3 Holiday Traditions You Can Start Right Now

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I know that the early start to the holiday season adds a layer of stress for some — I get it. There's something about seeing Christmas decorations up the day after Halloween that just doesn't sit right. It feels like Thanksgiving (one of my favorite holidays) gets lost in the shuffle. I like to make the most of it, though, because that stretch between Halloween and New Year's Day is my favorite time of the year.

No matter which holidays you celebrate, this late fall/early winter season is a time of family togetherness. It's a time to slow down and count your blessings, and I'm always grateful for it.

If I'm being honest, sometimes I blame living in California for my tendency to bump up the holiday season. Without seasons and weather, I lean on decorations and traditions to get the season started. Growing up on the east coast, we watched one season bleed into the next and waited for the appropriate cues from Mother Nature that ushered in the new season. Out here, I feel like I'm ready for winter fun before we even collect the candy on Halloween night.

Whatever the reason for my love of celebrating all things winter just a little bit early, it's the traditions of the season that I look forward to each fall. Some traditions come straight from my own childhood, while others were established with my own kids in mind.

I love hearing about holiday traditions. It's fun to learn about what others do to celebrate the season! Here are three of my favorites, but please be sure to share yours with us, too.

Image via Flickr/ eekim

The thankful tree

We brought the thankful tree into our home when my daughter was in preschool. We were talking about all the things we were thankful for one night in November, when it occurred to me that it might be nice to have a place to post those things we talked about.

An hour later, my daughter and I began taping construction paper to the living room wall in an attempt to create a tree trunk. We added a few limbs and then began cutting leaves in various colors.

By nightfall, the tree practically overflowed with thankful leaves. The kids drew pictures on theirs. My husband and I used words. We kept it up through the new year, adding leaves almost daily. When I tried to take it down, the whole family protested. So we add new leaves each holiday season and involve our friends, but that preschool-powered tree trunk remains the same.

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gift cards
Image via Flickr/ Aranami

Help a family

While we all have things we can complain about from time to time, I feel very grateful for what I have. I don't have to worry about putting a turkey on the table for Thanksgiving or getting gifts under the tree on Christmas. We have our health, happy kids, and people who love us.

Not every family is so lucky. Many families struggle throughout the year, and the holiday season becomes an added stressor. We started helping a family in need through a family-match program with our church. We provide a gift card to help with Thanksgiving dinner, and we shop for holiday gifts for the whole family. My kids love choosing gifts for other kids and wrapping those gifts with care. It feels good to help a family in need, and we spend a lot of time talking about the power of caring for others — even those we don't actually know.

christmas cookies
Image via Flickr/ OakleyOriginals

Cookies for all

My favorite Christmas tradition from my childhood is baking holiday cookies. I have so many warm memories of the smell of gingerbread filling the air while we shaped and decorated the cookies. My mom always made a batch of gingerbread dough and a batch of sugar cookie dough, and we sat around the table as a family spending time together while making sweet treats.

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That's one tradition I couldn't wait to pass down to my little ones, but we added another piece to this tradition. These days, we double the recipe and wrap up cookies for friends and neighbors. It's fun to share holiday cheer, and it reminds us to slow down and check in with those who mean the most to us during the busy holiday season.

Please share your favorite holiday traditions in the comments below.

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3 Holiday Traditions You Can Start Right Now

Katie Hurley, LCSW is a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and writer in Los Angeles, CA. She is the author of "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" and "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World". She earned her BA in Psychology and Women's Studies from Boston College and her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She divides her time between her family, her private practice and her writing. Passionate about he ... More

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