Creative Child

Childhood Holiday Traditions: Sparking Joy, Wonder, and Imagination

by Rebecca Eanes

I remember as a child lying in bed on Christmas Eve night with eager anticipation, listening for the sound of hooves on my roof. I recall the joy and wonder of waking to find that the cookies had been eaten, the milk had been drunk, and a present awaited. The lights twinkled on the Christmas tree. The smell of dressing filled the home. Amidst the traditions of Christmas, I felt truly loved.

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With my own children, I try to make holidays, and especially Christmas, as magical as possible because I know that childhood is fleeting and all too soon the weight of adulthood and the pressures of modern life will be upon them. With that in mind, I hold dear each holiday tradition that sparks joy, wonder, and imagination because I know that today’s happy moments will be tomorrow’s happy memories.

With Thanksgiving and Christmas just around the corner, I’m going to share my favorite magical holiday traditions with you. My wish is that your family will experience joy and wonder this holiday season.

The magic of Thanksgiving is found in togetherness. This holiday fills our senses with delightful smells, delicious flavors, sounds of laughter, and the sight and touch of our beloveds. Because Thanksgiving is a day of gratitude, why not show your family how grateful you are for them in a slice of pie? Before dinner, cut strips of paper about 2 inches long and ½ inch wide and write something you love about each family member on the strips. When you serve dessert, cut a small slit in the pie and insert the end of the strip into the slit, or just lay the note beside the slice and voila! Pie with a side of love!

Thanksgiving is also a great holiday to teach generosity and foster a giving spirit. One way to do this is with the tradition of “receive a gift, give two.” Each family member receives a small personal handmade gift on Thanksgiving and in turn must donate or purchase two items for charity. Giving to others brings us joy, and making each other handmade gifts brings out creativity and imagination.

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Turning now to Christmas, imagine waking on Christmas morning to find not only an empty cookie plate and a gift, but Santa’s footprints! To create this, simply mix flour with a bit of silver glitter and spread out on a flat pan. Take adult-sized boots and dip the soles in the flour mixture and press onto the floor from the fireplace to the stockings or tree to create a trail of Santa’s prints.

A favorite Christmas tradition that allows my children to be creative is making salt-dough ornaments both for our tree and to give as gifts to family and friends. You’ll need 4 cups of flour, 1 cup of salt, and 1 ½ cups of water. Mix flour and salt together, gradually add water, and knead until pliable. Roll out dough, cut shapes with cookie cutters, and bake at 325 degrees F for 45 minutes. Paint with acrylic paint.

From a pie surprise to glittery white footprints, a little imagination goes a long way! I hope these activities can inspire your family to have an absolutely magical time this holiday season!

Rebecca Eanes is the bestselling author of multiple books including Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide, The Positive Parenting Workbook, and The Gift of a Happy Mother. She is the grateful mom of two boys. 


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