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Holiday Traditions That Outlast Food

Dec 06, 2016

My family has them, and yours does too—delicious treats that show up only for the holidays.  Part of the temptation to overeat is wrapped up in knowing they are here for a short time.  Thankfully, that works to our benefit.  Sometime in early January, the frenzy of cooking stops, and we return to more typical eating.

Christmas would not be the same without our food traditions.  They are a part of the continuity that ties generations together.  I learned to make some of the treats from my husband’s heritage, and I added a few from my side of the family.  We even have a few more that are our own contributions, and when we celebrate the holidays with our children, those treats are there.

Our traditions do not have to be limited to foods.  Here are 15 holiday traditions for family members of all ages that balance the overeating. Repeating them year after year can build memories and strengthen family ties.   I hope you find one or two to add this year.

  1. Get a handful of folks together and go caroling. You’ll be surprised by how well-received your singing group is, even if you sing out of tune!
  2. Grab some children and check out holiday lights in your area.
  3. If you find joy in holiday cooking, walk door to door delivering small gift sacks of treats to the neighbors or shut-ins.
  4. Do something that gets you out of the house on Christmas Day after the meal and gifts. Our family tradition is to attend a movie together.
  5. Start the ‘Elf on a Shelf’ tradition, but tweak it to be about more than just good behavior. Have the elf leave “kindness” assignments for the whole family to enjoy.
  6. Take turns reading classic Christmas stories or make it a tradition that the same person reads the same story each year.
  7. Set aside one night each week and watch a favorite Christmas classic movie together. Partner it with a menu plan for each movie that becomes part of the tradition every year.
  8. Create a holiday playlist that your family listens to in the car or at home. Set a date for when the holiday music can begin playing.
  9. Use an advent calendar to count down to Christmas. Emphasize the true meaning behind so many of the traditions we celebrate.
  10. Start an ‘I Am Thankful’ list with the children. Have them add one thing they are thankful for each day. Turn this into a decoration by having it written on a paper Christmas tree or snowflake that is hung across the fireplace or some other area.
  11. Volunteer your time as a family at a soup kitchen or a food bank that hands out food to families in need, or find a giving tree that allows you to sponsor a family or purchase toys for children in need. Go shopping for the items together and donate them.
  12. Start a gag gift tradition. Give a funny gift to a family member. Each year, pass the gift on to another unsuspecting family member.
  13. As a family, write a holiday letter. Have each member contribute one memorable moment from the past year to be shared with friends and family.
  14. Start a canned food drive in your neighborhood, among co-workers or at your child’s school. Ask others to donate canned and non-perishable foods to donate at a food bank.
  15. Begin a scrapbook just for holiday memories. Each year add photos, ticket stubs, the holiday letter and any other items from that year’s events.  Just for fun, be sure to take a picture of all those tasty goodies on display!

Blessings, friends, for a safe, happy and special holiday season.

This article was written by Karan Summitt. Karan is a Community Health Educator and an Employee Health Coach at St. Bernards Medical Center. She holds a bachelor’s degree in family and consumer sciences from Harding University in Searcy and has extensive training and experience in weight loss and healthy lifestyle management, with emphasis on healthcare needs of seniors. She submits a weekly lifestyle “column to The Jonesboro Sun entitled “The Diet Gal” and also writes a “Successful Aging” column for the magazine NEA Seniors.