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These 32 family Christmas traditions are some of my very favorites to make the holiday season extra special, especially for kids! Read on for some unique, creative ideas you might not have thought of.
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It’s no doubt that 2020 has been a different kind of year.
Being strong armed into quarantine and not seeing family for several months made many people I know rethink the value of family and the importance of priotizing the people who mean a lot to you.
Christmas is going to be a little extra sweet this year.
Use some of our favorite Christmas traditions to increase the magic for your family this year!
Unforgettable Christmas Traditions For An Unforgettable Season
1) Decorate early.
Before you shoot me down for this one, hear me out! There is something to this. I’ve done it both ways.
When I decorate after Thanksgiving, I use up one of my very limited weekends between Thanksgiving and Christmas to do it.
When I do it early, it gives me more time to get everything put up and boxes put away, then after Thanksgiving, when I’m ready to enjoy it, it’s already done!
It makes me feel less rushed and like I have more time to actually enjoy the season.
2) Let the kids help put the tree up.
One of my fondest memories of Christmas as a little girl was putting up the tree with my mom. It almost always to the Blue Christmas album by Elvis, then later to Family Force 5 as we got a little more modern in our music taste.
But the point was it was together. Goofing off, amidst the clutter of Christmas boxes, out came a little bit of Christmas sparkle and magic that isn’t there any other time of the year.
Did I get in her way as a kid? I’m sure I did, but I didn’t know it at the time, because in my miniature mind, I was helping by hanging ornament after ornament 4 feet off the ground and leaving the top half bare.
So last year, I started letting my girls be a part of it even though technically, they were still a little young. They don’t know that I went behind them and hung ornaments up higher than they put them.
They don’t know their foam ornaments with four crooked eyeballs looked goofy.
All they know is they were a part of it, and I hope that’s something they remember from their childhood one day when it’s just a memory.
Don’t forget the candy canes!
3) Put out something from your grandparents.
It was probably a few years ago when I realized how many of my childhood memories are centralized on Christmas traditions. I didn’t realize how much I remembered until many of the things I remember weren’t a part of the season anymore.
I remember being a child and absolutely loving this little musical thing my grandma had.
It was an ice skating ring with a mirror that you wound up like a music box and it played music while Mr. and Mrs. Claus skated in circles on it.
I would do it over and over. It was enchanting to me.
Grandma went to be with Jesus about four years ago, and now I have that little music box, and it’s dear to me because of the sentiment it has attached to it.
4) Go see Christmas lights.
We try to do this every year! Something about Christmas lights is absolutely enchanting. Whether it’s a drive through, a walk through, a zoo or something in between, it’s bound to be gorgeous.
Fact: you can’t look at Christmas lights and not be happy.
5) Make homemade gingerbread houses.
This was a new thing my mom and I had the idea to do after we saw a video on Tasty and we loved the idea.
So we went for it.
I’m not going to lie to you, they are tricky to bake. I recommend having a baking day a week or two before you’re ready to actually decorate them. The good news is their hard enough knock someone out with, so you could make them months ahead if you wanted to. 😂
This is the recipe we used. Pro tip: watch the video nine times before attempting. Just trust me.
6) Make homemade hot chocolate.
There is something way more magical about homemade hot chocolate than instant.
I found an easy and delicious Crockpot recipe from Mrs. Happy Homemaker several years ago that we loved. It is very sweet, so I usually cut it with extra milk or use less sweetened condensed milk (especially for kids since they have no off switch when something tastes good).
7) Watch tons of Christmas movies while drinking hot chocolate and popcorn.
One of my kids’ favorite things is watching a movie with hot chocolate and popcorn. Some of our favorites are:
- Dr. Suess’s How The Grinch Stole Christmas
- Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tales
- I Want A Dog For Christmas, Charlie Brown
- The Star
- The Santa Claus Collection
- Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas
- Curious George: A Very Monkey Christmas
- Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
- Veggie Tales: Merry Larry and the True Light of Christmas
8) Decorate Christmas cookies.
Something about Christmas cookies just feels so festive! I love baking sugar cookies and giving the kids some icing and sprinkles and letting them go to town.
As long as you’re not planning on taking the cookies anywhere. 😂
9) Read Christmas stories every night of December before bed (or the 12 days leading up to Christmas)
I might actually have enough Christmas books in my arsenal to do this now, but I started with 12 for a “12 Days of Christmas Books” situation.
Here are some of our favorites:
- Bear Stays Up for Christmas (This one is my personal favorite)
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas
- ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas
- Pete the Cat Saves Christmas – I absolutely love Pete the Car books! He is always so kind and has a sweet attitude. They show Mom doing everything Dad does (like changing tires) and he’s so nice to everyone. Pete is a great example for kids!
- Christmas in the Manager
- Welcome, Baby Jesus
- Llama Llama Jingle Bells
- The Berenstein Bears and the Joy of Giving
Pro tip: After Christmas, put the books up until the following year so they feel different and are more of a treat.
10) Read the Christmas story from Luke 2.
It’s an absolute must to me to teach our kids the true meaning of Christmas. The festivities, gift giving and everything else is fun; but we wouldn’t have any of it if it wasn’t for Jesus.
This is my favorite translation of the Christmas story.
11) Allow as much time as possible for festivities on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
We are so blessed to have several family Christmas celebrations to attend. That also means it can feel rushed.
We started doing our Christmas morning at home as a family on Christmas Eve morning because we go to my Mom’s on Christmas Eve in the early evening, and it has become a favorite Christmas tradition.
Since we go to Joey’s grandma’s on Christmas day early in the day, doing our Christmas morning at home on Christmas Eve gives us more time to let the kids play and enjoy their new things without having to hurry and get ready to go shortly after.
12) Listen to tons of traditional Christmas music.
I’m a sucker for Christmas music. I love modern music from Family Force 5, Carrie Underwood, and Michael Buble, but the older stuff can be nostalgic.
Telling Alexa to play Christmas music usually gives a good mix.
13) Get a new Christmas ornament every year to make a memory tree.
When Joey and I were dating or newly married, we started getting Christmas ornaments.
It wasn’t even conscious, but we did this every year until it felt like a Christmas tradition.
Now I love it because as we put up the tree, we end up talking about all these amazing memories we have and things we have done.
My collection now includes ornaments from vacations, things the kids have made, things I made as a kid, and ornaments from my grandma.
Realizing how blessed you are and remembering things fondly is a truly beautiful way to approach the conclusion of and beginning of another year.
14) Let kids put up lights or decorations in their room(s).
When Sophia was a baby, I started putting a 3 foot tree in her room. It was Minnie Mouse themed because that’s what her room was done in.
Now she and Ella share a room, and they love putting candy canes or ornaments they made on their own little tree. I don’t know if I’ll be able to trust them not to eat them this year, but we’ll see. 😂
Going to sleep next to the light of the Christmas tree is so special to them.
15) Visit Santa.
I am not that parent to think it’s hysterical to let my child scream in the lap of someone they don’t know and aren’t comfortable with for a picture, but if they are comfortable, I have always given them the option to have a picture with Santa.
I’ve also stood beside Santa and held her if she was not comfortable.
The right to say no when it comes to their bodies is important to their protection from abuse 365 days a year.
16) Make boxes for Operation Christmas Child.
This organization is so near and dear to my heart! It has become a Christmas tradition to send several boxes every year, and I always try to pack awesome ones.
This incredible organization sends shoeboxes stuffed with gifts to less fortunate children all over the world, tell them about the love of Jesus, and give them resources to succeed (to skim the surface).
- Many people pack boxes simply because an organization asked them to (church, school, etc.) – which means they are sometimes left pretty empty because they’re not from the heart. You can help with this by donating boxes of filler items.
- If you can’t afford to pack a box, you can volunteer at distribution centers year-round or volunteer to organize a group at your church! There are tons of resources available – and they will send many of them to you for free! Giving of your time is free!
- There are tons of resources to make homemade items to include in your boxes.
- You can save as much space as possible by cutting off extra packaging or putting things in water bottles!
- Be sure to see the list of ideas for what to include in your shoebox, as well as what not to pack.
- The “Follow Your Box Option” is a must! Proceeds go towards shipping and allow you to see what country your box goes to! Unfortunately, everyone does not opt to pay this additional fee, so you can also make donations towards it here!
- The toddler category has the most received boxes, and the teenager category has the least.
- We love to include a hand-written letter, family photo and invitation to write us! We haven’t received a letter yet, but I’m hopeful that one day we will. Maybe this year!
17) Bless an animal shelter, children’s hospital, homeless shelter, or nursing home.
One thing that is a must to me all year, but especially at this time of year, is remembering those who might not have anyone else.
Making it a Christmas tradition in your family to remember those who don’t feel seen will give new meaning to Christmas in your family.
18) Wrap up small gifts as well as bigger ones.
This is going to sound ridiculous, but last year me and Joey literally wrapped up super small things for the kids to open. We’re talking a banana, Jiffy cornbread, and a few other small goofy things.
We cracked up laughing at how delighted they were with a cornbread mix!
The older they get, the less thrilling cornbread or a banana would be; but the point we were trying to make here was to be grateful for any gift you receive. And it worked.
19) Have a focus on memory making for gifts.
This is always a must in our home. The older they are, the harder it is getting to limit gifts, but we always aim to at least do a mix of memory and non-toy gifts with toys.
If you need some ideas for non-toy gifts, you just might love this!
20) Do Christmas Eve boxes.
I wish I could remember the first place I saw this idea to give credit, but it was literally years ago. Probably before I had kids, but I thought the idea was so cool and it stuck with me.
I started this with Sophia was a baby. I got them some adorable Christmassy boxes at none other than Hobby Lobby, and every year on our Christmas Eve at home (which is actually Christmas Eve Eve), they get their box; usually after decorating cookies.
In ours I have included:
- New Christmas jammies
- Fuzzy socks
- Fuzzy blankets
- A hot chocolate packet
- Christmas Oreos
- A new Christmas movie
- Christmas book
- Christmas coloring books and crayons
- Baby toys or passies if they are little
- A little foam kit to make an ornament
They always get so excited about opening their boxes, and it’s just a fun way to spread the joy out a little more! Afterward, we watch their new movie, read the book, and have hot chocolate.
21) Have a small Christmas celebration at home if you’re with loved ones on Christmas Day/Eve.
Since we always go to my mom’s on Christmas Eve, we do our Christmas Eve at home a day early to allow ourselves to celebrate at home. I love having those private, small celebrations.
22) Help kids get or make gifts for loved ones.
Especially as they get older, kids love giving and there is no better time to foster a love of generosity than during the holidays! I try to do this all year, but this time is extra special.
23) Make a Christmas bucket list of things you’d love to do to enjoy the holidays.
At the beginning of every month, I make goals for the month. My December goals always include things like: bake cookies, see Christmas lights, and other Christmas traditions we love!
Get the kids in on it and have them make their own Christmas bucket lists!
24) Make and send or give out homemade Christmas cards with candy or cookies.
Ever since everything has gone electronic, handmade anything or getting actual mail seems to be going out of style because it’s always done on an email or a Facebook invite.
I am trying to keep actual mail and hand written notes alive in my house.
There is a special kind of excitement that comes when you get something in the mail that’s not a bill or junk mail.
25) Go for a drive to look at Christmas lights around neighborhoods.
This is fun, free, and kids will remember it forever.
I still remember being a child, peering out the window in the backseat of my grandma and grandpa’s Buick (that I could barely see out) to see the Christmas lights as we drove around our small town.
26) Have a special Christmas morning breakfast.
Growing up, it was always cinnamon rolls. For us, it’s always some kind of breakfast casserole and a sweet bread.
Most recently, it’s been Grandma’s Monkey Bread and some kind of tater tot casserole with eggs and sausage.
This morning calls for a special breakfast. This is a Christmas tradition that will stick with them forever – I know because it did with me!
27) Make Christmas ornaments.
Gingerbread men, dyed pasta, construction paper rings, strung popcorn, foam kits from Hobby Lobby, painting plain Christmas balls; whatever strikes your fancy.
It doesn’t have to be expensive, but they will remember it fondly.
28) Put a list of things you love about each family member in their stockings.
I do this randomly year round, but these lists always put a smile on people’s faces!
29) Do an Advent calendar.
We’re hit or miss on these, but I try! The idea is to do something small, fun and festive every night of December.
30) Visit a Christmas tree farm.
This one came from my husband’s family.
We got a real tree one year. I was 20 weeks pregnant, had a puppy, and I hated it. I think I was the Grinch reincarnate that year.
It smelled fine, but it made a mess with needles, and physically getting down to water it was much more effort than I cared to muster.
The real magic is simply picking it out and taking it home, so now we go with my husband’s parents each year and get one for the experience with kids – and none of the mess. 😂
31) Remember service workers and people that invest in your family year round.
I love leaving a thank you note and treat for our mailman and remembering people like our speech therapist, pediatrician, teachers and Sunday school teachers, pastor, and others who invest in my family all year.
Last year, “Mike the Mailman” even left us a thank you note, and it made our day!
32) Bonus: Have a small gift exchange with just you and your spouse.
This one is just for my parents out there reading this. Joey and I always try to have a small exchange with just him and me.
We usually end up doing it late at night after the house is finally quiet because Lord knows we are not going to beat the kids awake like we used to be able to.
It’s fun for us to use these simple moments to just be together, privately, and remember who we are aside from parents.
It’s important to me prioritize these moments so that we stay emotionally connected as husband and wife.