Christmas holiday traditions act as fond and familiar reminders of family bonds during the season. The thing about them is that they must be started by someone and that someone might just be you! If you’re looking to start some long-lasting holiday traditions, you have come to the right place as we have curated some surprising and creative ways to celebrate Christmas year after year.
Holiday traditions are all about creating memories and building time-honored activities for your family to bond over. These traditions can be broken down into holiday food traditions, community and giving back traditions, fun things to do around the home, what you do on Christmas Eve, and ways to celebrate on Christmas day. Get inspired by the ideas below but feel free to riff on them and make them even more personal for the members of your family. After all, we all have different values that should be taken into account for such an important family holiday. Check out these traditions and use them to get into the spirit each and every year!
Start These Magical Holiday Traditions This Year!
Holiday Traditions & Food
Make a Gingerbread House!
Classic holiday traditions are classic for a reason! Gingerbread houses have been made around the holidays for centuries. The tradition started in Germany and it lives on today all around the world. You can purchase a pre-made kit or back yourself some gingerbread from scratch. Let the kiddos decorate it and then enjoy that sweet treat!
Ask for Recipes from Relatives
Did you eat a certain food every year around the holidays? These foods can be traditional to your culture (think Moravian cookies or tamales) or simply something that you always enjoyed. Ask your family members for their recipes so that you too can make them part of your holiday traditions.
Organize a holiday baking party where you and the kids bake and decorate cookies. You can make it one of the holiday traditions you do with others by inviting your kids’ friends to join in on the fun.
Keep It Consistent
Choose certain dishes to serve every Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. This can be a beloved soup on Christmas Eve and then a turkey or ham on Christmas Day. Whatever you choose to do, just make sure to replicate it each year so that these foods become holiday traditions.
Community-Based Holiday Traditions
Get a group of joyful singers together to spread holiday cheer through song. You can go caroling every year with the same group. Bring the kids along and sing your favorite Christmas songs. You’ll be surprised at how big a hit your little group of singers will be!
Get That Christmas Culture
Most communities mount productions of The Nutcracker or A Christmas Carol every single year. Make trips to see these shows one of your holiday traditions. Getting dressed up and enjoying the sights and sounds of a traditional holiday production is just the greatest!
See Some Impressive Christmas Lights
Make some spiced apple cider or hot chocolate to-go and hop in your car to go see the Christmas lights around the neighborhood. Visit other communities also to see how differently the homes are decorated. Crank that Christmas music on the radio and you’ve got yourself an activity that is easily one of the best holiday traditions.
If you took our advice and made a bunch of Christmas cookies, you can share your bounty with your neighbors. Who doesn’t love receiving home-baked goods on the holidays? Spread cheer with sweets and you will make fast friends and fond memories!
We encourage parents to take a trip to visit Santa very early in the season. If you can make it the first days that he’s around, you will likely miss a lot of the long lines. You can also go during the week when most people are at work or swoop in one evening for a quick pic.
You can do this anytime the weather is right but we highly recommend planning an outdoor activity on Christmas Day after everyone has eaten and things are getting a little sluggish. Suit up and go ice skating, sledding, or whatever activities you think will suit your family and become lasting holiday traditions!
Holiday Traditions That Celebrate Home
Elf on a Shelf
Most holiday traditions work best when they feel to children as if they’ve always been done. Start them young! Move that elf all over your home throughout the holiday season to delight your children and entertain yourself. This is one of the holiday traditions that gets more fun each year!
Christmas at Bedtime
Christmas stories are so fun and full of magic for children. In fact, stories like How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Polar Express, and Frosty the Snowman are the very best part of the holidays! Carve out some of your day for storytime or read your little ones these cherished stories before bed each night leading up to Christmas.
Get to the Local Christmas Tree Farm
Christmas tree farms are a lot of fun for the entire family and most offer plenty of opportunities to snap some priceless photos. Your kids will enjoy the smells, sights, and sounds of an exciting visit to the tree farm each year. Get that tree home and make a day out of creating decorations for the tree and hanging your ornaments and lights on it.
Curate the Perfect Holiday Playlist
Create your go-to holiday playlist that includes all of your family’s favorite Christmas tunes. Those familiar songs will fast become one of your most cherished holiday traditions.
Create an Advent Jar
Another one of the fun holiday traditions to start is a festivity jar! Instead of an advent calendar, grab a small jar. Then, make 24 slips of green and red paper and write a holiday activity on each piece. Think of activities like “take a walk in the snow” or “look at Christmas lights” or “craft a Christmas wreath.” Pull a piece of paper out (this can be your child’s job) and do what the piece of paper says to celebrate every day of the season with your family.
Or Use an Actual Advent Calendar
If the jar is not traditional enough for you, turn to a trusted advent calendar to help your kids count down the days to Christmas. Some involve burning candles, others have sweet treats tucked inside, or you can even make your own!
Christmas Movie Marathons
Choose a day of the week that will work best for your family. For instance, Friday or Saturday nights work well for most. On your set day of the week watch Christmas movies with the family. Think How the Grinch Stole Christmas, White Christmas, Elf, and more. If you love Christmas movies, let these films become your holiday traditions!
Many of us take the holiday season for granted and that is especially true for kids who are often showered with gifts. Make sure they know that not every child is as fortunate. You can ask your kids to write one thing they are thankful for each day of the season. You can do this on paper snowflakes or paper ornaments that you hang each time they write something new.
For every year of your child’s life, you can purchase an ornament or you can make one with your child! We think the latter option is the most memorable and they will make your Christmas tree feel extremely personal to your family. Making ornaments is one of the most endearing holiday traditions that you should start!
Write a Holiday Letter
Ask each member of your family to recount a pleasant memory from the past year and include it in your Christmas letter to friends and family. They will love to catch up on all of the fun your family has had thus far.
Giving Back Holiday Traditions
Feed the Hungry
One of the most beneficial things you can do as holiday traditions is to give back to the community you live in. Feed the hungry at a soup kitchen or volunteer, as a family, at a foodbank for those in need.
Organize a Food Drive
Organize a canned food drive with your kids’ school or with members of your neighborhood to collect needed items for the less fortunate. It’s one of the best holiday traditions that will make your family feel as if they’ve really accomplished something good. Set a bigger goal each year and do more good every holiday season!
Clean Out Those Closets
At the beginning of the holiday season, have every member of your family go through their closets to find gently used clothing to donate. It’s very cold for most this time of year so if you can spare jackets, those are especially useful to those without steady housing. You can create a reward system for your kids in which the more clothes they part with, the more candy or goodies they get.
Christmas Eve Holiday Traditions
Open Just One Gift
One of the most cherished holiday traditions is to open one gift on Christmas Eve. Not more than one, but just a small treat to kick the festivities off!
Keep Track of Santa
Track Santa via NORAD on Christmas Eve to keep up with where the jolly old man is at any given moment. Your kids will love looking at the map and imagining Old St. Nick flying through the skies each year with this fabulous holiday tradition.
Feed the Gift Man
After you’ve tracked Santa move onto another of your new favorite holiday traditions, putting out milk and cookies for him! Ask your kids to write him notes telling him “Hello!” You can also leave carrots for the reindeer or sprinkle oats on the lawn for them to enjoy after they land.
When it’s time for bed, you can start one of your holiday traditions by wearing matching Christmas-themed pajamas. Bonus points if they all match. The next morning, the photos will look so festive!
Christmas Day Holiday Traditions
Who Gets to Be ‘Santa’?
If you’ve got one kid this is pretty easy but with more than one, you can get creative. Draw a name to find out who will be “Santa” on Christmas morning. This person gets to wear a Santa hat and pass out gifts from underneath the tree. You can reward them by letting them open their presents first after all others have been handed out.
Wake Up the Kids with Christmas Scents
If you think you can beat your kids out of bed on Christmas morning, wake up early and fill a pot with cinnamon sticks, orange peels, cranberries, cloves, and nutmeg. Cover with water and simmer gently. As the mixture heats, the aromas will begin to mingle together in the air and smell exactly how you’d dream Christmas morning would smell!
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After your kids have gone to bed, you can get a little sneaky. After Santa has filled the kids’ Christmas stockings, sneak into your sleeping child’s room and hang the stocking or place it at the foot of their bed for them to discover first thing when they wake up. It will signal that Santa has come and that other gifts are waiting for them under the tree!
There you go! Did you discover some fun holiday traditions to start with your family? We hope you inspired you to create some new holiday traditions that your family will remember and cherish for years to come! Happy Holidays!
Andrew is a Chicago-based writer who enjoys finding the best of the internet, obsessively making lists, and cooking for friends. After studying Film and Art History, he developed a deep love for both topics. Celebrity news, pop culture, and stories that bring people together are his passions.
- 1 Start These Magical Holiday Traditions This Year!
- 1.1 Holiday Traditions & Food
- 1.2 Make a Gingerbread House!
- 1.3 Ask for Recipes from Relatives
- 1.4 Cookie Party
- 1.5 Keep It Consistent
- 1.6 Community-Based Holiday Traditions
- 1.7 Go Caroling
- 1.8 Get That Christmas Culture
- 1.9 See Some Impressive Christmas Lights
- 1.10 Cookie Delivery
- 1.11 Visit Santa
- 1.12 Get Active
- 1.13 Holiday Traditions That Celebrate Home
- 1.14 Elf on a Shelf
- 1.15 Christmas at Bedtime
- 1.16 Get to the Local Christmas Tree Farm
- 1.17 Curate the Perfect Holiday Playlist
- 1.18 Create an Advent Jar
- 1.19 Or Use an Actual Advent Calendar
- 1.20 Christmas Movie Marathons
- 1.21 Teach Humility
- 1.22 Make Ornaments
- 1.23 Write a Holiday Letter
- 1.24 Giving Back Holiday Traditions
- 1.25 Feed the Hungry
- 1.26 Organize a Food Drive
- 1.27 Clean Out Those Closets
- 1.28 Christmas Eve Holiday Traditions
- 1.29 Open Just One Gift
- 1.30 Keep Track of Santa
- 1.31 Feed the Gift Man
- 1.32 Matching Pajamas
- 1.33 Christmas Day Holiday Traditions
- 1.34 Who Gets to Be ‘Santa’?
- 1.35 Wake Up the Kids with Christmas Scents
- 1.36 Stocking Surprises
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