December has always been an exciting  time. The magic of the season, the community spirit and the extra special time shared together as a family are all reasons why I love this time of year. Now that I have a child, and one who is beginning to see the magic for herself, I am so excited to share traditions and experiences that I have known and loved.

To make the most of the season, I have made a list of all the things I cannot wait to do with my little family!

Photo by Ashley Bryce Photography

1- Write a Letter to Santa : I know some people do this in November, but I like to save this for December 1st. Our Elf, Sparkle, arrives with a special envelope for a letter and of course the story of why she’s here. While yes, Christmas should be about presence over presents, like it or not, presents are a part of it. We limit gifts throughout the year and much prefer to receive experiences (stay tuned for some of our favorite gifts of experiences), but the excitement of Santa is something I am excited to share with her, and I love that she can choose something she really wants. 🙂

2- Sponsor a Senior : I love this program sponsored by London Drugs, and is one of the many ways to teach community spirit as well as show the importance of giving not just receiving. Each London Drugs location partners with a local senior center. At the front of the store is a tree with many tags. Grab a tag that lists the senior you are sponsoring, go around and select the items on the list and fill a stocking!

3- Holiday Photos : In case you hadn’t noticed, I love themed photo shoots and every Christmas I set up a holiday shoot for my little love. It’s fun, it’s an adorable keepsake and I use the photos for holiday cards, gifts and calendars.

4- Decorate the Tree : Decorating the Christmas tree is always a blast in our house. Reminiscing about favorite ornaments, rocking around the Christmas tree to our favorite tunes and drinking our favorite holiday drinks, this tradition is full of fun and family tradition.

5- Make Holiday Cards : I know the internet is taking over the world, but I am one of those people that still loves to send out holiday cards. I make my own, write a special note and send them in (gasp) regular post! I still think there is something special about a hand written note and although the price of postage sucks, it’s the thought that counts, right?

6- Watch the Polar Express, drink hot chocolate and make sugar snowflakes (Recipe coming soon on the blog)

7- Ride the Polar Express : I love love love the Polar Express and am so excited about this experience. My daughter LOVES trains and each ride includes a cookie, music and hot chocolate!

8- Visit Santa : While not all kids are thrilled about sitting on Santa’s lap…and to be fair when you think about it we tell kids to be afraid of strangers, but then tell them to sit on a stranger’s lap…but it is a must in our family. Bonus when Santa plays along and mimics the child’s behavior in the photo! Last year my daughter cried so Santa cried whereas my friend’s daughter slept so Santa slept–too cute!

9- Read the Grinch Who Stole Christmas : We actually try and read a holiday themed book each night. Our elf brings us a basket of wrapped books as an advent calendar. Every day we unwrap a book, cuddle up on the couch and read a holiday classic!

10- Bake Cookies: Passing on family recipes is one of my favorite things to do with my kiddo. While some of our recipes are family secrets that I promised never to share, sugar cookies are another holiday hit! I love these because my daughter can cut the shapes out herself and really feels like she’s contributing.

11- Christmas Craft : We love getting crafty together and there is no better way than with a themed craft! Stay tuned to the blog to find out what this year’s craft is!

12- Cookie Decorating : Now that the cookies are baked, cooled and ready it is time to decorate! While I do a lot of the decorating myself as my kiddo cannot hold her attention long enough to work through the batch, this is a fun activity that she is proud to share.

13- Donate Used Toys & Clothes : Many places accept gently used clothes, books, and toys around the holidays that are passed on to families in need.

14- Walking in a Christmas Wonderland : A lot of communities have begun decorating parks, lakes and peers with beautiful light displays. This is an easy last minute or a plan ahead activity that gets you out in the crisp air, and enjoying the community spirit.

15- VanDusen Gardens : This outdoor light display is truly magical. I love Christmas lights, I think there is something so beautiful about them, and as lame as it sounds, I think they are pure magic. VanDusen Gardens is truly breathtaking, and perfectly captures the magic of the season!

16- Watch a Favorite Christmas Movie : Maybe The Grinch, Charlie Brown Christmas, Jingle all the Way, etc. Cozy up on the couch in your pajamas, pop some popcorn and enjoy a cup of apple cider together.

17- Make a Snow Angel : Okay, so living in Vancouver this one gets a little trickier, but if this year is anything like last year (which they are predicting it will be) there should be at least one or two occasions for it. If not, there are always snow covered locations like Grouse Mountain–or if you’re feeling courageous Whistler–that will give you the snow fix you’ve been waiting for all year!

18- Visit a Senior Center : With all the baking we’ve done this season we love to share the goodies. We take some goodies to a local senior center along with some cards to spread some holiday cheer.

19- Bright Lights at Stanley Park : So many beautiful lights and displays in the heart of Stanley Park. Admission is by donation and the train is an added fee but totally worth it!

20- Make an Ornament : A tradition is to get a new ornament each year, but I love the idea of having my Little Love make her own addition to the tree and give as presents to the Grandparents. It’s been a bit tricky to create ornaments that aren’t in your face kid made, but they are always cherished.

21- Holiday Drive : This is probably one of my favorite traditions. Piling in the car, picking up a holiday drink, blasting some Christmas tunes, drive around and see all the beautiful Christmas light displays that your wonderful neighbors have created.

22- Build a Gingerbread House : Let’s face it, these things rarely get eaten, but they are always the perfect addition to any holiday decor!

23- Have Yourself a Merry Friendly Christmas : Not just a time to connect with family, Christmas is also a time to share with friends. We love to invite friends over for games and tapas and celebrate the season.

24-Christmas Eve traditions! An easy night of games, tapas, family, setting out cookies for Santa, and ending the night with a reading of The Night Before Christmas.

25- Christmas Day! Oh I cannot wait for Christmas day!! Seeing her little face shine as she walks in the room to see that Santa has visited. The amazing food, the carols, the family togetherness, all of it!

What are some of your favorite holiday traditions? I would love to hear them – andrea.aresse@gmail.com

Tis the season to share holiday magic with the ones you love the most!

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