55 Family Holiday traditions
The holidays are a wonderful time to build lifelong memories with your family. Some of my favorite memories include baking with my mom, attending performances of Handel’s “Messiah”, and watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” on Christmas Eve.
Now that my siblings and I are grown and married, we try to gather at Grandma and Grandpa’s house the Saturday before Christmas. With three generations (14 adults and 15 grandchildren), it feels like a carnival with lots of laughter, plenty of food and Christmas chaos. Getting everyone together to bless the food and sit down to eat is like herding cats—cats that all talk simultaneously. But the best part is knowing that our annual family gathering is a favorite tradition for my kids.
If you’re looking for a special way to bring your family closer this year, try one of these creative ideas.
Baking and Holiday Food Traditions
- Organize a cookie swap with your neighbors.
- Make the same entree or dessert for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day every year.
- Make and decorate cookies with your kids.
- Make a gingerbread house with your family.
- Make mulled cider in the crockpot.
Memory Making Traditions
- Make decorating the the tree a family event, serve hot chocolate and play Christmas music
- Attend a Christmas concert together.
- Get a handful of friends together and go caroling.
- See a local production of ‘The Nutcracker’ ballet.
- Take a Christmas Lights tour
- Have your picture made with Santa.
- Go ice skating with your family.
- Start the ‘Elf on a Shelf’ tradition.
- Read holiday books before bed each night.
- Pose for a family picture.
- Pick out a new ornament for each child.
- Help your child write a letter to Santa. Take the letter to your nearest Macy’s and drop it in the special Red Believe letterbox. #MacysBelieve
- Watch the movie The Polar Express (IMAX 3D) at the National Infantry Museum.
- Make a festive tree garland with paper chains.
- Write an annual letter to your child.
- Light the Menorah together every night of Hanukkah.
- Find mistletoe, hang it in your house to kiss under.
- Draw names in your immediate family and make a gift for that person.
- Camp out in sleeping bags under your lighted Christmas tree.
- Learn about holiday traditions from around the globe.
- Use an Advent calendar to count down to Christmas.
- Set aside one night each week to watch a holiday movie or television special.
- Attend church as a family on the four Sundays before Christmas.
- Set up an Advent wreath in your home.
- Watch the movie The Nativity Story.
- Take your family to the Coca-Cola Space Science Center to watch the full-dome planetarium show “Mystery of the Christmas Star.”
- Celebrate St Nicholas Day by leaving your shoes out on the night of December 5th.
- Set out a Nativity set.
Acts of Kindness Traditions
- Take part in a community service project as a family.
- Drop a gift anonymously at someone’s doorstep.
- Find a Angle Tree that allows you to sponsor a family in need or purchase toys for children in need.
- Take dinner to a less fortunate family.
- Let your children pick out a charitable organization, then make a donation.
Christmas Eve Traditions
- Track Santa’s progress across the globe on NORAD.
- Take a picture of your sleeping kids every year the night before Christmas.
- Make reindeer food on Christmas Eve (oats and candy sprinkles) and toss it on the lawn for Santa’s team of reindeer.
- Read The Night Before Christmas before bedtime.
- Read the Christmas Story and remember the real reason we celebrate.
- Put out cookies and snacks out for Santa on Christmas Eve.
- Get matching pajamas for the kids to wear on Christmas Eve.
- Attend a Christmas Eve candlelight service.
- Start a gag gift tradition.
- Open one gift on Christmas Eve.
Christmas Day Traditions
- Wait to open presents until after religious services or brunch.
- Hide a pickle ornament in your Christmas tree. The first person to find it gets to open the first present on Christmas morning.
- Celebrate Jesus’ birthday with a special birthday cake.
- Take a family walk on Christmas Day.
- Invite family, friends, and neighbors over Christmas evening for games and dessert.
After Christmas Traditions
- Surprise your neighbors with treats during the 12 Days of Christmas (December 25 to January 5.)
- Celebrate the “Feast of the Epiphany” or “Three Kings’ Day” on January 6.