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40 Family Christmas Traditions That Are Totally Mom-Approved

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Get inspired by this list of fun and clever family Christmas traditions! Filled with lots of ideas for at-home, service, month-long traditions, and more!

My parents handed us a nicely wrapped box as we sat around the tree with bellies full of yummy treats and eyelids drooping due to the hour.

”We get to open a present on Christmas Eve?!” I thought.

We got to open a gift every year on Christmas Eve when I was growing up and every year it was a new set of pajamas.

I love the tradition so much I’ve continued it with my own children.

I’ve been thinking about the fun traditions our family loves and decided to combine them with some other great ideas from my mom community.

This list of family Christmas traditions is full of really special and unique activities that will make your holiday season merry and bright!

Family Christmas Outings

I love to cozy up at home, but it’s also nice to get out and about during the holidays.

Here are some great seasonal outings you can turn into fun family traditions.

You can also check with your city website or Facebook page to see what activities are available in your area (most of those are usually FREE!)

Christmas Tree and Lights Ideas

Elaborate display of Christmas tree lights seen through the front windshield of a passing car.

Kids always enjoy Christmas lights! There are several fun ways to view the lights at Christmas. Here are some of my favorite:

1. Christmas light parade

Check with your community to see if they have an advertised light parade to try. Or, there are typically lots of businesses or farms that have Christmas displays to drive or walkthrough for free or with a small entry fee.

2. Town Christmas tree lighting

This is a great way to get out in the community for Christmas. You can also plan to meet up with friends or family and make a whole night of it, too.

3. Ride around in the car to see the neighborhood lights

If you’ve got creative neighbors who go all out, this is definitely the easiest way to see some Christmas lights. And here’s an idea to make seeing the lights even more fun:

4. Get donuts and hot chocolate for the car ride

Bring some homemade treats, or hit a drive-through on your way out. Why? Because Christmas treats make everything better!

5. Take a trip to a tree farm to pick out a tree

6. Find and cut down your own tree

This could be a fun bonding experience and Christmas tradition to implement each year.

Festive Pictures

Young boys sits on Santa's lap next to Mrs. Clause as a fun family Christmas tradition.
Family poses for family Christmas pictures in their winter outfits in snowy outdoor setting.

7. Pictures with Santa

This is another fun Christmas tradition that gets you out of the house. If you don’t want to pay the steep fees for a picture with the mall Santa, check for local events that may be hosting the man in red.

8. Family Christmas pictures

If your kids aren’t into Santa, you can use the time of year to do family portraits. Choose a festive part of town and take advantage of any mini-session discounts from your favorite photographer!

RELATED: Wondering What To Wear For Family Pictures?

Last-Minute Shopping Fun

Rack of last minute Christmas gift ideas and stocking stuffers in a store.

These next two ideas are great for a quick trip to the dollar store or drugstore.

9. Pick out stocking stuffers

Give each family member a small spending limit and have fun picking out stocking stuffers for each other. Just be sure to keep your eyes on your own gifts!

10. Select small gifts for extended family

You can also take your kids to the dollar store to pick out gifts for their extended family or friends. This is an inexpensive and fun way to give kids the freedom to choose their own gifts. As they get older, this family Christmas tradition can become more and more meaningful.

RELATED: 60+ Dollar Store Finds You’d Be Crazy To Buy Anywhere Else!

Entertainment Ideas

11. Distract the kids from gift wrapping

While mom finishes wrapping presents, dad can take the kids bowling or swimming (depending on where you live). This way the kids will definitely not get any sneak peeks!

12. Go to the movies

Everyone loves a trip to the movie theater and there are always a couple of family movies that come out around Christmas.

You can make it a tradition to go see a fun movie on Christmas day after all the presents and food have been devoured or during Christmas break when all of the kids are home from school.

Fun At-Home Christmas Traditions

Whether you’re having lots of company or it’s just going to be you and the kids, it’s so nice to have some planned activities you can do without leaving home.

13. Make some food for Rudolph

Sprinkle some “reindeer food” on the front lawn. (Here’s a recipe and free printable).

14. Try your hand at a large puzzle

You can work together on a large pieced puzzle to promote some family bonding time. You can make it a tradition to purchase a new puzzle each year. Or, just use the same one each time!

15. Showcase your Christmas tree

Take a family photo with your tree. Because, after you’ve done all your decorating and hung your favorite ornaments, you have to show off your handy work!

16. Enjoy festive foods and drinks

Make homemade crock-pot hot cocoa or introduce Christmas brunch.

Christmas Movie Classics

Boy watches Christmas classics on the TV as part of his family's Christmas traditions.

17. Plan a movie screening

Try one of these popular movies: A White Christmas, A Christmas Story, Home Alone, It’s a Wonderful Life, and the Grinch.

My personal favorite is Elf!

18. Elevate your Christmas movie watching with unique treats

Here’s a super fun twist to try: Make themed dinners and treats according to whatever movie you choose.

For example, a great theme idea for the movie Home Alone is pizza and ice cream! And don’t forget the Pepsi 😉

Christmas Crafts & Baking

Decorated gingerbread house with assorted candies and frosting and penguin foam craft house on a kitchen counter.

19. Make gingerbread houses

On my husband’s side, we have a Christmas tradition of decorating gingerbread houses and reciting the Christmas Carol. Decorating gingerbread houses is a great activity to involve kids of all ages!

20. Decorate cookies

21. Make cookies for Santa

These jam-filled thumbprints only need 4 ingredients!

Flat lay with a white plate, Christmas desserts, ornaments, red measuring cups, and a rolling pin.

22. Make homemade candy

Like this delicious cracker candy or this marshmallow fudge.

One mama shared a super sweet story about how her mom made homemade hard candy to sell each year. The profits all went toward getting their dad’s Christmas gifts. How cute is that!

If you’re interested in old fashioned Christmas ideas, this would be a great activity to try.

23. Make homemade tree decorations

Brunette woman and blonde girl decorate a Christmas tree with pink and gold decorations.

I love the idea of making ornaments for each new member of the family. You can use items like their hospital tag or sonogram pictures.

Then, each year, have everyone begin with their first ornament when you decorate your tree. This is one of the Christmas traditions to start with babies and continue as they grow. 

Month-Long Family Christmas Traditions

Blonde girl wearing red polka dot shirt holds L.O.L. advent calendar in front of Christmas tree.

24. Advent calendars

Advent calendars are a fun way to celebrate all month long.

I especially love advent Calendars that have a treat for each day leading up to the 25th. You can make your own calendar or find really cute ones in stores.

25. Matching Christmas pajamas

You can also gift your Christmas PJ’s on December 1st so you can have them for the whole month.

26. Christmas books

One of my FAVORITE month-long Christmas traditions for kids is gifting them a new book to read before bed each night.

This will get them excited for Christmas and encourage a love for reading.

Brunette woman sits on bed reading a book while boy and girl listen beside her.

Christmas Eve Traditions

Christmas Eve traditions are some of favorite traditions and the ones I remember the most from my childhood.

Christmas Eve Gifts

27. Let kids pick one gift to open on Christmas Eve

Lots of families like to open one gift on Christmas Eve. You can let it be a random gift or give a gift that mom and dad pick.

28. Open new pajamas

One of our family Christmas traditions growing up was to open new pajamas on Christmas Eve so we had something new to sleep in! We’ve continued this tradition with our kids.

29. Ugly Christmas pajamas

One mom even suggested ugly Christmas jammies as a fun tradition. 

30. Christmas boxes

Another fun idea is “Christmas boxes” for Christmas Eve.

These can be decorative boxes filled with several small, special items or even just a shoebox.

I like the idea of the Christmas box being for Christmas jammies, slippers or socks, and fun treats to eat while watching a Christmas movie.

31. Christmas Eve family sleepover

A family sleepover is a fun and magical Christmas tradition for families to do under the lights of the Christmas tree.

Others suggested a kids’ sleepover in the living room, in one of the bedrooms, or even in the basement (so Santa doesn’t wake them!).

We always slept in the same room as siblings but never seemed to get much sleep that night…haha!

Other Christmas Eve Activities

32. Christmas at midnight

Some families actually have Christmas at midnight. They open presents, eat treats, and do all of the normal Christmas morning activities. (This is definitely one of the more unique Christmas traditions that was shared but could be really fun to try.)

33. Put on a show

I also like the idea of turning off all the lights and reading ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve or holding a family talent show.

34. Have a big Christmas Eve party

Growing up, my dad’s side of the family would always gather for a big Christmas Eve party.

My grandma had red ornaments with all of our names written on them.

We would start with the youngest family member and go one by one making a wish or resolution for the new year as we placed our ornament on the tree.

Christmas Service Traditions

The holiday season is a great time to devote to family service opportunities.

35. Acts of kindness

You can make Christmas cards and leave them on doorsteps, make cookies for a senior home, deliver treats to a firehouse, volunteer at a soup kitchen, or have fun picking out gifts for children in need.

36. Light the World

To get involved in Christmas traditions around the world, one mama shared that she likes to participate in the #lighttheworld campaign.

This campaign gives simple and meaningful opportunities to serve as Jesus did during the holidays. It’s a great way to get kids excited about serving others and can invite the true spirit of the season.

Religious Family Christmas Traditions

A a small nativity scene on a table with Christmas lights in the background.

37. Attend Church

Going to church is obviously a great religious tradition for Christmas. I love hearing and singing all the Christmas hymns.

38. Go Christmas caroling

If you’ve got the chops for it, you could even go caroling with your family or friends.

39. Make Christ the focus

One mom shared that she makes the Sunday before Christmas all about Christ so the gift-giving and present opening doesn’t overshadow the true meaning of the holiday.

40. Read or act out the nativity

Every year before we opened presents as a family, we’d always read the story of Christ’s birth from Luke 2. It helped us remember what the true meaning of Christmas was before we opened our gifts. 

Some other great family traditions to bring Christ into Christmas are to act out the nativity or have a “Jerusalem” dinner (here’s a really cute Jerusalem dinner set-up).

Four children dressed in costumes act out the nativity scene in a living room.

Want More?

If you’ll be spending a lot of time at home this Christmas season, here are some helpful tips for getting your house party-ready and super clean for your guests: 

And If you liked this post, be sure to check out this list of 90 non toy gifts for kids for lots of ideas on meaningful Christmas gifts.

Your Turn

What are your favorite family Christmas traditions? Let me know what fun ideas you’d add to this list in the comments!

Pinterest graphic with text and collage of fun family Christmas traditions.

Ashley Ziegler

Thursday 12th of December 2019

I loved it when my mom would take us kids in the car and we'd drive around town and look at the Christmas lights people put up to decorate their homes and yards. It's so fun!


Friday 13th of December 2019

Ah yes! My parents always had these fun neighborhoods they knew about!