12 fun family Christmas tradition ideas
What are some of your favorite Christmas memories from childhood?
I’m guessing that if we could all sit, sip on some hot cocoa and share with one another, several of us would mention holiday traditions as some of our fondest memories.
Sitting around the fire. Attending Christmas Eve candlelight services. Reading The Night Before Christmas. Placing the star or angel on top of the Christmas tree. Visiting Santa. Eating turkey, dressing and mac-n-cheese until even our Christmas snuggie gets a little well, snug.
I’m getting so sentimental right now. It’s really weird (I know), but I can smell what my grandmother’s street smells like at Christmas if I close my eyes. Even now, in this moment, I smell burning embers from a neighbor’s fireplace mixed with warm apple pie. That’s how engrained the holiday traditions are from my childhood. Anyone else relate to that (potentially concerning) level of nostalgia?
Now that I’m a momma to two little ones, I want more than anything to create those same wonderful memories for them.
Speaking of traditions, in my quest to form some really fun ones in our family, I wanted to share some that I discovered in hopes it will help you out if you are looking for some, too:
***(Some of these might be a little late to do this year, but it’s never too soon to start planning for next Christmas)
(1) Hand-make an ornament each year as a keepsake and 3-D memory! – This could be as simple as cutting a wreath form out of some green construction paper and writing your name on the back. Each year as you unpack all of the Christmas ornaments, you will have special treasures just waiting for you to discover! It is also fun to watch as a child’s artwork changes over the years.
(2) Giving project – Did you know that in December, Children’s Hospital hosts a “Sugar Plum Shop” for all of the children who are patients in the hospital near Christmas? Each family is able to visit the Sugar Plum Shop, select gifts for their children (even children who are not patients of the hospital!) and provide them incredible Christmases. This is such a beautiful and important tradition. You can volunteer your time, gifts or funding to this organization to help them continue to bring smiles to the precious children spending their time getting well over the holidays.
Of course, this is just one example of the many ways we can get involved during the holidays. Women’s shelters need food/gifts, homeless shelters need volunteers and schools are always looking for ways to give families an extra helping hand during the season. Churches typically maintain ongoing lists of needs in the community if you are looking for even more specific recommendations.
Adding a giving project to our yearly traditions is a way to remind our little ones (and ourselves) of the requirement and importance of sharing our blessings with others.
(3) Gingerbread memory book – A few years ago, my grandmother and I started a tradition of making gingerbread houses a couple weeks before Christmas. Since gingerbread houses are not permanent (just imagine the vermin that would invade your house looking for that bad boy at the first sight of Spring!), we decided to capture our memories in the form of a scrapbook. Each year, we make gingerbread houses and then catalog the photos in a big scrapbook. It is already such a joy to look back at those special moments together!
(4) Cookie decorating – This is a tradition that can also be used as a service project. Consider packaging up some of your homemade deliciousness and taking a box to an elderly friend, or someone who may not have family at Christmas. A fun activity for you that your family could turn into such a blessing for someone else.
(5) Record your yearly family highlights – Each year, sit down with some hot cocoa and chat with your family about all the things you did that year. Where did you go on vacation? Who was born? Who got married? What fun activities did you do? Did someone graduate? List it all on a piece of cardstock and begin a Family History Scrapbook. It will become one of the most fun traditions and best ways to preserve your memories as a family! Plus, how sweet will it be years down the road to pull out your memory book and relive all the magic!
(6) Pajama/Christmas light night – OK. This is one of my favorite ideas! Get the family matching pajamas (or not … depends on how fun you wanna make this tradition), whip up some hot cocoa or cider and pile into the family vehicle. Then, spend the evening driving around, listening to Christmas music and scouting out all the beautiful decorations in your town!
(7) Write a letter to your children – Each year, choose a day close to Christmas (or even Christmas night). Sit down somewhere quiet and write a letter to each of your children. Share stories about them from the year, from Christmas and offer some encouragement for their future. Then, when they are 18, combine all of your letters in a book, and gift it to them on Christmas morning. Not only will this be their favorite gift (maybe ever) but it will be something they can return to often.
(8) Operation wise men/women – Christmas Shopping for others! Consider taking your children to a store to purchase three small gifts for other children. These gifts could be for some of their friends or children they’ve never met in need of some extra love. These gifts can be very inexpensive (think Dollar Tree, etc.); it’s the thought that counts. When you get home, allow them to wrap their gifts and place them under the tree. Over the next few days, allow them to take the presents to the children or tell them the story of when the child received their gift.
The importance of giving is a concept that can easily get lost in the shuffle at Christmas time (especially for young children). So, instilling the value of giving early and remembering to treat others is a great way to mold their character early on. These memories will stay with them forever!
(9) Advent – For each day in December, wrap up a Bible verse or encouraging message. Sit as a family and open the package together. Discuss the meaning and pray together. This tradition is strategic for laser-focusing the attention to the true meaning, while still involving the fun past time of opening a gift. Regardless of whether or not you are on a faith journey, you can take some time to yourself during the season to rest and rejuvenate. Take advantage of those extra off days from work to restore your soul!
(10) 12 Days of Christmas scavenger hunt – Beginning on December 13 each year, hide small gifts throughout your home and provide clues for finding the presents. You could even switch off the “hider” of the gifts each day. These are meant to be small presents (think: Dollar Store, etc.) to build up excitement for the big day!
(11) Family appreciation craft – Get each family member to write down on a decorative piece of paper something they love, something funny or an encouraging thought about every other family member. Collect each family member’s messages and compile them on a fun ring for them to read.
(12) Happy Birthday, Jesus! birthday party – This has become my family’s favorite tradition! My kids almost get more excited about singing “Happy Birthday!” to Jesus (and equally giddy about gobbling up his delish birthday cake) than they do the gifts laying in the floor behind them. Hosting a small birthday party is an excellent way of putting the birth of Jesus in central focus and on a child’s level.
Funny side story: After we sang the birthday song and began to pass the cake around last year, one of my daughters came to me with a concerned look on her face. She certainly got my attention when she whispered: “Mommy, why didn’t Jesus show up for His birthday party? Did you forget to send Him an invite…?!?!” Oh, the joys of tiny tots. Needless to say, it was a perfect opportunity to begin explaining the whole life of Jesus, not just the tiny babe in a manger.
I love all of these meaningful traditions where the family all gets involved. This one is another that your children will be able to look back and reflect on all year long.
What are some of your favorite family Christmas traditions? Please share in the comments for others to see!
To receive encouragement and read more about thriving rather than simply surviving in motherhood, check out Erin’s book, Cheers the Diaper Years: 10 Truths for Thriving While Barely Surviving here.
Erin Brown Hollis is Yellowhammer’s lifestyle contributor and host of Yellowhammer Podcast Network’s “Cheers to That” podcast. An author, speaker, lawyer, wife and mother of two, she invites you to grab a cup as she toasts the good in life, love and motherhood. Follow Erin on Instagram ErinBrownHollis or Twitter @ErinBrownHollis