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Sunday, January 26, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Family

Mama Bear Moxie: Five cheap, easy Christmas traditions

By Kristina Phelan For The Spokesman-Review

I always find myself looking for ways to make the holiday season more special for my kids. There are always plenty of things to do and events to attend but not all are exactly budget friendly. I chose a few pricier events in past years because I thought they were good for my family, but I’ve learned it’s the cheap or even free things that make the season truly magical. If you’re looking for a new tradition to start, check out these five easy ideas that won’t break the bank as well:

Advent calendar

When I was a kid, our advent calendar consisted of a chain of paper that we could rip off each day. This is a great idea for little ones, who will not only have fun making the chain but will equally delight in ripping the paper every day. Consider making one for each child to cut down on fighting. Another great idea is to put 25 little gifts that the family can open each day in the calendar. You can pick up cheap advent calendars from the dollar store if you aren’t feeling crafty. My family is in an advent group where my friend has asked 24 other friends to contribute 25 little gifts. Then each person gets a full set. It has become a fun tradition, and we usually make our gifts.


This tradition has become less frequent in today’s world, but it’s one of my fondest memories as a child. I remember many years where my mom would grab her guitar and we would walk around the neighborhood armed with little voices and Christmas cheer. It was so much fun to see people open their doors in delight to a group of carolers. I haven’t done this with my own children due to my complete lack of guitar skills. If you are nervous about going door to door, consider signing your family up to carol somewhere public or just start your own impromptu caroling group in the mall. You may feel awkward at first, but I think you’ll be surprised at how many people stop to enjoy the singing.

Cookie plates

One tradition my family still does is to bake special treats for friends and neighbors. This usually includes a loaf of homemade bread or a plate of Christmas cookies that we don’t make any other time of the year. The kids enjoy decorating the cookies, and I enjoy getting those treats out of my house to help with the sugar rush of the season. We wrap a plate of cookies up for the neighbors and set off into the cold night to deliver a plate of Christmas cheer.


Donating time is important. It is not only a way to support your area but also a great lesson for kids. Consider signing up your family for a night to serve at the local soup kitchen or to wrap presents for kids with an incarcerated parent. Shovel snow for neighbors or ring a bell for the Salvation Army. Choosing to volunteer is a great tradition that teaches your family the season is about more than just presents.

Light tour

My family loves to see all of the lights on display this time of year. I am always in awe of the time and effort people put in to light up their homes and even coordinate them to music. Make a list of light shows in your area and then drive the kids around to see them. Grab a cup of hot cocoa from the gas station to make it extra special, and you’ve got a cheap family tradition to do that won’t even take you from the comfort and warmth of your own car.

There are plenty of cheap new traditions to try this year. Try one of them out this week to spread the Christmas cheer!

Kristina Phelan is a former Spokane-area resident now living in Illinois. Visit her website at

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