VALLEY FAMILY FUN: Create new holiday traditions

Laura Churchill Duke
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Ted and Josephine Reynolds decorate cookies together at a family Christmas party. The children rotated around to various stations completing holiday activities.


By Laura Churchill Duke

“Christmas is a special time to take a break and connect with others, family and neighbours,” says Ted Reynolds, Kentville. “We never did complicated or expensive things at Christmas growing up. We had time together as a family.”

So much of the pleasure Christmas is the excitement and anticipation leading up to the big day.

 “Christmas time,” Josephine Reynolds, seven, says, “is such a magical and amazing time!”

What I try to impress upon people is that family fun need not be expensive or complicated: it’s about being together. Or, as Josephine puts it, “it’s about the yummy snacks and having lots of friends to meet with and have fun with.”

Here are a few ideas to help you create a few new traditions this year.


Harvest your own tree

Davina Melanson, Port Williams, and her family cut their own tree last year at Rocky Mountain U-Pick in North Alton in an attempt to recreate an old-fashioned Christmas. “This added to the Christmas sprit because we started off with a wonderful family-type event: getting the tree. That set the tone for how we wanted our Christmas to be.  Not a picture-perfect one, but one spent doing things together which in turn made it perfect,” she said.  

Kids love the experience.

“They let you take as long as you want and after they give you a candy cane and hot chocolate,” ten-year-old Keira Melanson said.


Progressive dinner party

Gather a few friends and neighbours in walking (or driving) distance and assign each household a part of the meal. Start at one house for appetizers, the next for the main course, and end up at the last for dessert.


Themed movie party

This year, our group of neighbourhood friends had a Polar Express party. Wendy Reynolds created a magical evening for the kids, first by sending them tickets for the train ride and turning the house into a train station with decorations and topping the night off with hot chocolate and cupcakes. The kids were all invited to come along in their pjs with a blanket and a toy and left with their own “I Believe” bell.


Christmas light bingo

Last year, my husband made up Bingo sheets including various items you would find in people’s outdoor Christmas decorations: snowman, reindeer, candles, etc. Just as the boys were about to go to bed, we gave them a ticket to go on a magical adventure! We drove around the area playing Christmas light bingo and making great memories along the way. If you’d like a copy of the bingo sheet, email


Advent station party

When we were little, my parents had an annual Christmas party with our family friends. Last year ,we started recreating this with our family friends. Four families gathered at our house where we divided the children into three groups. We set up three stations, each manned by the adults. The children rotated around to the stations, which included cookie decorating, making a Christmas craft and reading holiday stories. One of the parents had a direct line to Santa so he popped in for a visit! We capped the evening with a potluck supper and some holiday shows. We will definitely be keeping this tradition for years to come!

The Christmas season is a fun but busy one with the chance to do so much with your family to build up the anticipation. Whether it is Elf on the Shelf, or gathering with friends and neighbours, it all adds to the experience.

“We hope that kids remember the excitement and fun,” says Reynolds, “but also the little traditions that were special and unique to their family.”

Laura Churchill Duke, who owns, and her family cut down their own tree at Rocky Mountain last year, too. A word from the wise: a tree outdoors looks much smaller than it does in the house!


Organizations: Rocky Mountain U-Pick

Geographic location: Port Williams, North Alton, Rocky Mountain

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