Treasured Traditions:
    Create New Ones this Holiday Season     
By Lauren Teegarden

Holidays are about family, and all generations look forward to sharing unique and special traditions year after year. In such a crazy world, your grandchildren--and you--will appreciate at least one thing that doesn't change. This December, pass down your family's beliefs and customs to your grandchildren in a new way: try one of the following suggestions.

1. Create a Christmas ornament timeline. While lots of families purchase a "baby's first Christmas" ornament, consider creating an "ornament timeline" for your grandchild. Each Christmas, give him or her an ornament that represents the year: the ornament can exhibit interests, new experiences, or travel. Make sure that the year is marked on each ornament; write the year with a black or silver permanent marker on a small ribbon, and tie it to the ornament. By the time your grandchildren leave home, they will have special ornaments for their own tree!

2. Buy a beautiful, one-of-a-kind bow. Put it on a present for your grandchild. Instruct your grandchild to save the bow after opening the present. The next year, your grandchild can put the bow on a present for a different person. Soon, your entire family will look forward to who next "gets the bow.”

3. Choose a favorite classic holiday movie, such as "It's a Wonderful Life," and watch it every year with your extended family. Pop popcorn, drink hot chocolate, and don't answer the phone while you enjoy the company of your family.

4. Create a family "Christmas Quiz." For a large family gathering, let every person write several statements about what another family member has done in the past. Then, read the statements aloud, and guess who the trivia corresponds with. Adults and kids alike will enjoy a trip down memory lane!

5. Instead of exchanging meaningless gifts, have a "white-elephant" exchange. Have all family members bring a wrapped, used (but nice) gift. Everyone draws numbers. Number 1 goes first, and chooses and unwraps a gift. Number 2 can either choose a wrapped gift, or 'steal' Number 1's gift (in which case 1 chooses another new one). Number 3 and the rest follow suit. The last person gets his or her pick from all the opened gifts or may choose the last unwrapped one. Your family will enjoy the friendly competition, and even better, you can donate the money that would have been spent on purchased gifts to charity.

6. Make homemade wrapping paper. Using stencils, markers, and glitter, decorate construction paper or a paper bag. Or, cut a potato in half and carve a Christmas star, tree, or ornament. Dip in colored craft paint and stamp on heavy paper.

7. Add a "Christmas predictions" game. Each year, give family members slips of paper and have them write predictions for the coming year. The next Christmas, read each person's predictions aloud and see how many came true!

Creating traditions will connect your family this year—and also for the years to come. Never underestimate the impact that small things can have on creating a strong family environment.

Lauren Teegarden is a student at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. With grandparents of her own, Lauren recognized the value of strong grandparent-grandchild interactions and started "The Grandparent Connection," a free monthly email newsletter with articles, advice, and activities for grandparents. Visit her website, www.thegrandparentconnection.org, to sign up for the newsletter.



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