Whether you’re anything like me and love holidays and traditions, or you’re looking for some Christmas traditions to start, look no further! Here is a list of over 75 festive holiday traditions.
Having traditions is important for a variety of reasons. They help create lasting memories, give us something to look forward to, and bring people together.
The traditions you start with your family becomes part of your heritage. Children in particular find the predictability of those holiday traditions comforting.
This list of Christmas traditions includes both classic and unique ideas, ways to give back, and suggestions for spending time with your kids and friends.
You may also like:
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- 75 Winter Bucket List to Help You Enjoy the Season More
Feel free to bookmark this page to refer back to throughout the holiday season. Or pin it to Pinterest to share with your family and friends!
Christmas Traditions to Start This Year
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Unique Christmas Traditions
Here are some holiday traditions that you may not have tried before. Let me know if you can think of any others!
1. Create a holiday bucket list – Write down the traditions you want to try or start this season.
2. Make a small gift for the women in your family – Whether it’s a craft, salt scrub, or homemade goodies, something you spend time on can mean a lot.
3. Holiday Nights – If you live (or can travel too) Greenfield Village in Michigan, you simply must check out Holiday Nights! It’s like celebrating Christmas in the 1800s, and there’s just nothing else like it.
4. Decorate your bedroom – Get some festive Christmas bedding and feel extra cozy in the room you spend the most time in.
5. Send funny or silly Christmas cards – In place of the traditional family holiday photo card, take a funny picture to send this year.
6. Make homemade Christmas cards – There is so much fun holiday scrapbook paper and washi tape at Michael’s. Make some Christmas cards instead of buying them.
8. Thrift store Christmas – If you’re on a budget this year, or just love thrift store shopping, consider buying all your gifts and decorations from the thrift store. (Related: 27 Thrift Store Shopping Tricks You Should Try)
9. Cut down your own Christmas tree – Go out to a Christmas tree farm and chop down your very own tree.
10. Christmas diary – Keep a notebook where you write down what new traditions you started, and details about each Christmas. It’ll be so fun to look back on.
11. Visit a live nativity – Many churches have live Nativity scenes on the weekends before Christmas.
12. Camp out near the Christmas tree – Pull out your sleeping bags or Aerobed, and have a ‘sleepover’ in your living room by your lit tree.
13. Take a picture every year in front of the tree – Using the same pose, snap a photo of your family each year in the same spot. It will be so cool to observe how everyone changes throughout the years.
14. Forget gifts and go on a vacation instead – Save what you would have spent on cluttery presents, and take your family on a memorable trip. Just like in Christmas with the Kranks, which is based on one of my favorite holiday books.
15. Go to a Christmas concert – Whether you spring for Trans-Siberian Orchestra tickets or attend one at a local high school, a concert is a great way to get into the holiday spirit.
16. Color in a Christmas coloring book – Coloring in a holiday coloring book is a soothing way to unwind during the hectic season.
17. Christmas pickle – Do you know about the pickle ornament tradition? An ornament shaped liked a pickle is hidden in the tree, and the person who finds it gets a prize.
18. Listen to The Christmas Chronicles – Read or listen to The Christmas Chronicles throughout December. (Get it for free, plus a 30 day Audible Free Trial here!)
19. Christmas around the world – Research holiday traditions around the world, and try out some new Christmas foods or customs.
20. New Year’s predictions jar – After Christmas dinner, have everyone write down what they predict will happen throughout the following year, and put them in a jar. Next Christmas, you can look through the predictions and see if they came true.
Classic Christmas Traditions
You can’t go wrong with the traditional Chritmas activities. Here are some to consider adding to your repertoire.
1. Movie marathon – Have a cozy night in and watch a few holiday movies. The Santa Clause series would be a fun choice. Or check out this list of the 35 best Christmas Movies.
3. Take a drive to look at Christmas lights – Start a new Christmas tradition of driving around looking at holiday lights. You could wear pajamas and drink hot chocolate, or do a scavenger hunt.
4. Parade or festival in your town – There’s probably some festive activities right near where you live.
5. New ornament every year – Each of your family members could pick out a new ornament for the tree. You’ll enjoy looking back and reminisce throughout the years when you decorate, and see how each person’s taste have changed. These personalized ornaments would also be a great idea.
6. Cookie exchange – A super fun Christmas tradition to start would be a cookie exchange. That way you only have to make one kind of cookie, but end up with a huge variety!
7. Decorate sugar cookies – Whether you host a little cookie decorating party or just enjoy doing it yourself, decking out sugar cookies doesn’t have to be complicated or fancy. GFS even sells already shaped cut-out sugar cookies to make life easier.
8. Read Christmas books – Don’t forget to read your favorite holiday books!
9. Make a Christmas playlist – Compile a list of your favorite holiday songs and listen to them throughout the season.
10. Go Christmas caroling – You could raise money for charity or just do it for fun.
11. Read the Christmas story in the bible – In the second chapter of Luke, the story of the birth of Jesus is told in verses 1-20.
12. Go to a tree lighting ceremony – Many cities or organizations host a tree lighting ceremony that could make you feel more festive.
Christmas Traditions to Start With Kids
Holiday traditions can be particularly meaningful to children. They will look forward to them every year, and talk about them when they’re adults.
1. Video from Santa – Sign up to have Santa send your child a personalized video!
2. Let them have their own little tree – Consider letting your kids have a Christmas tree in their room or play area. Hobby Lobby and other stores have adorable little trees with mini ornaments and decorations.
3. Elf on the Shelf – Kids love the Elf on the Shelf tradition.
5. Special cookies for Santa plate – Get a special ‘Cookies for Santa’ plate and cup set. Your child will look forward to setting it out year after year!
6. Santa gifts only on Christmas morning – If Christmas morning feels really hectic, consider giving your kids the gifts from you on Christmas Eve, and leave Christmas morning for Santa gifts.
7. Let your kids shop at the dollar store – Take your children to the dollar store, and let them pick out gifts for their loved ones.
8. Help them donate – Have your kids go through their toys beforehand and collect clothes and toys to donate. They’ll feel good about helping others, and create more space for the new items they’re sure to receive.
9. Reindeer mix – Don’t forget the reindeer on Christmas Eve. Try making this ‘reindeer bait’ and sprinkle it in the yard to encourage Santa’s sleigh to stop at your house.
10. Letter to Santa – Help your child write a letter to Santa each year.
11. Want, wear, need, read gifts – If you want to simplify Christmas this year, consider streamlining your child’s gifts down to 4: something they want, something to wear, something they need, and something to read.
12. Breakfast with Santa – Local places often host a Breakfast with Santa event. It might be a more memorable way for your kids to visit Santa.
13. Christmas handprint gift – Help your child make a Christmas craft with their handprint. It can be a gift for lifelong keepsake.
14. Write a letter to your kids each year – Every year you could write a letter to your child, and save them to reflect back on. As adults, they will be really meaningful to your kids.
Giving back traditions
When things are going well for you, it’s so easy to forget that the holiday season is not as joyous for those going through a hard time. Here are some traditions you could start that involve giving back to those who aren’t feeling quite as blessed.
1. Bring cookies to a fire station – Bake some Christmas goodies and drop them off to your local firefighters.
2. Caroling at retirement home – The folks who live in retirement or nursing homes absolutely love having visitors, especially when those visitors are entertaining!
3. Sponsor a child or family – You could sponsor a child through an organization like World Vision, or ‘adopt’ a local family and buy their Christmas gifts this year.
4. Special Christmas morning breakfast – One of the easiest Christmas traditions to start is to make the same delicious breakfast on Christmas morning. We like to have quiche and coffee cake. : )
5. Random acts of kindness – Similar to the Kindness Elves above, you can spend December performing acts of kindness for strangers or loved ones.
6. Ring Salvation Army bell – Volunteer to ring the Salvation Army bell outside of stores. If you sing or act festive, people are more likely to donate.
7. Shop for toys to donate – Toys for Tots is a great organization that distributes new toys to children for Christmas. There are collection boxes in a variety of places. It’s super easy to donate!
8. Donate to a food pantry or family in need – You could go grocery shopping and donate it all to a local food pantry. Or if you personally know a family who is struggling, drop off a box of groceries on their porch.
9. Write a letter or mail a gift to troops stationed overseas – Don’t forget the troops who aren’t able to make it home for the holidays. Here are 75 military care package ideas.
10. Buy gifts for kids in the hospital – There are many children who are too sick to spend Christmas at home. Their families might not be able to afford many gifts with the mounting medical bills. Here are some ideas to get you started. Be sure to check with your local children’s hospital to find out what their specific needs are.
Advent Traditions to Start
There are a variety of ways to celebrate Advent. Here are a couple ideas to consider.
1. Advent Calendar – There’s something special about opening a little gift each day in December. Your family might love one of these:
3. Make an Advent Activity Tree – It’s a great idea, and here’s how to do it.
Christmas Eve Tradition Ideas
Whether you spend Christmas Eve quietly at home or out with family, these ideas can give you some inspiration for some new traditions to start.
1. Open one gift on Christmas Eve – You could let your family members open just one gift on Christmas Eve. It builds excitement for the next morning!
2. Watch the same movie every Christmas Eve – A tradition can be as simple as just watching the same movie or Christmas special every Christmas Eve. You’ll probably find yourself looking forward to it more than you’d think.
3. Call Santa tracker – A Christmas Eve tradition that your kids will love is to call the Santa Tracker hotline and get updates as to where Santa is on his journey.
4. Christmas pajamas – Either buy new holiday pajamas each year, or wear the same pair while you’re relaxing the night before Christmas. You can even get a matching set for the whole family!
5. Midnight mass – There’s just something so special about going to midnight mass. If you don’t prefer a mass, many churches have a candlelight Christmas Eve service.
6. Read special christmas book – Growing up, my mom always read us a Christmas book from her childhood. This Christmas Eve book seems really sweet for younger kids.
7. Game night – A Christmas Eve game night sounds so fun! You could play regular board games that you already own, or this Rudolph Christma Journey game looks like a blast!
8. Deliver treats to someone stuck at work – It’s easy to forget that some people still have to work on holidays. You could take a meal or some Christmas treats to a 24 hour store, the police department, or a hospital.
9. Make your own pizza – A fun non-traditional Christmas Eve dinner is one of the greatest Christmas traditions to start. Growing up, we would have ‘make your own pizza’ night after church. A takeout dinner or pizza night would be fun!
10. Watch The Nativity Story – It’s important to remember the real reason for the season, so watching The Nativity Story would be a meaningful way to spend Christmas Eve.
Christmas Traditions to Start With Your Friends
Don’t forget to start some new holiday traditions with your friends too!
1. Host a movie night – Start hosting an annual holiday movie night with your friends. Here are 35 of the best Christmas movies as inspiration.
2. Go to a holiday show – You could go to the movie theater to see a new holiday movie or get tickets to a ‘Broadway’ style Christmas musical like Elf or A Christmas Story.
3. Potluck brunch or appetizer party – If you don’t want to serve a traditional holiday meal to your friends, consider hosting a brunch or hors d’oeuvres party. Make it a potluck to take some of the pressure off you.
4. Ugly sweater party – An ugly sweater party is great tradition to try with your friends. There are so many funny shirts and sweaters available now, or truly ugly ones from the thrift store.
5. Friendsmas – Check out How to Throw a Fabulous Holiday Party on a Budget for ways to throw a Friendsmas party this year.
6. Go gift shopping together – Since everybody has to go shopping for gifts, consider going together with a friend or two. Catch up with each other and cross some gifts off your list at the same time!
7. Wrap presents together – Another fun idea to increase your holiday productivity is to wrap gifts with your friends. You can swap wrapping supplies for a greater variety and make a whole afternoon or evening of it.
8. Volunteer – Grab some friends and volunteer at a soup kitchen, food pantry, or other place in need of some helping hands.
9. Go ice skating – Ice skating might be one of the most fun Christmas traditions to start with friends.
10. Visit a holiday market or craft fair – Many communities offer holiday craft bazaars or market. They’re a festive way to get in the holiday spirit!
I really hope this list of Christmas traditions to start this year has inspired you to get into the holiday spirit! Making time to do special things will ensure that this time of year is more joyful and memorable.
Don’t forget to check out the rest of the Stress Free, Debt Free Holiday series!
I’d love to hear what your family holiday traditions are! Please leave them in the comments below. We can all get some new ideas!