Christmas is a time to build lifelong memories with your family. Traditions also help you bond and reconnect with loved ones, friends, and neighbors.
Creating traditions takes just a little time and energy to plan. We’ve put together a list of fifty traditions to inspire your own holiday traditions and make the season a little brighter.
Holiday food traditions
1. Make traditional dishes for your holiday meals and include foods from your culture or foods you ate growing up. Ask for recipes from relatives to keep your family food traditions alive.
2. Organize a cookie-baking party. Invite friends and family, or a group of your kids' friends. Ask everyone to bring their favorite holiday cookie recipe.
3. Make the same entree for Christmas Eve (such as stew) and Christmas Day (ham or turkey) every year. Or, choose a side-dish that becomes the yearly tradition, even if it's just for laughs.
4. Make a gingerbread house with your family. Those pre-made sets make it easy and provide you with everything you’ll need! Another option is to use graham crackers, some royal icing and candy you've saved for this purpose.
Neighborhood and community traditions
5. Get a handful of friends together and go caroling. You’ll be surprised by how well-received your singing group is, even if you’re out of tune!
6. See a local production of ‘The Nutcracker,’ ‘A Christmas Carol,’ or another holiday-themed show.
7. Check out holiday lights in your area. Get in the car, turn on your holiday playlist, and find brightly lit houses.
8. Record local holiday events on your calendar. Most cities have concerts, festivals, plays, and more to celebrate the season.
9. Walk door to door delivering Christmas cookies after you've made a batch.
10. Go visit Santa! Do your research and find out what times of the day are best to this, like mid-week during the evening.
11. Go sledding, ice skating, or other outdoor winter activity with your family. A great time time to schedule this is on Christmas day, after the gifts are opened, the meal is eaten, and everyone is getting antsy from being inside.
Around the home holiday traditions
12. Start the ‘Elf on a Shelf’ tradition. Your kids will love it and it will keep them on their best behavior!
13. Read holiday books before bed each night. The Polar Express, Santa Mouse, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas are all excellent tales to boost your family’s holiday spirit.
14. Go to a tree farm to locate the perfect Christmas tree. At home, decorate it as a family or let the kids do their thiing. Have some treats and hot cider or cocoa on hand to keep energy levels up!
15. Create a holiday playlist that your family listens to in the car or at home. Don’t forget classics like ‘White Christmas,’ ‘I’ll Be Home For Christmas,’ and ‘The 12 Days of Christmas.’
16. Use an advent calendar to count down to Christmas. There are many varieties of advent calendars, from candles that are burned daily to boxes you open daily.
17. Set aside one night each week to watch a holiday movie or television special, such “Miracle on 34th Street” and “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”
18. Have your child start an ‘I Am Thankful’ list. Have him add one thing he is thankful for each day. You can turn this into a decoration by having him write it on a paper Christmas tree or snowflake that you then hang across the fireplace or some other area.
19. Purchase or make a holiday ornament for each child every year. This is a great reason to reminisce during holiday decorating.
20. Sit down with your child and write a letter to Santa.
21. As a family, write your holiday letter. Have each member contribute one memorable moment from the year to be recorded to share with friends and family.
22. Make holiday decorations yourself! Decorate windows with paper snowflakes, glue glitter onto pinecones and arrange in a bowl, and visit kid-friendly crafts sites to get creative and fun ideas that will involve your children.
23. Start a holiday village display. Add a new house or shop to your display each year.
24. Camp out in front of your Christmas tree one night. Keep the tree lights on, read holiday stories, and snack on holiday treats.
Giving back holiday traditions
25. Volunteer your time as a family at a soup kitchen or a food bank that hands out food to families in need.
26. Find a giving tree that allows you to sponsor a family in need or purchase toys for children in need. Go shopping for the items together and donate them.
27. Start a canned food drive in your neighborhood or at your child's school. Ask neighbors to donate canned and non-perishable foods, then donate them to a food bank.
28. Go through closets and donate gently used clothing (coats are particularly useful this time of year) to a local shelter.
29. Hold a book drive and ask coworkers, friends, neighbors, and family to donate books for kids that you can give to your local library, elementary school, or family shelter.
30. Deliver cookies and treats to your local fire station, police department, and even the staff at your local hospital. After all, they’ll be working through the holiday.
31. Don’t forget senior citizens! Volunteer time at your local senior citizens center or see if there is a giving tree specifically for the residents.
Holiday gift traditions
32. Draw names in your immediate family and make a gift for that person. It can be as easy as a playlist for an MP3 player or a photobook of your family’s greatest moments of the year.
33. If gifts have been sent from relatives that are far away (like grandparents), use Skype or another video chat service when they are opened so everyone can share in the joy.
34. Spend a day, and possibly a night, in a local metropolitan area and get your holiday shopping completed. Ask your mom, sister, or sisters-in-law to come along!
35. Pick names randomly and only give gifts to the person whose name you draw. Set a dollar limit to keep it even and have fun!
36. If your extended family is large, make a deal among the adults to buy gifts for only the kids of the family.
37. Spend Thanksgiving night planning your Black Friday. Check out all the sales, map your route, and make your list.
38. Start a gag gift tradition. Give a funny gift to a family member. Each year, pass the gift on to another unsuspecting family member.
Christmas Eve traditions
39. Open one gift on Christmas Eve.
40. Track Santa’s progress across the globe on NORAD.
41. Make reindeer food on Christmas Eve (oats and candy sprinkles) and toss it on the lawn for Santa’s team of reindeer.
42. Read The Night Before Christmas at bedtime.
43. Leave a ‘trail’ of gifts from the chimney to the tree so show Santa’s route in the house.
44. Get matching pajamas for the kids to wear on Christmas Eve. Talk about a great photo op Christmas morning!
Christmas morning/day traditions
45. Open all the gifts under the tree at 12:01 a.m. on Christmas Day. This works best with older kids and teens.
46. Don’t open presents until after religious services or brunch.
47. Choose a family member at random to pass out gifts to everyone.
48. Call or have a video chat with loved ones who aren’t able to be with your family.
49. Invite family, friends, and neighbors over Christmas evening for games, dessert, and to decompress from the holiday.
50. Go out for breakfast and let someone else do the cooking!