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Did your family have Christmas traditions growing up? In my family, we always made a birthday cake for Jesus that we ate for breakfast on Christmas morning, and we always went to the Christmas Eve service at our church. Now that I have my own family, we have tried to come up with our own family Christmas traditions that our kids can look back on fondly.
There are so many ways to make the holidays special that are simple and inexpensive, and I’ve put together 24 of my favorite simple family Christmas traditions to give you some inspiration.
24 Simple Family Christmas Traditions
Use a Jesse Tree
We decorated a Jesse Tree for many years growing up, and recently we’ve started doing it in our own family. If you’re not familiar with this idea, you can either make or use pre-made ornaments that go along with a different Scripture reading for each day of Advent leading up to Christmas. The one we have used for several years is the Jesse Tree Toolkit. There is the option to make your own ornaments, print the ones provided and color them in yourself, or print them already colored. I did the last option and laminated them so we can use them for a long time to come! There are also devotionals for families and for individuals.
Decorate Christmas cookies with friends
Part of the Christmas fun for me is baking cookies on my own while listening to Christmas music, but it’s also fun to get together with friends and decorate Christmas sugar cookies. My favorite recipes are Rolled Sugar Cookies and Sugar Cookie Icing.
Go Christmas caroling in your neighborhood
If you have slightly older children, it would be fun to walk around your neighborhood and sing Christmas carols to your neighbors. Especially if you have older neighbors who may not get in and out of their house very much, this could be a huge source of blessing to them.
Place Wreaths with Wreaths Across America
This has become a tradition for us over the last 6 years. Every December on one day, Wreaths Across America coordinates putting a wreath on veterans graves at over 1,600 locations across the US and overseas. They need volunteers to help lay wreaths out with some cemeteries having thousands of graves. We volunteer at a cemetery in town that has over 4,000 graves and gets about 500 volunteers each year. This is a free way that you can teach your children to remember and honor those that served to protect them. Find details about this years Wreath Laying Day and find a location near you.
Use an Advent calendar
Advent calendars are fun ways to countdown to Christmas. You can make a paper chain, buy one with candy or toys from the store, or make your own, such as this DIY Lego Advent Calendar. I got a little house with 25 doors on clearance at Target many years ago, and my kids love filling it with candy each year on November 30.
Let everyone pick out an ornament
My husband inherited almost an entire tree of ornaments that he had been given as a child. As we decorate the tree each year, it’s fun for our kids to see his childhood ornaments. As a result, one fun tradition is to give each child an ornament or let them pick one out. I like to pick them out on my own and put them in their stockings. They don’t normally make it on the tree that year, but the next year it’s fun for each child to put their own ornaments on the tree.
Make presents for someone
Whether it’s for teachers, grandparents, or people in your immediate family, it’s so special to make your own Christmas gifts for them. For ideas, see my DIY Gifts Pinterest board.
Choose a gift for someone from the Compassion gift catalog
Even if you don’t sponsor a child through Compassion International, you can purchase a gift for someone in need in their Christmas Gift Catalog. Depending on your budget, you could let each child pick something out to give to someone else.
Play Christmas music while you decorate the Christmas tree
With so many streaming music services, it’s easy to find fun Christmas music to listen to. We pick a weekend block of time when we can pull everything out of the attic, get a Christmas tree, put ornaments on the tree, and hang stockings. Sometimes we’ll have slice and bake Christmas cookies baking so we can munch and decorate at the same time.
Do one-on-one dates with kids to buy presents for each other
You can set a budget for each child or, if they’re older and have their own pocket money, they can purchase presents on their own. For younger children, the dollar store is a great place to go on this outing.
Take pictures in the same spot each year
Some people like to take pictures on the stairs, while others prefer a yearly post in front of the Christmas tree. We like to take pictures before our church’s Christmas Eve service. This is something you will look back on with joy for years to come.
Drive around and look at Christmas lights
We like to pick a night in December when there’s nothing else happening, eat an earlier dinner, then everyone gets in pajamas or comfy clothes and we drive around for an hour or so looking at Christmas lights and decorations. Then when we’re done, we head to Krispy Kreme for donuts!
Watch Christmas movies on family movie night
There are so many Christmas movies that are appropriate for all ages. Pick a Friday night, make some hot chocolate, and watch one of our 30 favorite Christmas movies.
Use a Christmas Book Advent Calendar
Another Advent calendar idea is to wrap up Christmas books. I shared how we do a Christmas Book Advent Calendar recently, and don’t worry—you can check them out from the library instead of buying them.
Buy a new board game
I recently heard of a family who buys a new board game each Christmas for them to play on New Year’s Eve, but there’s no reason you couldn’t play it earlier in the year. I think we’re going to be starting this tradition this year!
Gift Christmas pajamas
Even if the adults in your family don’t want new pajamas, you can at least get them for your kids and then let them pose for pictures on Christmas Eve.
Go on a special Christmas outing
Most communities have events that are fun for families to attend. Some are free and others may have a small cost, like a Living Nativity or Lights at the Zoo.
Make some Christmas crafts
There are so many options for making Christmas crafts with your kids. I listed my favorite frugal Christmas crafts recently.
Adopt a family in need
There are dozens of organizations that give you the opportunity to adopt a family at Christmas and gift them with items they need. Check with local non-profits or Google “adopt a family for Christmas” in your area to see what programs are available.
In order to keep Christmas morning from being one big chaotic mess, one way to slow things down is to stuff stockings and do that first. You can let kids open stockings on their own, then have breakfast together, and then get to the presents. Last year I shared 75+ Stocking Stuffers for $10 or less if you need some ideas.
Let kids take a Christmas bath
I ran across this idea this year that sounds super fun for young kids! Use food coloring to turn the bath water red or green (but not both, of course… because then it will just be brown). You can also get Crayola bath drops.
Volunteer as bell ringers for the Salvation Army
Give your kids the chance to do something for others by volunteering as a bell ringer for the Salvation Army. You can sign up on the Salvation Army website.
Make gingerbread houses
You can buy a kit for each person to decorate their own, or you can follow directions to make your own.
Have a recipe swap
In the past, I’ve gone to some recipe swaps with just cookies, but this year I actually got invited to one that is including both sweet treats and savory appetizers. If you want to host one, then simply ask everyone to bring samples of their recipe as well as instructions, and provide cards for people to copy down the recipe if they want to try it themselves. This is a great way to get together with other adults during the holidays!
Make Christmas cards a family affair
If you’re a Christmas card family, then let everyone join in by addressing and stamping (if they’re able to do that), or younger kids can use Christmas stickers to decorate the cards.
Do you have any special Christmas traditions? Let us know in the comments!