15+ Great Ideas for Christmas Traditions

🎄 If you are looking for ideas to create some new Christmas traditions, then you are in the right place! Personally, I have a ton that I’ve done with my children for the last two decades. I’m so excited to share with you 15+ Great Ideas for Christmas Traditions!  

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 is repeated 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.

Currently, the majority of our Christmas traditions are 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. All together 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.

Merry Christmas,

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1) The Christmas Tree

This one is too easy. The MOST common Christmas Tradition is getting a Christmas Tree. Your Christmas tradition might have something to do with when you put up your tree, like the day after Thanksgiving for some people. It might be about when you take down your tree, like maybe on New Years Day. It could be the type of decorations you use for your tree.

For us, one of our traditions was that we ALWAYS got a real Christmas tree. 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 Tree Tradition
Picking out our tree in 2020

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.

Chestnuts Rome Italy
Chestnuts in Rome, Italy

* For a recipe for oven roasted chestnuts that you can make at home click HERE. *

3) Kindness Bows

This is my FAVORITE out of the 15+ Great Ideas for Christmas Traditions. I started this when my children were very little. First, I simply bought cheap red bows from the dollar store and I 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 just wanted to find ways to help them focus on 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 heart warming!🥰

Red Bows

* You can click HERE for small bows just like the ones I use on our tree. *

4) Christmas 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.

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.

* Here are a few of my Pinterest boards and recipes that we use to make Christmas food gifts. * 



Candid Nuts

DIY Food Gifts

Ninja bread cookies
These were Ninjabread Man Cookies we made one year for fun.

5) Matching Pajamas

If you have children then you know they have a REALLY hard time waiting to open presents. 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. Every 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 pajamas, they will want to wear them right away and then you will have picture perfect outfits ready for Christmas morning photos. (Kinda tricky and kinda genius, I know!)😉

Matching Christmas Pajamas
This is when the tradition started.
Matching Christmas Pajamas

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 isle 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 is we are traveling on Christmas Eve we still find a local church so we can go to the candlelight service.

Christmas Eve Church Service Tradition

7) Christmas Tree Ornaments

Every year I buy a Christmas ornament for each of my children. 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 who was all ready to go to the beach. Usually I let them open their ornaments on Christmas Eve too.

Santa Ornament

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.

Operation Christmas Child

* If you would like information on how to get involved with Operation Christmas Child click HERE. This year you can even fill a shoebox online.*

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. This is our 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 too.

Christmas Tree Nashville Tennessee
Christmas in Nashville, Tennessee

*TIP: When I travel I use either Booking.com or Agoda to book my flights and hotel. They are companies that I know and trust. If you are planning a trip, click the links below so you can receive the same excellent service that I have come to count on. 



10) Chinese and Movies

Since we travel at Christmas we don't have a traditional Christmas dinner. We are so grateful that Chinese restaurants are open on Christmas day, because it's the only place we can eat when we are traveling.

We also know that the movie theaters are open on Christmas Day, so if we are out of town then the movies are our "go to" activity!

Chinese food Christmas Tradition

11) Seeing Christmas Lights

I asked some of my closest friends to tell me about traditions that have been meaningful to them. My friend, Andrene, said that when she was a child she would drive around Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania and look at the Christmas Lights. This year we took our daughters to go and see the lights in the Lehigh Valley. You're never too old to enjoy Christmas lights!

Christmas Tradition Lights
Christmas Lights
Christmas Lights
Christmas Lights
Christmas Lights

12) Creating Christmas Crafts

Some years I have created 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 it helps to remind our service men and women that we appreciate their service.

My friend Andrene started a new tradition this year of creating Christmas ornaments with her children. The cool thing about her tradition is that one day when the children are grown and they have their own home, they will each have some childhood ornaments to start out with.

Christmas Ornament
Christmas Tree

* 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. *

13) Christmas Decorations

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 a tradition you create can have on people you love. 🚂

My favorite Christmas decorations are the ornaments that I collect when I travel. I started collecting them in 2015 when I went to Paris. 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 to travel. One day they will have Christmas trees filled with ornaments from all over the world.

Paris Ornament
Belize Ornament
Las Vegas Ornament
Mexico Ornament

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.) 🤐

She also participated in all the fun 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 their elves. Children seem to LOVE all the fun that their mischievous elves get into. 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.

Elf on the Shelf Christmas Tradition

* Click HERE to purchase your Elf on the Shelf. *

15) Gift Traditions

I mentioned my dear friends, Monica and Mark, in my post about the Historic Triangle in Virginia. When they first met, 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 the cowboy one from their trip to Montana. She proudly displays her snowmen all winter long, as they remind her of the number of years they have been together.


16) Food Traditions

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 healthy the majority of the time, on Christmas morning each of her children get 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. Abbey 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 Traditions Keep it simple with hors d'oevres

17) Yearly Ornament Traditions

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.

Christmas Ornament
Christmas Ornament
Christmas Ornament
Christmas Tree

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 something new. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, expensive, or complicated. The goal is to 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

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