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This Christmas eve, start a new family tradition

Callie trims a tree

Callie trims a tree

For some people, the words “new” and “tradition” just don’t jibe. Only Bing Crosby is entitled to sing White Christmas, thank you very much. And don’t even think about replacing the Christmas ham with something that won’t raise your blood pressure 20 points.

For others, change is good – and perhaps even called for – even on this most traditional of holidays. Maybe some of the kids aren’t coming home this year, and you just can’t face making that favorite Christmas Eve meal without them there to pester you for samples. Maybe Grandma is no longer here, and the Wii tournament just won’t be the same without her. Or maybe you’ve just never established any really great Christmas Eve traditions or don’t particularly like the ones you’re stuck with.

Well, then, put away that copy of A Visit from Saint Nick (it’s okay, really!) and try something new. Check out these ideas for inspiration.

1. Explore days of yore. Got a fact-finder in the family? Keep him or her out of the cookie dough with a little research project on Christmas traditions from Colonial times (or as far back as he or she wants to go). Then integrate a few into your celebration.

2. Have a multicultural Yule. Even better, research holiday traditions from your own cultural heritage and fold those into the mix. And hey, unless you have a royal bloodline, feel free to adopt any that suit your fancy: Who really knows if there are Finns or Mexicans lurking in the ole family tree anyway? Finns, by the way, are known to visit the sauna on Christmas Eve, and pinatas are common in celebrations south of the border.

3. Get cozy. Wrap up a new set of pjs, some hot cocoa and a movie for the kids and let them open them on Christmas Eve. Then snuggle up and enjoy some much deserved down time.

4. Yuck it up. You want to relax and soak up the holiday spirit on Christmas Eve, but you’re still thinking about that gift you couldn’t find or the daughter who’s overseas this year. What you need is a good laugh. Get out the old photo albums and look through them together, play goofy board games or make up some of your own. Our family likes to play a game we call “Who would survive . . .” We make up scenarios, like colonizing the moon or being trapped on a plane for three days (they don’t actually have to be life-or-death scenarios), then vote on who in the family would manage best and defend our answers.

5. Sing! No, for real. We all sing along to our radios, and a few brave souls bust out the karaoke from time to time, but how long has it been since you gathered around – well, whatever instrument you might happen to have – and tried to make your own music? I know, I know, the bald earnestness of it all! And yet, if the mood is right and you can all (mostly) remember the words to The First Noel, something truly lovely could happen. And hey, if not, see No. 4.

6. Have a round robin wrapping party. Wrapping is such a drag. Why not save it ’til Christmas Eve and make it into a mini celebration? Create two or three stations replete with plenty of ribbons, bows and other fun do-dads and pair off in various groupings so that everybody gets to wrap something with everybody else. Add some snacks and music and give prizes for the most creative wrapping job.

7. Spread some cheer. Bake cookies or breads for neighbors and friends and actually go to their doors and drop them off. It’s a weird concept, we know, but you might be surprised at how happy people are to see you.

8. Give a little more. By now you’re probably feeling wrung dry in the cash department, and chances are you’ve already been hit up 101 times for charity. If you’re feeling a bit curmudgeonly about the whole giving thing, now might be a great time to sit down with your family and select a charity that really means something to you and reflects your values and make a small donation.

9. Be a kid. Sit back and let the kids plan the evening’s activities. So what if it’s beef jerky and hot fudge sundaes for dinner, followed by a Nerf war and an Xbox tournament? Christmas is for kids, and you’re off the hook from trying to plan something picture perfect.

10. Loaf in heavenly peace. You did it. You bought all the gifts, sent all the cards, made all the food and put up with all the mania.

Now’s the time to sit back and relax and do whatever makes you happy.

Note: this should not include triple-checking tomorrow’s dinner menu and reading up on lump-free gravy.

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