You Create the Traditions and You Create the Memories
When you think about the upcoming holiday season, what Christmas tradition do you look forward to the most?
Even though exchanging Christmas gifts can seem like the highlight of the holiday season, what truly makes it the most wonderful time of year is being together and sharing family Christmas traditions.
While some of our family Christmas traditions remain the same year after year, it’s still fun to start new traditions you hear about from other families or friends.
One thing I have come to realize over the years, and I’m sure you have too, is how holiday traditions are so important to your children no matter what their age.
(This post may contain affiliate links, view our disclosure policy for details.)
Trust me, if your children are still young, you will find that when they grow and have families of their own, they will want their children to experience the same magical holiday season you created for them over the years.
If that doesn’t bring tears to your eyes, I don’t know what would.
So, I read a book once called Mothers Make Memories – no insult to Dads here.
Anyway, I believe that is pretty much true.
Holiday traditions don’t just “magically happen”, do they?
So let’s just say it – memories and traditions are usually organized and planned by you.
It’s all worth it, right?
At the same time, it is important to remember You Can’t and Shouldn’t try to do it all.
The last thing you need is more stress and pressure trying to make everything perfect.
It’s a good idea to remind yourself that spending time with you is one of the memories your family loves the most.
20 Christmas Traditions
That being said, I have put together a list of Christmas traditions that we have enjoyed over the years. Some we do every year, and some not.
Plus, some traditions are small and easy to plan, and some are huge and require early planning.
I’m hoping you find something to add to your tradition list this year.
1. Write the “Family Letter” Together
Let me tell you I think writing the family letter to go into your Christmas cards is great fun if you do it together. Have everyone come up with a couple of things they want everyone to know about them and maybe a message they want to share.
After you are all done laughing you can agree to edit if needed. Keep it positive!
Also, be sure to include a family picture, everyone loves getting those.
2. Watch Holiday Movies.
Hopefully, your family has its own list of holiday movies. You could binge the holiday movies, plan a movie night or schedule the ones you love depending on who you are going to be with.
For example, we try to watch White Christmas when the whole family is together. It wouldn’t be nearly as much fun without our adult children performing “Sisters!”
Even though your family has their favorite, here is a list I put together, in case you want to choose a few more:
It’s a Wonderful Life
A Christmas Story
A Christmas Carol
Santa Claus the Movie
Miracle on 34th Street
The Polar Express
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
3. Make A Gingerbread House
In all honesty, making a Gingerbread House is not much fun if you have to do it alone.
You need some kids.
A while ago, I found a pattern with a recipe for a gingerbread house and we made a new one every year while the kids were little.
Actually, they aren’t as hard to make as you may think, but loads of fun.
4. Annual Ornaments for Everyone!
One tradition I am really glad we started, was to buy a special ornament each year for both of the kids, and now do the same for our grandchildren.
Seriously, every year we re-tell stories of memories the special decorations spark, and I love sitting by the tree late at night looking at all the memories.
The problem comes when the kids move out and take their ornaments with them!
You now have some ornament shopping to do for yourself. That’s not all bad.
And the good part is the kids can now add the ornaments to their own tree, and the Christmas tradition continues.
One more thing about ornaments. Be sure to keep all the ornaments your kids make over the years in school. They love seeing those glittery hand-made ornaments hanging from the tree more as adults than when they were kids!
5. See Holiday Lights Together
This is an easy tradition to plan no matter where you live. Take a drive or a sleigh ride if you can and enjoy the decorations around town.
Actually, most towns have an awesome light parade that you should try to go to.
6. Decorating the Tree
Have you ever had to decorate the family Christmas tree alone? I have.
If you have, probably agree, it isn’t much fun, and it’s a lot of work, even if you are drinking wine.
Let me tell you when you can bring in the family and tell stories as you hang special ornaments, it becomes a memory instead of a job.
Turn on some music, get out the egg nog with a little rum if you like, and you’ll be in the holiday spirit in no time.
7. Attend a Holiday Play or Performance
When our kids were little, we sure didn’t plan on a going to a holiday play becoming a Christmas tradition, but I’m sure glad it did.
So, we bought tickets for A Christmas Carol play one year when the kids were pretty young and I was a little worried they would be bored and let’s face it, those tickets are expensive!
I can’t even begin to describe what a good time we all had, and immediately planned to go again the following year.
Needless to say, we made it a family tradition and went every year for at least 10 years. By the way I also recommend making it a bigger event by getting dressed up and going to dinner as a family.
A super big bonus happened last year when we started attending the play again with our grandchildren and their parents. – It doesn’t get any better than that.
8. Holiday Food
I don’t think there is any other time of year when food actually becomes a tradition like the Holidays.
I love hearing what other families eat on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day, don’t you?
Isn’t it funny that we all have recipes we ONLY make at Christmas even though you could make that dish any time of the year?
In my case, there are several of those foods, but I have to tell you, I make Stuffed Beef Buns every year and need to make a ton of them so everyone can take home some leftovers.
On Christmas Eve we always have an appetizer dinner with a couple of soup choices. I share how I plan our holiday dinner with How to Plan the Perfect Holiday Appetizer Party.
9. Holiday Pajamas
Family Holiday Pajamas are really popular right now and for good reason. Who doesn’t love getting comfortable pajamas and then sit around a Christmas tree?
We were ahead of the game on this one and actually started buying holiday pajamas for our grown children and had them ready when they arrived home for Christmas.
We are still doing it with grandchildren included.
10. Holiday Jigsaw Puzzle
If you love doing puzzles as much as I do, this is a no brainer.
Just get a square card table and set up a `Holiday Puzzle. The first time I did this, I was amazed by what a HUGE hit this was! Pretty much everyone joins in and the puzzle is done in no time.
If you have little people around, save the last 3 or 4 pieces for them so they get to finish it off!
11. Volunteer or Adopt a Family
Is there any better feeling during the holidays than making someone else’s life brighter? Volunteer as a family at a food shelter.
Find a family in need from your church and provide food for a Christmas dinner or gifts for kids, or
Go Christmas Caroling at a hospital or nursing home.
12. Midnight Church Service
Attending a holiday church service at midnight or any time on Christmas Eve is not only a wonderful family time but reminds everyone about the true meaning of Christmas.
13. Go Sledding or Skating
Do you have a place to get outside and feel the brisk winter air? I do. Sometimes it is a little too brisk, but sledding is great fun and if the kids have never tried skating this is a great time to try.
14. Read Favorite Christmas books
What do you remember about reading Christmas Stories during the holidays? There are so many Christmas books I love.
I recommend reading one every day, repeat the favorites and then save The Night Before Christmas until Christmas Eve. I know there are many more, but I had to draw the line somewhere. Here is a list of my faves.
Christmas Books for the Whole Family
Polar Express, 30th Anniversary Edition
The Christmas Wish
How The Grinch Stole Christmas
On the Night You Were Born
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
Snowmen At Christmas
Room for a Little One: A Christmas Tale
Little Blue Truck’s Christmas
Twas The Night Before Christmas
Be sure to add this Christmas tradition to your list every year.
15. Create a Holiday Playlist
If you don’t make a holiday playlist yourself you run the risk of someone playing holiday music you don’t like.
I love Mannheim Steamrollers and my kids do not.
But, they told me when they are in stores during the holidays and the mall plays Manheim, they think of me. I’m fine with that.
The best part is that whatever you play, everyone should know most of the words, so sing along!
16. Frame a Piece of Children’s Artwork as a Gift
My mother is in a nursing home right now and our little grandsons colored her a Christmas picture last year and she really loved it and it is still hanging in her room a year later.
The older we get the more we appreciate and love children’s artwork, don’t we?
17. Advent calendars
You can buy them from Amazon ready with treats or prizes or make your own.
I think a nice twist on the Advent Calendar is to include a Random Act of Kindness for each day in December.
Random Acts of Kindness
Ask everyone in the family to do an act of kindness each day, and at dinner, everyone in the family can share when they had the opportunity to be kind to someone.
18. Forget Gifts and Go on Vacation Instead?
Truth be told, I have always bought too many gifts at Christmas.
I know it isn’t the gifts that make Christmas magical, but I always seem to go overboard anyway.
The point is, I was finally convinced that experiences and memories are much more valuable than material things and that experiences bring lasting happiness, toys and clothes don’t.
This year, we are not buying gifts and taking a short family vacation instead.
This is a leap for me.
We are all looking forward to it!
I’ll let you know how it goes.
19. Gift Exchange Game
There are a lot of variations of Gift Exchange Games out there. Here is how we do it.
Everyone buys and wraps a gift they think others would really want. Set the price amount. We usually go with $20.00
- Sit in a circle with all the gifts in the middle. Everyone takes a gift ( not their own)
- There are 3 rounds of dice rolling.
- Take turns rolling dice around the circle.
- If you roll a 1 or 5, you have to keep the gift you have.
- If you roll a 2 or 4, you have to trade with someone ( they can’t say no)
- Roll a 3 and you have a choice of keeping your gift or trading it.
- If you roll a 6- roll again
- Round 1: Gifts are still wrapped. At the end of round 1, everyone unwraps the gift they are holding. Let everyone see what others are holding.
- Round 2: Roll the dice around the circle and follow the above directions.
- Round 3; Same as round 2, but when it is over, you keep the gift you are holding ( maybe you can still bargain with someone)
20. Saran Wrap Ball
This game on Christmas Eve is new to us, but we are on our 3rd year. So, not exactly a Christmas tradition yet, but still fun.
This year I am going to have my grandsons help create it!
Basically, you buy a bunch of little prizes, everything from candy bars to gift cards and wrap them all together in a cellophane ball ( I bought 50 things). Then you shake dice and take turns unwrapping the ball to claim prizes. See how to make your own Saran Wrap Ball with video from, Lil Luna.
Tip 1: Then you start to wrap the gifts together into a big ball with Saran Wrap. Don’t wrap it with one continuous sheet of plastic wrap. I wrap a couple, break it off and start with a new sheet.
Tip 2: We let everyone trade gifts and prizes at the end if they want.
For example, Grandpa doesn’t want a set of Pokemon cards, but he’ll take a Starbucks Gift Card.
You Make Memories
Whatever holiday traditions your family loves, you know the best part is being together.
Every year, something happens to make that year even more special.
However you plan the holidays you will be making memories for your family to cherish for years to come.
If you have a minute, in the comments below, add a favorite holiday tradition from your family.
Stay organized all season long with a Digital Holiday Planning Workbook. Get yours today!