Ideas for Creating a Memorable Holiday Experience for Kids

When I moved my family from Southern New England to Nashville in 1996, my wife and I used this opportunity without extended family, to create some unique holiday experiences with the kids. It’s not the presents they will remember most, but the experiences that speak of Christmas or Hanukah. So what new experiences can you create this year? I asked my readers to share with me, lasting experiences they created to give their children a happier holiday. Here is what they shared.

Lea Hatch and her husband own and run A Shot Above Entertainment, Inc. ( She says that the best Christmas experiences they had ever given their kids were a ride on the Polar Express, a tradition of sleeping under the Christmas tree as a family, renting a cabin in the mountains and waking up to snow on Christmas morning, and going to see Christmas lights in a limousine with warm apple cider and hot chocolate.

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An anonymous  reader shared that it is NOT the new traditions, but the recurring traditions that make Christmas so sweet and memorable. He said that his memories are not the gifts, but the tradition of picking up grandparents at the train station and time spent together. His wife created Santa's Footprints coming from the hearth to the tree and back again. Life sized red felt footprints that were placed, then retrieved by her parents only to be spirited away until the next year. He said, "Even though the kids are older, we still put them down and will do so for any grandchildren we may have in the future."

Seattle marketing consultant and speaker, Linda Carlson (, advised that is was the candlelight service late on Christmas Eve that made for the best of memories. She said, "For me as a child, in a pew filled with family after a big dinner and gift exchange, it was what “made” Christmas. Oh, and to be allowed to hold a burning candle! I felt as long as the candle was burning, it was still Christmas. Even the year that we got in the car on the 25th at 4 a.m. for a drive from Seattle to Phoenix, my then-college student daughter wanted to go with me for church at 11 p.m. on the 24th. My husband was in bed, and my son was deployed, heading for the Persian Gulf, we hadn’t put up a tree and I don’t recall there was a gift exchange---but the candlelight service made it Christmas."

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Sarah Walton, co-founder of Better Way to Italy ( shared her idea using the advent calendar. Sarah says, “This is a great way to get the kids into bed on time every night, as they must have their pajamas on and their teeth brushed in order to open the present on the advent calendar. I actually made our calendar and it only lasts for the 12 days before Christmas, not the full 25 days, but I think any advent calendar can create that excitement. They want to open presents all season long, and this allows them to do that.

Sara also said that for dessert on Christmas Eve she serves orange sherbet inside actual oranges. “The day before, I slice off the top of the orange, to create a little "hat" (think just like carving a pumpkin). I remove the inside of the orange and fill it with the sherbet. Put the top back on and put them in the freezer. BUT, in one of the oranges I put a cherry. The kids know that whoever gets that cherry gets a little Christmas Eve present! Digging for that cherry is so much fun! One year they'll figure out that it's always the same present, but they haven't yet. It's a head band with mistletoe at the top. Watching them chase each other around the house making kissing noises is pretty funny. I know which orange has the cherry, and I make sure that each child gets a year to be the winner.”

Daphne Mallory, Family Business Expert and National Speakers Association speaker of Twin Falls, Idaho said, "The best experience I've given my children is volunteering, by serving meals to the needy in our community on that day. That speaks more to what the holiday is truly about. I've spoken to them about generosity, but nothing clicked until we started doing that and similar services."


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