Creating meaningful family Christmas Traditions makes the holiday season a magical time of year. It’s the traditional things we do with our families that hold the greatest meaning and create the most vivid memories.
Look through the ideas below to find new and classic Christmas traditions to bond with your family and make your holiday more meaningful.
Meaningful Christmas Traditions for a Magical Holiday
I’m a sucker for a good family tradition, and Christmas is the perfect time of year to add meaningful activities to make the holiday season even more magical. You may have heard of a few of these ideas, but I’m hoping you find something new to add to your family Christmas traditions.
Remember, meaningful Christmas traditions are done every year, so please don’t look at this as a must-do list. Our family does not do everything on this list and your family shouldn’t have to either.
The last thing you need is more holiday stress because of a silly Christmas tradition you find impossible to complete. If it isn’t fun, it isn’t worth it.
Meaningful Family Christmas Tradition Ideas
If you have a family tradition that you would like to share, add it to the comments below!
Bake, Decorate, and Give Christmas Cookies
One of the most classic Christmas traditions is baking and decorating cookies and giving them as gifts. Another idea is gifting them as a kindness or service project or hosting a cookie swap.
Write a Letter to Santa
Have your child write a letter to Santa and have one sent back with US Postal Service help. Yes, really! Follow the directions found HERE.
Help the Kids Make Christmas Cards
Friends and family love receiving handmade cards from the kids. Try our Watercolor Tree Cards and our Fingerprint Christmas Tree Cards. Both make great keepsakes! You may also like unique handmade gifts kids can make.
Countdown to Christmas with an Advent calendar
We use a simple stone advent and a DIY nativity scene made out of popsicle sticks and peg dolls that you can make with the kids. Click on the links for the directions to each project. More ideas can be found below.
Have a Christmas Book Advent
Another fun advent idea is to read a Christmas book each night through Christmas Eve. Some parents like to wrap each one to have the kids pick one to open each night.
You can read a Christmas book each night for any number of nights leading up to Christmas–it really doesn’t matter. Finding 24 or 25 Christmas books at the library during the holidays can be tough–even 3 will do!
We like to make sure we read “The Night Before Christmas” on Christmas Eve. It’s magical. A few more of our favorite Christmas books for kids can be found below.
Room for a Little One: A Christmas TaleRed and LuluThe Christmas WishReindeer Christmas (Paula Wiseman Books)The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree: An Appalachian Story (Picture Puffin Books)Polar Express 30th anniversary editionMr. Willowby’s Christmas TreeHumphrey’s First ChristmasMortimer’s Christmas MangerHow the Grinch Stole Christmas! (Classic Seuss)The Crippled LambThe Christmas OwlThe Legend of the Christmas Cookie: Sharing the True Meaning of ChristmasLegend of the Christmas StockingThe Christmas Miracle of Jonathan ToomeyThe Night Before Christmas
Visit a Tree Farm
Visit a tree farm to pick your Christmas Tree. Find a tree farm near you HERE.
Trim the Christmas Tree as a Family
Turn on the Christmas music, light a fire, or pop one with Christmas music into the DVD player and enjoy quality time decorating the Christmas tree with the family.
Encourage Acts of Kindness with the Kindness Elves
The kindness elves are a refreshing variation to The Elf on the Shelf. They are magical elves that encourage children to commit acts of kindness or service. To learn more about them click HERE.
Gratitude brings abundance. When we are thankful for what we have, we will be given more of what we are grateful for. Find fun ways to practice gratitude with THESE fun activities and crafts! Make one a tradition in your home this Christmas!
Enjoy a Local Christmas Amusement or Event
Most people have a traditional thing they like to do in or near their hometown with their family for the holidays. We like to go to the tree lighting in our town square and a light show put on by a local nut processing plant that’s out of this world. Brought me to tears the first time I saw it!
Some take a picture with Santa or go to Santa Land, others ride the Polar Express, some families attend a Christmas show, a few make their way to Disneyland, and some Christmas heroes are crazy enough to do it all!
Wear Matching Pajama Sets
Wearing matching PJ’s with the family is a fun family tradition. Family photos end up looking great! Find your favorite matching pajama set below!
Plan an Annual Family Outing
Plan a family outing or event to do every year around the holidays. Some fun family favorites can be found below.
- Get outside for some snow play–think sledding, snowball fights, snow angel and snowman making.
- Hit the bowling alley for some friendly competition.
- Play a game of touch football.
- Head to the ice rink for some ice skating.
- Get out for a walk or a hike rain, snow or shine.
- Meet up for an annual family vacation on Christmas
Make a Homemade Ornament
Making a new ornament for the tree each year is a delightful way to spend time connecting with the kids during the holidays. Check out our collection of gorgeous handmade ornaments HERE.
Hanging stockings on the mantle or wherever else you can find has become such a common tradition we forget it’s a tradition. We have always been lucky enough to have grandma sew our stockings, but there are also lovely readymade options available.
Start a Gift Giving Tradition
Giving a gift at Christmas is probably the most common Christmas tradition. In larger families with members living great distances implementing a gift rule or gift giving tradition makes holiday gift giving a lot less stressful.
Gift-giving traditions also make it a lot easier on family members with a smaller Christmas budget to participate in holiday gift giving. Try one of the gift-giving traditions below. Feel free to mix and match, or create your own Christmas gift giving tradition from the ideas below.
- 4 gift rule – Gift them with “Something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read.” Check out our Ultimate Family Gift Guide with DIY and ready-made ideas for kids, moms, dads, and grandparents too!
- Second-hand or handmade – Gifts are only allowed to be purchased second hand–thrift stores, garage sales, craigslist–or handmade by the gifter or an artisan. You can do both if your feeling crafty. Purchase an item second hand and upcycle it for a double whammy second-hand handmade gift! Check out our Gift Guide for handmade gift ideas both adults and kids can make.
- Experiences instead of things – The idea is to gift family members with things they’d like to do such as classes or trips instead of giving them stuff. Ideas include; tickets to an event, show, amusement park, a vacation or trip, or a class.
- Secret Santa – Each person picks another family members name out of the hat and becomes their secret Santa. Some families agree to give/send secret gifts to this family member throughout the year (birthday, Easter, Valentine’s Day, etc) with one final revel gift on Christmas, while other families simply agree to spend under a specified amount on a gift given on Christmas. This one is easy to combine with another gift tradition such as “second-hand or handmade” and “experiences instead of things.”
- White Elephant – Check out the official white elephant gift exchange rules HERE.
- Stockings Only – Each member of the family finds something to put in everyone’s stocking. It can be the same thing or something different for each person. You can also draw secret Santas for each persons stocking.
- Santa Sacks – see below.
Give and Recieve Santa Sacks
Give each person in the house a Santa Sack sometime before Christmas. Have them fill it with items they’d like to give to give to those in need and place it under the tree on Christmas Eve. On Christmas morning have the sacks filled with gifts for each person. Store your Santa Sacks in the Christmas box to use again next year!
Hang a piece of mistletoe in a high traffic area and kiss, hug or high five anyone you meet underneath it.
Watch a Holiday Movie with the Family
Today when my family gets together for the holidays, we watch “Love Actually.” What’s your favorite Christmas movie? If you don’t see it below share it in the comments!
Give Handmade Gifts
My family loves to give and receive handmade gifts. Check out our collection of handmade Christmas gift ideas HERE.
More Meaningful Family Christmas Tradition Ideas
Make a Gingerbread house
A gingerbread house does not need to be made out of gingerbread, you don’t even have to use candy to decorate them. You can make them with graham crackers, or cardboard and craft supplies.
- Gingerbread house KITS
- Find gingerbread house cookie cutters HERE
- Step-by-step directions to make a traditional gingerbread house by DIY Enthusiasts and Simply Recipes.
- How to make a gingerbread house with gram crackers by Happiness is Homemade.
- Learn how Inner Child Fun made a toy gingerbread house out of cardboard HERE or a life-sized cardboard gingerbread house HERE
Take a Drive to Look at Christmas lights
Hit your favorite drive through, or pop some popcorn and give everyone a to-go cup of hot cocoa and get in the car for some holiday light seeing!
Family Game Night
Wrap up a new family game and put it under the tree to open and play it with the whole family. I know some families that do this on Christmas eve, while others place a note in an advent calendar with a description of the gift to open.
Sing Christmas Carols
Grab the Christmas Songbook and go Caroling, sit down by the piano, or turn on the karaoke machine with the Christmas CD, and sing your heart out. Don’t forget to sing a few silly Christmas songs with the kids too.
Leave Out Cookies and Reindeer food for Santa and his Reindeer
Put out a plate of cookies and a glass of milk for Santa on Christmas Eve. To make reindeer food mix oats or rice with any kind of Christmas sprinkles. Sprinkle it in the front yard with the kids before bed. Sweep it up before they wake for even more fun!
Hide the Christmas Pickle
I’ve heard of a few different variations on this odd tradition. This is the tradition my family has adapted and uses.
Hide a pickle ornament in the Christmas tree after the kids are in bed. The first child to find it in the morning gets to open the family gift. The gift can be something simple like a box of Christmas goodies to share, or something as elaborate as tickets for a family vacation.
The rule at our house is everyone must be present and ready before the finder of the pickle can open the family gift.
Create a Christmas Breakfast Tradition
Create a Christmas breakfast tradition in your home. Some families like to have a freshly baked cinnamon roll with hot chocolate and/or coffee as they open presents, while others open their presents on Christmas Eve, and eat Rudolf pancakes after opening the stockings in the morning. Choose something that works for your family and make it a tradition.
Take a Family Photo
Take a family photo on or around Christmas with the family every year. Gather the whole family around the Christmas tree, the holiday table, or in the backyard and watch everyone grow and change from year to year.
I never realized the power of a good camera until I became a mother and wanted gorgeous pictures of my baby. Purchasing a good camera was one of the best choices I have ever made for my family. You can find a fantastic deal on the set I use HERE.
Use any of these ideas to start a new Christmas tradition with your family this holiday season. Creating meaningful family Christmas Traditions makes the holiday season a magical time of year. It’s the old-fashioned traditional things we do with our families that hold the greatest meaning and create the most vivid memories.
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