Countless people affirm that their fondest memories of the holidays usually involve simple Christmas traditions. The fancy dinners, holiday parties and extraordinary gifts give way to simpler, family oriented activities. During these challenging times, reviving or starting Christmas traditions can bring wonderful new sets of memories.
Looking for meaningful Christmas traditions for the family? I put together this list of 21 creative ideas to inspire you to start new and memorable Christmas traditions this year.
Remember that the important thing about these family Christmas traditions is that everyone is together so you can make special memories that last beyond the holidays.
1. Decorate as a Family
Decorating the house and tree at Christmas isn’t only for small children. Get the whole family involved. Set a date, and make decorating a fun party or event. If you have guests that don’t live with you, wearing a mask can make things even more fun.
2. Make Some Cookies
Making cookies can be a fun project for the kids and even adults. Choose a special recipe that you only use at Christmas, or bake simple shortbread cookies that you can roll out and cut in Christmas shapes. Have everyone decorate using pastry bags or simple plastic bags with the tip cut off for each frosting color. Holding an annual decorating contest is a great way to build excitement as both youngsters and adults vie for the year’s cookie crown. Definitely one of my favorite Christmas traditions to adopt this year on this list.
RECIPE: Candy Cane Kiss Cookies
3. View Christmas Lights by Car
Take the family on a magical drive to explore holiday lights in your town. The kids can wear their pajamas, and you can see your neighborhood in a whole different light. Afterward, you can serve hot chocolate and cookies or other snacks.
4. Recording a Christmas Video
You can spend some time recording videos with the family that you can later send out as holiday greeting cards. If the family is musical, record the family singing or playing favorite holiday songs or taking turns reciting “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.” You can also arrange solos for each of your kids for their own special greeting.
5. Have One or More Special Movie Nights
Holding a Christmas movie night can leave great memories. You can let each family member pick the movie on certain nights or compile a playlist of holiday favorites. The movies don’t even need to be holiday movies; they can easily be movies that adults or kids want to see. Serving hot chocolate and popcorn is traditional, but maybe your family prefers hot dogs or burgers instead.
6. Make a Bucket List of Holiday Events
Let everyone choose a favorite thing to do that’s safe and includes only family members. Planning a trip to the zoo or inviting kids from the neighborhood isn’t recommended during these challenging times. It could be family skating, skiing or anything on this list. Just make the list and try to schedule all the events on the annual list.
7. Spend an Evening Making Christmas Ornaments
Spend an early evening in December making custom Christmas ornaments. They can be as simple as putting your name on an ornament or as complex and creative as each family member likes. You can keep the ornaments for years, or, at least, those that don’t get broken over time. You can order unfinished wooden ornaments and supply acrylic paint, glitter and paste-on lettering to inspire your family’s creativity. It can be one of the many meaningful Christmas traditions that will create holiday memories.
8. Give Back to Less Fortunate
You can make a project of filling stockings or shoe boxes with little treasures, candy and school supplies for the less fortunate. It’s important to remember those less fortunate during the holiday, and you can research local charities to find the details for this type of family project.
9. Host Family Game Night
Family game night can continue as part of your annual celebration, even after family members move away and build new family groups. You can choose games from the classics — like Clue, Monopoly or Trivial Pursuit — or play favorite video games. Card games work fine if everyone agrees.
10. Hold a Family Slumber Party
Hold a slumber party with the family by camping out around the tree on the first night it’s decorated. You can use pillows and blankets, sleeping bags or whatever furniture is handy for sleep. While you’re at it, read Christmas stories — or even horror stories — by the glow of the tree lights. You can snack on whatever your family prefers or provide special treats for the occasion.
11. Make Christmas Soup as an Easy Meal Alternative
On Christmas Eve, or even on Christmas day, you can have a special soup. Homemade vegetable soup or crockpot potato soup are good options. If someone in the family has gourmet cooking skills, he or she can be enlisted to make a fancier soup. The soup can take up its own niche as an annual tradition that doesn’t spoil any other Christmas menu items. Soup is comfort food, and everyone can help chop vegetables to finish the job quickly.
12. Record Your Family History
At Christmas, it’s a great time to record information about the family and collect photos and videos. You can collect all the material in a journal, and reviewing past journals can also be a big part of the process.
13. Cook Together as a Family on Christmas Morning
After the initial rush of opening presents, you should enlist the whole family to help cook Christmas breakfast. Those who don’t cook can help set the table and begin cleaning up the mess of discarded wrapping paper. You might have a special breakfast — such as blueberry pancakes with boysenberry syrup or eggs benedict — or a different breakfast menu each year.
14. Open One Present on Christmas Eve
Many families allow the kids to open one present on Christmas Eve, and that can be even more fun if you carefully select which present each person is allowed to open. You can use the process to hint at gifts to come or hide what the person is getting. Your family will enjoy the drama, any you can switch back and forth between accurately predicting other gifts or obscuring the gifts with phony foreshadowing.
15. Hold a Gingerbread House Building Competition
Kids love to compete, and even adults can get in on the action of building a gingerbread house. It’s one of my favorite old Christmas traditions that everyone can enjoy. You can get the supplies commercially or bake gingerbread on flat sheet pans for cutting and assembling. Be sure to provide frosting, candies, Graham crackers and milk cartons or other boxes to use as frames. You can save the best part for Christmas dessert — disassembling and eating the house.
16. Make Your Own Christmas Candy
Find easy recipes for various Christmas candies to make. You don’t want to mess with the complicated process of cooking sugar to the candy stage, so keep it simple. No-bake fudge, preacher cookies, nut clusters made in a crockpot, peppermint bark, peanut butter snowballs, no-bake Oreo truffles and homemade chocolate crunch bars are all god choices.
17. Get the Kids to Help Make and Send Personalized Holiday Greetings
Making your own Christmas cards can be exciting for the kids, and computer printers make the process fast and easy. You can also decorate the cards by hand for a more personal touch. It might be the only mail you send all year, but try to mail the cards instead of delivering emailed greetings. If you prefer, you can get the family together for a professional photo, but enlist the kids to address and personalize the cards.
18. Host a Talent Show
Even if your family doesn’t show traditional talent, hosting a talent competition can spark creativity and create a lot of laughs. The show can be as serious or silly as you prefer, and family members will often spend a good part of each year planning for their closeups. The talents can be kooky if you prefer, and that can inspire even greater efforts of creativity.
19. Set Up a Hot Chocolate Bar
This idea just screams magical Christmas traditions! On Christmas Day or Christmas Eve, you can set up a hot chocolate bar with all kinds of add-ins. You can offer whipped cream, cocoa powder, marshmallow cream, marshmallows, chocolate chips and other goodies like cake and cookies. You don’t have to limit the menu to hot chocolate. Another idea is to offer herbal teas, hot cider and fancy coffee beverages. For the hot chocolate, it’s great to make it from scratch, but you can use packets if you prefer.
20. Create an Advent Calendar
You can prolong the Christmas spirit by creating a calendar or events, based on your kids’ favorite activities. One good way to reinforce good Christmas behavior is providing small gifts for the 24 days prior to Christmas. These can be simple trinkets, reminders of a favorite activity that evening or recommendations of good deeds or chores to perform. Mix it up with a good deed to perform one day and a small gift the next. It’s definitely one of the most unique Christmas traditions on this list.
21. Remember What Christmas Is All About
It’s important to set aside time to remember the story of the first Christmas as one of your simple Christmas traditions. You can read directly from the bible, discuss the story in your own words, read Christmas stories or have the kids act out nativity scenes.