Christmas Traditions List – 116 Ideas!

Doesn’t this time of year just lend itself so nicely to traditions? In some ways, things are nuts, but in other ways, stuff slows down. No one expects you to show up to baseball practice, and sign-ups are long passed. There’s something about having soft music and lights around the house that makes it feel a bit more peaceful.Some of our family’s very favorite traditions come from this time of year, and I always love hearing others’ traditions, as well. I asked on Instagram for others to share their family holiday traditions, and it was so fun reading them. I highlighted all the ones that others added in blue below. I hope you find something new to incorporate this year, or save them for a few years from now! Thank you all so much for sharing!!

It’s worth noting that traditions should NEVER be stressful overwhelming – for you OR your kids. So do what’s easy and fun for your family and leave the rest!

THANKSGIVING WEEKEND

 

  1. Start listening to Christmas music on Thanksgiving day while cooking
  2. Go cut down a Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving
  3. Give the kids their Christmas jammies that day to wear while we decorate the tree and watching a Christmas movie and drinking hot chocolate
FUN ACTIVITIES

 

  1. Christmas book advent – I wrap up a book(s) for days 1-25 in December and the kids open one each night to read. About 6 or 7 years ago, I borrowed a bunch from the library. I did this for a couple years and figured out which ones I really loved. Then about 5 years ago, I went through and bought most of those on www.abebooks.com (I filtered for the ones that were excellent quality, but still spent less than $100 for all of them!). I’ve purchased more since, but it’s been so nice having our set of favorites.
  2. New Christmas picture book each year
  3. Read aloud a Christmas chapter book
  4. Watch videos and read books about the Nutcracker. This is the best for preparing my kids and getting everyone excited to…
  5. Go watch a performance of Nutcracker! The past couple years, we’ve seen Kina perform in her ballet school one, and have also taken the kids to the beautiful San Francisco Ballet production. Here are some tips for taking your kiddos to Nutcracker.
  6. Polar Express night – we hide “golden tickets” inside the kids’ pillowcases before bed. Then after they’re tucked in, we blow a train whistle (just play one on youtube), they jump out of bed and find their tickets, we have hot chocolate ready in thermoses, and we all hop in the car to go drive around and look at lights. The past couple of years, we’ve driven through Fantasy of Lights at Vasona in Los Gatos and it is SO well done!
  7. Zoolights
  8. Go to a walking lights display. We love Winterfest at Great America. The Snoopy on Ice show is so fun!!
  9. Ice skating.
  10. Visit the giant gingerbread house at the Fairmont Hotel in SF.
  11. Make snowpeople doors. We just stick construction paper eyes, noses, and scarves on our white bedroom doors to make them look like Frosty. Our kids think it’s the best thing ever.
  12. Hannukah food nightChristmas Eve Eve with friends – we host a few families for a soup party, sing carols and use our hand chimes, the kids dress up and do a nativity, and we all hang out and have fun
  13. Decorate a gingerbread house.
  14. Christmas movies! Full list coming soon.
  15. Hang up mistletoe
  16. Nat’s school chorus concert in which he sings.
  17. Go see a holiday train display
  18. Bake cookies. We like to do gingerbread and shortbread, but sugar cookies are always popular.
  19. Sleep under the tree on Christmas night (we figure it’s fine if they’re grumpy the day AFTER Christmas) while watching It’s A Wonderful Life
  20. Host a gift exchange (book club, recipe club, ugly sweater, Christmas picture book exchange, cookie exchange, soup exchange, favorite things party, sock exchange, ornament exchange – the options are endless!)
  21. Send holiday cards
  22. Christmas song-off (each person has to name a Christmas song. Whoever can keep going the longest wins.)
  23. Get poinsettias
  24. Set out cookies and milk for Santa
  25. Advent candle (this is new for us this year!)
  26. Make Christmas crackers
  27. Write a yearly letter to your kids and spouse
  28. We give Martinelli’s to our kids’ favorite light display. Knock on their door & present their award. (I love this and may need to adopt it!)
  29. Grinch night. We have roast beast (Costco rotisserie chicken), who hash (hash browns), green milk (This is so fun!!)
  30. Wreath laying
  31. Go see Santa
  32. Elf on the Shelf
  33. Caroling and donating ay money we raise
  34. Advent calendar and reading the nativity story Christmas Eve
  35. Making a wreath (I’d love to do this this year!)
  36. Decorate a gingerbread house
  37. Letter for Santa
  38. Christmas bedtime stories
  39. Holiday train ride (we did this last year and it was really cute!)
  40. Going to the movies on Christmas day
  41. Family talent show
  42. Make handmade ornaments
  43. Texas snowball fight with marshmallows
  44. Go to the dollar store to find sibling gifts
  45. Light parade
  46. Light paper lanterns with neighbors on Christmas Eve
  47. Christmas Eve box with jammies, hot chocolate, snacks, Christmas movie/book
  48. Setting up mini trees in kid rooms
  49. Write a letter to Santa
  50. String popcorn and cranberries for your tree
  51. Make a list of everyone who has been kind to you the past year
  52. Go window shopping
  53. Go caroling to neighbors
  54. Make a countdown to Christmas paper chain
  55. Create an obstacle course or scavenger hunt to get to the big present
  56. Make a gratitude chain
  57. Kids make a coupon service book to give to parents
  58. Christmas dairy with summary of the past year and hopes for next year
RELIGIOUS ACTIVITIES
  1. Read nativity scriptures and service scriptures for 5 minutes each day (see the whole list here)
  2. Watch the Angels from the Realms of Glory video a million times. If you know me in real life, you know I’m really not a crier, but this one gets me every time.
  3. Live nativity – we love Bethlehem A.D. in Redwood City and Bethlehem in Santa Clara. Both are truly amazing!
  4. Read a Christmas-themed talk each day in December (it’s easy to find lots on lds.org. I’ll share my list soon!)
  5. Set up a nativity scene
  6. Church Christmas program – I lead this since I’m our church choir director
  7. Christmas Eve Bethlehem night – we eat Middle Eastern-ish foods on the floor for dinner (hummus/pita, olives, oranges, nuts, figs, etc.) and watch Nativity videos
  8. Learn about La Fete des Lumieres to celebrate Mary in Lyon, France, and make clementine candles (my host mom when I lived in France taught me how to make these).
  9. Handel’s Messiah – I always play violin in the orchestra of a sing along (this year, I’m playing in one at the Oakland LDS temple on Sun, 12/9 at 7pm if you’re looking for one) and Dan and I usually attend a professional one with the symphony.
  10. Watch the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints First Presidency Christmas devotional. Have a hot chocolate bar and decorate gingerbread cookies.
  11. Play violin at Christmas Creche. For those of you who are local, I’m playing at 4:30pm on Monday, 12/3. I’d love to see you there! It’s truly one of the most meaningful and beautiful Christmas events we attend each year.
  12. Play violin and sing carols on Christmas day after presents
  13. Candlelight Christmas Eve service
  14. Write a letter to Jesus saying what you are grateful for and something you want to improve next year
SERVICE
(see a whole list of simple service and scripture ideas here)
  1. Caroling at a nursing home or pediatrics unit of a hospital (I always email friends beforehand to try to get a couple other families to join)
  2. Caroling and selling hot apple cider to raise money for a charity that the kids choose (in the past we’ve done UNICEF). We always match all donations, and then my husband’s employer matches the whole amount to quadruple any donations given.
  3. Purge old toys and clothing and donate what is in good condition
  4. Make cards for older neighbors
  5. Leave a candy bar on someone’s windshield
  6. Leave out snacks for delivery people
  7. Make Christmas cards for orphans
  8. Put together ziplock bags for the car with water and snacks to hand out to those in need
  9. Leave $10 in an envelope outside someone’s door
  10. Adopt a family in need
  11. Ding dong ditch a family in need
FOOD
  1. Make cranberry-orange rolls and breakfast slab pie so we can eat while opening presents on Christmas morning
  2. Fondue for Christmas dinner
  3. Eggnog taste test (with lots of different varieties)
  4. Make snowman hot chocolate
  5. Trader Joe’s chocolate advent calendars
  6. 10+ Course Christmas Eve dinner
  7. Bake cookies and watch Polar Express
  8. Cookie/gingerbread house making
  9. Make homemade Christmas tree pizzas
  10. Appetizers for Christmas Eve
  11. Back to Jerusalem night on Christmas Eve. We have things Mary and Joseph would have eaten.
  12. Bake a Buche de Noel
  13. Give every kid $5 at the store to pick whatever appetizer they want for Christmas Eve or Christmas dinner
  14. Santa Claus pancakes
  15. Make homemade eggnog
GIFTS
  1. Give out non-treat neighbor gifts. We always feel bombarded with cookies, so I try really hard to steer away from treats (or if I do a treat, at least do something that doesn’t have to be consumed right away, like homemade caramel sauce or something). In the past, I’ve done crockpot black bean soup in a jar, homemade salsa, a pretty dish, homemade vanilla, homemade sugar scrub, etc.
  2. Do experience gifts
  3. Open stockings last so kids aren’t distracted and worn out for the big present – do that first when they’re still really excited!
  4. Learn the story of St. Nicholas
  5. Every year we have a date (now family) night and make wish lists! Amazon links included!
  6. We get a new ornament in every new city/experience.
  7. In hubby’s family, they open Christmas gifts at midnight and in mine, Christmas morning
  8. Christmas jammies
  9. Homemade Christmas presents for the kids to their siblings
  10. Open stockings on Christmas Eve
  11. Adopt a family for Christmas
  12. Open a new family game on Christmas Eve and playing it together
  13. Three gifts from the three wise men (something to wear, something to read, something they want)
  14. Pay for the person behind you in line in a drive through
  15. 12 Days of Christmas presents or gifts to those in need

 

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