In today’s post: Find a huge assortment of Christmas traditions that you can start with your family!
If you look back on Christmas when you were a kid, chances are you only remember a few of the specific presents you received. What you probably do remember are the things your family did together year after year: going to get your Christmas tree, the cousin gift exchange, the holiday baking day. Christmas traditions are a huge part of what makes Christmas magical for all of us. It’s never too early (or too late!) to start creating Christmas traditions with your family. Today I’ve gathered 40 different Christmas traditions to give you loads of ideas for traditions you can begin this year.
40 fun Christmas traditions
1. Get the tree/put up the tree: Whether you head out to the mountains to cut down your own tree or pull your Christmas tree out of a box in the basement, make it an event! It’s fun for kids to know when the tree will go up each year (the day after Thanksgiving is a popular time) because this usually symbolizes that the Christmas season has begun.
Christmas Advent traditions
Count down the days until Christmas with these fun advents:
2. Scripture advent: Yellow Bliss Road has free printable advent cards that contain scriptures from the Bible depicting the Christmas story. Open an envelope each day and read the scripture together as a family.
3. Book or movie advent: Gather all your Christmas picture books and movies – you’ll need 24 total – and wrap them up like gifts. Number them 1-24, then choose one each night to watch or read together as a family.
4. Lego Advent calendar: These are so much fun! Each day kids get to open a window and pull out pieces for a small Lego build. Together, the builds from each day make a fun Christmas scene. The daily builds include things like a Christmas tree, a fireplace, Santa on a snowblower, a miniature train, and more. There’s also a Lego Star Wars version and a Lego Friends version. (These are affiliate links.)
5. Service Advent: Nourishing Joy shares a 25 days of service printable that you can use with your kids to count down the days to Christmas by helping others.
6. Make a reverse advent calendar – instead of taking things out of a box each day, fill up a box with items you can donate at a food bank or homeless shelter. Tips for this at Mum in the Madhouse.
Christmas Eve traditions
7. Make Christmas Eve extra special with a Christmas Eve box. Find a special box that you can use each year on Christmas Eve. Fill it with new pajamas, a new Christmas movie or book and popcorn and cocoa. Visit Oh My Creative for a free printable label.
8. Open up a new family board game to play together! My kids always want to open just one present on Christmas Eve, so we often wrap up a new family game to open and play. I’ve compiled a list of the best family board games to give you lots of ideas.
9. Cookies for Santa + reindeer food. This is one my kids never let me forget! It’s fun to make cookies together early in the day on Christmas Eve so you’ll be ready when it’s time for bed. You can even mix up “magic reindeer food” to help the reindeer find your house. Recipe + printable from Sugar & Soul Co:
10. Sleigh bells at bed time. This is a sweet tradition a friend shared with me – after the kids are tucked in bed the grandparents walk through the house shaking sleighbells so the kids know that Santa is on his way! (And I’m pretty sure you can find a recording of sleighbells to play on your phone if you don’t have the real thing.)
Christmas traditions that help us remember Christ
11. Fill the manger for Baby Jesus: Keep a small wood manger on display in your home with straw nearby. Family members can add a piece of straw the the manger every time they do a secret act fo service for someone else. On Christmas Eve when the manger is full the Baby Christ can be placed inside. You can order the book “The Last Straw” to introduce the idea to your family, or order “The Giving Manger” box set with everything you’ll need.
12. Set a time to read or act out the Christmas story together. This might be at an extended family party, at home on Christmas Eve, or even early Christmas morning before you start opening gifts.
13. Have a Nativity dinner: Plan a dinner of foods that may have been available in Christ’s day (pitas, olives, meat, fruit, goat cheese, hummus, etc). Eat it together on a blanket on the floor and talk about the Nativity and what it means to us. This post has some great ideas.
14. Gift a gift to Christ. As we think about what we want for Christmas, we can also think about what we would like to give to Jesus Christ. Ask each family member to consider a change they could make in their life, or a goal they can set as a gift to Christ. Have each person write down their gift and then keep the papers in a gift box or special white stocking that’s displayed all year long. Get more info on this tradition from Somewhat Simple:
15. Attend a Christmas Eve service together. If your church doesn’t hold one, consider visiting another church or looking for a sacred musical event during the Christmas season.
16. Let older kids help fill stockings for younger kids. As our kids get older, we like to teach them that Santa is a representation of love, and that when we love others we can all be Santa. In that way, the tradition of Santa Clause can represent the love that Jesus has for us. Once a child is old enough to know the truth about Santa, they get to participate in filling the stockings for the younger kids.
Lots more family Christmas traditions
17. Drive around town to see the lights. Christmas lights scavenger hunt from Lil’ Luna:
18. Plan and execute a family service project every year: visit a nursing home, go caroling to people who live alone, gather coats to distribute to homeless, serve a meal at a shelter, shop for Toys for Tots, etc. This can turn into a meaningful tradition the whole family plans for in advance every year!
19. Have a Christmas baking day and invite friends or family. Find lots of fun Christmas treats to make with your kids here.
20. Christmas gift exchange with the left right story. A gift exchange of some sort is usually the staple of family Christmas parties, so make it extra fun with the Left Right Christmas story. Each person starts holding the gift they came with, while someone reads the story. Anytime the story says “left” everyone passes their gift to the left, and every time the story says “right” the gifts get passed to the right. There are lots of lefts and rights in the story, so it gets hilarious trying to keep up with all the passing. As an added bonus, there’s no stealing involved so little kids won’t get sad when a gift is stolen from them.
21. Lunch out with Mom: This is my very favorite Christmas tradition! A few years ago I started letting each child pick one day in the week leading up to Christmas to skip school and stay home with me. We would stay in pajamas and watch movies in the morning, then get dressed an go out to lunch together. It’s a great way to get some one on one time in families with multiple kids. Now that some of my kids are in high school and it’s harder to skip a full day, I just check them out for lunchtime and period right after so we still get to go out to lunch together.
22. Make gingerbread houses. The past few years we have used the gingerbread recipe and templates from Tikkido to make our own gingerbread houses. The template for the A-frame house is very easy to put together and my kids love helping me make the gingerbread. We bake one day and construct houses the next. If that’s too much of a time investment, buy a gingerbread house kit or construct the houses out of graham crackers!
23. Make paper snowflakes. This tradition is one I grew up doing every year as a child, and I’ve continued it with my kids. Early in the holiday season we spend an evening cutting out snowflakes, which we then use to decorate windows or hang from the ceiling. Learn how (and get printable snowflake templates) here.
24. Do the 12 days of Christmas for a family that could use some love. Deliver a small gift and note anonymously for the 11 days leading up to Christmas Eve, then deliver a larger gift in person on Christmas Eve.
25. Make it a Christmas tradition to go to a special concert or show together: The Nutcracker, The Messiah, A Christmas Carol, etc. Get dressed up for a special night out together!
26. Choose a night to have a family sleepover on the ground in front of the Christmas tree.
27. When you are wrapping presents, use a different color wrapping paper for each person, but don’t tell anyone which paper is theirs. That way you can tuck presents under the tree and no one knows whose are whose until Christmas morning.
28. Watch your favorite Christmas movies together every year. Click over to Yellow Bliss Road to print the Christmas movie checklist and find a list of 45 Christmas movies.
29. Write letters to Santa and get a letter back! You can actually send your child’s letter, along with a response you write from Santa, to the North Pole, and they will mail the response back to your child! Learn more here.
30. Buy a new Christmas ornament that represents something that happened that year – either one for the family or one for each child. Check Etsy for some great personalized ornament ideas.
32. It’s fun to hang up your holiday cards every year as you receive them. Try hanging them on the wall in the shape of a tree! Fabulous idea + photo from Thyme is Honey:
33. Have kids go through their toys + clothes to find items in good condition that they no longer use. Either take your kids with you to donate items, or place them all in a bag for Santa to take away to share with other kids.
34. Have a special Christmas breakfast (either on Christmas day or in the week leading up to Christmas). Try Santa Claus pancakes from Taste of Japan:
35. Sit together by the Christmas tree with all the lights off except the tree lights. Listen to Christmas music or an audiobook together. (Turn on this video of a crackling fire to add to the mood!)
36. Play in the snow. I know, not everyone lives somewhere where there’s snow, but if you do, take advantage of it! Drive up to the mountains, go sledding together, or make a snowman.
37. Get new Christmas socks and/or host a sock exchange. New socks are a fun gift to start the holiday season, and you can find them for just a dollar or two at the dollar store and Old Navy. A sock exchange can be a fun way for kids to exchange gifts with friends without having to buy lots of presents.
38. Have a finger food dinner on Christmas or Christmas Eve. If you know you’ll be busy all day and trying to cook a big dinner will just add to the stress, keep things simple with a finger food dinner. Each child can pick their favorite finger food to add to the menu (and be in charge of making if they’re old enough to do so). Alternately – it can be fun to have a pizza night on Christmas Eve!
39. Neighbor gifts are another one of those Christmas traditions I grew up loving. We would go all out, baking and making candy and putting together plates of treats to deliver to all the neighbors. These days I keep things simple and usually just make multiple batches of one item. You can also find lots of printables to go with purchased items that make cute neighbors gifts as well!
40. Finally, it’s fun to start a Christmas tradition around how siblings purchase and give gifts to each other. In some families parents provide a set amount of money for kids to shop for each other with; in other families kids save up to buy presents for siblings. In large families, it can be fun to each person to draw a name of another sibling to shop for – that way everyone can buy one larger present.
If you have a family Christmas tradition I haven’t listed, I would LOVE to hear about it in the comments! Thanks for reading.