10 Ideas for Making Alcohol-Free Holiday Traditions

Black woman in a winter coat smiling in the snowImage via Jasmine Coro/Unsplash

Many of us have an issue when we’re thinking about quitting drinking—especially around this time of year—how to create new memories that don’t involve drinking. Holiday parties centered around eggnog, spiked cider, and wine can be tough to navigate for those who want to give up alcohol this season. So it’s essential to get creative with your social life. That might seem daunting at first—after all, the holidays are all about tradition. But have no fear! 

It’s not as difficult as it sounds if you commit to finding fun, new, alcohol-free activities during the holidays. We’ve compiled a list of ten options to get your list started. 

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1. Plan an outdoor adventure. 

Most outdoor excursions are best experienced during the day and frequently with friends or family. They typically require your full attention as well and likely involve a fair amount of movement and activity. Therefore, inviting friends and family on an outdoor excursion is an easy way to ditch the alcohol. Plan a hike on a new trail. Make a snowman or have a snowball fight. Take a walk on the beach. Climb to a vista point to watch the sunset. The movement and the time with good company will boost your endorphins—the brain’s happy chemicals—and you won’t have to worry about a hangover afterward.

2. Harvest a holiday tree. 

If you celebrate Christmas, harvesting a live Christmas tree from a farm can be a fun-filled day for the whole family. Some tree farms offer hayrides, hot cocoa, and even photos with their resident reindeer—a particular favorite for the children. Schedule your outing in advance and begin a family tradition to visit a tree farm on that day every year, so the adults know to take off work, and the kids can look forward to the experience. If you’re in areas of the south or west where tree farms aren’t a thing, pick a favorite tree tent to support. Most of them are run by families and small businesses and include a lot of the quintessential favorites of the tree farm—picture-perfect spots and festivities. 

3. Run a (movie) marathon. 

There’s not much that beats cozying up on the couch next to a fire with your favorite holiday movies from childhood. Whether you’re a fan of animated films like A Charlie Brown Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas! or prefer classics like A Christmas Story or Home Alone, a movie marathon is a great way to relax with friends. So put on sweatpants, whip up some snacks, and prepare for a nostalgic feel-good night of belly laughs.

4. Host a board game night. 

Board games cater to a variety of players based on interests, age, and attention span. So get together with friends for a Cards Against Humanities frenzy or stick to Scrabble with a tamer crowd. Either way, a night spent using your alcohol-free brain for its humor and creativity can prove to be even more fun than you expected. But, of course, since you’re hosting, you can make the whole thing alcohol-free and offer some delicious mocktails instead. 

5. Hold a baking contest. 

The holiday season is synonymous with baking: Pies and crumbles, cookies and bars, breads, and pastries. If there’s one event that a load of people will show up to, it’s a bake-off. Okay, some may just come ready to eat everyone else’s hard-earned goodies, but it does make for a sweet night with friends and family. Plus, lots of juicy conversations and deep bonding happen in the kitchen; prepare to learn more about your loved ones than you knew before. And remember: what happens in the kitchen stays in the kitchen!

6. Coordinate a Turkey Bowl. 

For many people, fall means football season, which provides an excuse to play, watch, and bet on the games. This year, call a handful of friends and coordinate a backyard football game for the morning of Thanksgiving. A local Turkey Bowl is a chance to get some movement in before the big meal and catch up with friends who may be visiting from out of town. Make it an annual event and start a text thread in advance to ensure a good turnout.

7. Hit the ice skating rink. 

Or a frozen pond, for that matter! If you live in a region that freezes over in the winter months, invite a new love interest or your best friend to a night of ice skating. It’s a romantic date idea, full of potential to laugh, spend time under the stars, and meet people in your town. If it’s your first time, swallow your pride, lace up your skates, and decide to get silly with someone you care about. Bring some warm cider or tea and a treat to cap off the night.

8. Decorate gingerbread houses. 

In the same vein as a bake-off, try dedicating an afternoon to building and decorating gingerbread houses. This activity is like the pumpkin carving of the Christmas holiday, resulting in some profound architectural mastery. It may surprise you how involved you become. After all, there are important decisions to make: a mansion or tiny home, the number of rooms, what kind of siding, and which roof color to go with—red or blue. It can turn into a full-blown Home Makeover, Christmas Edition. Bonus points if you include participants of different generations to kick the imagination up a notch.

9. Go on a holiday light tour. 

A lot of people get into the holiday spirit by decorating their houses. Wreaths, lights, inflatable reindeer in the front yard, Santa on the roof… the list goes on. Join in on the yard decorations or admire them from afar and give kudos to the people who put in tons of work to light up the neighborhood. If you’re in a city, walk through different burrows and vote on your favorite festive house. If you’re in the suburbs or a more rural area, venture to nearby towns that hold holiday light contests. If this is something you already do every year, make it different this year by going to a new neighborhood or bringing along friends and family that haven’t gone with you in the past.

10. Give the gift of activities and experiences. 

When we decide to quit drinking, we often find ourselves in a state of reflection on our lives, the choices we made, and what we held as important. For some of us, that means reflecting on consumerism as a whole and the realization that marketing plays a massive role in what we think we need to buy or consume (alcohol) to fit in and feel like we’re enough. So this holiday season, instead of buying material gifts that might be easily forgotten, gift your family members with experiences.

Movie tickets, a camping trip, tickets to an art show, or your city’s botanical gardens— choose whatever you and your loved ones enjoy doing together. If you’re in for a fun new adventure, try a trip to iFly indoor skydiving facility or hit the closest launch pad for the real deal. Make sure to buy the video playback, as you’ll want to reminisce on those hilarious reactions for years to come.

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It can be challenging to avoid holiday parties full of booze during this season, even if you have the best intentions. By creating your own alcohol-free holiday memories, you create the option to have fun with family and friends without being worried that there’s alcohol around the corner. A season without alcohol is the perfect opportunity to discover what you love about the holidays and make those things your own. 

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