Start a new Christmas tradition in 2020 with this list of fun family Christmas traditions from around the world!
Creating meaningful family Christmas traditions makes the holiday season a magical time of year. It’s the traditional things we do with our family and friends that hold the greatest meaning and create memories that last a lifetime.
You may have heard of a few of these Christmas family tradition ideas, but we’re hoping that you find a new Christmas tradition or solstice ritual to try this year. It’s the simple things in life that hold the greatest value and create the most vivid memories.
What are Christmas Traditions?
A Christmas tradition is an activity, routine, or ritual that is done every year on or before Christmas Day. A family Christmas tradition is a ritual that is repeated yearly to celebrate Christmas and create meaning.
Meaningful Christmas traditions make the holidays a magical time of year. Christmas is the perfect time of year to enjoy seasonal family activities that fill your days with meaning and make the holiday season special.
One classic example is to hang stockings by the fire, while another is holiday gift-giving, or giving friends and relatives a gift on Christmas Day.
Why do we Give Christmas Gifts?
Giving family and friends a gift is a classic Christmas tradition; however, it was not originally done at Christmastime. Today there are quite a few theories around why Christmas Day has become the traditional day to give presents to loved ones.
Related: Ultimate Family Gift Guide
In ancient Rome, gift-giving occurred during the Saturnalia holiday. Saturnalia was an ancient Roman festival in honor of Saturn that was originally celebrated on December 17. It later expanded to take place over several days often concluding sometime after the Winter Solstice.
As Christianity became more widespread the custom of gift-giving occurred on New Year’s day as a way to spread good tidings and cheer in the New Year. During this time period, presents were often given any time during the 12 days of Christmas, or, by the end of Epiphany.
This corresponds with the idea that we give and receive presents at Christmas to remind us of the gifts (Frienkensense, Gold, and Myrrh) that the Wise Men, or biblical Magi, gave Jesus after his birth on December 25.
Why is Santa Claus and his Reindeer associated with Christmas?
The legend of Saint Nicholas, the gift-bearing patron saint of orphaned children, plays a large role in the modern-day legend of Santa Claus. Who many children still believe is flown by his reindeer all over to the world to deliver gifts to good boys and girls on Christmas Eve.
In countries where the Saint Nicolas day tradition is prominent, it is celebrated as the primary gift-giving day instead of Christmas. Learn more about good ole’ Saint Nick in #5 below!
In contrast, the idea of Santas Reindeer was more than likely borrowed from ancient folktales and winter solstice traditions.
In ancient times, people believed that it was the “Deer Mother” that took flight on the darkest longest night of the year. She was said to carry the life-giving light of the sun back to the land, in her antlers, and into the new year.
After learning about the Deer Mother, I’m pretty sure I know why Rudolf had the brightest light that guided the sleigh through the skies!
You may also enjoy this amazing round-up Christmas art projects. It includes a brief history of how and why other common Christmas symbols and characters came to be associated with the Christmas holiday.
Related: Best Christmas Gifts Ideas for Kids
Meaningful Christmas Traditions to Start in 2020
Look through the list below of meaningful and fun family Christmas traditions to start in 2019. There are both modern and classic Christmas traditions to choose from. Use them to bond with your family, and, make the holiday season more meaningful.
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 either.
The last thing you need is more holiday stress because of a silly family Christmas tradition that you find impossible to complete. If it isn’t fun, it isn’t worth it.
Related: Winter Bucket List
33 Fun Family Family Christmas Traditions
If you have a fun family Christmas tradition that you would like to share, add it to the comments below!
Related: Rustic Alphabet Wood Slice Ornaments
1. Bake, Decorate, and Give Christmas Cookies
2. Write a Letter to Santa
Here’s a fun family Christmas tradition for kids.
Invite your children to write a letter to Santa, and have one sent back with US Postal Service help, complete with the North Pole Postmark!
This is a fun thing to do on Thanksgiving that the whole family can enjoy doing together.
Follow the directions found HERE.
3. Send Holiday Greetings or Christmas Cards
A traditional thing to do through the holiday season is to send Christmas cards, holiday greetings, or messages of peace and joy in the New Year.
Make Homemade Christmas Cards with Children
Make it a tradition to make your own Christmas cards! Making homemade cards is a classic family tradition. Friends and family love receiving handmade cards from the kids.
Try any of the homemade Christmas card ideas below.
Homemade Christmas Card Ideas
- Watercolor Tree Cards
- Christmas Wreath Fingerprint Art Cards
- Fingerprint Christmas Tree Cards
- Christmas Carolers Handprint Art Cards
- Fingerprint Snowman Christmas Cards
- Christmas Handprint, Footprint, and Fingerprint Art Card Ideas (photo below)
Related: Homemade gifts kids can make
4. Countdown to Christmas with an Advent Calendar
Counting down to Christmas is another common Christmas tradition for many families. Traditionally a Christmas countdown is started on the first of December and is completed on Christmas Eve.
There are so many more fun ways to countdown to Christmas available today. Try any of the fun Christmas countdown ideas below!
Make or purchase an Advent Calendar for a Christmas Countdown
Advent is observed in many homes and churches as a time to prepare for the celebration of the nativity and coming (or return) of Jesus at Christmas.
In our family, we use a simple stone advent and a DIY nativity scene made out of popsicle sticks, with a peg doll holy family that you can make with the kids. Click on the links for the directions to each project.
Gorgeous advent calendars for purchase can be found HERE.
Countdown to Christmas with a Book Advent Calendar
Another fun family Christmas tradition is to have a book advent Christmas countdown. Read a Christmas book each night through Christmas Eve. Some parents like to wrap each book and 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 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.
24 Christmas Books to Read as a Count Down to Christmas
- Pick a Pine Tree
- The Chrismas Miracle of Johnathan Toomey
- Red and Lulu
- The Christmas Wish
- Reindeer Christmas
- The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree
- The Polar Express
- Mr. Willoby’s Christmas Tree
- The Crippled Lamb
- Humphrey’s First Christmas
- The Story of Holly and Ivy
- Mortimer’s Christmas Manger
- The Christmas Owl
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas
- The Wish Tree
- A Wish to Be a Christmas Tree
- The Little Reindeer
- Room for a Little One
- The Carpenters Gift
- A Charlie Brown Christmas
- The Shortest Day – We like to read this book on the night of the Winter Solstice
- Who is Coming to Our House
- Christmas Farm
- The Night Before Christmas
5. Celebrate the Saint Nicolas Day Tradition
Saint Nicholas is known as the patron saint of children. In countries where this tradition is prominent, it is celebrated as the primary gift-giving day instead of Christmas.
The most famous story about St. Nicholas tells how the custom of hanging up stockings to put presents in and how the legend of Santa Clause first started! Learn more about Saint Nicolas and this fun family Christmas tradition HERE!
How do You Celebrate Saint Nicolas Day?
Children set out their wooden clogs, shoes, or stockings on the eve of December 5th, along with a plate of cookies and milk for St. Nick and a carrot for his donkey (or beautiful white horse).
In the morning children wake to find their shoes filled with treats of small gifts, fruit or nuts, and special St. Nicolas candies and cookies.
Traditional ideas to include in your children’s shoes for Saint Nicolas Day are chocolate coins, a small wooden toy, new socks, a tangerine, a walnut, and inexpensive religious items, such as a rosary, saint bracelet, or prayer cards.
Related: Eco-Friendly Stocking Stuffers
6. Visit a Tree Farm
Going to a tree farm to pick out a Christmas tree is a fun family Christmas tradition. Consult your local resource guide, or do an internet search to find a Christmas tree farm near you!
7. 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 decorating the Christmas tree. Trimming the tree is a classic Christmas tradition that the whole family can enjoy!
8. Enjoy the Antics of The Elf on the Shelf, or, Encourage Acts of Kindness with The Kindness Elves
The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas tradition, is a children’s picture book, about an elf that watches over a family at Christmas time, that has evolved into the Elf on the Shelf Christmas Tradition.
Every night this Scout Elf will return to the North Pole to say whether your family has been naughty or nice. Santa takes that information every night and decides if you’re getting presents or coal this year.
Our family does not celebrate The Elf on the Shelf Tradition, instead, we encourage 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 in service to others.
The Kindness Elves are magical friends that love to encourage children to commit small acts of kindness. They love to visit your home during the holidays, and, share the Christmas spirit with your children.
Learn 10 Reasons we Choose the Kindness Elves Over the Elf on the Shelf. Or, find out more about the Kindness Elves HERE.
More Meaningful Christmas Traditions for a Magical Holiday
9. Donate or Volunteer to Serve those in Need
Use the Kindness Elves to help you with this!
There are lots of ways to gift those in need as a family tradition during the holiday season. There are local churches, charities, food banks, and soup kitchens to choose from in most communities.
Some charities and churches even put out a wish list of items that can be provided to children and families that can not afford to buy Christmas gifts.
Check your local resource guide or search google to find the best choice for your family and make it a tradition.
10. Gift Everyone with Christmas Coloring and Activity Books
Christmas coloring books are an easy way to help both children and adults relieve stress and practice mindfulness during the holidays.
Keep everyone busy and happy throughout the holidays with this awesome collection of Christmas coloring and activity books for adults and children!
11. Take a Picture with Santa
Head to your local mall or town square to take a picture with Santa Claus.
Taking a picture with Santa Claus is a Christmas tradition that some children love, and others run screaming from.
The good news is that you get to decide if you will be hitting the trenches, or running for cover when Santa comes to town.
Check your local family resource guide or do a google search for “Santa Claus pictures near me” to find out where your local Santa will be available for pictures.
12. Visit Santa Land, Take a Ride on the Polar Express, Go to a Christmas Parade, or Enjoy another Christmas Show, Concert, 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, watch 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!
Now that our daughter has entered formal education, we also enjoy going to the Christmas concert and Christmas fair that is held yearly at her school.
We also love to attend the local ballet school’s Christmas show every year. They are always wonderful, and, sometimes our daughter, or another family friend or two, performs in the show.
Others plan a visit to Santa Land, ride the Polar Express, or make their way to Disneyland or Disneyworld… While some Christmas heroes are crazy enough to do it all!
Check your family resource guide or do a google search to find out about the local Christmas events and attractions going on in your city or town!
13. Wear Matching Pajama Sets
Wearing matching PJ’s with the family is a fun family Christmas tradition. Family photos end up looking great!
Find your favorite matching pajama set HERE, or, select from the matching Christmas pajama sets for families listed below!
14. 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.
- Head up to the mountains for some skiing or snowboarding.
- Hit the bowling alley for some friendly competition.
- Play a game of touch football or rugby.
- Head to the ice rink for some ice skating.
- Get out for a walk, or, hike rain, snow or shine.
- Meet up for an annual family vacation on Christmas
15. Make a New Homemade Ornament Every Christmas
Making a new ornament for the tree each year is a delightful way to spend time connecting with the kids during the holidays.
Pop over to have a look at our collection of gorgeous handmade Christmas ornaments kids can make.
Don’t forget to use a paint pen to add the date you made the ornament each year. When the children are grown up you will have a tree full of Christmas memories to enjoy.
16. Hang Stockings
Hanging stockings on the mantle, or wherever else you can find room to put them, has become such a common family Christmas tradition that we forget it’s a tradition!
The tradition of hanging stockings for Santa to fill on Christmas Eve is a spin-off of the original Saint Nicolas Day tradition discussed in Christmas Tradition #5 above.
Our family is lucky enough to have a grandma that sews all of our family stockings, but there are LOTS of lovely readymade options available.
Traditional Stocking Stuffer Ideas
The Saint Nicolas Day tradition and winter solstice traditions have both influenced some of the traditional items that are placed inside Christmas stockings.
As an example, I can remember receiving chocolate coins, real maple candy, and an orange in the toe of my Christmas stocking every year as a child. A tradition that I choose to continue with my own family today.
Don’t forget to have a look at this fun collection of stocking stuffer ideas for the whole family!
17. Start a Gift Giving Tradition
In modern times, giving a gift at Christmas is one of the most common Christmas traditions. In larger families with members living great distances having a Christmas gift exchange, or implementing a gift rule can make holiday gift-giving a lot less stressful.
Gift-giving traditions also make it a lot easier for family members with a smaller Christmas budget to participate in holiday gift-giving. Pop over to have a look at this fun collection of 8 Christmas gift exchange ideas and gift-giving traditions and give one a try this year.
18. 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!
19. Hang Mistletoe
Hang a piece of mistletoe in a high traffic area and kiss, hug or high five anyone you meet underneath it.
20. Watch a Holiday Movie with the Family
What’s your favorite Christmas movie? If you don’t see it below share it in the comments!
21. Make and Give Handmade Gifts
My family loves to give and receive handmade gifts. Some of my all-time favorite gifts were made by friends and family over the years.
Check out this awesome collection of homemade gifts that kids can make for lots of gorgeous homemade gift ideas.
More Meaningful Family Christmas Tradition Ideas
22. 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 also make gingerbread houses with graham crackers, or cardboard and craft supplies.
Gingerbread House Ideas
- Gingerbread house kit
- 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
23. Take a Drive to Look at Christmas lights
Spend at least one night looking at all of the beautiful Christmas lights that people put up in your city or town.
24. Host a 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 fun family Christmas tradition on Christmas Eve, while others place a note in an advent calendar with a description of the gift to open on family game night.
25. Sing Christmas Carols
26. Gift Everyone with a New Book on Christmas Eve
In Iceland, it is a tradition to gift everyone with a new book on Christmas Eve, and then spend the night reading. This Christmas tradition is called Jolabokaflod and is translated to mean “Yule book flood.”
Even though this holiday tradition originated in Iceland, it is gaining in popularity across the world. Gift everyone in your family with a new book on Christmas Eve! Learn more about it HERE or HERE.
Jolabokaflod Book Gift Ideas
27. Leave Out Cookies and Reindeer food for Santa and his Reindeer on Christmas Eve
Put out a plate of cookies and a glass of milk for Santa on Christmas Eve.
Use our cake mix sugar cookie recipe to make Christmas sugar cookies, and put them out for Santa on the eve of December 24–Christmas Eve.
How to Make Reindeer food
- Mix oats with any kind of Christmas sprinkles.
Next, invite the kids to sprinkle reindeer food in the front yard with the kids before bed.
Sweep it up before they wake for even more fun!
28. 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 on the Christmas tree after the kids are in bed. The first person to find it in the morning gets to open the family gift.
Family gifts can be something simple like a box of Christmas chocolates to share, or something as elaborate as tickets for a family vacation.
The rule at our house is that everyone must be present, pun intended, and ready, before the finder of the pickle can open the family gift.
29. 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.
30. Host or Attend a Traditional Christmas Dinner
A traditional Christmas dinner is often very similar to a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.
It often features turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, and a seasonal vegetable side dish such as turnips, or carrots. Other main dishes can be substituted to include a different type of poultry, roast beef, or ham.
Find traditional Christmas dinner recipes HERE.
For dessert pumpkin or apple pie, raisin pudding, fruitcake, or Christmas pudding are the most common. Try our Homemade Pumpkin Cranberry Bread Recipe! A family favorite at our house for Thanksgiving and Christmas!
31. Place a Christmas Cracker Popper Next to Each Christmas Dinner Plate
Christmas Crackers are a Christmas tradition that started in England but is gaining popularity worldwide. They are most often a wrapped and decorated recycled cardboard cylinder or paper tube that resembles a large candy twist.
Learn more about the history of the Christmas Cracker HERE.
32. 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. Taking a family photo each Christmas makes it easy to watch everyone grow and change from year to year.
I never realized the power of a good camera, until I became a mother. 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.
33. Practice Gratitude
The holidays are a great time of year to teach children about the concept of gratitude and thankfulness. Gratitude brings abundance. When we are thankful for what we have, we will be given more of what we are grateful for.
Free Gratitude Journal Printables
First, pass either one of these gratitude printables around the Christmas table. Next, invite kids and adults to write (or draw) what they are most thankful for!
Fun Family Christmas Traditions To Start This Year
Creating meaningful family Christmas Traditions makes the holiday season a magical time of year. It’s the traditional things that we do that hold the greatest meaning and create the most vivid memories.
Don’t forget to pop over to have a look at our family gift guide with DIY and ready-made gift ideas for the whole family!
You may also enjoy this amazing round-up Christmas art projects. It includes a brief history of how and why other common Christmas symbols and characters came to be associated with the Christmas holiday.
Learn more about Rhythms of Play HERE!