15 Alternative Traditions to Gift-Giving

Christmas presents

Christmas presents

It’s kind of crazy to imagine Christmas without presents – both giving and receiving them – as it’s such an integral part of most families’ holiday traditions. But what if you didn’t exchange gifts? What would Christmas look like?

Cutting out the gifts is exactly what my family decided to do this year. Most of us don’t mind the shopping, wrapping, or gift paper strewn about the living room on Christmas morning. It came down to money (we’re planning weddings, buying houses, and growing our families this year, so we’ve already got enough to pay for!). And it came down to the realization that we pretty much have everything we already need, and we give to each other all throughout the year. It seemed like an admirable decision, and yet it was a little depressing at the same time. Opening gifts around the tree always feels so magical. The only way it sounded doable is if we came up with a new tradition to do in place of the presents. If you’re skipping gifts this year and wondering how you’ll fill the void, here are 15 new traditions you can put in place.

1. Go for a Christmas Day Walk. Bundle up in scarves and gloves and put on a good pair of sneakers. Walk your neighborhood, find some trails, or drive to a scenic spot, park the car, and walk for as long as the conversations take you!

2. Bedazzle your glass ball ornaments or clear empty wine bottles. All you need are paints and brushes and a little creativity. If you put a date on your artwork, you’ll be starting a collection of keepsakes made each Christmas.

3. Sing carols. Either around the tree or through the streets. No need to even print out lyrics; you all know them all.

4. Make an old family recipe. One that you’ve never made before or you haven’t yet mastered. Help ensure the recipe keeps getting passed down the generations.

5. Visit loved ones. You’re probably already with each other, so why not all together visit the grave sites of loved ones who can’t be here physically? Or spend this time remembering them somehow.

6. Rent a Christmas classic. Or two, or three.

7. Make a gingerbread house. Especially fun if there are kids around.

8. Make a gingerbread house for the birds. Now here’s an awesome new idea!

9. Reminisce over photos and videos. Gather on the couch (around a fire, perhaps?) to laugh at photo albums or home videos of days gone by.

10. Make an elaborate multi-course brunch. Complete with all of your fanciest table settings and ornate decorations, if that’s your thing, of course.

11. Did someone say family portraits? Dress up all fancy, set the timer on your camera, and pose for family and individual portraits around your favorite places (the tree, the piano, the tall Oak in the yard) to frame for the coming year.

12. Play games. Cards, board games, holiday Pictionary…you know how this goes.

13. Bring something nice to others. Your neighbors would love to find cookies on their doorsteps.

14. It’s not Christmas without eggnog. So make some homemade, and make homemade whipped cream to enjoy in your favorite Christmas glass.

15. Go to the movies. There’s always something new that comes out Christmas day.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with exchanging gifts for the holidays. If you find it thrilling and have no reason not to, then by all means go for it. But if you’re changing things up this year, hopefully you can put a new tradition in place.

What other new traditions can you do on Christmas?

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