How to create new holiday traditions

Is it time to create new holiday traditions? That was the big question when we first moved to the farm. We were faced with not only a new lifestyle but also finding the answer.

In my family, Dad, Dot, Evelyn, and several other family members had passed on. Children had grown up and started their own lives. My brother had moved to Plano, and began to create new traditions with his family. The Country Boy had the same issues in his family.

Mix It Up!

In the end, we decided to blend a few, and create new holiday traditions of our own. When possible, we went to family gatherings. If not, we stayed home and started new ones.

For Thanksgiving, we started offering an ‘Orphan Thanksgiving’. We had a few family members gathered there, but we also set plates for those who had nowhere else to go.

Create New Tradition - Secret Santa

For Christmas, we continued to meet a Mom’s for the day. When our kids came home, we hosted. But for the two weeks leading up to the big Day, the Country Boy and I started a ‘hush hush’ tradition. We became Secret Santas.

Create New Traditions - Orphan Thanksgiving

Create New Holiday Traditions

When the old traditions don’t work any longer, it may be time to start new ones. The first step is to determine what it is about a particular holiday you love. Is it the people? Is it the food? Center the new tradition around those.

In my case, it is mostly about people first, food second. For Thanksgiving, the food was a given. But who to invite? Family, of course. But then I learned of two friends who had nowhere to go. So I invited them.

Another friend was overseas in the Military. Without thinking twice, we added a place setting for him, and called it our ‘Gratitude’ setting. It kept our Military men and women in the front of our minds.

Another thing to consider is to keep it simple. Sometimes people get a little too overwhelmed with trying to make every holiday picture perfect and they forget to have fun. One way to help ease that stress is to create some fun and easy holiday traditions that are relatively stress-free and easy to do.

Want to start new traditions? Try a few of these ideas:

Create New Traditions with Photos

Create a New Holiday Tradition with Photos

Start taking photos of friends and family. Print them out. For Thanksgiving, give each person their photo, and ask them to write on the back what they are thankful for this year.

Every year after, use these photos as place cards, along with a new photo. In future years, place the oldest photo in an album, and leave it on a table so everyone can enjoy.

You can also use this same idea for New Year’s. Just have everyone write their main resolution on the back. Next year, see how well they did!

You can also take additional photos and use them for Christmas ornaments. Cut frames out of construction paper, or make them with Popsicle sticks. Decorate them with glitter.

When the frames are dry, glue a photo to the back and attach a hook. Hang them on the tree. (This is a great craft idea you can do with the kids!)

scavenger hunt map

Scavenger Hunt

This works great for any holiday or gathering. Prepare ahead of time by making up clues. Each clue will lead to another, until the Grand Prize is found.

You can also do this in groups. Give each group the first clue, then let them start hunting. If you do groups, color code the clues and send them in different directions. The first group to reach the Grand Prize gets to claim it!

For instance – out here, we use two colors. One color may have to go to the chicken coop, while the other color leads to the greenhouse. From there, we continue with different locations, until the final clue leads directly to the Grand Prize.

Clues can be handwritten (but still cryptic). You can also use pictures that are hand-drawn or cut from magazines. If we chose to do that, we may use a picture of an egg for the first group’s clue, and a seedling for the second.

The prize can be simple. A bag of candy, dollar store items (like bubbles and a huge pair of sunglasses). Just make it fun and simple.

have a merry, simple Christmas ebook banner


Drawings are always fun. As each guest arrives, have them write their name on a slip of paper. Between the meal and dessert, draw a name. Give the winner a prize. The prize can be just a plate of cookies or a dessert to take home, or maybe a Christmas ornament.

Or, you could take it a step further. Instead of a name, have them write down something a bit obscure about themselves. Pull one out, and see who can guess who wrote it.

You can also do several drawings. Just remember, the more you do the more prizes you need.

Create New Traditions - Bake Cookies!

Cookie / Shopping Day

No. I am sorry, you don’t get to go shopping for cookies. Instead, host the children in the family for a cookie baking day. This is perfect for Christmas. First, the parents get to go shopping for those little ones, and each family gets cookies to take home.

This was a tradition when my children were small. My friend Becky had three boys. Around 9:00 one morning, Becky would drop her kids off. From there, it was bedlam. Cookies were baked by the children.

Yes. Flour went everywhere. My kitchen was a disaster. But I didn’t care. There was enough laughter and fun in that one day to last for a long time.

Use sugar cookies for this tradition. Once the cookies are baked and cooled, cover your table with a plastic table cloth. Line the center with bowls of colored frosting and jars of cookie decorations. Other than a little supervision (and help for the younger ones), this is something the kids can do on their own.

I will warn you about one drawback to this tradition. We moved probably three years after the children grew up and the tradition was abandoned. As we pulled a piece of furniture away from the wall, I looked down and found several colored balls of cookie decorations. I think that was the year Nicholas started a food fight, and James and Jonathan retaliated.

It was a mess, but one filled with happy memories!!!

Create New Traditions - Sweet Potato Pie

Create New Holiday Traditions Using Food

Some of us look forward to eating Grandma’s pumpkin pie, or Aunt Dot’s hot rolls. Between those rolls and Sweet Potato Pie, there may be an uprising if they weren’t available at our holiday gatherings. But we also use our holidays to create new holiday traditions.

This year, ask each person to bring at least one new and different item. Assign them a category, or ask them which category they prefer. Have them also bring the recipe, so those who love it can make it themselves during the rest of the year.

Speaking of new traditions. Are you ready to switch? Sweet Potato Pie is a delicious southern tradition. These grow well here in the South, which makes them a delicious alternative to pumpkin.

Sweet Potato Pie

3 Sweet Potatoes
1 cup Milk
1/2 cup Evaporated Milk
3 Tablespoons Butter
2 cups Sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon Vanilla
2 teaspoons Cinnamon
1 teaspoon Nutmeg
1 pinch Cloves
Whipped Cream (or Whipped Topping)

Peel, slice and boil the potatoes until soft. Drain. In a large bowl, mash the sweet potatoes. Add in remaining ingredients and blend well. Pour into 2 unbaked pie shells. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool. Top with whipped cream, and serve.

Are you starting new traditions this year? Let me know if you chose one off my list, or created something of your own. I am always searching for new, fun things, and can definitely learn from you!

Looking for a way to enjoy your Christmas even more? Get some great organizing tips (to give you more time for fun), DIY (to create great decorations and gifts) and Recipes in my e-book, Have a Merry, Simple Christmas!

Don’t forget to visit with Annie over at 15 Acre Homestead and get some great Decorating Tips!

Julie Murphree is a blogger, newspaper columnist, and speaker on all things ‘Living a Simple Life on the Farm’. She is the author of \\\'The Farm Wife – Living a Simple Life on the Farm. She and her husband have 60 acres in NW Louisiana where they actively work on living as sustainable as possible.


  1. Great ideas, Julie! We have been trying to think about new holiday traditions with the grandkids, and I think I’m going to have to steal some of these ideas.

  2. What lovely ideas! I need to do some thinking about what new traditions we may want to start. Now that my daughter is grown (although still at home), it would be nice to start something new that acknowledges the importance of family, but in a more “grown-up” way. Thank you!

    1. I am so glad I could help, Dawn! Traditions are important, and this would be a good time for you and your daughter to create a new one or two together. Be sure to let me know what you come up with. It may be something I can use as well!!!

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