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5 New Holiday Traditions to Start this Year

Give your friends and family a way to be together that’s anything but boring.

Photo: The Nest

Count down with candy
Count down to Christmas with a sweet treat! Fill this wooden tree with lollipops (or any candy on a stick) -- then eat away until Dec. 25.

Lollipop Tree Advent Calendar, $68, GarnetHill.com

Recycle your holiday cards
Feel bad throwing away last year’s holiday cards? Sandy Sandler, of Crafters 4 Kids suggests using them to make unique gift tags this year. Just cut around your favorite cards/photos and embellish them with buttons, candy, scraps of ribbon, or glitter. Attach with double-sided tape or punch a hole and thread a ribbon through the tag. And don’t forget to save this year’s holiday cards for next year!

Host a cookie swap
Next time you host a holiday party, tell everyone to bring festive jars of holiday cookie mixes and recipes instead of the baked-up goodies. Then trade jars and bake ’em up when you feel like it.

Still want to bake? Take your cookies to a local shelter and donate to those in need.

Go on a classic adventure
We all love Miracle on 34th Street and A Christmas Carol…but this year, get out of the house and catch your favorite flick at a local university theater or auditorium. Or check out local churches for fun holiday concerts and plays.

Adopt a new drink
Spiked apple cider is a warm holiday favorite, but have you tried it with nutmeg butter? It’ll change your world. Try the Hot Buttered Bourbon drink for two from Liana Krissoff’s book Hot Drinks for Cold Nights. You’ll never go back to the usual again.

1-1/2 cups apple cider, or 1-1/2 cups water plus 2 Tbl. brown sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
1 rounded tsp. whole allspice berries
1/2 rounded tsp. whole cloves
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
3/4 cup bourbon
2 slices Nutmeg Butter (see below)

1. In a small saucepan, combine the cider, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and ginger and place over low heat. Cook at a simmer for 5 minutes.
2. Stir in the bourbon and bring back to a simmer; immediately remove from the heat.
3. Pour into two warmed mugs and top each with a slice of Nutmeg Butter.

Nutmeg Butter

8 Tbl. (1 stick) salted butter, at room temperature
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp. confectioners’ sugar

Put all the ingredients in a small bowl and stir with a rubber spatula to combine. Place the butter mixture on a sheet of wax paper or plastic wrap and roll it into a log shape about the size of the original stick of butter, twisting the paper together at the ends to smooth out the log. Chill in the freezer for about 30 minutes, until firm but not frozen hard. Slice into 1/4-in. rounds to use in buttered drinks. The butter will keep, frozen and tightly wrapped, for at least a month; let it stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before slicing it. It’ll keep in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks.

Check out more drink recipes (including festive cocktails!) here.

-- Sarah Newell

See More: Entertaining , Food & Recipes , Holiday