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Favorite Family Customs

Martha Stewart Kids, Special Issue 2004

1. Give kids a surprise to wake up to (and gain an extra hour or so of sleep for yourself) by hanging stockings by their beds filled with breakfast snacks such as cereal bars, travel-size board games, crayons, and activity books.

2. In Sweden, families mark the beginning of the holiday season on December 13 with the celebration of Lucia (the word means "light"): Kids wake up at dawn to deliver breakfast in bed to their parents, carrying candles to illuminate the dark morning.

Kids here might enjoy treating their parents, carrying flashlights instead of candles.

3. For this tradition, it's good to be the youngest: On Christmas morning, have kids wait before going into the living room. When everyone has gathered, a parent goes in and turns on the tree lights to reveal the presents Santa brought. Then the kids can enter -- youngest to oldest -- and run to their stack of gifts.

4. Encourage one another to keep this year's resolutions by exchanging small New Year's gifts on January 1 related to everyone's goals. Share your resolutions earlier in the season, then draw names to determine whom to get a gift for.

5. Let kids celebrate on New Year's Eve with their own version of a toast: For every child older than 4, fill a Champagne flute with a dozen grapes to be eaten as the clock strikes midnight. An old Spanish custom says that doing this will bring good luck all year long.

6. Keep a visual record of how much your kids have grown by taking their picture in front of the tree every year. Try to photograph them on the same day at about the same time. Set aside an album or scrapbook especially for these photos.

7. Santa's not the only one who deserves a snack for all his hard work the night before Christmas. Along with cookies for Santa, set out carrots for the reindeer (leave an extra one for Rudolph).