Tackling Tradition

Whatever happened to sleigh bells and mistletoe? How did the holidays become synonymous with over-indulging?
Published December 10, 2015

If you're like most people struggling to stay committed to a healthy lifestyle, the holiday season can be frightening and frustrating. How many times can you give yourself that pep talk before yet another holiday party: "Avoid the buffet table," "Pack a healthy snack", "Alternate alcoholic drinks with water."

You're also no doubt an expert at how to work activity into an over-packed social schedule. So you don't need tips on how to survive the season—right? If, only!

It seems that fighting the holiday bulge has become a sort of tradition itself. But how did the season become synonymous with over-indulging—whatever happened to sleigh bells and mistletoe? When did sugar cookies and shortbread take over?

It's time to take back tradition
This holiday doesn't have to be about deprivation and denial. Make getting together with family and friends fun again by starting some new traditions of your own—ones that don't strictly involve Grandma's butter tarts and egg nog.

Try caroling
Delight your neighbours with a Christmas Caroling party. Nothing will get you in the spirit faster!

  • Round up some friends—preferably a few who can hold a tune! Know any choir members?
  • Print a lyric book and make sure each caroler has one—not everyone will remember all the words. Christmas lyrics can easily be found online or at your local bookstore. Consider a practice session at home first!
  • Try to coordinate matching hats and scarves to set the scene and make candle-holders by poking holes into paper plates.
  • Head out and enjoy the magic!

Visit a pioneer village
There is nothing like an escape to the past to remind ourselves of the true spirit of Christmas. Many historical villages offer Christmas programs, complete with sound and light shows, sleigh rides and, if you're lucky, a visit from the man in red himself! Plan an authentic Christmas experience that the whole family can enjoy. Visit the tourist information centre in your town for information about local villages.

Here are a few of our favourites:

Nova Scotia Musuem - Holiday Village
Village du Père Noël
Black Creek Pioneer Village

Sleigh bells ring (are you listening?)
Old-fashioned horse-drawn sleigh rides are delightful and memorable. Many tourist and ski-resort towns organize sleigh rides during the month of December.

Get your friends and family together for a little Winter Wonderland Magic.

Mont-Tremblant Winter Activities
Blackcomb Sleigh Rides

Throw a skating party
Turn your holiday get-together into  a family skating soiree or make it a romantic date. Check your local arena for free skate times, or better yet, find an outdoor venue.

Rideau Canal Skateway
Nathan Phillips Square Rink

Organize a charitable event
Rediscover the gift of giving. Organize friends and family and plan to make a difference in your community this year.

  • Plan a Toy Drive and distribute the gifts together
  • Volunteer as a group at a homeless shelter
  • Sponsor a family for Christmas dinner. Shop together, wrap together, and deliver the gifts in person.

Contact your local churches and outreach programs for more ideas on how to make your Christmas get-together meaningful.

Attend a Christmas concert
Even if you are not a regular church-goer, consider enjoying a Christmas concert with family and friends this year. The entertainment is heart-warming, and it will give you a chance to practice those hymns before caroling through your neighbourhood!

Warm hearts, warm hands
Warm your guests up afterwards with some Christmas cheer. Steering clear of not-so-healthy egg nog is easy with some of these delicious concoctions. Serve up some Mulled Apple-Cranberry Cider, or try your hand at Mint Hot Chocolate. Raise your glass (or mug!) to a successful guilt-free get-together.

A twist on tradition
Shaking things up this season is easy. The possibilities are endless. And you just might find that some of these activities offer fun, social, and invigorating ways to work exercise into the rest of the winter too. So be creative—start a new family tradition! You won't regret it. And when the season is over, instead of a few regretful pounds and oodles of guilt, you'll have fun photos of new family traditions (and more importantly, none of you popping the last rum ball!)