Creativity Will Make the Best Holiday Memories This Year

Nicole Akers

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Most years we look forward to the holidays with great hope and anticipation. If you have kids around you, it's almost impossible to miss the joy that spills out of them for Christmas, and the toys and gifts Santa will leave for them under the tree. Perhaps, you're looking to put safety first. This decision may or may not involve curbing activities that you are accustomed to taking part in. If you're not visiting family for health and safety reasons this year, you are not alone.

A survey by People says: 60% of Americans Won't Travel to Visit Family for the Holidays This Year.

Whether you love me or hate me for the idea, I'm one of them, but the decision isn't entirely to do with anything COVID related. To be clear, my whole family has already had the virus, so we're not afraid of getting sick, although some newer reports say you can catch the virus twice. I'd rather not unwittingly pass it along to others either, but that's not really top of mind either.

We've promised our kids from the time they were born, that they'd never have to worry about whether Santa could find them on Christmas. We don't live anywhere near our families, and we used to travel to visit them often, but with divorced parents myself and my husband's family too, we had at least three separate families to keep happy. Each one had respective cookie-baking parties, plus holiday parties, and they all expected us to have Santa magic and be at every gathering across the country on Christmas Eve and again on Christmas Day. Mostly, we hopped to their whims, while being stressed and anxious, that is until we had kids. As soon as baby no. 1 popped out, we said "no" to travel. We focused on nurturing our immediately family. Whatever the extended family thought about the idea--and they had plenty of loud thoughts to share--didn't matter. The holidays for us were to be simple and filled with activities at home. Everything about this year, even the holidays, is different. Maybe some of these ideas can help you this year.

Bake Cookies

We have the best time baking cookies. This is something special that we do every year. It's a tradition that we make cookies for Santa, and each year we try to top our efforts from the previous year. For some reason, we only make sugar cookies at Christmas time, and it helps to preserve the magic of this activity. Baking cookies is usually a 2-day activity. We make the cookies on day 1, and decorate them on day 2. We dump the trimmings on the counter: red hots, colorful sugar, and colorful little dots. Then the real fun begins. We've used toothpicks to swirl icing for a professional look. We've painstakingly placed those dots one at a time to create elf costumes and the most elaborately decorated presents with bows. As you can tell, it's quite an experience, and we're in no hurry to rush through it.

This year we also made 'Alice cookies' featured on Today. The recipe is simple:

1 cup butter 1/2 cup brown sugar 2 tbsp white sugar 1 egg yolk 2 cups sifted flour 2 tsp vanilla

Cream the butter, add in white sugar then brown sugar. Beat in egg yolk, add one cup flour at a time and then the vanilla. Make small balls and press down with a fork dipped in slightly beaten egg white. Put a piece of walnut on each cookie. Bake at 375 for 10 - 12 minutes.

The story behind the recipe is that Sarah Conklin discovered a handwritten recipe on an index card in a cookbook she acquired for her personal collection. The recipe, she surmised, is from a woman probably named Alice, who made up her version of a buttery shortbread cookie.

We found the charismatic story appealing and decided to make 'Alice Cookies' for ourselves. They are lovely with morning coffee and reminded my family of any Grandma's version of the Girl Scout shortbread cookie, but perhaps even better. This picture is one I personally took of the cookies to share with you.

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Photo by author.

Find Traditions or Create New Ones

Borrow someone else's tradition, if you don't have some of your own. We were happy to borrow Alice's cookies. Hopefully she'd be honored that we did so. Do a Google search, if you have to, to find some old traditions that you can borrow from someone else.

One year we made popcorn garland and hung it on the tree. Each Christmas Eve, we all get dressed in our jammies and spend time driving around town to enjoy light displays. When we get home, we've already dressed appropriately, and the kids can go straight to bed. The spirit of the season is alive with visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads and stomachs full of hot chocolate as they slip off into dreamland.

Be Open to Improvisation

In the middle of this writing, I received a text from a neighbor that Santa was nearby. I hollered at the kids to drop everything and get in the car. We zipped over to Santa's secret location, and the kids were able to see Santa. This year it's easy to skip doing the things you used to do. I almost missed taking the kids to see Santa, but please don't overlook the Santa visit, especially this year.

Be on the lookout in your location, for a unique way to keep the magic alive. Seeing Santa was more of a drive-by experience for us. He was sitting on the bed of a pickup truck. Kids couldn't hug him, but he wasn't behind plexiglass either. He was smiling and waving and taking kid's requests. The kids who complained about dropping everything to run for the car to see Santa just came in to give me a big hug and thank me for whisking them out the door for the experience. Twenty years from now, kids will be asked why they were wearing masks and why they weren't on Santa's lap. Kids will get to tell great stories of the 2020 year where the vision was anything but perfect.

Here's your challenge: be creative to make the best holiday experiences yet. When you look back on 2020, you'll be glad you found #nbholiday cheer.

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Professional freelance writer | Happy Mom of 2 bringing you amazing tips on parenting, travel, & lifestyle with a touch of humor & sarcasm | Dog Mom | Bestselling author.

Austin, TX
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