Which holiday memories hold a special place in your heart? Listening to “White Christmas” on the kitchen radio, baking a batch of Christmas cookies with your children, or trekking through the woods in search of the perfect Christmas tree? The holiday season is a time to welcome family and friends and share in some traditions, both old and new. Festive food, music, and decorations add to the mix!

Make the season bright for your participants. A few simple activities will help trigger some holiday nostalgia.

  • Display or show pictures of Christmas decorations from the late 1940s and 1950s: bubble lights, aluminum tree, cardboard Putz house, angel tree topper, glass ornaments, box of tinsel. Ask participants how they decorated the family tree. Plan a Trim-a-Tree Party with your group.
  • Display classic holiday toys: American Eagle wooden sled, Lionel toy trains, Raggedy Ann doll, teddy bear, Lincoln Logs, Radio Flyer wagon, Candy Land game. Encourage participants to share memories of a favorite Christmas toy.
  • Evoke nostalgic memories with old Christmas postage stamps, holiday cards from Currier & Ives (winter scenes) and Norman Rockwell (Santa Claus figures), and Christmas postcards. Ask participants what they recall about Christmas Seal drives. Read some sayings from the old cards.
  • Savor the sweet aroma of Christmas by baking a batch of old-fashioned sugar cookies. Gather holiday aprons (1940s pattern), cookie cutters, and holiday cookie tins.
  • Enjoy some vintage holiday sounds. Listen to 1940s Christmas songs, such as “White Christmas”/Bing Crosby, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,”/Judy Garland, “Winter Wonderland”/Perry Como, “The Christmas Song”/Nat King Cole, or “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”/Gene Autry.
  • Hold a gingerbread house-decorating contest. (Use pre-assembled kits or houses made from graham crackers.) Decorate with candies from participants’ childhood – gumdrops, red licorice, candy canes, hard candies – and tubes of frosting.
  • Listen to an audio performance of the holiday classic A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Or, read from the original 1843 version of the tale in which Ebenezer Scrooge learns the true meaning of Christmas. Watch a favorite movie version with the group. (Trivia: Name some actors who have played Scrooge in the movie version. Answer: Alastair Sim, Albert Finney, George C. Scott.)
  • Prepare a Christmas dessert recipe that has been passed down from generation to generation – e.g., plum pudding, mince pie, or Stollen.
  • Reminisce about kicking off the holiday season with a special trip, e.g., Colonial Williamsburg, the White House, or Radio City Music Hall in New York City. Ask participants if anyone ever saw a holiday show on Broadway. Did anyone ever attend a community tree ceremony?
  • Share recollections about helping others at Christmas by donating time, money, or material items to a favorite charity. Examples: Toys for Tots (Marine Corps Reserve), Salvation Army Christmas Kettle, food drive, soup kitchen.
  • Encourage participants to wear something festive for the holiday season, e.g., Christmas ball earrings, Christmas pin, Santa hat, reindeer tie, glittery sweater, red socks.
  • Talk about the traditional role of bell ringing during the holidays. Display old jingle bells in a wooden bowl, a strap of sleigh bells, and church handbell. Name holiday songs with ‘bell’ in the title, e.g., “Jingle Bells,” “Silver Bells,” “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” “Christmas Bells Are Ringing,” “Jingle Bell Rock.”
  • Watch a movie version of the popular Christmas ballet The Nutcracker. Enjoy Tchaikovsky’s “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.” Ask if anyone ever saw a local stage production of the ballet.
  • Organize a Secret Santa gift exchange for your group. Arrange for donated items. Ask a volunteer to don an old Santa suit for the occasion. Share recollections of seeing Santa in a department store for the first time.
  • Display some Christmas collectibles, e.g., wooden nutcracker soldiers, Santa Claus figures, crèche/ nativity sets, Spode Christmas tree dinnerware. Ask if anyone had a favorite holiday collection.


’Tis the season for some cheer. Try this holiday quiz with your group.

  1. What is a popular German holiday bread? Stollen
  2. This is a warm spiced ale holiday drink. Wassail
  3. He played the starring role in the 1946 holiday classic It’s a Wonderful LifeJimmy Stewart
  4. According to the song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” ‘my true love’ gave what on the third day? Three French hens
  5. What three gifts did the Wise Men bring to Baby Jesus? Gold, frankincense, myrrh
  6. The eight-day Jewish Festival of Lights is also known as what? Hanukkah
  7. If you want to steal a holiday kiss, hang a sprig of what? Mistletoe
  8. Someone who tries to steal your Christmas joy might be called what? Grinch
  9. It’s the German word we associate with Christmas tree. Tannenbaum
  10. He was the author of the poem “The Night Before Christmas.” Clement Clark Moore


 “At Christmas, all roads lead home.” ~ Marjorie Holmes

 “CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY MEMORIES” written by Sue Hansen. © 2007 ElderSong Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.

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