How to Add Magic to the Holidays: 7 Traditions for Families With Teens

There’s nothing like the magic of the holidays with little ones. Sadly, once our kids stop believing in Santa and start sleeping in on Christmas morning, it can feel like all the magic is gone. This time of year, parents of big kids sometimes feel a little wistful and long for the days when  joy and wonder filled our homes for weeks.

Even though we can never totally recapture those precious days, with a little creativity, there are a few holiday traditions your family can adopt to bring a sense of wonder back to the holidays. 

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Holiday traditions that will delight your big kids

1. Draw for Secret Santas

So, maybe your teenagers don’t believe in Santa anymore, but no one ever really outgrows him–at least not the fun of presents. While people might tend to think of Secret Santas as an inner-office holiday tradition, family members can spread a little Christmas cheer (and magic) at home by secretly surprising one another with notes and low key treats and gifts in the days leading up to Christmas.

The best part is that big kids are old enough to understand that the real fun of Santa is in the giving–not the getting. Consider challenging your kids (and yourself) and encourage their creativity by limiting Santa surprises to things they make themselves or that cost less than five dollars. 

2. Bake together

Cooking with big kids is actually way more fun than cooking with little ones. If your family doesn’t already have a favorite Christmas goodie recipe, make this the year you find one. If you do have one, consider upping your Christmas baking game. Invest in a nice set of cookie cutters or a beautiful pie dish, maybe even something that will become a cherished heirloom.

Make time spent in the kitchen with your family during the holidays an event! Play Christmas music, wear cute aprons, drink cocoa (or wine), and try to create treats that are as lovely as they are delicious. With a few special touches, you can create a holiday tradition that will bring back some of that childhood magic–only in a more sophisticated, less messy way. 

It might be time to invest in new cookie cutters.

3. Make your own decorations

Most moms have a box or two of cherished homemade ornaments and decorations made from salt dough, popsicle sticks, and adorable school photos. But why not keep the tradition of treasured ornaments going by creating new ones with your big kids? Again, what was fun with little ones can be fun with big kids too–as well as relaxing, easy, and elegant. 

4. Listen to Christmas stories

Personally, I don’t think anyone ever outgrows a good story. But even if you can’t get your kids to gather around the fire while you read Rudolph or the Polar Express, there are several short Christmas stories for more sophisticated readers that your family could enjoy listening to while baking or crafting. In A Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck, an old man recalls how, when he was 15, he realized for the first time that his father loved him and how he tried to return that love with a special Christmas gift for his dad.

First published by Mademoiselle magazine, Truman Capote’s A Christmas Memory makes me laugh and cry every time I read it. And Angela and the Baby Jesus, read by Pulitzer Prize winning author, Frank McCourt is not only a tear-jerker but a sweet and funny story as well. Or if stories aren’t your family’s thing, consider one of these Christmas podcasts to add a little fun to the season.

Truman Capote’s Christmas story is lovely to listen to or read.

5. Stay up really (I mean really) late on Christmas Eve

Instead of waiting around on Christmas morning (or afternoon) for your big kids to finally get out of bed, consider just staying up most of the night on Christmas Eve. In some families, Christmas begins with a midnight church service, followed by a night of feasting, toasting, game playing, movie watching, and celebrating. Whether church is a part of your family’s tradition or not, staying up really late is a fun and festive way to ring in Christmas. 

6. Go Carpool Karaoke Christmas Caroling

If, like me, you have  fantasized about going old fashioned Christmas caroling with your family and delighting neighbors and friends with jolly renditions of classic holidays tunes, but you also know that will never ever ever happen, consider settling for carpool karaoke caroling. Actually, this version of caroling might be even more fun–although it could require a little deception.

If your family is reluctant to pile in the car for a night of holiday singing, just pretend you’re going to dinner or to get ice-cream. Once everyone is in the car, just hand them one of these Carpool Karaoke microphones that bluetooths with a cell phone or pairs with any FM radio station. Even the scroogiest of teens won’t be able to resist.

Carpool Karaoke would enhance Christmas caroling.

7. Buy them toys!

Your kids might think they are too big for toys, but hand them a box of kinetic sand, and just see how long they play with it. Or try these fun magnetic blocks or this set specifically for stress relief. For outdoor fun surprise your big kids with this awesome sled. Or if there’s no snow where you live, light up the night with these fun bike lights or these basketball hoop lights.

Or you could always do what my husband and I did a few years ago and arm all your big kids with Nerf Blasters and hundreds of darts. Full disclosure, years later, I still find Nerf darts in various random places throughout my house, and this particular gift did result in a trip to the ER and a few stitches. But it was totally worth it! 

While it might not be possible to capture the same kind of magic that filled your home when your children were small, by adding a few new holiday traditions, you can add a fun and festive flair to your holidays–big kid style. 

Stress-reliever toys are a hit with older kids.

More Reading:

7 Ways I Plan to Make This Christmas Season a Happy One for My Teens

About Laura Hanby Hudgens

Laura Hanby Hudgens is a part-time high school teacher and a freelance writer living with her husband and children in the Arkansas Ozarks. Her work has appeared in The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, Grown and Flown, and elsewhere. You can learn more about her at Charming Farming, where she occasionally blogs about faith, food, education, and family life.

Read more posts by Laura

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