Christmas traditions carry an incredible power to touch the hearts of your family for many generations to come. The holiday traditions you embrace today just may be the ones your children choose to enjoy with their own kids one day, or their grandchildren. The meaningful plan of creating common Christmas traditions to enjoy together goes far beyond your immediate family unit this year alone.
When it comes to Christmas traditions, Covid isn’t going to mess this one up. You and your family can preserve those moments and memories for a lifetime to come. We’re looking for some new family Christmas traditions, so I started this list.
Family Christmas Traditions Bucket List
(And for super busy moms, be sure to check Thrive@Home’s Christmas traditions list for simplified fun holiday activities!)
Christmas Traditions to Start with Family
If you’re here, like me, you’re likely looking for some new Christmas family traditions to start.
Advent Calendar / Christmas Countdown
We have a festive, handmade Christmas Countdown tree that I made with our daughters between last year and this year. It’s finally complete and ready to shine!
Usually we put Hershey’s Kisses inside, but I’ve come up with 70+ fun ideas for what to put in your Christmas Countdown.
This year we’ve even got Daddy in on the fun, as we made him a Christmas Countdown Beer Calendar!
Book Advent Calendar
On that note, I’ve heard of quite a few families making Christmas traditions of book Advent calendars. Sarah at OurDailyCraft.com recommends wrapping the books in a variety of colorful papers and numbering them so your kids know which to open and when.
You can first earmark special books for certain days, such as Christmas Eve or the first night of Hanukkah. This is a lovely way to set aside some special time with your kids each day leading up to the Christmas holiday.
Obligatory Santa Photos
Sometimes I swear kids hate this holiday tradition, at least when mine were tiny, but collectively, we as parents always need the annual Santa photos! Although we’re up against Covid, Christmas photos with Santa still remain an important part of the plan.
You can still find safe Santa experiences in our area and beyond if you take a few moments to find an opportunity that meets your needs.
Getting professional photos for the holidays can be one of the best Christmas traditions every year. With this year being so different, all is not lost.
Marcie from MarcieinMommyland.com shares a ton of great tips for being your own family photographer this year, from props and locations to outfits and poses. She shares quite a few very cute pictures of her crew for inspiration and shares that even an iPhone can be just right for taking great family photos!
Holiday Ornament Tradition
This is one sweet and sentimental family Christmas tradition for parents to do for their kids. The author of DrugstoreDivas.net explains in detail how one of her mother’s annual Christmas traditions was to give each child an ornament. The ornament seemed to match up to the recipient or the year in some way – a job, a talent or hobby, etc.
Now in her adulthood, the Lisa carries on the tradition with her own husband. This is one of the most meaningful and cherished kinds of family Christmas traditions to start right now even though I have a little catching up to do with my daughters.
In a similar vein, Nicole from CoffeeandCarpool.com also picks out a special ornament for all of her kids each year. Ornaments reflect the things her children truly enjoyed or their achievements that year, and it’s always a lovely surprise to enjoy when they open the wrapped ornaments on the day they decorate their Christmas tree.
What I love even more is that the kids place these ornaments on first and then all the previous ornaments of their memories from years past join the new ones on the tree. I’m not crying, you’re crying. Yes, this is 1,000% one of those family Christmas traditions I need to start yesterday.
Baking Christmas Cookies
For years, my best friend and I hosted a holiday Cookie Bake for our circle of friends at one of our houses. This year we won’t be having it, but baking cookies in a big group of friends with wine and snacks is absolutely annual Christmas tradition material. Of course, I’m very happy to bake at home with my two wonderful bakers-in-training (daughters) and love making a fun variety of favorite Christmas cookies.
A tradition I know goes back to a friend of the family on my husband’s side is popular in some circles as well. Laura from MeAndMyInklings.com has a holiday tradition with her family making Pizzelles every year. Her husband and kids work together to make these light and delicious wafer cookies that are a tradition in his family. I’m seriously considering buying a Pizzelle maker this year to surprise my husband for Christmas…
Making a Candy Cabin
Gingerbread houses are so last year! This year is all about making a Candy Cabin with your family’s favorite sweets! The author Jaclyn over at CrayonsandCravings.com used favorite Hershey’s candies and Rice Krispie Treats to put together an adorable Candy Cabin with freshly fallen… coconut.
She and her family created this adorable holiday treat with something for everyone. It’s precious and I’m sure it’s delicious. And, probably one of those you have to see it to believe it types!
Keep the Focus on Giving
For kids these days, it’s so easy to get swept up in what they want for Christmas; what to put in the Santa letter; what to tell their grandparents they’d really like this year. While that’s all well and good, it’s an important opportunity we have as parents to remind the kids it’s a season of giving! In our family through their daddy’s work, we’ve gone to a store like Walmart or Target and picked out lots of gifts for a less fortunate child. It was a humbling experience for all of us, but especially for our girls. Adopting a child in need, helping them have a special Christmas, is more than just what money can buy.
At CoffeeandCarpool.com, Nicole shares her family tradition of heading to a discount store with her husband and kids and having everyone pick out a special gift $5 and under for each person in the family. She and her hubs have separate shopping carts to shield their kids’ holiday finds from the special recipients. The kids will also wrap these gifts and explain why they chose each one for their sibling or parent.
Such a cute and fun idea! (I remember doing the “Santa’s Secret Workshop” in my elementary school library growing up and it was great fun. I fully support special ideas like this to help the family enjoy this season of giving.
Create a Reindeer Garden
I took this family Christmas tradition from a page in my husband’s grandfather’s book. Herb used to pride himself on his little nativity set and the many small reindeer figurines he would set out every December. How I loved how his face lit up whenever he’d talk about it or show it to us. Now, together with our girls, I create our own Reindeer Garden every December in our dining room’s bay window.
We don’t have a nativity so we’ve taken to using small reindeer figurines and ornaments. Some other holiday décor inevitably makes it into our Reindeer Garden as well, especially with the little girls helping. Such a precious tradition to carry on in the honor of a loved one never forgotten!
Making Salt Dough Ornaments
Salt dough ornaments are one of our family’s longtime holiday traditions ever since my girls were born. We made penguin footprint salt dough ornaments when my oldest was about to enjoy her first Christmas. We made Santa handprints when my youngest was very young.
Now we try to make a “Ginger Bear” teddy bear figurine for each year. Once painted, dried and hardened, our Ginger Bears live in our “Reindeer Garden” which we always build in the bay window of our dining room.
Salt dough ornaments make great family Christmas traditions every year. The craft is so versatile as you can shape and decorate them so many ways!
While I’ve been so sweet on handprints and footprints along with the bears, so many other possibilities exist. Katie from GoodLifeEats.com has an incredible guide on making salt dough ornaments, complete with recipe and tips for stunning handcrafted works of art. I love her idea to add paint directly to the dough to reach your desired color, and also to use a rubber stamp to emboss the ornaments.
While we’re on the topic of handmade ornaments, let’s make special note of this timeless favorite! I still remember the scent of making cinnamon applesauce ornaments in grade school. My daughter made one at her school this year – this is a lovely tradition even different schools are carrying on. StrengthAndSunshine.com published an awesome guide on doing your own cinnamon ornaments. Be sure to give this one a try with your little ones for a fragrant and festive holiday activity.
Christmas Movie Night
So many wonderful holiday movies, so little time! Better block off a few different nights for this one. A Christmas movie night can be so much fun, but even better with a few special touches. Be sure to get the free printables from Mishell at PrintablesFairy.com.
Her holiday movie tickets, popcorn buckets, and other goodies are just too cute to pass up. Just perfect to watch ELF, the Grinch or another family holiday favorite! AND, she also shares tips to make your Christmas movie night complete!
Holiday Light Shows
This year it’ll be drive-through light shows for our crew! Every December, we do make a point to check out at least one or two of the local light shows and holiday events in our area. We’ve loved seeing Santa and various characters as we enjoy the breathtaking light displays. You can enjoy drive-thru or walk-thru holiday lights in your area with your family for an unforgettable experience despite the current health climate.
And, while you’re driving around looking at the holiday lights, you can easily keep your kids occupied with this fun scavenger hunt from Laura at MeAndMyInklings.com.
Holiday Scent in the Home
As a child, the scent of bayberry always meant Christmas. It was magical and just always there. Until one day when I found it – a melted, misshapen candle that must’ve not liked the heat in the attic. I still love bayberry scent in the holiday season, but I’m also delighted by warm vanilla, cinnamon, and evergreen, and other festive fragrances.
Ally from SweetandSavoryFood.com shares a fantastic recipe for a holiday home fragrance you can simmer on your stovetop. Scents of citrus, cinnamon, cloves, and evergreen mingle and create the warmest ambiance. Best of all, you can strain the contents into a mason jar and store in the fridge for a second steeping within the next few weeks.
Christmas Eve Family Traditions
Christmas Eve traditions in our home look like this: Christmas Eve church service (which very likely this year will be live-streamed), eating Christmas Eve dinner together, making Christmas cookies, setting cookies and milk out for Santa, and spending time together as a family in some special way – reading holiday books, playing with the train under the tree, or maybe something I’m forgetting. This year I’m excited to consider adding other special Christmas Eve traditions to our family’s list.
Christmas Eve Box Tradition
I simply could not love this Christmas Eve tradition any more than I do! Jennifer of HealthyHappyImpactful.com shares a wonderful idea of a Christmas Eve surprise box for the family to open. Inside will be special and wonderful items like new holiday pajamas, hot chocolate and marshmallows, other snacks or treats, a book, a new family game, and so forth. I love this idea so much for so many reasons.
I’m definitely glad to bookmark it right here on my family Christmas traditions list and will come back to it when it gets a little closer to Christmas eve.
Making Reindeer Treats
My girls always leave out carrots for Santa’s reindeer. I am only just now learning that there’s an actual recipe out there for Reindeer treats! Laura from MeAndMyInklings.com offers an insta-worthy and simple recipe to make your own special reindeer treats to sprinkle on your lawn on Christmas Eve.
I am sure if we do this once, my kids are going to want to do it every single year – nothing wrong with that except, have you seen my five-year-old with sprinkles?!? It’s like confetti! I’ll probably go ahead with it but let’s make sure we do our sugar cookies first, just in case!
Christmas Day Family Traditions
For us, Christmas Day usually involves a photo before going downstairs, followed by the joyful unwrapping of gifts. Our dog is known to find her presents on her own, and even last year sneakily ate 90% of her new bag of treats before getting caught. We have a nice Christmas breakfast (and sometimes I sneak a Christmas cookie – Shh!). The kids (and hubby) get to play with their toys and then we pack up the car and head to whichever grandparents’ house it is this year.
Unfortunately, Covid Christmas is going to be a bit lonelier this year. We will be enjoying the precious time at home by ourselves, just the four of us plus Moko. We’ll look to Zoom with our families at some point, but since this is such a weird year, it makes sense to look for some new family Christmas traditions, too.
Our family leaves our Christmas stockings for the end of the night, after we get home from visiting. I heard our daughter telling her friend this, and the friend was flabbergasted. “Why do you wait until the end of the night?!” She asked in disbelieve. I heard my daughter tell her proudly that, “My mom wants us to have something fun to do at the end of the day before we go to bed.” And my heart swells knowing my kids see me doing these things for them!
Each family has its own Christmas tradition when it comes to stockings. Shirley from IntelligentDomestications.com shares that her family’s stockings all stay at the home of the person hosting the holiday. The stocking tradition dates back 40 years to the first grandchild at the time. Each year, everyone looks forward to seeing what’s inside their stockings, and sometimes the stockings are so fun that they take the place of more traditional gifts for the adults. I get it! We love our Christmas stockings too, and so do our parents, so our kids get to enjoy double the fun!
Stretching out Gift Opening Leading up to Christmas
If you’d rather keep the focus on Christ for Christmas Day, you have some options. In one suggestion from SavingTalents.com, you can space things out a bit more comfortably. Rather than going for a full minimalist Christmas, you can start the present opening for your kids earlier in December and open one per child per day across several days. This way you can still spoil your kids appropriately and still have a meaningful Christmas.
Family Christmas Traditions for Adults
Adults should also get in on the action! Check out these fun family Christmas traditions for adults.
My husband and his brothers do an annual movie exchange. They each buy two movies (usually Blu-ray now, but they used to get DVDs back in the day). They each get two movies back (that they didn’t purchase), and it’s great fun to see what everyone picked out and received. Some year’s they’ve had duplicates of movies and simply traded once everything was unwrapped – it’s always a lot of fun and a cool tradition for brothers to enjoy. This would of course work equally well for sisters, coworkers, friends, or other family members!
I swear this is my first time thinking of this, but I accidentally overheard it on a happy hour Zoom and loved it! Apparently, someone in our circle has a family tradition of hiding beers around the house on Christmas Day. Then they and their adult family members go around, find all the beers, and drink them! It’s pretty random, sure, but genius if you ask me. After the ridiculous year we’ve had, count me in after our kids are in bed.
The ones for adults may be some of the most unique family Christmas traditions, and I look forward to peppering some of them into our holidays.
Remember, the best family Christmas traditions are the ones you create together. And of course, the ones you keep. Please share any fun suggestions in our comments below. Warm wishes for a happy holiday season!