12 free fun family Christmas and December traditions
BY TINA L. SCOTT
With the cost of inflation, rising grocery prices, and the ever-present challenge of trying to purchase presents and make the holidays special, it’s easy to get caught up in the money factor when it comes to Christmas. Admittedly, it’s a challenge for most families.
But it’s also easy to forget that there are many fun family activities that can become traditions that don’t cost a dime.
Families can reconnect with the season–and with each other–when they focus on shared experiences and all the fun things they can do for free, right here in Merrill or in neighboring communities. While some of these specific events have already occurred in our city earlier in December prior to this publication, most of the ones on this list come around every year and can become a part of annual family traditions beginning next year. Other events are still happening in our area.
Pick some of the ideas from this list of 12 free fun family traditions or create some of your own.
- Attend a Christmas or holiday parade. Watch the parade, with all of the glowing lights and colorful Christmas scenes and characters, through the delighted eyes of a child.
- Visit a live nativity. Listen to the Christmas story. Pet the live animals with the kids. See actors playing the parts of Mary, Joseph, shepherds, and angels as they depict the story and image of that birth in Bethlehem some 2,000 years ago.
- Attend a free church or school Christmas concert. Many choirs have concerts, and some schools and churches even have Christmas pageants in December which are open to the public and free of charge. Let the music and pageantry celebrate the joy of the season.
- Go caroling. Instead of just listening to others singing joyful Christmas songs, spread that joy by going caroling at the homes of friends and neighbors, either as a family or with a group of family and friends who love to sing. If you don’t want to brave the cold, just have an old-fashioned singalong at home, as a family or with friends and neighbors.
- Go for a drive–or a walk–around town after dark to enjoy the many homes and businesses decorated with lights, nativities, snowmen, blow-up characters, and other decorations. Homeowners who decorate their yards are proud of their displays and love it when others enjoy them, too. The annual Merrill Go Round Tour of Lights is a great way to tour the city’s beautiful light displays for free. There are many beautiful displays located outside the Merrill city limits in the community, as well.
- Embrace your inner child and enjoy the snow in Wisconsin! Build a snowman and/or a snow fort. Make snow angels with the kids. Yes, adults too! Have a snowball fight. Go sledding. Go ice skating at one of Merrill’s free outdoor ice rinks.
- Watch Christmas movies or read Christmas books together, curled up in warm blankets. It’s a great experience after an afternoon or evening outside in the cold.
- Make homemade Christmas decorations. Cut out paper snowflakes, make construction paper chains, and add glitter to pine cones. String stale popcorn to decorate the tree. There are dozens of ideas for ornaments and decorations online, and many can be made with recycleables and other materials already on hand at no additional cost.
- Have a game night. Pop some popcorn or grab some snacks in the kitchen, set up the board games, and make it a stay-at-home night. Leave the phones and electronic devices in another room and just spend time in the moment.
- Make handmade Christmas greeting cards to hand deliver to the neighbors or friends and family. The cards can be as simple or as elaborate as the materials on hand.
- Take the kids to see Santa. After the parade, at Santa breakfasts, at fire department events, and in stores, coffee shops, and even breweries in Merrill, Santa is all over the community just waiting to listen to children’s Christmas wishes and pose for pictures.
- Give the gift of time, as a family, to help someone else. Whether it is everyone in the family grabbing their snow shovels and clearing the neighbor’s sidewalks; cooking a meal together and then taking it to a neighbor; or offering to take someone else’s kids for a play date so the adults can clean their house, do some baking, or go Christmas shopping, make it a family affair with everyone involved. Talk about why helping someone else in this way is a shared family event and how giving someone else the gift of time is important, because “gifts” given during the holiday season don’t always have to be tangible presents wrapped in a bow.
The memories made spending time together as a family, especially doing things every year that become annual family traditions, will far outlast the holiday season and most of the presents beneath the tree. Many will become traditions for the next generation.
Don’t have little ones at home anymore, don’t have children at all, maybe you’re single or widowed? Get together with a group of other adults to start your own Christmas or December traditions doing these same things or your favorites from this list.