~ to a teen, a tween & a toddler and surro-mama to twins and their sister

Livin' in the sticks with my chicks chicken3.gif and lovin' it!

2014:  4/52 projects  0/2014 things 0/52 books

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