A New Twist on Old Christmas Traditions

Covid-19 has quashed our traditional holiday celebrations, so let’s throw out the playbook and resurrect some old Christmas traditions – with a new, modern twist.

If you are left-handed, you have probably spent your life hearing how “creative” we lefties are. It’s true. We are creative. You know why? Because the world is designed for right-handed people! We have to be creative just to use a pair of scissors, a serrated knife, or anything with a cord (that comes off the appliance in the wrong direction).

In a sense, Covid-19 has turned us all into southpaws. Consider how creative you have been this year. I am not just talking about sourdough baking and filling the house with plants; but of keeping the kids busy while self-isolating and tracking down rolls of toilet paper at the restaurant supply store! The holiday season is no different. We are forced to be more creative than ever. Many people will be spending the season alone or with just their immediate family for the first time. Yes, I know there is Zoom and Facetime, but not everyone has the equipment or desire to finagle the necessary digital devices.

So, what do we do? A few months ago. I planned to just skip the whole thing – pretend the holidays weren’t happening. But then I thought of something that made me feel guilty.

Remember that Waltons episode where Mary Ellen’s husband is stationed in Pearl Harbor? On December 7, 1941. Of course, she didn’t know whether or not he survived. Yet, the family still put up their Christmas tree. The Waltons was based on a true story, although I have no idea if this particular tidbit was fact or fiction. However, it WAS fact for many people that year. Loved ones were either immediately thrown into the war, or would soon be headed to war. Yet they still marked the season. If the Greatest Generation could move forward during the war, then I certainly can muddle through a pandemic. And so can you. In fact, this is the perfect year to go overboard. Bring out every tacky decoration you have ever owned. Make those horribly sweet colored marshmallow cookie things that Nana used to make. Drape the windows in garland and the door in wrapping paper. Forget recent traditions; they don’t work this year. Let’s get creative and make some really old traditions new again.

Old Fashioned Presents for Today

If you have been stuck in the house with kids, you know the last thing they need is more sparkly plastic stuff taking up space. We need to get those kids moving! And entertained for more than a few minutes! Might they be intrigued by:

Ice skates – there was a time when these were at the top of everyone’s list – if you lived in the north anyway.

Wooden ship model kits or wood house model kits or this wood stagecoach kit

Board Games – old time favorites like Chinese Checkers or Parcheesi

Practical Gifts – like new mittens or shoes or a cozy sweater. Receiving a practical gift helps teach gratitude, and reduces the “consume-more” culture.

Home Knits – When my grandmother was growing up in the 1920s and 1930s, Christmas gifts meant new hats, scarves, mittens, and sweaters that her mother had been working on all year (families were large in those days!). Almost 80 years later, she still spoke about those gifts, and how special they were. Even if you are new to knitting, there’s still time to knit a scarf before December 25th. Pull out those needles, grab a skein of yarn, and make this old tradition new again.

Garden Seeds – Do you save your garden seeds? Someone on your list would love to receive them. Decorate small brown paper craft bags or blank tins, and add your favorite seeds. Be sure to label them and add growing directions.

Oh Christmas Tree!

The first Christmas tree my husband and I shared was a spindly, Charlie Brown-type tree. We only had a few decorations and no extra money, so we decorated like pioneers. I am thinking of doing the same this year, although the tree will be fuller!

Cranberries – String cranberries to drape on the tree. This is especially nice if you have a real tree, because the birds love the cranberries once the tree goes back outside.

Popcorn – String popcorn too! The trick to stringing popcorn is – make the popcorn today, and string it tomorrow. Stale popcorn is less likely to break. Remember, no butter. These two projects will keep older kids busy for hours. They probably aren’t the best projects for younger kids though, as they require using a needle.

Paper Chains – Decorative paper chains add color as well as nostalgia. Use multi-colored construction paper, frosty scrapbook paper, or extra wrapping paper. Cut the strips 1 – 1 ½ inches wide and about 5 inches long. Give younger kids a glue stick and they will make massive piles of chains.

Homemade Wreath – You probably won’t hang a wreath on the tree (but no judgement if you do!) but this is a good time to make your own old-fashioned wreath. Try your hand at this dehydrated citrus wreath.

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Don’t forget to treat yourself this holiday too. One way to feel less sad about missing family is to create something. While seeking presents for others, be sure to purchase a craft or cooking kit for yourself. It will provide a sense of accomplishment, and maybe you will start new tradition – Christmas day will become kit day!

Get an embroidery kit or a quilt kit or a bath bomb kit.

Make some yummy cinnamon rolls or soft cheese or some ginger beer.

All Around the House

Stay in the holiday mood no matter what traditions you are missing:

Play Christmas carols all day long! Starting today.

It’s not too late to make mini fruitcake.

Usually serve a big Christmas dinner? This year serve appetizers on Christmas eve instead. Or make spanakopita or warm German potato salad or a very British Christmas pudding. The whole idea is to do something different. Different foods, different ways of serving, different ways of eating.

This whole year has been different. Embrace it (as much as possible). Reach out to friends and family via new technology or old snail mail, shake up your surroundings and expectations, and concentrate on what you can do. Bring back some old traditions and make them new again. And let’s all give ourselves credit for creatively conquering this 2020 milestone.

Still looking for some 2020 appropriate gift ideas? Check out this post: Socially Distant Gift Ideas

by Renee Pottle

Renee Pottle, a freelance writer and Home Economist, is fanatic about all things food. She blogs about canning and food preservation at SeedToPantry.com. Find her professional food writing info at PenandProvisions.com.

December 8, 2020

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