50+ Fun & Special Things to Do on Christmas Eve 2023 (to start new traditions!)
50+ fun things to do on Christmas Eve! This list of special Christmas Eve activities will give you lots of inspiration for how to celebrate!
It’s so easy to get stuck in a rut with holiday traditions.
Doing the same thing over and over is nice…
…but then the years run together and become a blur.
Perhaps you’ve even wondered ‘what do people do on Christmas Eve’ because you don’t have anything special planned yet.
Instead of doing exactly what you did last year, why not try one of these new Christmas Eve traditions?
They’re the perfect things to do when you’re bored on Christmas Eve (just waiting for the next morning to arrive!).
Included in this list are family ideas to do with kids of various ages, plus ideas for couples to do together.
And some you can do by yourself!
So if you’ve ever wondered what to do with kids on Christmas Eve, or ways to celebrate it in general, try adding some of these ideas to your traditions list.
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Christmas Eve Activities & Traditions
1. Open one gift
You could designate a specific ‘tradition’ gift (such as new pajamas or slippers) or let everyone choose any gift they’d like from under the tree.
They could even be small gifts – it’s just a great way to get the festive ball rolling!
2. Go look at christmas lights
This is the perfect Christmas Eve outing!
Walk or drive around your neighborhood, checking out everyone’s festive decorations and light displays.
Bring along hot chocolate, or fun Christmas popcorn, and listen to holiday music while you soak in the sights.
3. Watch a special Christmas movie
You could start a new tradition of always watching the same holiday movie every Christmas Eve (we like A Christmas Carol!), or pick a new one to try each year.
Everyone can get settled into their comfy clothes and watch one of these fun Christmas movies.
4. Read the Christmas story in the Bible
Check out the books of Matthew and Luke and read about the birth of Jesus.
5. Have a special Christmas Eve dinner
Depending on your family’s tastes, you could serve a fancier sit-down dinner, or a more casual, no-fuss meal.
Some family-style, traditional Christmas Eve dinner ideas include:
- Beef or pork tenderloin
- Feast of 7 fishes
- Roasted turkey, chicken, or duck
- Lasagna, gnocchi, ravioli, or stuffed shells
- Short ribs
- Beef stew
For a more casual Christmas Eve dinner, consider:
- Appetizers and finger foods (here are 25 holiday appetizer ideas for inspiration!)
- Chili – keep it warm in the slow cooker, and set out cornbread and tasty toppings
- Taco bar
- Pizza – whether you order in, bake up a frozen one, or have a ‘make your own pizza’ night where everyone creates their pizza with toppings you set out (here are TONS of pizza topping ideas!)
- Soup and salad
- Sandwich bar with deli trays
6. Play a family game
A game is the perfect way to get everyone involved and participating.
Choose a classic board game, or make it extra festive with one of these hilarious Christmas games.
You’ll make great memories, and have lots of laughs!
7. Give a Christmas Eve box
Christmas Eve boxes are a really fun holiday tradition to kick off a special night before the big day.
You put together a special box for each family member full of their favorite things, and give it to them on Christmas Eve.
They’re especially fun for kids!
Some ideas to put in a Christmas Eve box are:
- Christmas book
- Coloring book
- Christmas movie
- Small game or playing cards
- Christmas plate, mug, or cup
- Christmas craft
8. A story and hot chocolate
It’s such a fun tradition to read the same holiday book every Christmas Eve.
Everyone can sip hot chocolate, cider, or mulled wine while they listen.
Some family Christmas story ideas include:
- Twas the Night Before Christmas
- Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
- Polar Express
- The Berenstain Bears and the Christmas Angel
- The Christmas Story
9. Christmas Eve church service
Whether you go to midnight mass or a traditional church service, this is a very peaceful way to spend Christmas Eve.
10. Bake cookies for Santa
Kids love to set out cookies for Santa, and he’d really love freshly-baked ones!
If Santa doesn’t visit your house, it could still be fun to make or decorate cookies.
11. All day pajama party
Spend the day in your pjs, and have fun playing games, eating treats, and making crafts.
And bonus points if they’re Christmas pajamas!
12. Ornament exchange
Whether you make or buy ornaments, it’s fun to have a yearly exchange to add to your collection.
Don’t want to spend money on a new ornament? Hold a swap instead, where everyone brings ornaments they’d like to trade.
Read next: 25 Easy DIY Christmas Ornament Ideas
13. Bake a Christmas cake
Get everyone involved in baking and decorating a festive holiday cake that you can eat on Christmas Day.
Try one of these tasty Christmas cake ideas:
- Peppermint Fudge Cake
- Christmas Spice Cake with Eggnog Buttercream
- Old-Fashioned Gingerbread Cake
- Cranberry Bliss Coffee Cake
- Peppermint Cheesecake
- Caramel Pecan Bundt Cake
- Bailey’s Coffee Cake
14. Track Santa
Kids LOVE to track Santa Claus’ route around the world.
Use the Norad website to see when he left the North Pole, what country he’s in, and how long it’ll be before he gets to your house.
15. Visit a living nativity
A living nativity is when the nativity scene of Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, and the others from the birth of Christ is created through humans instead of statues.
It’s typically an interactive walk-through or drive-through experience.
Search ‘living nativity near me’ (or with your city and state) to find a local church in your area.
16. Have a christmas song karaoke night
Your family or guests will have a laughing good time singing karaoke to Christmas carols.
You can find karaoke songs in various places online, including on YouTube here.
17. Host an ugly sweater contest
Let everyone show off their ugliest Christmas sweater with a festive contest.
You could even create a little ‘catwalk’ for them to walk the runway in a holiday fashion show.
18. Open a new board game to play
Your family could start a new Christmas Eve tradition where you open a brand new board game…and play it!
It’s a simple thing, but a great idea to get everyone interacting and having fun.
And it might even become one your new favorite Christmas Eve traditions.
19. Christmas scavenger hunt
Host a holiday-themed scavenger hunt where everyone has to find certain special Christmas items.
It could be done outside or around the house, so find a free printable online, and get everyone involved.
20. Secret decoration attack
This could be one of those fun ideas you’ve never thought of.
Instead of egging or toilet-papering a house, take the friendly route and sneakily decorate the exterior of their home and yard.
They’ll wake up to such a fun surprise on Christmas morning!
21. Make a gingerbread house
Whether you use a store bought gingerbread kit, or fashion your own of graham crackers, icing, and random candy, decorating gingerbread houses is really fun.
Plus, they’ll look so cute and festive sitting out on Christmas Eve, and it’ll be fun for the whole family.
22. Cookie decorating party
No need to be a pastry chef to decorate Christmas cookies.
You can even roll out store bought sugar cookie dough and press festive shapes with cookie cutters.
Then decorate them with homemade or premade frosting and sprinkles.
If you’re feeling extra ambitious, you could try making real gingerbread cookies from scratch.
23. Polar Express night
Your family can read the Polar Express story or watch the movie, all cuddled up in pajamas and slippers.
Serve hot cocoa with tasty toppings, popcorn, or other treats, and you could even pass out bells or tickets to be extra festive.
24. White Elephant gift exchange
Whether you do gag gifts or regular gifts, everyone loves a white elephant gift exchange.
Typically the anonymous gifts are kept within a predetermined budget or theme, and your guests draw numbers to see what order they’ll open the gifts in.
The people who open later can ‘steal’ the already-opened gifts, or choose an unopened one.
For inexpensive White Elephant ideas, check out:
- $5 Gifts – 65 Fun & Unique Gifts Under $5 (small useful gifts that people actually want!)
- $10 Gifts – 51 Cheap & Creative Gift Ideas Under $10 (that people will actually want!)
- $25 Gifts – 7 Creative & Unique Gift Ideas Under $25 that People Will Love
25. Have a hot cocoa bar
Keep the hot cocoa warm in the crockpot (make it from scratch or get a high quality brand), and set out all the fixins.
Hot cocoa bar topping ideas can be:
- Whipped cream
- Crushed peppermint
- Chocolate chips
- Caramel sauce
- Chocolate syrup
- Toffee bits
- Cookies for dunking
- Chocolate covered spoons
- Candy canes or peppermint sticks
Set out some cute mugs, or disposable coffee cups, and even festive paper straws.
And consider getting some other flavors of hot chocolate too, such as this delicious variety pack.
26. Decorate ornaments
Purchase a pack of blank ornaments for your family or guests to decorate, and set out some paint, markers, or other embellishments.
They can gift the decorated ornaments to each other, or take them home as a souvenir of your fun Christmas Eve gathering.
Blank ornament ideas for decorating include:
- Natural wood slices
- Clear plastic fillable ornaments
- Holiday-shape assortment pack
- Clear acrylic round discs
27. Interview a family member
Ask your significant other or someone from a different generation some holiday questions to get to know them better.
Since we often spend more time with extended family at Christmas, it’s the perfect time to get to know someone a little better.
You could record the interview, or write his or her answers down for posterity.
Or just enjoy a memorable conversation!
Some questions to ask might be:
- What’s the first Christmas you can remember?
- What was your favorite Christmas gift?
- What did your family do on Christmas Eve when you were growing up?
- What food or drink did you leave out for Santa?
- What is your favorite Christmas song, movie, or food?
- Have you ever gone caroling?
- Do you have any funny Christmas memories?
28. Go Christmas caroling
Spread holiday cheer for all to hear by singing carols in your neighborhood.
Or visit friends’ or family members’ homes and make their Christmas Eve happier with your lovely voices.
29. Make reindeer food
You don’t want to neglect Santa’s reindeer and just leave milk and cookies for the big guy.
Make up some ‘reindeer food’ and have your kids sprinkle it outside for Santa’s helpers to enjoy.
30. Create homemade decor
It’s fun to think that people used to decorate solely with homemade decorations.
Consider making something homemade to add to your holiday decor.
Homemade Christmas decoration ideas include:
- Paper chains
- Popcorn garland
- Paper snowflakes or stars
- Evergreen branches or pinecones gathered outdoors
- Wrapping the front door with wrapping paper or ribbon
- Homemade lanterns (punch holes in a tin can, and place a small candle inside)
- Oranges with cloves
31. Take a photo in front of the tree
Try to take a photo in the same position every year, so that you can flip through later on, and see how everyone has changed.
Feel free to wear matching pajamas or ugly sweaters to be extra festive!
32. Camp in front of the tree
How cool would it be to wake up in front of the tree on Christmas morning?
Your family could set out sleeping bags or air mattresses and have a camping-style sleepover right in the living room.
33. Decorate the bedroom doors
This is such a fun surprise for your family members!
After they go to bed, use wrapping paper, crepe paper, ribbon, confetti, bows (and anything else you think of) to wrap or decorate their bedroom door.
They’ll love coming out of their room and seeing it all decorated!
And you could even decorate it so they have to break through the wrapping paper to get out.
34. Hide the Christmas pickle
This German Christmas tradition involves hiding a pickle ornament in the Christmas tree.
Whoever finds it gets a prize!
Your family will look forward to this little competition every Christmas Eve.
35. Ding Dong Ditch
This kind ‘prank’ involves ringing the doorbell of your neighbor or friend, running away, and leaving them a little gift or some baked goods.
36. Christmas music dance party
If everyone is getting a bit lethargic, put on some upbeat Christmas music and have a little dance party.
37. Build a snowman
If you’re lucky enough to have a white Christmas, go outside and build a snowman or make snow angels!
38. Go to the movies
Movie theaters are one of the few places you can go on Christmas Eve, since most are open.
So if you prefer a Christmas Eve outing, go see a new or festive movie.
39. Go sledding
If you have snow in your area, grab some sleds and head to the nearest hill.
40. Go on a winter evening walk
With the hectic nature of Christmastime, it helps to get out and move your body.
Head outside (even if it’s cold) and walk around, or head to a nature hike area if it’s still daylight.
41. Prep Christmas breakfast
Get a headstart on tomorrow’s breakfast by starting it on Christmas Eve.
Bake a coffee cake, or throw together a breakfast casserole in the slow cooker.
You’ll wake up to the smell of breakfast already cooked!
42. Write letters to Santa
Grab this free printable Letter to Santa template, and have your kids fill it out to leave for Santa. (Or do it yourself for fun!)
43. Deliver cookies to the fire station
If your local fire station allows it, drop off some homemade or store bought treats for the fire fighters to enjoy while they’re at work.
(You could also do this with any job that requires someone to work on Christmas Eve!)
44. Play Christmas charades
Christmas charades is such a fun and festive game to play on Christmas Eve.
Here’s all you need to play Christmas charades:
- Enough people to form 2 teams
- A timer of any sort
- Slips of paper to write down Christmas words, phrases, movies, or song titles for the players to act out
- A hat or bag for people to choose the paper slips from
45. Make lump of coal krispy treats
These edible ‘lumps of coal’ would be so funny to leave on someone’s doorstep, or place in your family’s stockings.
Here’s an easy and tasty recipe for how to make them!
46. Make an unconventional Christmas tree
Instead of a typical real or faux tree, make a Christmas tree out of something else you have around.
Sometimes it’s not in the budget to buy a tree, or you don’t have room for a full-sized one, or just haven’t gotten around to getting one yet.
You can even make one right on the wall or a door in your home, and take up zero floor space.
Consider making a homemade DIY tree out of one of these items:
- Sticky notes
- Twigs and sticks
- Evergreen branches
- Paint stirring sticks
- Spare woods scraps
- Washi, masking, or painters tape
- Holiday cards you’ve received
Your local soup kitchen or pet shelter may need help on Christmas Eve.
You could also hold a food drive at your holiday party, asking guests to bring pantry staples or canned goods instead of a hostess gift.
Or hold a coat drive and ask them to bring gently-used coats, hats, gloves, and scarves they no longer use.
Read next: How to Have a Magical Christmas (even when you have no money)
48. Cook food from another culture
Instead of your family’s traditional meal, choose a different country to prepare food from.
It could even just be an ‘international’ theme, where each guest brings a dish from another culture.
You may find some new favorites!
49. Decorate Christmas stockings
If you don’t already have stockings, consider buying some blank ones and letting everyone decorate their own.
Here are 150+ stocking stuffer ideas for inspiration.
50. Wrap gifts together
If you’re running late for wrapping presents this year, turn it into a festive party!
Get a few friends or family members together on Zoom and have a nice chat while you all wrap gifts together.
Quality time + being productive = A win-win!
Ready to make some fun Christmas Eve traditions?
I hope these cute Christmas activities have given you lots of inspiration for ways to celebrate Christmas Eve night this year.
Let’s make some new holiday memories this year!
For more Christmas inspiration, check out our other popular posts:
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