If you are looking for the best ideas to create a new fun family Christmas tradition this holiday season, then you are in the right place! Personally, I have a ton that I’ve done with my own family for the last two decades. I’m so excited to share with you 15+ Great Ideas for Christmas Traditions!
Merriam-Webster defines “tradition” as “an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior”. Typically a tradition is passed down from one generation to the next, but it can also simply be something that YOU start and then repeat over time.
Even the most basic tradition can help to elicit a sense of security, belonging, and fond memories. Those were my intentions when I created Christmas traditions for my three children.
As my children grew up and moved away, the majority of our Christmas traditions became centered around travel.
Curious about how other families celebrate, I asked some of my closest friends to share their Christmas traditions with us. They’ve shared some from their childhoods, and some that they do today.
Altogether I’ve compiled 15+ Great Ideas for Christmas Traditions to help give you some inspiration to create your own. I genuinely hope this inspires you to keep traditions for yourself and your family.
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Christmas Tradition #1: The Christmas Tree
This one is too easy. The MOST common Christmas Tradition is getting a Christmas Tree for the Christmas season. Your Christmas tradition might have something to do with when you put up your tree, like the day after Thanksgiving for some people. It could be the type of decorations you use for your tree. It might be about when you take down your tree, like maybe on New Year’s Day.
For us, one of our traditions was that we ALWAYS got a real Christmas tree from a Christmas tree farm. I tried to get a fake tree once a few years ago, but my children INSISTED that we couldn’t because it was “our tradition” to get a real tree. They were right. I never had a fake tree as a child and neither would they.
Christmas Tradition #2: Roasting Chestnuts
When I was a kid my parents would buy chestnuts at Christmas time and we would eat roasted chestnuts late at night. I’ve done this with my children a number of times. It’s not because we love roasted chestnuts. (Honestly, they can be dry and not THAT exciting, but as an adult, I’ve found that they are perfect with some wine.)
The truth is that I just love the memory of eating them as a kid. It was always fun to watch my dad open them and wonder how he could possibly touch those hot chestnuts like that! My dad was born in Italy where they sell chestnuts on the street. When I took my children to Rome we HAD to give the street chestnuts a try! At Christmas time when we are home, we roast them in the oven.
Christmas Tradition #3: Kindness Bows
This is my FAVORITE out of the 15+ Great Ideas for Christmas Traditions. I started this when I had little kids. First, I simply bought cheap red bows from the dollar store and put them into a bowl. Then, every time I would catch one of my children doing something kind for someone else I would tell them that they could put one of the kindness bows on the tree.
I wanted to find a fun way to help them focus on doing good deeds for OTHERS during a season that commercially inundates you with focusing on things YOU want. On Christmas day you can all sit back and look at the tree that is FILLED with acts of kindness. It’s heartwarming!
Christmas Tradition #4: Baking
Most people enjoy eating Christmas baked goods! My mother always made Christmas cookie trays as gifts. We each had our favorite cookie that we looked forward to her making every year.
It doesn’t have to be something complicated. Sometimes we just decorated an easy pre-made gingerbread house.
It doesn’t have to be something complicated. Sometimes we just decorated an easy pre-made gingerbread house.
As they got older, my children liked to make some sort of baked goods as gifts. They have made cookies, fudge, mason jar gifts, and candid nuts (which are SUPER easy to make). Pinterest is an EXCELLENT resource for these recipes and gift ideas.
Christmas Tradition #5: Matching Pajamas
If you have children then you know they have a REALLY hard time waiting to open Christmas gifts. On Christmas Eve it’s not unusual for them to beg to open “just ONE” gift. (I did it as a child too.) This started a tradition in our home. On Christmas Eve I let them each open one gift.
That gift is always going to be pajamas. (At some point it turned into matching pajamas.) Since they are excited about the new Christmas pajamas, they will want to wear them right away and then you will have picture-perfect outfits ready for Christmas morning photos. (Kind of tricky and kind of genius, I know!)
Christmas Tradition #6: Candlelight Church Service on Christmas Eve
Ever since I was young I have gone to a Christmas Eve church service. My children have enjoyed carrying on this tradition with me. During the service, we all get a candle and the person at the end of the aisle has their candle lit first. Then they use their candle to light the person’s candle next to them. This continues until the entire sanctuary is filled with lit candles and singing.
It’s a tradition that is special to my children and me. Even if we are traveling on Christmas Eve we still find a local church so we can attend the candlelight service.
Christmas Tradition #7: Christmas Tree Ornaments
Every year I buy a Christmas ornament for each of my children. The cool thing about her tradition is that one day when the children are grown and they have their own homes, they will each have some childhood ornaments to start out with.
Sometimes it’s just completely random and fun, and other times it’s related to a theme for one of their Christmas presents.
For example, one year one of their gifts was a trip to Great Wolf Lodge Water Park. So… one of the ornaments that year was Santa Claus who was all ready to go to the beach. Usually I let them open their ornaments on Christmas Eve too.
Christmas Tradition #8: Operation Christmas Child
Operations Christmas Child is run by an organization called Samaritan’s Purse. This is an international relief organization that collects shoeboxes filled with small toys, hygiene items, and school supplies and then distributes them to children in need. The children who receive these shoeboxes have been affected by war, famine, poverty, or some natural disaster.
My children always enjoyed shopping for their “Christmas Child” and filling the shoebox for them. It was one of the ways that I tried to help them focus on others, instead of just thinking about what they wanted at Christmas. This year I was able to purchase and fill our shoebox virtually. It really was just as fun to do it online as it is to shop and fill it in person.
Christmas Tradition #9: Travel for Christmas
As my children have gotten older, they have less of a desire to receive “things” for Christmas. Since my middle son, Maverick, has joined the Air Force we have started a new family tradition of taking a trip at Christmas time so we can all be together. We took our first Christmas trip to Nashville, Tennessee.
This is the only family vacation that we take each year, and we all enjoy the gift of making memories together. The trip is my gift to them, so I scale back the presents to just filling a stocking for each of them. You can’t put a price tag on lifetime memories.
Up until now, we have taken our Christmas trips within the United States. I’m hoping to start seeing how other countries celebrate Christmas starting in 2022.
Christmas Tradition #10: Chinese and Movies
Since we travel at Christmas we don’t have a traditional Christmas dinner. I shared in my post about how to have the best Christmas in Nashville that one of my tips for traveling during the holiday is to eat Chinese food on Christmas day. We are so grateful that Chinese restaurants are open on Christmas day!
My other tip is that the movie theaters are always open on Christmas Day, so if we are out of town then the movies are our “go-to” activity! Make sure you look online for your tickets in advance. Sometimes we are the ONLY ones in the theater and sometimes it is packed!
Christmas Tradition #11: Seeing Christmas Lights
When I was a child we would drive around the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania and look at the Christmas Lights. I still love driving around to see them while drinking hot cocoa and listening to Christmas songs. You’re never too old to enjoy Christmas lights!
Since it’s so cold up north they have places where you can drive through to see the lights like the Lights in the Parkway in Allentown, PA.
Even when we travel for Christmas I look into areas that have Christmas light displays. Our favorite place to see Christmas lights is in Nashville Tennessee. It’s great that it’s not too cold in the south so we can enjoy walking around to see them.
Christmas Tradition #12: Creating Christmas Crafts
Some years I have created crafts like Christmas cards. Recently my friends and I made Christmas cards to send to people who are in the active military. It’s fun to make the crafts together and the best part is it helps to remind our service men and women that we appreciate their service.
* If you would like more information on sending Christmas cards to our men and women in the active military click HERE! The link is for the Facebook group Operation Birthday Hug, but the form for joining the Christmas list is in this group as well. *
Christmas Tradition #13: Christmas Decorations
My favorite Christmas decorations are the ornaments that I collect when I travel. I started collecting them in 2015 when I went to Paris. I get a new ornament everywhere I go. It is a great way to remember all of the adventures that we have taken.
Now I have ornaments from ALL over and it is my FAVORITE part about decorating for Christmas. I’m hoping that my children will continue this tradition as they travel. One day they will have Christmas trees filled with ornaments from all over the world.
Sometimes a Christmas decoration is part of the Christmas tradition. You might remember me previously mentioning my friend Susanne who I went to Virginia Beach with this past year. When I asked her about her childhood traditions she told me that her father would set up a very elaborate train display under their Christmas tree each year.
Her father passed away when she was a teenager, but she holds this childhood tradition as a fond memory. Don’t underestimate the impact that meaningful Christmas traditions can have on the people you love.
Christmas Tradition #14: The Magic of Christmas
My childhood best friend, Danielle, is the BEST at creating Christmas “magic” for her children! She has always gone to great lengths to help her children believe in Santa. Danielle has special wrapping paper for the gifts from Santa. She even goes so far as to create Santa’s “snowy footprints” in front of her fireplace. (I think she uses baking four but don’t tell anyone!)
She also gets in the holiday spirit with the Elf on the Shelf. I never heard of the Elf when my children were young. I’ve seen many of my friends on Facebook get REALLY creative with this fun game. Children LOVE waking up to find all the mischievous things their elves got into while they were sleeping.
They’ve come out with different outfits and even pets for the elves. You can select a boy or a girl elf and you even have options for eye color and skin tone.
Christmas Tradition #15: Gifts
I mentioned my dear friends, Monica and Mark, in my post about the Historic Triangle in Virginia. When they had their first Christmas, sixteen years ago, Mark bought Monica a snowman knickknack. He has been buying her a snowman every year ever since.
Mark doesn’t give them to her on Christmas Day. He gives her the snowmen randomly, sometimes when he feels like she could really use some cheering up. Occasionally the snowman is related to a theme, like a cowboy one from their trip to Montana.
She proudly displays her snowmen all winter long, as a wonderful way to remember the number of years they have been together.
Christmas Tradition #16: Food
Holiday traditions don’t have to be elaborate or complicated! One of my amazing longtime friends, Abbey, has 4 children. Her Christmas traditions are centered around the food that her family eats on Christmas Day. Since they eat very healthily the majority of the time, on Christmas morning each of her children gets to pick out a “fun” cereal for breakfast. They pick things like Fruity Pebbles, Captain Crunch, Cocoa Puffs, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Their Christmas starts with the children each eating their desired cereal.
Abbey’s husband works for the military and he travels frequently. She is quite busy with 4 children and she does a lot of volunteer work so she tries to make the Christmas meal as stress-free as possible. She simply makes hors d’oeuvres for everyone to pick at whenever they want to. That way she doesn’t have the pressure of preparing a big special holiday meal. Her goal is to keep the day low-key at home so they can focus on the true meaning of Christmas together as a family.
Christmas Tradition #17: Yearly Ornament
My friend, Michelle, has a tradition that she has held for FIFTY-FIVE YEARS! It’s probably the longest tradition of anyone that I know. Since she was a child each year she got an ornament. The ornaments have her name and the year on them. It started when she was a child and she has kept up the tradition after she was grown.
When she met her husband Allen, she started him on the tradition as well. They have been together for 18 years so he has 18 ornaments of his own. She has a beautiful tree that is FILLED with their special ornaments from a lifetime of collecting.
It's your turn!
Now it’s time for YOU to create a Christmas Tradition!
I have shared 15+ Great Ideas for Christmas Traditions with you, and as you can see it’s really easy to start a new Christmas tradition. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, expensive, or complicated. It could be as simple as having the entire family watch a holiday movie together.
The goal is to spend quality time together and create special memories for you and your family. It’s never too late to create something special.
If you liked 15+ Great Ideas for Christmas Traditions, you might also like New Year’s Eve Traditions from Around the World.