Easy Tips for Building Memories Over Your Next Holiday Weekend:
If you live in the United States or Canada, there’s a good chance your kids got a day off from school today, whether for Columbus Day, Indigenous Peoples’ Day, or Thanksgiving. Did you do anything special to mark this holiday weekend with them? Whatever the reason for the long weekend, there’s no better time to bond as a family and build some memories for your little ones that will last a lifetime.
What you do together as a family isn’t the important thing. What matters most is that you take the time to do something out of the ordinary. With that in mind, here are some fun family ideas for building memories over your next holiday break from the daily grind:
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Fun Ideas for Building Memories as a Family This Holiday Season:
1. Start (or maintain) holiday traditions
They don’t have to be elaborate – they just have to be yours (even if you borrow the ideas from somewhere else). Family traditions that your family repeats year after year are the stuff that memories are made of, and the things your children will relive as they get older and pass on to their own families someday.
Some traditions you and your family may already follow:
- Trick-or-treating every Halloween
- Elf-on-the-Shelf each December
- Sharing things you’re grateful for at the table each Thanksgiving
- Giving back through community service over Martin Luther King, Jr. Day each January
- Participating in your nearest First Night on New Year’s Eve
Some of my favorites growing up:
- Christmas caroling each December with my church youth group
- Watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Rose Bowl Parade
- Having an all-night party on New Year’s Eve with my church youth group
- Watching the local fireworks on the Fourth of July
Some of my favorite childhood traditions that we’ve passed on to my own family:
- Traditional French Meat Pie for Christmas Eve dinner before candlelight service at church
- Hanging our stockings before bed, complete with photos of everyone in their PJs
- Opening our stockings over breakfast on Christmas morning
- Giving back to the community throughout the year (not just at Christmas or Thanksgiving or MLK day)
Some of the new traditions my husband and I have begun with our girls:
- Saturday Night Dinner as the big family meal of the week (my husband does about half the cooking in our family anyway, but Saturday Night Dinner in our family is sacred time, when he goes all out on his meal prep)
- Driving to his parents’ house over Thanksgiving, which is his family’s big holiday
- Our annual summer family camping trip with my dear friend Keisha and her family
- Having all the living grandparents (plus whatever aunts and uncles can make it) to our house for Christmas
As you may have noticed, the traditions you create and pass on to your children can be profound and sacred, or fun and silly. The point is not so much the actual content of the tradition, but that you HAVE traditions that your family considers important. THIS is the stuff memories are made of.
2. Cook together
Depending on the holiday, you probably have favorite foods you associate with it. So why not make them together as a family?
Every December when I was a little girl, we spent at least one Saturday afternoon, my mama and brother and I, making some sort of rolled Christmas cookie on her mama’s large cookie board. If my grandma (her mama-in-law) was there, Grandma would inevitably help – and would always make an apple pie with us, too.
Today, some of my girls’ favorite holiday memories of time with their grandmother (my MIL) are helping her to make the apple pie we have each year for Thanksgiving. Even if we don’t make it to their house until Wednesday night, their grandma always saves that job for when the girls can help her.
And they feel the same about rolling out Christmas cookies with me some Saturday afternoon in December, then decorating to their hearts’ content.
Again, the WHAT isn’t what matters. The time spent together doing it is the important part.
3. Get out of the house
For all those long holiday weekends from school, it can be so tempting to use the three-day weekend as an excuse to catch up on yard work, or house projects, or something equally mundane.
And sometimes – like this past holiday weekend, when Kimmie had to construct a model for a school project – the long holiday weekend is a blessing because it gives you those extra hours you desperately need.
But otherwise, why not take advantage of the extra time to do something fun and out of the ordinary?
When we visit my in-laws over the holidays, the drive is far enough for us that we’ve got several days there to kill. So what better way to spend it, than by visiting some of the local cultural attractions that my hubby’s city of origin has to offer?
Sometimes we’ll get tickets for a local pro or collegiate sporting event. Sometimes we’ll visit a fun museum as a family, grandparents included. (One of the nice things about being members of several local museums at home is that many of them have reciprocal agreements with partners all over the country. This means we often get discounted or free admission with our membership cards from back home!)
As a family living out in the ‘burbs of a much smaller city, these are opportunities my girls don’t get every day at home. And they make the long holiday visits that much more fun and memorable.
4. Just sit around and talk
If your family likes to camp, you no doubt have many magical memories of evenings spent by the campfire, just chitchatting, or maybe telling stories and tall tales.
Don’t discount the value of small moments like these. Especially for your littles, who may have no concept of a time before the internet and Facetiming relatives and instantaneous emails/text messages.
Honestly, this is one of the reasons I loved my mama’s family reunions when I was little, and the regular funerals in my father’s large family (which functioned like family reunions; I remember how funny it was to look at everyone assembled, and it was instantly clear who was born into the family and who’d married in, thanks to our family’s prominent noses!). The stories you get to hear at gatherings like this are priceless.
So be sure to set aside some time over those long holiday weekends, when you have a break from the usual routine, and just talk with your family members. Whether it’s older relatives passing on family stories, or just taking the time to reflect on what has made each of you most grateful during the previous year, these conversations are a priceless source of memories in the making.
5. Remember to leave space
Especially if you’ve got lots of far-flung family members crammed together over a short holiday break, it’s important to remember that everyone needs to have their space sometimes. If you’re the one hosting, it’s critical to be mindful of this when you’re, say, planning your schedule for that perfect Christmas morning.
This is especially important when you’re hosting multiple family units all at once. A truly full-house Christmas for us is my widowed mama, my in-laws, my BIL who’s single, and my baby bro/his family. That’s five separate households sharing tight quarters for several days!
Since we knew this would be the case when we were shopping for our current home, we had very specific needs in mind. Both my husband and I have a home office which, in a pinch, can become sleeping quarters on short notice. (My BIL pretty much always sleeps in Hubby’s office when he’s here, and my mama is actually living out of my home office for the next two months while we help her recover from a recent surgery.)
And while some people thought a house with 3.5 baths, 4 bedrooms, and a finished basement seemed crazy when we were newly married and expecting our firstborn, let me tell you it’s good to have that many bedrooms and bathrooms when you’re hosting that many people!
This doesn’t mean you need to go buy a bigger house if you’re gonna go nutso hosting family over the holidays (as we do). Perhaps in your case, you’ll be finding some comfy nearby hotels or B&B’s for out-of-town guests, so they can get a little space from your energetic high-volume offspring. Or maybe you need to plan outings for different segments of the family together, so that each family unit can get some quality time with your kiddos while the other segments recharge their batteries a bit.
Either way, planning ahead for this very human need can help to keep the family memories your kiddos build over the holidays on the positive site, versus the stressed-out end of things.
Which of these tips for building memories as a family over the holidays resonate most with you? Which have you already tried? Let us know your faves in the comments!
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