1. Stringing outdoor lights. Every year, my family looks forward to the day that the holiday decorations come out of their hiding spot in the attic and make their way to every corner of our house, indoors and out. It's not that we have a lot of decorations, but we make the little that we have go a long way. And by turning the whole process into an event — complete with holiday music, fun party snacks and Santa hats — we make it a tradition that the girls look forward to every year. 

2. Check out the neighborhood. If you live in or anywhere near a neighborhood, this is the time of year to get out of your house and hit the sidewalks to look at the decorations and pretty lights around town. In some areas, like San Francisco, you can even turn up the exercise factor by taking part in the San Francisco Bike Coalition's Annual Holiday Lights Ride, checking out the lights while you glide through town. 

3. Caroling. Caroling is a tradition that seems to have gone the way of the dodo bird, but it's one that I plan to revive in my own neck of the woods. It doesn't take much to grab a few kids and a thermos of hot chocolate and walk around town to sing carols for family and friends.

4. Leave a snack inside for Santa and outside for the reindeer. Almost every child remembers to leave cookies and milk for Santa on the big night, but what about those poor, tired reindeer? They're the ones doing all of the heavy lifting, right? Make it a tradition to whip up a batch of oatmeal and sunflower seeds and sprinkle them out on the lawn or sidewalk on Christmas Eve. Oh, and don't forget to sweep a few away after the kids are asleep!

5. Ice skating. Or skiing or sledding. All fun ways to get the kids out the door and into the crisp holiday air while enjoying time together as a family.

6. Window shop. If you want to get outdoors while enjoying a slower pace, try window shopping with your kids. Hit the main street of your nearest town and talk a leisurely walk up and down the blocks pointing out decorations and maybe even making a pit stop for hot chocolate along the way.

7. Take in a holiday parade. Or be in a parade. Whether you're on the sidelines or in the mix of the event, holiday parades are a blast for kids and adults alike.

8. Visit a local tree farm. The debate rages on every year over the greenness of holiday trees and which is better for the planet. Artificial or real? Live or cut? Certainly, if you already have an artificial tree, then reusing it from year to year is the way to go. Or if you have a spot to plant a tree in your backyard, then go ahead and get a live tree. But if you do decide to get a cut tree this year, it is worth the effort to visit a local tree farm and turn the event into a family affair. Every year my girls look forward to running through the woods and picking out their tree almost more than they enjoy decorating it!

MNN homepage photo: saad/Flickr