While I hate the cold weather that winter brings, there is so much I love about this festive time of year. There’s romance, time with family, cozy everything, excuses to hibernate, balsam scented candles and of course pie lol! (& a wide variety of other baked goods). There’s no doubt that it can get hectic, but there are also easy holiday traditions worth starting that will make the season even more special and give you something extra to look forward to beyond the holiday parties and gift exchanges.
Some of these holiday traditions were incorporated in my life from my parents, a few have been started with my girlfriends and others with Ryan, but they are all worth considering if you’re looking to incorporate some new holiday traditions to your winter calendar! xx
1. Bake something new!
Ok, full disclosure, I am NOT a baker but there is literally nothing like having freshly baked goods on display in the kitchen as part of your holiday traditions, and they also make a perfect hostess gift for anyone you’re visiting. That’s why I make an effort to bake at least one batch of something new each Christmas. This year, I’m leaning towards thumbprint cookies but other crowd pleasers to try include shortbread, gingerbread and personal-sized pies (sweet or savoury is great!).
2. Visit a Christmas Market
I have gone to the Christmas Market here in Toronto for the last 5 years or so and absolutely love it! It’s a fun way to spend the day, get some cute photos and try a lot of snacks from the different vendors (poutine and cider, hello!). I also grab a couple of soy candles and artisan jams or sauces as well. If you’re someone who likes to travel at the holidays, you can also take advantage of this tradition at destinations like Austria, Italy, Montreal, Stockholm, New York, and the argued best in the world in Strasbourg, France (#bucketlist).
3. Buy a real tree
This is a non-negotiable at least once! I grew up with a mix of real and faux trees, and as an adult have used both as well, but NOTHING beats the smell and look of a real tree at the holidays. If you haven’t already invested in a faux one and are debating, real ones are way less expensive, smell amazing, and don’t need to be stored (a huge plus for us being in a condo with limited space in our storage locker). This was the second year that Ryan and I went to cut our own tree and it’s such a fun day and probably my new fave of all the holiday traditions on this list.
4. Find a cause that speaks to you and lend to it
I know that everyone knows the most important part of the holidays is to give back, but we’re all guilty of having it sometimes fall to the backburner when schedules reach max. capacity. That’s why I think it’s helpful to have a pre-determined cause that means something to you to donate or lend your time to. Thinking of it in advance will mean that you don’t feel rushed to decide and end up forfeiting it altogether. For example, I have a set couple of charities that I give to each year (a habit picked up from my dad), which will always remain dear to me. Also, I plan to give to my company’s annual giving campaign, which is a great thing to take advantage of if something your employer facilitates because it’s so easy! I’d also like to find something to volunteer my time to this year, ideally something that helps with animal adoptions over the holidays (please leave me a comment if you know of any good ones in Toronto!).
5. Hit up the theatre
Put on your best holiday attire and hit up a play or show this season! Our current tradition is a little less sophisticated and involves a trip to the movie theatre on Christmas Day (lol), and I so look forward to it… so many good movies come out that day and everything else is closed anyway! However, I have never been to the ballet and it’s on my holiday bucketlist to give it a whirl.
6. Decorate with a new theme
It’s obviously not realistic to reinvest in all new holiday décor each year, but switching up your theme in some capacity keeps things fun and interesting! It also doesn’t have to apply to your whole home, but can be some new pieces for your tablescape, a few new packs of tree ornaments in a new and complimentary colour to add to your existing theme, or a few new wrapping essentials to create a cohesive look for all your gifts. For example, this year our tree decorations will be the same colours as last year (whites, creams, metallics), but I’ve swapped out some of our deep red accents for forest green and faux fur. Last year I also wrapped with all black and white paper, but am thinking more kraft paper and cream/greenery bows and accents this year.
7. Mark the year with a relevant ornament (or other item)
Again, this is one of the holiday traditions that started with my family that I have now continued, and I love the idea of adding one sentimental piece each year to your collection. It can be one that literally marks the year (“Xmas 2017”), a craft from a kid in your life (my parents still have ones from my sister and I on their trees), or a staple piece that maybe you’re missing. Last year was our first in our home so we got our tree skirt, a lace table runner and a crystal mistletoe that I’m OBSSESED with. This year, I’m keeping my eye out for an ornament that marks our engagement and maybe a nice nativity set.
8. Try one fave & one new outdoor winter activity
This is one of the holiday traditions that is more of an effort for me because I didn’t grow up doing anything outdoorsy in the winter, but I’m always so happy to get outside with friends. Skating is my fave annual activity and I hope to try skiing or snowboarding for the first time this year! (I know, I’m a shameful Canadian). Whatever works for you, having a reason to brave the frigid temps and stay active is definitely a tradition worth starting.
9. Plan a cozy hang instead of a gift exchange
This is a tradition that again goes back to the true meaning of the season and one that has evolved for me and my girlfriends. We used to do a gift exchange each year, and then that scaled back to a Kris Kringle exchange where we each only bought one gift, and each year the denominations have gotten smaller and smaller to the point that we realized we don’t even need the gift component at all! This year we’re just going to order in, enjoy the décor at one of our places, and likely have some spiked drinks lol. It’s a nice change of pace from all the running around, and a great way to get some quality time in amidst all the craziness.
10. Send Custom Greeting Cards
Ok, so this a tradition that Ryan and I haven’t done yet but he knows is actually one of my life goals lol. Rather than just signing boxed Christmas cards, why not make your own! I’m talking like full on photoshoot caliber stuff that you can then print for next to nothing and send to fam and friends. He knows I will eventually force matching ensembles on him + on kids when they come + string lights around the dog(s). K, thanks. If you do this already, I applaud you and you have my unwavering personal respect.
11. Watch your fave holiday movie
For me there is only one clear option here – HOME ALONE. I love 1 &2 and they literally become my background noise for the whole season. Serendipity is a close second (don’t judge) and Four Christmases and The Holiday are also top picks for me. Fun fact, none of the other popular faves come close in my opnion… I thoroughly dislike Love Actually, A Christmas Story and The Family Stone (lol please don’t freak out and castrate me in the comments section), and Elf is ok I guess. Whatever your flavour, carve out some time, take a breather and spend in a night in on the couch you filthy animals!