5 Holiday Traditions to Start in the Kitchen

As the holidays are fast approaching, so are my to-do lists. You know the ones: shopping, cooking, wrapping, card-writing, etc. It leaves me feeling a bit overwhelmed. 

But there’s something extra on the list each year at our house that we continue with even if the schedule gets a bit too crazy.

What is it? Holiday traditions in the kitchen. Even when my kids were young — just old enough to squish sugar cookie dough between their fingers — I have had them in the kitchen with me. As they are now in elementary school, they enjoy picking out their favorite holiday cookie recipe and helping create that. Not only does it build the excitement and anticipation of the holidays, it helps us spend quality time together, making memories that will never leave them. 

Here are five easy ways you can start holiday traditions in your kitchen as a family:

1. Play favorites. For each child, plan a special night in the kitchen making their favorite holiday recipe. This quality time is invaluable, and it encourages the kids to share more conversation one-on-one with you as the parent. 

2. Give back to those that serve your family. Think about post office workers, delivery drivers, paper delivery … an easy way to show appreciation is to hand-make a favorite recipe together in the kitchen as a family. Kids will learn the art of giving through doing and delivering these special homemade treats. Gifts in a jar are always a hit!

3. Follow that food. My kids often ask how a particular food arrived on their plates. Feed that natural curiosity by hosting a “Follow that Food Adventure.” Bring the technology into the kitchen and share pictures or YouTube videos of a harvest taking place of one of their favorite foods. Foods that my kids have been interested in include peanut butter, cranberries, tomatoes, green beans and chocolate. Following the path of a food from the field to the plate builds complexity and knowledge of the food system while boosting appreciation of the journey that food takes to their plate.

4. Share history. Kids love to hear about “the olden days,” as my kids call it – although their perception of “olden” is a bit skewed. Share a recipe that you loved as a child or think about a favorite recipe that relates to your family or ethnic history and prepare it together.  And while preparing this recipe, be sure to share some stories about the “olden days.” 

5. Plan a meal to host by candlelight. Every December, my family enjoys a meal by candlelight, sharing what we are grateful for and highlights of the past year. It’s a simple tradition that my family looks forward to all year. 

And a great accountability tool to keep you intentional in your traditions through the holidays? A simple chalkboard. Each season in our house, we make a bucket list of sorts. We each write at least two things we want to accomplish during the season on the chalkboard and display it on a kitchen wall.

Building traditions into your holiday celebrations is really the best gift you can give your family — and it’s nearly free! Happy holidays to you.

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Jen Haugen
Jen Haugen, RDN, LD, is a kitchen nutrition consultant based in Minnesota. She loves all things Midwest (hello, hotdish!), she gardens, and loves to bring joy into the kitchen with tools that make cooking fun! She blogs at www.jenhaugen.com. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.