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35+ Ways to Keep a Loved One’s Memory Alive This Holiday Season

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For many, the holidays bring about joy, as close family members and friends gather to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year. But for some, the holidays can be a painful reminder of the people we’ve lost.

If you’re dealing with grief this holiday season, know that you’re not alone. While your loved one is no longer physically present, there are many ways to honor their memory in your thoughts and actions.

For inspiration this holiday season, consider starting these new traditions for remembrance.

1. Prepare Their Favorite Dish

What dish was your loved one known for by family members and friends? Was there a recipe they particularly enjoyed making? Consider recreating his or her specialty dish to share with your loved ones.

2. Donate to a Charity

Did your loved one have a favorite charity or cause? If so, consider donating money in his or her name. Remember, donating doesn’t have to be monetary—contact a local organization to see what items are in demand this holiday season or if you can simply give the gift of your time.

3. Write a Holiday Greeting Card

Who doesn’t enjoy receiving greeting cards during the holiday season? If your loved one was known for writing cards, keep the tradition alive by sending cards to their network of close family members and friends. In your cards, be sure to include your favorite holiday memory of your loved one to lift their spirits.

Did your loved one have a special nickname or symbol? In your holiday cards this year, consider incorporating them into the card by including an image of a dove or angel to symbolize their presence.

4. Bake Cookies

From shortbreads to snickerdoodles, the holiday season is filled with yummy baked goods. Did your loved one have a sweet tooth around the holidays? Set aside an afternoon to bake and decorate their favorite sweet treat. When you’re done, consider sharing the love by delivering a few treats to your family members and friends.

5. Create a Tribute Video or Photo Album

Do you have photos and videos of your loved one saved somewhere? Open up those old photo albums or home videos, and bookmark your favorite moments. What memories do these images and clips surface? Bring these memories back to life by creating a tribute video or photo album to gift to grieving family members and friends.

6. Release a Memorial Lantern

A releasing ceremony can be a cathartic ritual for surviving family members and friends during the holiday season. It’s a symbolic way to send loving thoughts to the people you’ve lost within the last year.

7. Visit Your Loved One

When is the last time you visited your loved one’s final resting place? This season, make time to visit with your loved one who passed—whether it’s spending time at their gravesite or visiting their scattering location. If you have their cremation urn in your home, make sure to place it somewhere you can see it throughout the holiday season, like on your mantle.

8. Stop At Their Favorite Holiday Location

Is there a local shop your loved one enjoyed supporting throughout the holiday season? Stop by their favorite boutiques and bakeries in town to pick up a few items for loved ones.

9. Watch Seasonal Movies

From “It’s a Wonderful Life” to “Miracle on 34th Street,” there are tons of seasonal movies to enjoy this time of year. Spend an evening watching your loved one’s favorite film, with a cup of hot cocoa.

10. Decorate an Ornament

Every ornament holds a special meaning. This year, decorate an ornament to honor and remember loved ones who have passed. Or, purchase one that reminds you of them.

11. Participate In a Run or Walk

Did your loved one pass from a particular disease or illness? If so, get out in nature to participate in a run or walk in memory of them.

12. Plant an Evergreen Tree in Their Honor

Did you know the evergreen tree is said to symbolize eternal life? Instead of chopping a tree down this year to decorate, consider planting an evergreen in honor of your loved one’s life. While it’s best to establish roots before a heavy freeze, it’s okay to plant them anytime the ground is workable.

13. Decorate With Their Favorite Flowers

What was your loved one’s favorite flowers to decorate with during the holiday season? Whether it’s gardenias, orchids, poinsettias or roses, be sure to pick up a few from your local florist to decorate your home. Not only will the colors of red and white brighten your home, but also the smells will remind you of your loved one.

14. Donate Their Old Belongings

During the wintertime, local nonprofits collect winter clothing. Outerwear items like boots, coats, gloves, hats and scarves are always in high demand. After sorting through your loved one’s belongings, consider donating any extra items to a nonprofit in your area.

15. Light a Candle In Their Honor

The ritual of lighting a candle to pay tribute to a loved one that has passed has long been a part of our culture. Keeping a light burning during the holiday season signifies that his or her memory still lives on and burns bright. While relaxing in your living room, light a candle to remember the life of your loved one.

16. Take a Moment of Silence

With the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it’s rare we stop to take a second for ourselves. This season, take a moment of silence to collect your thoughts and reflect on the wonderful memories you have of your departed loved one.

17. Create a Memory Wreath

Have an extra wreath lying around? Make it a memory wreath by decorating with your loved one’s favorite flowers or cherished ornaments. Finish the wreath with a picture of your loved one. This is sure to be a treasured holiday decoration for years to come.

18. Quilt a Memory Blanket or Pillow

Using your loved one’s favorite holiday shirts or sweaters, quilt a memory blanket or pillow. If you’re not a sewer, consider taking it to a seamstress shop to have a custom blanket made. You can choose to keep it for yourself or gift it to a grieving loved one. Each year around this time, you can look forward to pulling it out.

19. Fill a Memory Jar

Do you have an old jar collecting dust? Decorate it with some of your loved one’s favorite things. Throughout the month of December, have your family fill it full of memories of your loved one. At the end of the month, take turns reading the memories aloud for all to hear.

20. Enjoy a Song

Did your loved one enjoy seasonal music? Or perhaps they had a favorite song or artist? If so, listen to the song in his or her honor for all to enjoy.

21. Make Crafts With Leftover Fabric

Was your loved one crafty? If he or she had leftover fabric or yarn, grab the grandkids for a day of crafting during the holidays. You’ll cherish these memories for years to come.

22. Hang Their Stocking

It’s common to hang stockings during the holiday season. This year, invite family members to fill your loved one’s stocking with cards and letters of their favorite memories. As the year comes to a close, take time to read the notes together.

23. Attend or Watch a Holiday Service at Their Place of Workshop

Did your loved one belong to a church or other religious institution? If so, consider attending or watching the holiday service virtually in his or her honor. If you feel comfortable, share a prayer or reading with others.

24. Build a Snowman

Northeast Ohio is known for harsh winters with lots of snow. This holiday season, make something beautiful out of the snow by building a snowman, and dressing it with your loved one’s favorite hat, scarf and gloves. Frosty will serve as a welcoming presence to new and old guests coming in and out of your home.

25. Gift a Keepsake to a Grieving Loved One

If you’re noticing a family member having a particularly difficult time over the holidays, gift them one of your loved one’s keepsakes. This could be a piece of jewelry, or a favorite coat or hat. It’s sure to be one of the most meaningful gifts they receive this year.

26. Donate to Their Senior Care Facility

Did your loved one live in a senior care facility before passing? If so, consider donating to the facility. Again, donations don’t need to be monetary. Consider donating some of your loved one’s favorite cards or games.

27. Write a Letter

Are there things you wish you said to your loved one while they were here? Reflect on those thoughts and write them down. Read the letter out loud as an open conversation with your loved one.

28. Create Memorial Stones

Did your loved one like to garden? Memorial stones are a unique way to remember your loved one’s life and legacy. Not to mention, they can be displayed for others to see all year long. Ask family members to paint or write on a stone in a way that symbolizes your loved one.

29. Construct a Memory Board

Instill the feeling that your loved one is with you this holiday season by creating a memory board. This can consist of pictures or letters. Get creative and hang the board in your home, so you are reminded of them throughout the month.

30. Frame a Cherished Garment

Did your loved one have a signature clothing item they always wore, like a shirt or jacket? Rather than packing it away with other belongings, consider having it preserved and framed.

31. Participate In Their Favorite Activity

What did your loved one like to do? Did they take a daily walk through a park or visit friends at the same coffees shop? Adopt their favorite hobby for a day and reflect on their legacy while celebrating their favorite pastimes.

32. Tap into Poetry

Poetry can be a beautiful way to express your thoughts and feelings. Research different poems to find one that reminds you of your loved one. If you can’t find one that suits them, try writing your own and sharing it with family.

33. Read Their Favorite Book

Was your loved one an avid reader? Did they have a favorite holiday book? Take time one evening to cozy up with hot cocoa and read their favorite book aloud to your household.

34. Set a Place For Them at The Table

As you set the table this holiday season, leave an extra place setting for those who are no longer with you. Consider putting a picture of your loved one at the table to remember them.

35. Have a Toast in Their Honor

This holiday season, pour yourself a glass of their favorite drink—whether it be champagne, wine, hot cocoa or soda, raise a glass to your loved one’s memory.

36. Make a Scrapbook

The holidays are a time where people like to get crafty. Consider making a scrapbook with pictures of your loved one and gift it to someone who is grieving in your family. This seasonal craft can be something you keep out all year round to remember them by.

37. Start A New Tradition

The holidays are built on family tradition. But when was the last time your family started a new one?

Whether it be gathering at a different family member’s home, modernizing an old family dish or gathering the whole group to take a photo, create something new. It’s likely what your lost loved one would want, and you can even name that new tradition in honor of them (think: Mom’s new-age spaghetti sauce, or signing a holiday card with “In loving memory of…”).

Whatever you decide to do, it’s important to remember your loved one to keep their memory alive long after they’ve passed.

Get the Grief Support You Need This Holiday Season

Coping with the loss of a loved one is never easy, especially during the holidays. The stages of grief are often unpredictable, and some days may feel better or worse than others. To help guide you through your grief journey, we encourage you to subscribe to our weekly grief support newsletter, A Journey Towards Healing. You’ll receive weekly emails of encouragement across an entire year of your grief experience.

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Cathy Nichols
Cathy Nichols
Considers it an honor as a Certified Celebrant to listen to life stories, and then design and conduct meaningful tributes. Cathy also trains celebrants nationally, equipping them to share those legacies in ways that comfort and enlighten. Honorably serving Busch families since 2004.

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