Celebrate New Year’s Eve With a DIY Time Capsule

One of the most exciting — and daunting — parts of being a parent or caregiver is realizing that you have the opportunity to create new rituals for your family. I grew up cringing every New Year’s Day as my dad ate the ceremonial herring, a tradition I happily partake in now. 

2022 has been full of highs and lows, but the clear highlight of my year has been experiencing the joy of cozy family life, marveling at how much my kids (ages 2 and 5) have changed in just 365 days. Inside jokes, new preferences, favorite places and activities — both kids constantly surprise and delight me. The routine minutiae of our everyday lives feel so deeply familiar to us right now, but I know my memory of the details will fade, especially as they get replaced by new rhythms, routines and perspectives. 

We decided to mark the passing of time and the anticipation of a new calendar year by making our own family time capsule. This is an easy activity for all ages and there are so many ways to customize it for your family or chosen family. 

Start off by gathering your materials.

In addition to the jar or box, you’ll need Modge Podge, sponge brushes and capsule decoration supplies – we used photos, original artwork and tissue paper.

A glass jar works well — we had this one collecting dust and it was perfect for repurposing. Shoe boxes and plastic two-liter bottles are also great options.

Sponge brushes are great for little hands!

We used Modge Podge to decoupage the outside of our jar with pictures taken throughout 2021. We also used artwork and tissue paper to fill in gaps — the thinner the paper, the easier the decoupage process. I recommend laying down newspaper or another mess-ready surface before you start. Things can get a little messy. 

For the contents of our capsule, we picked photos and artwork from the year to include. We also included handwritten notes from cousins and friends and a handful of favorites: toys, keychains, rocks and even a wrapper of our favorite candy. Tip: Write down everything chosen for inclusion in your capsule and include the list inside. 

A hand-drawn family portrait, a favorite toy, tickets from our favorite arcade and an interesting rock are just some of the items that filled up our capsule to the brim.

The kids drew pictures of their favorite memories and I recorded their answers to a few questions on small pieces of paper, which they decorated. The questions I asked included:

  • What is your favorite food?
  • What was the best thing about this year?
  • What are you most excited about for next year?
  • What do you want to learn next year?

Depending on the age of your family or chosen family participants, you might decide to change up the questions or each family member could write a letter to their future self. You could also include report cards or schoolwork, menus from favorite restaurants or receipts from favorite stores.

I hope to make this a new tradition — spending the evening together, reflecting on the year behind us and setting intentions for the days yet to come. But even as we looked backward and forward in time, the best thing about this activity was the way it really grounded us together in the present moment — looking at photos, laughing at our favorite memories, and worrying about what Modge Podge does to children’s hair if they sleep in it. 

The finished product!

We haven’t decided yet if we will open the capsule next year or if we will wait 10 years. Ambitious families might decide to bury their capsule but we put ours on a shelf in the basement. Whatever you and your loved ones do to ring in the new year, we wish you and yours a happy, healthy and abundant 2023! 

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