Last year we started a new family ritual. It’s called the snow couch. Because who doesn’t love sitting on hard, compacted snow. We eat and drink and talk on this snow couch. The kids love it because it’s pretty exciting to see this “piece of furniture” take shape. I cherish the snow couch for the conversation and connection.
How to Create Family Rituals
Any mundane activity can be elevated to a “ritual” when you carve out space or time for it, give it intentionality or purpose, and when you put your heart in it. Alternatively, when your child brushes their teeth regularly, there certainly may be a time designated for it and the purpose is obvious, but if your child sees it as a chore, something that needs to be done, the activity becomes a routine, rather than a ritual.
Why Rituals Are Important for Kids
The predictability and stability of routines for pre-school children and toddlers are, of course, well-documented. Rituals, however, become more powerful as our children get older. According to Psychologist Barbara H. Fiese, Ph.D., and her colleagues at Syracuse University after a 50-year study, rituals serve to “convey 'this is who we are' as a group and provide continuity in meaning across generations.” In essence, rituals create belonging.
Because rituals are personal in nature they remind us of who we are, where we come from, and what makes us special. When rituals are shared across decades, they can connect us to our ancestors or heritage, which can ground children in something bigger than themselves.
All families have rituals, often times without even noticing them, but there is value in formalizing them, if for no other reason than kids love rituals and look forward to them.
Our List of 30 Winter Rituals For Families of All Religions
1) Watch a seasonal movie like "Home Alone," "Die Hard," "Elf," or "The Grinch."
2) Decorate a gingerbread house or gingerbread people.
3) Bake cookies and deliver them to friends or loved ones.
4) Create a photo keepsake from the year: a mug, pillow, blanket, book, or coasters. You can stick a photo on anything these days. (We’ve also done this with our kids’ art rather than photos!)
5) Make edible snow with ice and a blender. Add your child’s favorite juice and you’ve got a tasty treat!
6) Hot chocolate. Make it homemade with some fun toppings like crushed candy canes or sprinkles and boom town. https://celebratingsweets.com/homemade-hot-chocolate/
7) Have an annual bonfire and include s’mores.
8) Volunteer in a in a local soup kitchen as a family.
9) Get everyone a new and matching set of pajamas and take a silly family photo.
10) Do a puzzle as a family. Then frame it and hang it in a family room or the hallway where everyone can appreciate it.
11) Take part in an annual fitness challenge. That could be your city’s 5K Turkey Trot or something less formal like a long hike.
12) Build something out of snow. A snowman, couch, or elephant?
13) Have an annual board game night.
14) Attend a holiday performance or concert like the "Nutcracker" or the local symphony.
15) Have a New Year’s Eve dance party.
16) Eat a food for luck on New Year’s Day: black-eyed peas for example, but look online and you’ll find plenty of other meaningful ones!
17) Celebrate the Winter Solstice, the shortest and darkest day of the year, on Dec. 21, 2021 by heading out to gaze at the stars.
18) Eat a special breakfast under the table as a family.
19) Make up your own family holiday. Decorate hats, blow bubbles, or do something else to get everyone laughing.
20) Take the kids to the post office, let them buy some stamps and start a stamp collection that you grow each year.
21) Make an annual movie. So many apps can help with this! Check out In-Shot. It’s free!
22) Go ice skating.
23) Drive around and look at holiday lights. Or some cities have really big lit-up trees that make for a fun pilgrimage.
24) Go out for an exotic cuisine you don’t eat regularly. Ethiopian food anybody?
25) Turn off all your lights at nighttime and pretend you’re living in the olden days and just use candles.
26) Go winter-time camping! Set up a tent inside that everyone sleeps in.
27) Make a giant Lego creation.
28) Find a local non-profit that allows you to sponsor a family in need. Go shopping for the items together and donate them.
29) Deliver cookies and treats to your local fire station, police department, or the staff at your local hospital.
30) Collect gently used books or canned food from neighbors, friends and family that you can then donate.
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