Here are 50 family Christmas traditions which are all a little bit magical! Create some wonderful memories for the years ahead by starting a few new traditions each year together.
Recently I asked everyone over on my Facebook page to share their own family traditions for advent and Christmas. The response was phenomenal, with the most incredible range of ideas and magical moments being shared, for all aspects of the holiday season. There were so many that I loved that I wanted to put them all into a post for future reference (for my own benefit as much as everyone else’s!) I have split them into rough categories and added the name of the original commenter after each idea. Where there were duplicate ideas I used just one. Don’t be overwhelmed by the enormous list- maybe choose just one or two to add to the family memory-making vault each year, that’s what we will be doing!
Baking and Fun Food Traditions
- Every year I have something I call “Cookie Day”. I bake 300 cookies and invite all my daycare kids and their families here to decorate them. People have such a good time and look forward to this event each year. I have some daycare families who still come and their kids are now in high school. (Anissa)
- When we were kids we always made gingerbread house villages except we used graham crackers instead of gingerbread. We used melted white sugar as glue. (Our mom did that part until we were old enough.) We even made trees, cars and lamp posts. So fun to give one to each of your friends if you have a Christmas Party (Kendra)
- Last year I started December with a hot chocolate bar that we set up on a little tray that status out all month. Homemade mix, jars of marshmallows, sprinkles, candy canes, and other fun toppings or add – ins, ready to go when the kids come in from playing in the snow! (Heidi)
- Chocolate fondue with lots of different fruits. The kids look forward to this more than anything! (Nina)
- Baking cookies with my mom and little one is also a favourite tradition of mine because it spans generations and started many, many years ago with my great-great grand-mother. (Mirielle)
Keepsakes and Memory Makers
- We try and make one keepsake ornament each year. Those are our Christmas tree handprints from salt dough!
- The year our first child was born i bought a new plain red tree skirt. Every year we trace her hand on the skirt then write her name inside. This year we will include her little brother. Its so fun to look back through the years by the growing of their hands! (Jess)
- My kids get a new tree decoration each year, so they will have a collection of there own to take when they leave home (complete with the memories to go along with them). We also make a gingerbread house leading up to Christmas each year so the kids can decorate it. (Hilary)
- I can never keep track of where all our ornaments & decorations come from, so we’re making a picture book of them all to keep out around the holidays (this way we don’t have to worry if we don’t have space on the tree for them all either). My plan is to have my girls fill in their own trinkets. (Laura)
- My brother & I take turns on alternating years recording a one page letter of family highlights/challenges we have experienced attaching this in a Xmas card contained in a special Xmas box which is passed between our families on Xmas day. We have been doing this for over 10 years & our family history is recorded in this box including – marriages, births, new homes, new career paths, overseas adventures etc (Lisa)
- At our preschool we are having a Christmas concert for our children’s families. With lots of beautiful and funny songs and a morning tea afterwards (Anja)
- I’ve bought a bauble and I’m going to write different things about m daughter on it. Next year I’ll buy a new bauble and write down next years favourite memories (Sam)
- In my family, we have a giant christmas carols book and we sing around a campfire (Lydia)
- We interview family members and make the responses into a book (Creative Play Central)
- When I was little, my mom would get us kids into our pyjamas and we would drive around the city in the dark, looking at Christmas lights and drinking hot chocolate. (Maria)
- Every year I choose one plain colored bulb and let one child grasp it with paint on their hand. Makes a perfect hand print and I write the year and name on it. Great memories. (Rita)
- I have a Christmas diary, I write a short summary of the year, what we are doing for Christmas and our hopes for the new year! (Hayley)
- The night before Christmas and the kids go to bed. I write a letter to my boys (aged 4.5 and 18mths) about their year, what they love and the little people they’re becoming and leave it in their baby books for them to read when they turn 18/21. (Kate)
- Someone gave us the lovely idea of buying a large plain sack for presents. The first year each grandparent sewed on a bell. In subsequent years we have added something relevant to the year e.g. something from a significant place we have visited, a club they have joined, an achievement badge, a hobby they have taken up… Just one item per year. (Carol)
- We spend alot of Christmas days away from our home so we always take our children’s initial Christmas decoration with us to add to the tree of where ever we are. We also move alot with hubby’s work and it is usually about 3 days before christmas when we get into our new place. Our girls were always worried that Santa would get confused and drop their presents at our old empty house so we would get them to line up outside the front door on Christmas eve and press the doorbell 5 times and say their name – so the house would register as their new address and Santa wouldn’t get lost (Amy)
Acts of Kindness
- This year we have started the Kindness Elf tradition with our family! You can read all about them here.
- We have 3 children whom we take to the shops to buy a small present for a child in need. Then we wrap and put it under the big xmas tree at the shops. This way the children also recognise xmas is about giving as well …..and they also think how lucky they are. (Shelley)
- We’re at the beginning of starting traditions with our daughter (she’s only 21 months). Our first will be her choosing a couple of her own toys to give to charity. A nice way to spread the love before Christmas and make room for a few new toys. (Kate)
- We always take our 2 boys to the Kmart wishing tree a couple of weeks before Christmas and they use their own money to purchase a gift for a child who doesn’t have the same opportunities in life that they do. They love picking out their gifts and put a lot of thought into what they purchase. (Kirralee)
- I have 4 kids. they do a secret santa thing, where they draw a name and buy for that sibling. Then they get to open these gifts on Christmas Eve. The kids look forward to this every year, and take it seriously. They sweetly take their time buying something they know that sibling would love. (Cassie)
- Each year we choose some people to surprise on Xmas day with chocs and cookies. So far, nurses at Royal children’s hospital, ambulance drivers, lost dogs home. (Anna)
- We try to carol to widows or those we know are alone for the holidays. Some of the older people we’ve caroled to have told us they remember people caroling when they were children. We also have a tradition we call “Operation Wise Men”. We find three people/charities that we can help in a specific and substantial way. Our children start talking about it as soon as they know it’s Christmas time, they love that we have to be sneaky to stay anonymous. We also have our children pick each other’s names for a gift. I swear their favorite gift every year is the one they get from their sibling and I love watching them hug each other. (Kym)
- We decorate a tree branch with an activity a day for advent, many being home traditions or kindess towards others. You can read about it here.
- We do a Jesse tree. This is a brilliant way to learn the biblical background to Christmas. (Lizzie)
- We have an advent calendar which consists of envelopes. They contain a scripture and chocolate coins (one for each of our kids). (Kym)
- When I was a little girl my Mom would put the nativity scene out but the Baby Jesus would not arrive until Christmas Eve. (Sarah)
- The first night that the tree is decorated and lit, the whole family sleeps around it. Our kids love the magic of falling asleep with the tree lights on! (Jessica)
- I make an advent calendar every year I wrap a present a day around a theme. Last year it was baby sensory and this year it’s to create her a dressing up box. I buy things but also make things for the presents (Emma)
- I have 3 girls and every year I make up an ADVENT BASKET full of small gifts for them to open each morning in December. One child chooses a gift a day and it has 3 items so they all get a present. We love it and it adds to the excitement (Alma)
- We do an advent spiral , where Mary walks one stop each day towards the “Bethlehem “, children are meant to move her. This is instead of an advent calendar . Normally a little candle is light every day, on each stop. We celebrate St Nicholas on the 6th, where children get their new shoes or booties filled with nuts and a little gold dust . We have an advent wreath with 4 apple candles, one for each Sunday before Christmas marking advent. We celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve , where the Christmas fairy comes while we watch the Christmas play at church. Ideally once it’s dark, the children enter the room with everything dark but only the tree lit and the nativity under the tree with presents on the side. (Tanya)
- We have a wrapped holiday book to open daily, which are Christmas books from prior years, library books and ones trickled in (Lynda)
- I made frosty the snowman for December- decorated him with cotton wool and sign that says “Frosty says….. today we will…? Snowballs with activities on ie make snowflakes, watch Xmas film, play snow etc. Tiddlers excited about checking Frostys tummy to see if he has something planned for the day. (Zoe)
- We used to live in Germany (military family) on the night of the 5th December the German children leave a shoe out for St Nicholas. If the child has been good he fills the shoe with sweets, if the child has been naughty he fills it with sticks. (Traditionaly the sticks were so the parents could use the sticks to beat the naughty child- of course this doesn’t happen nowadays! lol) we just tell our kids which would you prefer sweets or sticks. You can get paper mache shoes which the children can decorate themselves or just use a normal shoe. The Germans tell their kids St Nicholas uses the shoes to make the naughty and nice list for Christmas day. (Julia)
- This year I have bought an elf door. (A little red fairy door). The elves will visit each night to check on my little ones and leave special presents and letters. (Fiona)
- I do the twelve days of Christmas – starting on the 13th each morning I give them the clue to a hiding place where a small present is hidden. On the first day it is one of something, on the second day two of something (like a pair of socks), up to twelve (a dozen donuts or something like that). (Rowena)
- Pyjama elf! Light a little candle on the front doorstep to let the Pyjama Elf know you are ready for your Christmas pjs! (Emily)
- We each write a letter to Santa. I fill each letter up with shaved off sparklers while the kids aren’t looking and then we all go outside as a family and Daddy lights them on fire one by one. If they have been good then they will sparkle and that is the elves taking their message to Santa. (Amy)
Christmas Eve Traditions
- You can read all about our exciting Christmas Eve Surpise box tradition here!
- We have Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve because mummy being stuck in the kitchen all day missing out on all the fun of Christmas presents is just wrong. It makes an event of Christmas Eve, Christmas Day can be spent relaxing and eating all the left overs and yummy chocolates and not the mug stuck in the kitchen! Haha! This has been a tradition sent from my grandparents! (Shelly)
- “Plant” red hots in the snow on Christmas Eve. On Christmas morning, they “grow” into candy canes. (Emily)
- We go to the beach and look out for raindeers nose, we always see a a red light flying like an airplane and rush home to bed as Santa is on his way! (Melissa)
- We go to the crib service/ cristingle on Christmas eve, followed going out for hot chocolate and comming home for a film in our jammies. (Sarah)
- Christmas Eve we light a candle for each loved one in heaven and share a thought or memory of each one, then we spend the eve watching a Christmas film. (Laura)
- Since my 3 year old’s first Christmas, we have started on Christmas eve to light a candle and hang a lantern outside, we then sprinkle reindeer food on the garden before coming inside and setting our snacks out for father c! Love it! (Hayley)
- When we were little, every Christmas Eve we would all walk up a hill right next to the airport and watch all the planes and helicopters coming in and out and try and work out which of the lights in the sky must belong to Santa and his reindeer. I’m 31 now and we still go every year to ‘spot’ Santa and I’ll be taking my own little boy along this year to continue the tradition for the next generation (Sarah)
- We track Father Christmas too, using NORAD! Lots of fun, and we hang a special key on the outside of the door for Father Christmas to let himself in… (Kerry)
- Watching The Polar Express with hot chocolate on Christmas Eve and leaving a bell that looks like the one in the movie each year for each child to find on the plate we leave the biscuits and carrots on on Christmas morning (and pretending we can’t hear the noise). The look on their faces is priceless! (Lisa)
- We put out reindeer dust and carrots outside in the yard and bake cookies and put that and milk inside for Santa. The reindeer dust is dry oatmeal and glitter and each kid gets a bag to sprinkle in the yard. The reindeer can see it shining at night and they can munch on the dry oatmeal and carrots while Santa is inside. There always seem to be a few chunks of carrots left in the yard and of course the milk and cookies are gone but a few crumbs. (Casey)
- We use my husbands big work boots and sprinkle icing sugar on the floor around them to make ‘snowy’ boot prints leading from the chimney place to the tree where our stockings are kept. (Emma)
- We leave a plate of mince pies, a carrot and whiskey for santa and rudolff on Christmas Eve. (Fiona)
- Before bed, the children go out and look for the Christmas star..it’s the brightest one, (we always did that with my mum and dad as children!) and they know Father Christmas is on his way! (Kerry)
- Christmas Eve we always had a birthday cake for baby Jesus and opened the nativity and set it up. We always sang happy birthday after it was all set up. We did this while our kids were young and when they began giving us our grand babies. (Barbara)
- We set out a ‘flight path’ of tea lights in jam jars for Santa to find his way (1st time was 9 yrs ago, as we moved on 20th dec & our 5yr old…(now 14) was worried Santa wouldn’t know where he was!) (Elizabeth)
- We decorate a tree on the hill behind our house with tinsel to guide Father Christmas to our Village, followed of course by Mince Pies and Mulled wine. On News Years Day we go for a walk and take it down!!! (Elizabeth)
- On Christmas Eve we have a Bethlehem dinner. Simple food from the region like pomegranates, olives, salmon, hummus, flatbread, crackers and cheese — pretty much all store bought. It’s a fun tradition that helps remind us of our faith, but it’s also a nice, easy dinner to help keep my stress level low! I love traditions that actually make my life easier! (Amanda- Not Just Cute)
- We go to church on Xmas eve were all the children in my parents village dress up as nativity characters, (Hannah)
Christmas Day Traditions
- Santa always hides one gift. He leaves a riddle to help the children find it. (Rachel)
- In my extended family (aunties, uncles, cousins etc) we get together Christmas day and have a Kris Kringle. The gift isn’t really the point, we write a poem or song which is read/sung and it gives clues as to who the gift is for. The person who opens the gift becomes the next gift giver and dons the santa hat while singing. (fiona)
- They would hide a bag of presents and bring them out late afternoon saying look what Father Christmas hid for you. Stopped me getting overwhelmed in morning. I loved it!! (Sarah)
- We play a game called the Dice Game : a pile of misc gifts ranging from the Dollar Store to scratch off lotto tickets. Rules: 7 and 11 you can open a gift, 5 and 9 you can steal someone else’s gift, doubles you must trade. After the last gift is open, we go around 1 more time. The trades become intense. Adults and kids love it. (Jen)
- We do what I had to do when I was little, no one is even allowed in to the front room/lounge room until they have had breakfast then up to get washed dressed and teeth cleaned, only when we are in our Sunday best are we allowed to enter together. When we first had children my husband thought this was cruel, making them wait, but at 43 I can tell you, I clearly remember the build up to the morning, the buzz and the excitement. One last thing that we do is pop a couple of small gifts on the tree itself and we don’t get to open them until supper comes out also keeping something to look forward to. So many people just ‘go for it’ Xmas morning it’s all over by 8 o’clock I plan and prepare so much I like it to last a little longer (Sally)
- A small stocking on the twelfth night, again a tradition from my granny, the elves take down the tree overnight and leave stocking with the leftovers from Santa’s sack. These are practical like a new toothbrush, socks, mugs or whatever else you need at the time (Fiona)
Keeping the Magic Alive!
- I’m a mother of 7, all grown up now. One by one, as they reached the age of “is there or isn’t there a Santa?” my answer was, “it’s the sprit of Christmas”. I tell them the story about St Nicholas, and explain his love and generosity has filled the world, and people throughout the ages have added to what it is today! Once they hear this story I ask what would you like to add ? Then, on Christmas morning they open up a snowdome of Santa, that says ‘welcome to the spirit of Christmas’ and the year it was that they became part of it. They have cherished these and it never took away the magic, it only made it grow more special. (Mickey)
Stacy @Stacy Makes Cents says
We celebrate Advent with activities instead of gifts, so thanks for this great list! I already made my list for this year, but I pinned this for good new ideas next year! 🙂
You have a lot of great ideas in here!
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What a fabulous list. My little boy is only 18 months but I can’t wait to start certain traditions with him! When I was little, we had a Christmas Eve ritual which I hope to resurrect – we would all gather round the kitchen table at around 5pm for cups of tea and the first slice of Christmas cake and my mother would produce the ‘Christmas game’ which was a new board game of some sort. Everyone (adults and children) would then sit down together and play. It was a great start to festivities and also a nice break from the hectic preparations for my mother!
Angela @outnumbered.be says
Lovely ideas, I’m going to print this post to read it offline. Antonia, I really like of the “Christmas game”. I’m also thinking to start some traditions with my kids…and I might just do that!
Every Christmas Eve, I Sellotape and pin wide wrapping paper across the living room doorway (making sure the door is wide open!), the children love bursting through it on Christmas morning to see what Father Christmas has brought. To make sure it rips open properly , rather than all comes down, I mark a serrated line down the middle with the tip of a knife.
jennifer groeber says
Your post about 50 holiday traditions inspired me to post about one holiday tradition of my own. I link back to you in my post to show people where the inspiration came from. Hope that’s okay! And for the record, my holiday tradition is that most of the ornaments on my 15 foot Christmas tree were made by me, my four young children or an ever-changing cluster of girlfriends at an annual event I call Balls and Feathers. Prosecco, glue guns and ingenuity make for wonderfully creative ornaments. Thanks for the inspiration!
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