15+ Great Ideas for Christmas Traditions

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!  

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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Quote: In a world full of changing trends, I just want a little bit of tradition.

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. 

Christmas Tree Tradition
Picking out our tree in 2020

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.)

Chestnuts Rome Italy
Chestnuts in Rome, Italy

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.

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

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.

Red Bows

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!

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

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.

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

It doesn’t have to be something complicated. Sometimes we just decorated an easy pre-made gingerbread house.

Christmas Tradition Christmas Cookies

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.

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

Cookies

Fudge

Candid Nuts

DIY Food Gifts

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

Matching Christmas Pajamas
This is when the tradition started.

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!)

Matching Christmas Pajamas
Here they are now!

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.

Christmas Eve Church Service Tradition

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 Eve Service Tradition

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

Santa Ornament

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.

Operation Christmas Child

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.

* 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.*

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

Christmas Tree Nashville Tennessee
Christmas in 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.

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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.

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*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. 

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!

Chinese food Christmas Tradition

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 Movies

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!