My Favorite Holiday Rituals

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Taking a break from the gift guide madness and switching things up to talk about holiday rituals! I know I’ve talked a bit about some of mine on the blog before, but I love hearing what other people do and hopefully you’ll enjoy getting a little glimpse into my family traditions (I feel kind of silly writing this as a 27 year old, but the holidays have a way of making everyone feel like kids again!).

I’ll start things off by noting that my family has never been a “go all out for the holidays” kind of family. We’re Unitarian Universalist (you can read more about that here), but also for us personally, Christmas isn’t a huge affair. Growing up, we would (sometimes) send out holiday cards but it often ended up being too difficult to get everything into place in time! However, I love the little rituals we did have growing up and have maintained as much as possible as we’ve gotten older–sugar cookie baking, Chinese food on Christmas Eve unless we’re going to someone else’s house or having people over, and Bethesda Bagels on Christmas morning (with my dad generously leaving the house and picking them up while the rest of us lounge in our pajamas all day!). As my sister and I have gotten older, my family has tried to get away for the holiday and visit my grandma in Florida either during or right after Christmas, and while spending the holiday in a warm climate can feel a bit strange, the warm weather (and some unscheduled time together) is a welcome escape!

My friends and I were talking recently about how as childless 20-somethings, the holidays can feel kind of weird, but it made me think about the rituals that I’ve adopted as an adult, aside from the usual tree decorating and the like. Below are some of my favorites:

-Zoo Lights. I started going to Zoo Lights (a special light display at the National Zoo that opens in late November each year) when I moved back to DC in 2016, and it’s such perfect free holiday entertainment. Bring a friend or a date and walk around together, then grab dinner or drinks nearby on Connecticut Avenue.

-Hallmark movies. Yes, I count binge-watching cheesy holiday movies to be a ritual! Whether you’re actually a fan or just like to make fun of them (I fall somewhere in the middle), you just have to watch at least a few each season (my favorite so far this year has been The Christmas Wedding Planner!). There was actually a funny article in the Wall Street Journal recently that examined the whole cheesy movie industry and how addicted people have become!

-Gift exchanges. As my cousins and I grew older, we started to do gift exchanges rather than picking out individual presents for everyone. This year, my office and book club will also be doing them, and it’s such an easy way to celebrate without spending a ton of time or money selecting gifts for 10 different people. Still need some suggestions? I have plenty of gift exchange present ideas in this post!

-Baking. My mom and I always try to do baking together each year (I’m pretty much a hopeless baker, so I’m mainly there to assist and decorate, ha!) and it’s such an easy way to get into the holiday spirit while also knocking out a few gifts for friends, coworkers, etc!

-Volunteering. This time of year, there are countless ways to give back, whether you’re helping at a shelter, donating canned food to those in need, and so much more. On Giving Tuesday, I signed up for a shift with Martha’s Table (though the first one I could get isn’t until January!), which is a great organization in the area. They also take clothing donations if you have some extra cold weather gear in your closet that you’d like to hand off to a good cause–I did this last year and it was super simple! I’m also in the process of looking into some women’s shelters at which to volunteer since there are many in the area.

-Sightseeing. I’m always inspired by the different Instagram accounts I follow where people take pictures of all of the cute houses and outdoor displays they pass in DC. I always love to spend time walking around my neighborhood or Georgetown (where there’s always amazing seasonal decor) and taking in all of the lights, wreaths, and decorations (and you certainly can’t miss this house, which goes all out each year)!

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