Christmas traditions are the highlight of the holiday season for me. It brings up that feeling of nostalgia and all the memories that come with it year after year. Today I wanted to share some favorite family Christmas traditions that will hopefully inspire some new ones for you to begin! They’re all ones that you can easily start this year and continue on for decades to come!
Build An Ornament Collection
Stole this one from my friend Lauren! Every year her parents gave each of the kids an ornament so that by the time they moved out on their own, they had their very own ornament collection to bring with them! This is a great tradition to start for a baby’s first Christmas!
Alternatively, build an ornament collection as a family with a themed ornament each year!
Put Santa Hats on All Your Photos + Art
This one’s from my friend Jordy! She puts tiny Santa hats on EVERY photo and piece of art in her house. IT IS THE BEST IDEA EVER! You can find pre-made ones here and here or usually in the holiday or scrapbook section at a craft store.
Alternatively, you (or the kids) can make your own out of felt and pom poms! Just use a removable adhesive, like a glue dot or painters tape, to stick them on. It’s something so simple and hilarious that makes the house feel instantly festive.
Wrap A Box of Kid Cereal
I heard this one first from several people in my life, including our former employee Samantha! Her and her husband get a box of sugary kids cereal from her in-laws every year for Christmas! If you’re a family that doesn’t typically do the crazy kids cereals on the regular, it’s a really fun and special tradition to start that’s super budget friendly and has a built in bonus… you don’t have to think about breakfast! Just wrap up a box and pop it under the tree! 😉
Gift Holiday Candy Bags
This one’s from my mom! Every year she makes dozens and DOZENS of her signature chocolate peanut butter crispy candies. They are no-bake and insanely easy AND delicious.
She packages up a dozen of them per person and gifts them to friends, but also to everyone who she just wants to say “thank you” to for working so hard without the year, often without the thanks they deserve! She finds a little ornament or holiday figurine and ties it on there too. I used to love adding the sprinkles to the candies when I was little, and then graduated into getting to help spoon the candies into the wrappers eventually.
Send Out Holiday Cards
I love holiday photo cards, they’re so fun to receive and I love displaying the Christmas cards we get all season long. Take the opportunity to take a great family photo, or look to the collection of photos you’ve already taken and put together a collage style card! We love Minted and Artifact Uprising for cards.
Keep a copy of yours and add it to a frame you set out each year, so you gather a whole historical collection of how your family has grown and changed throughout the years!
Create A Christmas Book Advent Calendar
I first saw this idea on Anna’s blog and several of you have mentioned it to me recently! Wrap up one holiday book for each day of December and add a number to it. Every night, the kiddos get to unwrap a book to read before bed! It’s great because you can use the same books over and over, just change up the order and there’s still a super fun guessing/surprise element! Pro tip (that one of you gave me): Re-wrap them up when you pack away all your holiday decor so they’re ready to go when December rolls around again! I think we’re going to start this next year.
You can find our favorite holiday books here!
Gift A Christmas Book Commemorating The Year
Another book one, perfect for remembering a baby’s first Christmas or any childhood Christmas! Pick out a special Christmas (or really any) book for your child and write a note in the cover talking about the year. Any highlights, their favorite things, a funny memory, something hilarious they said, whatever strikes your fancy! It’s really fun to have those notes to look back on and, again, it’s something you could pass down as your kids start their own families. It also helps to build up the books for the advent calendar above. Ha!
Wear Family Pajamas
We started this last year and I loved it. On Christmas Eve we all get new matching Christmas pajamas and wear them that night. Then we spend all of Christmas day in them!!!!! It’s so simple but really fun.
Here’s a ton of cute Christmas pajamas, for kids and for the whole family, to check out!
Make A Traditional Christmas Brunch
Every year on Christmas morning, my mom makes an egg bake and coffee cake and serves it alongside bagels, fruit salad and mimosas. So, so simple but it is my FAVORITE meal of the year… because it’s tradition and it signifies Christmas morning beginning! I only eat that egg bag and that coffee cake on Christmas and it’s just the freaking best. Pick an item or two and make it one of those things that you only make on Christmas. (A friend of mine makes cinnamon rolls with her fam on Christmas, so there’s another idea too!)
Turn Your Kitchen Cabinets into Presents
I’m now the third generation of my family to continue this tradition on! Kitchens are a hard place to add holiday decor… until now! Try wrapping your cabinets like presents!! It is a HUGE hit with kids, and I can guarantee they’ll all walk over, mesmerized, to see if the cabinets can still open. Haha!
Learn how to wrap your cabinets like Christmas presents!
Start an Ornament Exchange
Instate an ornament exchange with someone close to you, a friend or spouse. Be sure to mark the year on each one so you can chronicle the collection as it grows when you decorate year after year.
Send An Ornament-Gram
There is NOTHING better than a cheesy homemade picture ornament. We call them “ornament-grams” and send one out each year from our son to grandparents and close family/friends.
These popsicle stick gingerbread house ornaments are a pretty cute option.
Match With A Family for the Holidays
More important than anything else to us is knowing that the holidays should be more about giving than receiving. My family for as long as I can remember has found a local organization to work with to help provide Christmas gifts for others.
Find a local organization in your area and reach out to see if there’s a family you can partner with to help fulfill their Christmas list that year.
Make a Christmas Village
This is a crafty tradition to build year after year. Create a Christmas Village out of birdhouses from the craft store. It’s SUPER easy and you can get the whole family (or all your friends!) involved. We add a new house every year and display them on our bookshelves.
Do A Christmas Lights Tour… In Your PJs
This is actually something we spontaneously decided to start for Halloween but works for Christmas too! Pick a random night in December and find an extra festive neighborhood in your area. Before bed, have everyone get in their PJs (and coats obviously where applicable, ha!) and load up in the car to go on a little bedtime tour of Christmas lights!!
You can even do a holiday scavenger hunt while you’re out!
Have A Signature Tree Decorating Song or Show
We watch the NYC Ballet’s version of The Nutcracker every year while we decorate our tree. It feels like a true grand opening of the holiday season and it’s such a special time for our family to go through our ornaments while hearing the beautiful sounds of the orchestra in the background!
I even made a Sugar Plum Fairy tree topper for us as a nod to the tradition!
Help The Kids Decorate A Tree Of Their Own
If you have multiple kids, sometimes it’s nice to carve out a little one-on-one time and this is the perfect thing. Pick out an inexpensive faux mini tree that is ALL theirs and lives in their room. Then, give them a budget and take them on an adventure to pick out decorations of their very own.
Together, just you (and your spouse) and your kiddo, can decorate the tree each year! No siblings allowed! It’s something really special and surely something they’ll always remember.
Now, I’d love to hear yours!! Tell me below if you have any good holiday and Christmas traditions. It’s SO fun hearing what other people do for the holidays! Hope some of these inspired you to start something new this year!
One ornament tradition that we have (that I got from my mom) is to buy an ornament every time we go on a trip. Decorating the tree is then a trip down memory lane of all the places we’ve visited together. I love it.
This year is our first with baby, so I want to start a tradition of making a photo ornament of him each year as well. I’m still up in the air or whether I should order one from a photo service or try to DIY…
And we want to start the Christmas book tradition as well!
I love that!!! We actually grabbed an ornament when we were in Mexico earlier this year so now I’m like hmm.. maybe we should do that too!
Faith M says
We do this, too! My husband and I have lived in 4 different countries throughout our 4 years of marriage, and this was the first year we had a Christmas tree, and the first time we finally put up the ornaments we’ve been bringing with us from country to country. I love seeing all the ornaments from our travels!!!
A tip for when you travel to countries where it’s not easy finding Christmas ornaments (like some places in Asia, where I’m from): Buy keychains and make them into ornaments!
Some of ours that are not mentioned here:
Christmas Eve we get together, have hot cocoa and cookies, read the birth of Christ, sing hymns and open one gift.
We take the children of the church Christmas caroling at nursing homes.
Like your mom, we bake for the neighbors and the kids help me deliver.
We listen to Pentatonix Christmas CD on repeat!
This will be the first year we do a book advent and I am so excited about it!
Aw I love that you do caroling!! We went caroling once and it was SO fun! Hope to do it again sometime!
We ALWAYS watch Christmas Vacation on Christmas Eve. The adults in the family (all of us now) do a secret santa for stockings, so during the movie people sneak away to fill the stocking they have. But hearing my dad’s genuine laugh during Chevy Chase’s “Hap-Hap-Happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap danced with Danny F***ing Kaye” line will never get old!
ahhh this is the best!!
I’m not the first to think of this, but it’s a fun continuation of the ornament tradition. I like to buy an ornament for the kids that corresponds with the costume they wore for Halloween. One year my daughter was Dorothy and I gave her a ruby red slipper ornament. This year we were the Incredibles family so everyone is getting their Incredibles character ornament. It’s a fun way to reinforce those sweet memories of the best parts of childhood! I also just love collecting memorable, personal Christmas ornaments!!
I’m OBSESSED with this idea.
I came here to same the same thing! I do an ornament for my son that represents his Halloween costume and make sure to write the year on it. I make his costumes so if I’m really on my game, I make the ornament at the same time.
Because we live in south Florida it doesn’t get that cold during the holidays so we get our warm clothes (scarves, hats, jackets),crank up the AC in the Car and get hot chocolate to go look at Christmas Lights in the area!
OMG that’s so fun!!!!!!!
I love these!
On Christmas Eve Each year since I was a child my dad would light a fire, and we would make hot cocoa. While the Cocoa was heating (homemade of course), the kids would open a Christmas Eve present (Christmas pjs! Matching if possible) we’d all change into our pjs, and then pick a Christmas story that my dad would read to us by the fire. It was such a simple thing, but we all loved it sooo much. One of the very few times we were all together.
Afterward, we’d set out cookies and milk for Santa (that were baked together earlier that day usually), and then my younger brothers and sisters would all camp out in my room with sleeping bags and pillows! So much fun!
Christmas morning after opening gifts, we’d all sit and watch Christmas movies through the day. 🙂
Now that I have a son and family of my own, we are continuing the traditions from my family. This is why I believe Christmas Eve and day should be saved for home – so you can share these kinds of traditions with your family.
Last year we saw that viral video of this family playing a game where they stand in a circle and one person tries to roll doubles with a pair of dice while the person to their right puts on oven mits and a Santa hat and tries to open a tightly wrapped package, once they roll doubles it’s their turn to try and open the package and it goes round until someone opens the gift.
Last year I just put a slip of paper that said “Bragging Rights” and I’m thinking I’m going to make the prize a silly ornament. Either way it was such a fun way to get everyone together and laughing. I got some Christmas themed ovenmits so they look festive too.
I think we were calling it “slippery mittens”
These are all wonderful ideas! We do some of these and I’d love to add some more to our list of traditions! One of our favorite traditions is our Christmas card scrapbook. We always send out a photo card, so the year we got married we bought one of those big 12×12 scrapbooks. Every year we add one page, we stick our picture card in there along with whatever else we have (kids Santa picture, family jammies picture, etc). We also jot down a few of the highlights from the year around the pictures. So much fun to look back at and gets more fun each year!
I love so many of these ideas. One Christmas tradition that is so special to me is stockings! My mom would put in necessities! Lol razors, hair ties, new hairbrush, etc which at the time, when you’re like 11, is not very flashy (she would dress it up a bit with fruity scented shaving cream lol) but as I got older it was THE best to have those items replenished by mom. Also, she’d put in an orange from the backyard tree (we’re in Cali too 😉) and as an adult I can confidently say it is not officially Christmas morning unless I’ve had my orange.
Kimberly Wolfe says
Every year at Thanksgiving with my family, my parents, siblings, children and now grandchildren we do an ornament exchange. Everyone brings and ornament, we draw numbers and you pick a box to open or you can steal someones. It’s so much fun! And then year after year when you decorate the tree you have stories about who brought the ornament, who you took it away from and such.
I’ve started the tradition of making ornaments each year. We take our son to see Santa and take their picture. Then we use that photo to make an ornament by sinking it in resin. We make 3 of the same ornament. One to keep and one for each of his grandparents!
On Christmas Eve every year, my mom would make lasagna (which she only makes once a year, so it’s super special, just like your brunch!) then, after dinner we would pile in the car and go look at Christmas lights. Which, mysteriously mom or dad would always forget something inside after we’d get in the car and would have to run back inside really quickly. Then, when we came back, there would be two packages on the front porch, one for me, one for my brother. The “elves” made a special trip to leave us jammies. One of my favorite memories/traditions. 😀
How fun! My favorite tradition we do is our “Grinch Day” We watch both movies, make “Grinch popcorn” (dye white chocolate with green food coloring, cover the popcorn and add red candies) and also read the book with our stuffed Grich character. (Usually our elf brings all the supplies) 🙂
Aolkil Laskai says
We play a month long game of “Where’s Rudolph”. Starting the day after Thanksgiving one person hides a red ball somewhere in the house and everyone else tries to find it. Whoever finds it hides it the next day. The ball we use is a soft plastic one from the dollar tree and is of course red to represent Rudolph’s nose. When we first started playing we kept it pretty easy, a few specific rooms (common/living areas only) and it needed to be hidden in plain sight. Now that the kiddo is in Middle School we can make it a little more challenging. It’s a simple and inexpensive way to keep the fun going all season long!
we have a family gingerbread house competition every year, and it so fun!
This tradition in my family started really organically and none of us really remember how it started but it’s all of our favorite. We put forward different countries into a hat and select one for Christmas Eve. We make a meal from that country and learn about their holiday traditions. We’ve done Japan, Greece, Brazil, Morocco, France, England, Denmark (my heritage), the Philippines, and so many more! My dad is an excellent, adventurous cook and we had some amazing, as authentic as possible meals! We all helped in the kitchen. I plan to continue this tradition with my children because it has fostered in me such a love and respect of different cultures.
I love all of these! We also buy an ornament on our trips so we can always have a memory and a time in the year to remember all those trips. What my husband and I started doing since we moved in together is to, on the day that the Christmas tree goes up, make a batch of chocolate chip cookies, put on Frank Sinatra carols and dance around the living room all afternoon, when that is done it is time to watch Home Alone.
Such a great post and lovely comments!
In Denmark where we live there are so many old traditions. But one of the newer ones that I enjoy with my three kids is kind of like the “elf on a shelf”. We put up a doll house door somewhere in the house. The story is that it is the magical entrance for our little house elf. The elf then writes letters and might do “naughty”, magic things like making the milk green (we help with food coloring).
An old one which many non-Danes find funny is that on Christmas Eve we walk hand in hand around the Christmas tree caroling. Everybody does this! Christmas Eve is also when we exchange gifts.
OMG, I love this so much! I love Christmas traditions and didn’t realize how many I had until I typed them out. In 2020, the tradition I’ve decided to add is Jolabokaflod, which is apparently an Icelandic tradition where they spend Christmas Eve drinking hot chocolate and reading new books. The last two years we had friends over for soup and grilled cheese so this will be a nice way to celebrate now.
Same with us! I remember a big Christmas morning breakfast with all of the fixings. One of my favorite memories (and also breakfast is so easy to do ahead of time.)
For presents, we do the something to wear, something to play with (X2) and something to read plus we go all out on stockings. We also do a trail of small somethings leading from the bedrooms to the Christmas tree to build the anticipation (this year it will be animals in Safari Toobs.) We also do the Christmas book advent, which is so meaningful to me as I’d wanted to do that for years and started collecting the books when I was infertile. Each year, it’s amazing reminder how lucky I am to have kids.
I know someone else mentioned this but we collect a Christmas tree ornament from everywhere we visit (often just a keychain we turn into an ornament), which is such an amazing way to remember trips). As kids, we always used to play “I spy…” with the Christmas ornaments.
My husband and I love listening to David Sedaris Santaland Diaries.
We’ve done the Christmas Lights tour each year but my son has never been super into it. Maybe this year?
My husband and I have done a gingerbread house each year, even before we had kids.
Last year, I made salt dough ornaments with my son and am planning on doing it again this year. I am planning so many Christmas crafts this year and am planning on having my son make his grandparents and cousins snow globes as presents this year.
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Lewis Hartman says
Many of these concepts appeal to me. Stockings are one of my favorite Christmas traditions! My mother would include basics! Lol razors, hair ties, new hairbrushes, fireboy and watergirl, etc., which at the time, when you’re like 11, isn’t that fancy, but as I grew older, having those goods refilled by mom was the nicest.
Pansy Gertz says
Interesting and clear exposition. Thank you