Many Christmas traditions involve food. You know, building and decorating gingerbread houses, opening chocolate candy from the advent calendar, putting milk and cookies out for Santa. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but the food focus can be REALLY hard when you’ve got food allergies in the house. So what happens if we don’t want to focus on food-based traditions? Or maybe we just want something a little less intensive than Elf On A Shelf?
Well, I’ve got you covered! I’ve scoured the internet for some fun, meaningful food allergy friendly holiday traditions & activity ideas and included a few of our own traditions as well. Enjoy!
1. Gift wrapping party.
You can do this as a family or with friends. Find several colours & styles of gift wrap, bows, and ribbons so little minds can be as creative as possible. If the kids are still too young to wrap, get them to draw and create cards to go on each of the gifts. If you decide to invite friends to the party, have them bring interesting wrap and ribbons to share instead of food. If you decide to serve food, keep it simple by serving one or two easy, safe snacks and one signature, safe drink.
2. Christmas light viewing.
Christmas lights are magical for any age (especially the littles). In our family, this has become a slightly “botched” tradition. It seems that (almost) every year we’ve tried to look at Christmas lights, we’ve been derailed. Honestly, now it’s become a funny story and a memory we share every year: “Remember when we tried to see the Holiday Train but when we tried to avoid traffic we got so lost that we missed it?” Or most recently, "Remember when we went to look at Christmas lights but we went the day before they got turned on?" Thank goodness for funny family stories!
3. Skating or tobogganing.
Getting active is a perfect way to boost moods and bond together. Find your nearest outdoor rink or hill and go for it. Don’t worry if you haven’t done it in years, your kids will admire you for trying.
4. Christmas ornament making/giving.
This can be done a few ways:
If you’re a crafty type, you might want to choose an ornament that the family makes together every year. OR,
Buy an ornament for each child that relates to them personally (like a hobby or something important in their lives, or a trip you all took that year). After a few years, you’ll have a tree filled with memories and heirlooms. OR,
Have each child draw a picture or write a little about themselves on a small piece of paper (doesn’t matter if it's just scribbled). Insert each paper into a clear Christmas ornament ball. Each year, look at the previous year’s creation. Again, the tree will be filled with precious memories!
5. Kindness Advent Calendar.
Skip the food. There are many kindness advent calendars available now (and it can be as simple as writing a note to your child every day in December). What a great way to spread holiday cheer every day and teach your kids about loving one another and others too. Pinterest has lots of ideas or you can purchase them online.
6. Twelve days of Christmas books.
Wrap 12 classic Christmas books. Starting 12 days before Christmas, unwrap a book each night and read it with your child/kids.
I wish I would have started this with our family earlier; but even though we don’t do 12 nights, we do have one or two favourites we read every year. There’s one book in particular which brings back memories in our family because I cry EVERY time we read it (can I help it if I'm soft-hearted??). It’s a bit of a long story so we all take turns reading a page. When it's my turn, my family just watches for the tear(s) to roll down my cheek or the cracks in my voice!
7. Get matching family PJs.
Don’t forget to take a funny pic together every year by the Christmas tree! The creativity of the picture is where you get the “activity” part of this tradition. We do a version of this every Christmas Eve in our "Sunday best" beside the tree before church.
Ok, this is food related, but it’s become such a favourite in our house and it’s allergy friendly so I had to share. First of all, what is a raclette? It’s a large grill/broiler that you put in the centre of the table and everybody cooks their own food on it. The cool thing is that you can easily make the meal fit your family’s allergies. For example, when we started this tradition, we only had tree nut and peanut allergies. We made thinly sliced & seasoned tenderloin beef, peppers, onions, mushrooms, asparagus, bread and a variety of cheeses. For dessert, we would grill fruits. So yummy!
Now that we have a gluten intolerance in addition to food allergies, I’ll be baking a special bread and buying safe crackers to use as a base. If you have a dairy allergy, skip the cheese or use your favourite meltable replacement. My youngest was 6 when we started this tradition and she was able to cook with a little help. If you have younger kids, you can let them choose WHAT to put on the grill and then an adult can cook it for them. Keep in mind a raclette meal is a lengthy process so make sure to leave plenty of time!
Non-food traditions are awesome for family bonding and take the stress out of finding safe foods and alternatives. Worth-it and fun for any food allergy family.
How about you? What food allergy friendly traditions does your family enjoy? Share in the comments below.