Here are a few ideas that I've come across in my quest to get back to the basics:
Have a taffy pull. How many kids today would actually know what this is? I have to admit that when a woman told me it was a favorite holiday tradition in her family, I had to google it. Apparently, you can use honey, or mollasses, or corn syrup in the recipe. Click here to learn how to stage your own taffy pull.
Play old-fashioned games. Charades, checkers, chess. These traditional family games will slow down Father Time during the holidays and help you focus on what matters most - spending quality time with your family. One of the great "robbers" of Christmas joy is the busyness that overtakes us this time of year. Sitting down and playing a simple game of chess by the fire will make those precious minutes last longer.
Bake homemade bread dough ornaments. Remember these? What you'll need: 4 cups flour, 2 cups water, 2 cups salt. Mix ingredients into a ball; roll it out on parchment paper; cut with cookie cutters; make a hole at the top with a toothpick; and bake on parchment paper at 325 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour. After they cool, paint and varnish with clear fingernail polish. Tie a ribbon, and they're ready to hang!
Go caroling! Why not be the first person on your block in the past 30 or 40 years to organize a Christmas caroling outing? I remember going caroling with my high school choir, and this is still one of my favorite holiday memories. All it takes is a handful of willing partipants, a row of lit houses, and a few old-fashioned carols in your back pocket. What better way to share holiday joy? Nursing homes are also a great caroling destination.
String cranberry and popcorn garland. What you'll need: cranberries, popcorn (let sit overnight), strong string, and a needle (ask at a craft store about ones that are safe for children). I sprayed mine with hairspray to keep it from aging, and to keep the mice away while in storage (we've had ours for 6 years!).
Make homemade cookie and candy baskets. Pull out the cookbooks and select a few cookie and candy recipes; pick up all the ingredients at the store; and then designate a "cookie baking" day with family and friends. This is the perfect day to put on some Christmas music, make a pot of hot cocoa, and don the apron that hangs in your pantry the rest of the year. When all of the goodies are made, you might choose to place them in baskets or bags and deliver them to neighbors who are spending the holidays alone. Of course, don't forget to keep a handful for your own holiday nibbling!
Read the Christmas story and other holiday classics aloud. Remember sitting around the dining room table or in the living room listening to your mother or father read the Christmas story? If not, it's something that you could start with your own family. In our family, this has always been a Christmas Eve tradition. We light a few candles, snuggle together on the couch, and read 'Twas the Night Before Christmas followed by the story of Christ's birth. For me, it wouldn't feel like Christmas without this quiet, reflective time as a family to soak in the reason for the season.