Christmas tradition ideas are hard to come up with on your own. Pinterest is full of Christmas tradition ideas, but not all of them are practical or affordable for some of us.
Here I have gathered up my favorite ideas for Christmas traditions, and put them in one place for you to pick and choose what works best for you and your family.
It is never too late to try out a new holiday activity, if you all love it, make it a tradition and repeat it every year. If an activity has stopped working for you, there is no reason why you have to continue with it. Just as it is easy to start a new tradition, it is easy to move on from old ones!
Some of my favorite tradition ideas we developed as children, and I have continued them with my family. Others I have started myself, like every year near the beginning of December we make gingerbread houses, and we invite my mother, sisters and a few of the kids friends.
We make an absolute mess, the kids eat too much candy and we all have a ball doing so! Then we display the houses until boxing day, at which point the kids are allowed to attack and eat their houses over the next week or two.
Traditional Christmas Activities at Home
1 Elf on a Shelf
This little fella comes to your house, and stirs up mischief all month long – here is the trick to doing Elf on the Shelf successfully. If you don’t yet own an elf, you can buy one here, or you can use your own. I personally love the family that use dinosaurs instead!
2 Have a family games night
3 Countdown to Christmas in style
4 Celebrate with friends – have a party!
Hold a cookie decorating party, so much fun! Get everyone to bring some toppings and a batch of cookies to keep the costs down for you. Line your table with newsprint or a wipeable tablecloth, and place a few old sheets or a painters dropcloth under the table to make clean up easier.
5 Play those Christmas carols
Get out your old CD’s, jump on Spotify or whatever way you do music and get that Christmas spirit in ya. Even my non Christmas music husband doesn’t mind the soothing sounds of “Merry Christmas Charlie Brown” or some of the Christmas jazz records.
6 Decorate the house as well as a tree!
We love setting up the tree and decorating the house. We put our tree up on the 1st of December every year. When I was a child, I remember the fun of going to the forest to pick the perfect tree. Now my kids laugh at my getting stuck in our giant cupboard at the top of a ladder, trying to get ours out!
7 Make decorations
Making salt dough ornaments is a lovely tradition, and the kids can paint them and douse them in glitter (and pass them on to the grandparents!). Or you can pop some popcorn and make some garlands and string them up too.
8 Make Home Made Gifts for Extended Family
Hot Chocolate mix in a jar – looks stunning, and tastes amazing to boot! These Polar Bear cookies are more craft than baking, and they make a great gift. Or how about putting an old family recipe on to some tea towels. Last year we made the whole family re-usable food wraps, they are a huge hit! Homemade vanilla is also a great gift, and super easy.
Here are 50 other frugal gift ideas for you to consider.
9 Help spread Christmas cheer in the community
Not everyone has a loving family, life can be stressful, and money tight. Make this a time to spread some Christmas cheer. I love this take on it, where the family each has a set amount of money to spend on cheering people up. It can be as simple as doing some baking, or helping at the local soup kitchen.
10 Create Christmas cards
This is one of my girls favorite Christmas tradition ideas. Every year they make cards for the family and their friends. It makes an awful mess, but it fills in the best part of a cold and rainy day.
11 Write some Christmas cards
Write meaningful Christmas cards to friends and family, a heartfelt card can brighten the most stressful or dark day. Do it the old fashioned way and send them snailmail, in hard copy, so your loved one can re-read them whenever they like.
Christmas Food Tradition Ideas
12 Make a Christmas cake
13 Make a Yule log
14 Cook together
Cook a holiday meal together, let everyone choose their favorite dish, and make them all! This is best done on a day when you can be home for the day. Some Christmas recipe ideas to try are:
Risalamande – has been served on Christmas Eve in Denmark since around 1900, it is a rice pudding with cherry sauce.
Truffles – no Christmas is complete without some truffles!
Cinnamon Rock Candy makes a lovely gift, or special holiday treat.
Gingerbread Houses – we make these every year and the whole family LOVE it.
Peanut Clusters make a lovely gift, or Christmas day snack.
15 Make Christmas Cookies
Christmas time is cookie time, but you don’t have to eat them all! They are great to give as gifts, or you can eat them around a fire with hot hazelnut cocoa.
Greek Honey Cookies – these delicious Christmas honey cookies. Imagine a cross between baklava and an ooey, gooey pecan pie
Struffoli – are fried dough balls that are covered in honey and sprinkles, all served in a mound and is an Italian Christmas staple.
Snickerdoodles – nothing says Christmas like the gentle sweet smell of cinnamon.
Stained Glass Window Cookies – they look beautiful on the tree, and make delightful gifts.
Scottish Shortbread is one of my favorite Christmas cookies. With a cup of tea after we have opened all the gifts. Perfect.
Cream Cheese Cookies with a beautiful glaze. Perfect with a cup of milk on a cold day.
Christmas Eve Tradition Ideas
16 Christmas Eve Santa treats
17 Hang your stockings before bed
Hang up your stockings for Santa (or mom and dad) to fill, my kids know it is me that fills them, but they love it anyway! I always wrap all their nic nacs separately, and they are mostly practical things in their stockings, and treats.
18 Go to a candle light service
Even the non-church goers often enjoy the atmosphere and ambiance of a traditional Christmas eve service, especially if it is candle lit. The kids like the excitement of staying up late, and we find they are super tired and sleep much faster than the usual over excited little bundles on Christmas eve.
19 Watch a Christmas movie together
There are lots and lots and lots of kid friendly Christmas movies around these days! Pick a couple, snuggle up on the couch and watch something together.
Christmas Day Tradition Ideas
19 Christmas Day breakfast traditions
Have a treat breakfast together as a family, try this make ahead casserole, quick cook croissants, waffles, pancakes, bacon and egg, or my favorite – hash browns, runny eggs, basil, fresh tomatoes and fresh mozzarella.
20 Open your gifts together
One tradition that we have continued that started with my Grandmother is that we all open the gifts together, one at a time. So we take turns at choosing a gift from under the tree, giving it to the person it belongs to and we all watch and appreciate the gift before moving to the next person. It does drag out the gift opening for most of the afternoon, but it makes it last longer in a good way. We open our stockings in the morning, and the tree gifts after lunch, only after the dishes were washed, dried and put away – no dishwasher here!
21 Have pudding for dinner
At the end of a big Christmas traditional lunch, we are all too full to think about dessert. So we keep it until we have opened our gifts, making it usually an early dinner instead. This works well as you don’t have to cram more food in at lunch time when you are already full, and you don’t have to think about what to eat for dinner, AND there are plenty of leftovers for the next day.
22 Go for a walk
It is Summer where I live at Christmas, so after dinner it is still light, so we sometimes go for a walk along the beach together. It is a really special time, when everyone is in a good mood. Even in mid winter, an after dinner walk would be nice, visit the neighborhood lights and stretch your legs. It could be quite magical.
23 Look at the Christmas lights
Go out and see all the local Christmas lights – maybe try a Christmas light scavenger hunt!
Christmas Holiday Tradition Ideas
24 Holiday adventures
Visit the Polar Express, for reals! Check out these tips for your family Polar Express trip. Look at your local paper or notice board and see if there are any specials happening on rides or excursions you wouldn’t usually go on.
25 Try something new
Each year doesn’t have to be the same. You might keep some of your Christmas tradition ideas the same every year, but alternate with others, or try something completely different. My dad and I would sit and watch Christmas cooking shows together, and we saw one make palmier hearts with ham and cheese. We made them together for years after that to eat on Christmas eve, and these days I make them with my kids and we take them to my parents place after the Christmas eve service for supper.