“A tradition is kept alive only by something being added to it.”
—Henry James

For many people, once November arrives, so does the holiday season. And with it comes the excitement of what lies ahead.

Yet at least part of that excitement is actually a result of what lies behind—namely, family traditions. A treasured tradition can come in all shapes and sizes: it could be visiting the same home every year for Thanksgiving, bringing out cherished place settings or ornaments that have been passed down to you, or following yearly routines like lighting a menorah or reading ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas to your children on Christmas Eve.

Traditions bond families together and link generations. Just as important, they provide a sense of predictability and comfort in an increasingly chaotic world—and, in 2020, we arguably need them more than ever.

However, as Henry James aptly says in the quote above, these customs should be dynamic, not static: something that honors the past but also grows with you. Here are some ideas for creating new traditions to embrace, both this year and beyond.


      For many people, especially kids, creativity adds to the magic of the season. In addition to the construction-paper turkeys and gingerbread house fun, you can also introduce all kinds of projects—with items you probably already have in your home—that everyone can enjoy doing year after year.

      Add a personal touch to Thanksgiving dinner by creating your own fall-themed centerpiece and glassware.
      • Double up on holiday decor with fall-to-winter ideas for your fireplace mantel.

      • Pair bingo with your holiday-movie traditions—and, for extra fun, play it together remotely with loved ones!

      • Keep your holiday cards every year, and create a keepsake collage out of them.


      Traditions usually center around togetherness, so focus on bringing your family together to prepare your holiday dinner. This year, make sure everyone understands their roles for before and after the meal, whether it’s setting the table, loading the dishwasher, or sweeping the floors. Kids will love helping with the food, too. If they’re beginners in the kitchen, you can show them how to prepare things like the rolls, veggies, or even cranberry sauce. After dinner is done, announce what a great job they did and that they now have official helper roles every year.


      This year, people need one another more than ever, and the holiday season is the perfect time to spread goodwill by helping others. A simple rule to follow: take a tough situation and turn it around. Know a neighbor who can’t get to the grocery store? Offer to make the trip. Can’t go out for a holiday meal? Buy a gift card to a local restaurant to use at a later date—which will not only help a local business but also buy yourself a little optimism for the future. Alternatively, donate the money you would have spent to a food bank. Not heading out on Black Friday? Mark the occasion by buying a gift for a child in need, and have your children help choose it.

      In addition, with fewer people gathering for the holidays, a personal touch can be the best gift you can give. If you can’t see Grandma this year, plan ahead: write a good, old-fashioned, handwritten letter, and send it in plenty of time for her to receive it before the holiday. She’ll probably appreciate it so much, she’ll want to get one every year! You can also help your kids write to a veteran or a COVID-19 frontline responder to show much how much you appreciate them; both can be done through an organization like Operation Gratitude.


    More than anything, the best tradition you can start is to treasure every moment you have with friends and family—yes, even more than you usually do. For example, with things being quite different for Thanksgiving this year (including some retailers being closed), many of us will have extra time during the holiday that would have been spent shopping or working on a larger holiday dinner. Use it intentionally with those who are with you: put down your phone, and turn off the TV unless you’re watching it together. Take a walk together. Do a backyard scavenger hunt. Play a family game of football. Whatever you decide to do, seize the day.

    And speaking of carpe diem, why wait to transition from one holiday to the next? Buy yourself and your family some new nighttime holiday gear. That way, soon after Thanksgiving dinner is done, the conversations have ended, things have been cleaned up, and the calls to loved ones have been made, you can get comfy in your new sleepwear and mark the occasion by taking a family photo and watching some holiday programming together.

    As you can see, there are many ways that you can start new holiday traditions for you and your family—right from the comfort of home. Sure, the usual crowded house, ginormous holiday feast, and holiday events may be scaled back in 2020, but that just creates opportunities to focus on not only enhancing the memories of cherished times and loved ones but also creating new ones for generations to come.