The Best List of 52 Good Christmas Traditions & memory-making activities kids will look forward to year-after-year. Holiday Traditions to start this year.
Why Holiday Traditions Matter So Much
As a parent, my focus during the holiday season has shifted for the better from tracking down the best presents for my children or making a Christmas menu that’d impress my mother-in-law, to caring less about the material items and interest-perfect dishes.
The focus now is on nurturing our meaningful and magical holiday traditions I know my kids will remember for years to come.
It wasn’t a hard shift to make, and my bank account appreciates the change too, because holiday traditions make all of us a little happier and more joyful this time of year than any toy ever could.
When parents ask me, “How can I make the holiday special?”
My answer is always the same – with good holiday traditions everyone in your family enjoys doing together.
These same holiday traditions my children look forward to each year, are the same ones they’ll (hopefully) pass along to their own children and my grandchildren, because they hold a special place in their heart.
Traditions are meant to be passed along from generation to generation, and the good christmas traditions always rise to the top!
List of Holiday Traditions – 52 Good Christmas Traditions You Must Do This Year
I have the sorted the list of holiday traditions by:
- Food Related Holiday Traditions
- Decorating Related Holiday Traditions
- Giving Related Holiday Traditions
- Activities and Family Fun Holiday Traditions
Here are 52 of the BEST Holiday Traditions you’ll be inspired to start this year!
Food Related Holiday Traditions
- Tis the season for cookie parties, so start baking cookies! Pick out a few recipes, go shopping for the ingredients you’ll need and declare a cookie (or sweets) baking day. Check out all the ideas for 30 Simple & Fun Children’s Christmas Party Food Ideas including treats!
- It’s time to decorate your annual gingerbread house. This is the time to pull out your Halloween candy stash – if you have any left – and have fun icing, decorating and creating! I bought this washable and reusable gingerbread house a few years ago and I don’t have to buy a new kit each year.
- Have a special dish you make year after year? What about a special family recipe you only whip out for the holidays? Tis the season to pull out your secret family dish.
- Green eggs and ham? Wait, no, that’s not right. What about green pancakes for Christmas morning, or any morning leading up to the big day. There’s also Christmas tree pancakes and these super cute santa pancakes, too. Here’s a no-dye healthy green pancake recipe.
- I love sweets with the best of them, but with so much sugar packed into the three months of holidays between Halloween to New Years, it’s good to make sure your kids are eating healthy too. Here are 24 Healthy Christmas snacks that are easy to make, and look terrific too!
- Add a little Christmas spice to the air with natural (and safe) Christmas-scented essential oils to make your home smell delicious (without all the nasty synthetic chemicals that go in fragrant candles or air fresheners.)
- Make your own Magic Reindeer Food. Magic Reindeer food is a special mix of rolled oats, sunflower (or any type) of seeds, red and white crystals (or other cookie decoration) mixed together and sprinkled on the lawn for Santa’s reindeer to eat when they visit your house. Here’s a link to Magic Reindeer Food Printable with recipe to download.
Decorating Related Holiday Traditions
- Is nothing more iconic than to set up your family’s Christmas tree together. Pulling out all the old ornaments you packed away last year, and revisiting them makes this tradition one of our favorites. Seeing baby’s 1st ornament again each year is a bit nostalgic!
- One of our favorite traditions we do each year, is to let the kids pick out one new ornament for the tree. We’ll take them shopping only for one ornament and then, when the kids are older, they’ll have a small collection of ornaments they can start their own tree and holiday with.
- Want to create a special ornament only for your family? Grab off a small slice from your Christmas tree to make your own unique keepsake ornament before you dispose of it. Then write the year and date on the tree slice using a sharpie or wood burner tool to do this. Then, using a drill, put a hole into the slice, tie a string through the hole and hang it on next year’s tree.
- Let the kids decorate their own “Kid’s Christmas Tree” in their playroom, bedroom or special area of the house. Our kid’s christmas tree is decorated with felt ornaments which won’t break, handmade snowflakes and other ornaments they make along the way. We have a small 3′ tree with pre-lit lights, just like this one that’s just the right size.
- We don’t have the typical start or angel on top of our tree – and maybe you shouldn’t either. That’s because we have our own unique tree topper – a dinosaur! At first, this started because my son wanted to “scare the grinch from taking his presents” but over the years, I keep pulling it out and using it as our tree topper… and I think it’s a good holiday tradition that has stuck.
- Get out some white paper and scissors and make a big batch of snowflakes you can hang in the window. Nothing screams Christmas like windows covered in magical snowflakes of all shapes and sizes.
- I love looking back at the growth of my kids year after year, and one of my favorite ways to do this is what salt-dough handprints. Every christmas, we whip up a batch of salt-dough and press their hands to make handprints that’ll dry. They can paint them as they want or use one of these handprint art methods, too.
- Visit a tree farm together, run through the aisles and aisles of trees, until you find the perfect one for your family. Want to take it a notch further? Go cut down your own Christmas tree from a local farm that allows this. Just be sure to bundle up before you head out!
- When it’s finally time to start wrapping presents, pick out, or let your kids pick out, their own special wrapping paper. Then, only wrap their presents in their own wrapping paper, and make the switch when you start wrapping another child’s presents. It’ll make handing out presents even easier when you know which child has which type of wrapping paper, too.
Giving Related Holiday Traditions
- The one tradition my kids love more than any, is when siblings buy gifts for one another. Each year, we give the kids each a certain amount of money to go shopping for their siblings. It’s usually $10 per child, but this is completely up to you and your budget. Mom or Dad will take each child to a store of their choice to scout out the special presents and what’s special is not only the time you get one-on-one with your kid during the busy holiday season, but you see how intimately your child knows their siblings and seeing the amount of thought they take to plan for the perfect gift.
Here are 6 Sibling Traditions your kids will love doing during the holidays together.
- Giving gifts doesn’t have to be expensive and often, the ones that mean the most are from the heart – that’s why homemade gifts can be even more special as the store-bought ones. Here are some beautiful homemade gifts perfect for kids to make all on their own.
- Speaking of gifts… let’s not forget out fantastic teachers. Homemade teacher’s gifts are always appreciated and every teacher will recognize the time and patience it took to create one of these affordable and homemade teacher gift masterpieces.
- There are plenty of families and children who are in need during the holidays. Check local non-profit organizations and shelters to see where you can adopt a family and help make their Christmas special. Often times these families aren’t asking for big ticket items, but everyday staples like new socks, a jacket for winter, or a stuffed animal to cuddle with at night.
- Find a place to volunteer this holiday season. It may be at a local shelter, animal shelter walking dogs, helping sort canned good at the local food bank or helping others. Ask your local church and community for ideas if you’re looking for volunteer opportunities.
- There are always opportunities to donate food this time of year too! Purchase an extra couple cans of food, or a frozen turkey and give to a community food drive or local food bank. Make sure to include your children in the buying and giving experience so they get the most out of it.
- One of the Elf on the Shelf traditions I love the most is that before your children get more toys and gifts this Christmas, they have to give up some of their unused, broken, and outgrown toys.
- Don’t stop at just toys – donate gently used clothing, winter gear, shoes and household items that can be used by other families. See if you can find a local non-profit or shelter who will take these items and give them to families in need, instead of a second-hand store that’ll resell them.
- Support your local community and hard-working friend and neighbors by shopping local. Visit the local shops at night when all the Christmas lights are on and talk about how your purchases support your town, instead of a big box store.
- If your family is large, drawing names for secret santa can help alleviate expenses but make the surprise and anticipation extra fun and special for kids.
Fun Activities & Games Make Good Christmas Traditions
- Create a Night Before Christmas Box for all the kids to open up at once, or one for each child. The box can have new Christmas pajamas to wear to bed, a Santa hat, socks or slippers, a Christmas book to read before bedtime, hot chocolate and some sort of note to get your child excited for Christmas morning and/or touch on the meaning of the holiday.
- Get dressed in your pajamas, pour hot chocolate in thermos and drive around your city to look at all the Christmas lights. Sometimes we take detours on the way home from activities to drive around and look at all the lights. The 10 extra minutes it takes us to get home is worth the “awes” coming from my children as we drive around.
- Go on a candy cane hunt around your house. You can either use real candy canes or printed ones like these from a Girl and Her Glue Gun.
- Listen to holiday music whether you ask Alexa to shuffle Christmas Music, or you put on your favorite record – have fun, dance and enjoy how the music puts you in the Christmas spirit.
- Schedule a family movie night to watch The Grinch, but the night wouldn’t be complete without Grinch Popcorn! Get the recipe from Two Sisters Crafting.
- Head to your local library, or start a Christmas book collection you can read every night before bedtime. We pick up a new Christmas book each year to add to our collection, although The Night Before Christmas is still everyone’s all time favorite.
- Christmas Book Advent Calendar. Another fun activity and way to build your library, is instead of an advent calendar, find a stack of 25 books at your nearby thrift store or second-hand store, or even round up all the books you have in your own home, and wrap them in Christmas wrapping paper. Each new day, let your kids pick a book to unwrap and read before bed. Here’s a sample from All About Learning Press.
- Do fun family activities outdoors together such as go sledding, skiing, ice skating, building a snowman, and have a snowball fight!
- Speaking of snowball fights… if you don’t want to bundle up and head outside, then have an indoor snowball fight. These soft snowballs are perfect to have a fun snowball fight, and make sure your house doesn’t get broken, and no one gets hurt.
- December 1st is when the Elf on the Shelf makes his return to our house. We do do Elf on the Shelf, but he doesn’t tattle or report back to Santa when someone misbehaves, and certainly doesn’t take away presents. Our Elf, Peppermint does a lot of fun, naughty stuff during the night (here are 95 NEW & Easy Elf on the Shelf Ideas that take less than 5 minutes to set up), but he also leaves “caught you being good” notes for the kids to praise them on their good qualities, hard work, kindness and more.
- Put on a nice Christmas outfit and head out to find a local Santa to grab a few nostalgic and classic photos with Santa.
- I love to have my kids write down what they really want and need on a wish list, but not just any wish list. We started to use this 6-gift wish list a few years back to streamline the amount of presents, weed out the junk and focus on what they really, really want, need, can use and will also strengthen our family’s connection and time spent together. Check out the 6 Gift Wish List and download the printable wish lists for your kids (formerly the 5 gift wish list that was modified to have more meaning.)
- Camp Out Under the Christmas Lights. There’s something magically about drifting off to sleep with your Christmas lights sparkling up above. My kids get to pick a non-school night in December to set up their sleeping bags, pillows, hundreds of stuffed animals and sleep in the living room with the Christmas tree lights on. We might watch one of their favorite Christmas movies like The Grinch, eat popcorn, have hot chocolate and read a Christmas story before they settle to bed camping out under the Christmas lights.
- It’s time to get dressed in matching family Christmas Pajamas whether it’s just for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, or movie night, driving around to see the city lights or take family pictures. I like to buy a size or two up so all the kids can wear for two or three years in a row and extend the life of the pajamas.
- Make Green Grinch Popcorn and watch The Grinch movie. Schedule a family movie night to watch The Grinch, but the night wouldn’t be complete without Grinch Popcorn! Get the recipe from Two Sisters Crafting.
- There are so many fun ways to do an advent calendar – the options are endless! Here are some of my favorites.
- Lego pieces advent calendar comes with fun pieces to add to your lego collection each day.
- Numbered burlap bags you can fill with goodies, coupons, notes, a piece of candy or something small and thoughtful.
- Melissa & Doug simple magnetic advent calendar for kids is perfect for little hands and no candy or treats involved.
- Wooden advent calendar with little boxes you can fill with small trinkets and treats.
- The holidays and end of the year is a nice time to reflect on the year in review. Around the dinner table, each person can take a turn talking about their most memorable moments, what they liked and didn’t like, look forward to in 2020 and favorite experience from the year.
- Gratitude List. Gratitude has many scientifically proven benefits and this time of year is perfect for practicing gratitude. Each night around the dinner table, or in the morning before school, have everyone list five things they’re grateful for. This doesn’t have to be big stuff, it can be as simple as a good night’s sleep, snuggles with the dog or story before bedtime. The more you practice gratitude, the easier it becomes to have an optimistic, positive attitude.
- We have a handful of sibling christmas traditions my kids look forward to year-after-year but on Christmas Eve, this one is always the most important to them!I used to do this as a child and it’s something I’ve passed along to our kids, a Christmas Eve Sleep Over.This is where all your children can pick a bedroom to bunk in together for the night. This may mean squeezing into one bed if it’s big enough, or throwing a couple sleeping bags on the floor, but the excitement is definitely tangible when all the kids are together in one room and they wake up together on Christmas morning.I love hearing the excited whispers of “I think I just heard a reindeer on the roof,” or “did you just hear jingle bells” after I tuck them in.
- Community Event Lightings. Check your local events calendar to find out when there are tree lightings, parks lit with Christmas lights or a nearby zoo or botanic gardens typically do holiday light events.
- The holidays are about having fun! These hilarious minute to win it games strike up a little friendly competition and are hilarious to boot!
- Have a toddler or preschooler? These Perfect for Preschoolers Christmas games are perfect for little ones who want to get in on the fun too!
- Sometimes the easiest stuff is the most fun. Pull out this set of traditional Christmas coloring pages and sit around with markers, crayons or colored pencils and chit chat while you make masterpieces that can be given to grandparents, hung up on the fridge or used as thank you pictures for teachers.
- Another fun game my extended family likes to play is pass the the saran wrap party ball. Here’s how the game is played:
- The first person with the ball starts unwrapping while the person on their right rolls a pair of dice, trying to roll doubles.
- Once doubles are rolled, the ball is passed to the next player and the sequence begins again.
- The person with the ball does not stop unwrapping until the person to their right rolls doubles. This creates a wonderful suspense and urgency to the game!
- You get to keep whatever treasure falls out of the saran wrap along the way!
- You can roll the dice to see who starts with the ball first! (ie: First person to roll a six)
- For full instructions check it out here.
- Speaking of hilarious games – the flour game is one you’ll love to do every year. All you need is a plate, tea cup or measuring cup, flour and piece of candy. The Flour Game by One Good Thing is a fun addition to every family gathering.
More Holiday Resources:
Elf on the Shelf :
- 95 NEW & Easy Elf on the Shelf Ideas for Busy Parents
- 48 Elf on the Shelf “Caught You Being Good” Notes
- 35 Funny & Easy Elf on the Shelf Ideas
- 30 Easy Elf Ideas: Easy Elf on the Shelf Ideas For Busy Parents
- 5 Gift Rule Christmas: Want Need Wear Read (& A Special Family Tradition You Need)
- 6 Sibling Christmas Traditions: For Kids to Delight in the Excitement of the Holidays Together
- 26 Unique Family Christmas Traditions To Make the Holidays Magical for Kids & Adults
- 30 Fun Holiday Traditions to Make Christmas Magical
Fun Holiday Activities:
- 21 Best Christmas Games Perfect for Preschoolers
- 30 Simple & Fun Children’s Christmas Party Food Ideas
- 12 Hilarious Minute To Win It Christmas Games for Kids
- How to Make a Waterless Snow Globe
- Traditional Christmas Coloring Pages for Kids
- Free Printable Christmas Coloring Pages PDF / Printable Christmas Placemats