Two years ago, I started a family tradition of doing something outside with everyone together for the holidays. Each year, I propose a different activity, and we create memories together: grandparents, aunts, uncles, and grandkids.

In 2007, ten of us went on a walk after our Christmas meal. We drove to a nature trail near a lake, and spent an hour or two exploring the sunny and snow-free (but very crisp) winter day. Most of the group got to witness an awesome surprise: a bald eagle taking off from a tree by the water ten feet in front of them. My younger sister and her husband are avid bird watchers, and it was their first bald eagle.

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Last year, I took twelve of us on our first fishing trip for Thanksgiving, and it was a complete surprise to everyone. I have to admit I was worried with this surprise: it was a very cold and windy day, but each person got into the experience in different and wonderful ways. We made our own fishing poles out of bamboo harvested the day before from my mother-in-law’s backyard. My younger sisters liked making the fishing poles, I loved learning how to put a hook, weight, and bobber on a fishing line, and my parents really enjoyed visiting with everyone while we fished. The kids seemed to enjoy every bit of it, especially digging for worms and having hot chocolate while we waited for the fish to bite.

This year? I’m inviting all the kids in the neighborhood for a Thanksgiving morning game of kickball with warm muffins and hot cocoa. My boys are always waiting all day for their aunts, uncles, and grandparents to arrive, and getting the kids up and out with their friends will help pass the time while the adults get the turkey ready to go in the oven. I imagine it will help my neighbors and their kids too.

Whether it’s the same outdoor tradition every year or trying something new, getting outside is a great way to give one another space to breathe some fresh air and discover another way to spend time together that will give each of you memories to last a lifetime. And by the way, do you think I knew how to fish before I took all of us? Nah, I knew someone in the group would know how to do it, and sure enough, he taught us all.

Rebecca P. Cohen is Founder and President of Rebecca Plants LLC, is a gardening and outdoor lifestyle company that inspires families to be outside and improve their well being. For her weekly online video series, “Get Out of the House” as well as Starla J. King’s guest blog series “Savoring Summer,” visit

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Published: November 19, 2009