Photo credit: Matt Stanley for the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation.
With two little ones, the holiday season is full of excitement. Everything is exciting to them, whether it’s spotting the first lights in the neighborhood, getting a toy catalog in the mail, pulling decorations out of the attic, or celebrations with family and friends.
Since there’s so much to do and see this time of year, I’m trying to focus on what makes the holidays special: spending time together as a family, visiting loved ones, practicing gratitude, and, of course, having fun! And I don’t just want to make the holidays happy…I want to keep them as healthy as possible too.
The Importance of Family Traditions
When you reminisce about the holidays, do you think of an experience or a gift you received? For me, and I think for most, fond memories of family traditions are what come to mind first.
And traditions don’t necessarily have to be grand or formal — in fact, some can be pretty silly. Of course, there are the more common ones like decorating together, watching a holiday movie, or attending religious services. But then there are also the quirky traditions that are just as special. Growing up, my mom and I always decorated our Christmas tree to a Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers Christmas album — some of the cheesiest holiday music you can find, but 30 years later and those songs still bring a huge smile to my face.
How to Make the Holidays Less Food-Focused
Then there are also the hours spent baking and decorating cookies; dinners, cocktails, and desserts aplenty; and candy bowls full of festive sweets.
Now that I have kids of my own, I’m working to incorporate some sugar-free traditions to make the holidays less food-focused. Here are some fun ideas I came up with:
- Get the kids decorating. If your kids are like mine, they love to help. Give them tasks to help decorate the house, inside and out. Short of sending them on the roof, even little kids can help hang wreaths, put lights on the shrubs, and dress the mantel with stockings and garland.
- Find a charity. As a team, pick a charity that means something to your family. It’s easy to get caught up in your shopping list and busy calendar, but having your whole crew come together for a good cause can be a great bonding experience and a new annual tradition. Keep in mind that you don’t necessarily have to go somewhere to serve — there are also ways to help from home, like adopting a family for the holiday.
- Take your activities outside. In Philadelphia, we may not think of winter as an ideal time to head outdoors, but there is plenty of fun to be had if you’re willing to bundle up. Take the family on a hike, go sledding or skiing, or make an annual event of ice skating under the Ben Franklin Bridge at the Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest. (Independence Blue Cross members’ skating admission is free!) Remember these tips for exercising outdoors when it’s chilly.
- Go for a walk. After a holiday family meal, make it a tradition for everyone, young and old, to take a stroll together. A 15-minute walk after a meal is great way to get some fresh air and help your body digest your dinner. Or, rather than driving around to see Christmas lights, walk through your neighborhood instead. Any time you can add steps in your day, you’re heading in the right direction.
- Do crafts instead of baking. I’m not saying don’t bake — I could never! But if you typically bake enough to feed an army, maybe you swap some of your time and energy for holiday crafts instead. The bonus? Your crafts will be more than a holiday tradition — they can double as gifts and decorations that you can use year after year. My family recently had a gingerbread house decorating contest, and we had so much fun and a lot of laughs.
- Sign up for a holiday fun run. Around the holidays, so many towns host festive fun runs or walks. If there are any holiday fun runs near where you live, you could get the whole family signed up. Not only will you get to spend the day together for the race, but you can also help each other train before the race. Since it’s common for people to gain a couple of pounds during the holidays, it’s a great time to have a reason to get moving!
Cheers to new, healthy traditions and a happy holiday!