Family decorating a Christmas tree at night outdoors.

10 Ideas for Family Christmas Traditions (+ 3 Bonus Tips)

Apr 30, 2024

In our versatile world we can find hundreds of different Christmas traditions, varying from culture to culture, and even from family to family. What makes a certain tradition truly special, is the connection you have to yours. That’s why we love getting to know traditions and finding new ones, because family Christmas traditions at the end of the day are the best way to get into the Christmas spirit.

Creating shared moments and fond memories is exactly what makes Christmas such a magical and unforgettable time for everyone. We made a collection of 10 Christmas Traditions you can do as a family, that you can completely recreate, or just take as an inspiration to make a new Christmas tradition for your family. (We also included 3 bonus ideas at the end!)

1. Christmas Decorating: Create a Festive Atmosphere in your Home Together

Christmas decorations are a key element that creates a festive atmosphere everywhere: in our homes, cities, malls and even companies. And while you’re planning on doing it yourself as well,  invite your loved ones to join and help you out with it. 

  • Use strings of Christmas lights to decorate your home, stretch them across the trees and add a twinkle to the bushes and have your family members help you. Decorating a home together can become a very memorable and cherished family tradition, that all of you will enjoy remembering throughout the year as well. 
  • Of course, you can’t forget about the Christmas tree. Put up your tree, decorate it and take a family photo in front of it when you’re all done! The photos will make beautiful keepsakes, you can also post to your friends and other family members. Taking this picture every year will make one of the most sentimental traditions and memories for your family.
  • If this is a tradition that is important to you, you can also set up a Nativity scene in your living space or under the tree. This can also be a fun way to educate the kids about Christmas.
  • Don’t forget about Christmas stockings on Christmas eve! Hang them up on a fireplace or someplace else where Santa Claus can find them and leave small gifts inside of them.
Cozy Christmas fireplace with stockings and tree.


2. Listening and Singing Christmas Carols

No better way to get into the Christmas spirit, than listening to Christmas Carols and magical tunes. Sometimes we even get to start listening to Christmas music long before December even begins, as many radio stations start playing Christmas music in late fall. Popular Christmas classics that will never be forgotten include songs such as Feliz Navidad, Silent Night, Joy to the World, Jingle Bells, Let it Snow and White Christmas. What are you waiting for? Type 'Top Christmas Songs of All Time' in your search engine and start dancing!

Family with children singing by the Christmas tree.

3. Watch a Christmas Movie or a Christmas Play

Christmas traditions begin in the comfort of your sofa.December is the month when beloved Christmas movies and shows finally return after a year. Gather your family and loved ones, curl up on the couch and enjoy one of our favorite Christmas movie classics: 

  • It's a Wonderful Life, 
  • Miracle on 34th Street, 
  • Elf, 
  • Love Actually, 
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas, 
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas. 

For some, the holiday season wouldn't be complete without Home Alone and Die Hard. Children can also delight in children's film classics such as A Christmas Story, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman and Charlie Brown's Christmas Tales.

In addition to films, December offers a varied program of Christmas shows on television. This is also the perfect time to attend the indispensable ballet performance The Nutcracker by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, which enchants viewers of all generations with its magic.

Family watching TV in Santa hats on Christmas.

4. Read Christmas Stories: A Sofa-Friendly Tradition

Reading Christmas novels is another sofa-friendly Christmas Tradition that you can do as a family as well. There’s a wide variety of stories available, from traditional to funny and even to adventurous ones. Well-known classics for children and families include:

  •  Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women," 
  • Jane Werner Watson's "The Christmas Story,"
  • Rick Bunsen's "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," 
  • and many others.

These beloved stories have inspired numerous film and television adaptations.

The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore is one of the most famous Christmas classic stories in the American holiday tradition. Story tells about the magical visit of Saint Nicholas, also known as Father Christmas, on Christmas Eve. Undoubtedly, Charles Dickens's "A Christmas Carol" stands as the most renowned Christmas story of all time. Dickens masterfully emphasizes Christmas not only as a religious holiday and a commercial opportunity but highlights essential human values. These two stories have been boh read over and over for almost 200 years.

Family reading a book by a lit Christmas tree.

5. Advent Calendar: Festive Countdown to Christmas

Advent calendars are a traditional and very popular way to count down the days until Christmas. They create a festive atmosphere for the whole family, as children absolutely adore them, as they help them count down the days to Christmas. Advent calendars are usually made of cardboard and have 24 small windows, with a surprise hidden behind each window - it can be a small candy, a toy or even a clue to find a hidden gift.

To make creating your own Advent calendar easier, you can download a handy PDF document. Inside, you will find December motifs and educational phrases that will brighten up the Advent season for you and your children.

Origin of the Advent Calendar Tradition

The first advent calendar was handcrafted from wood by the German puppeteer Hermann Goebel in the first half of the 19th century. His calendar was very popular among children, and soon the production of calendars spread to other parts of the world.

6. Send Christmas Cards (or an e-Card)

Even though we aren't used to sending physical cards anymore, it doesn’t mean we also shouldn’t. It is a thoughtful gesture and it will also act as a keepsake for the recipients. Create your Christmas cards yourself as a family using color paper, markers, you can even use pieces of fabric to add some texture to your cards. Have fun and enjoy your time spent together.

If DIY isn’t something your family loves doing, you can also have fun digitally, create a Christmas card in Canva or other design tool, and send the cards through email or MMS texts.

Origin of the Christmas Card Tradition

Sending Christmas cards has been a very popular tradition for well over a century. Its history dates back to the early 19th century when the first official card debuted in England. At first, greeting cards were expensive and handmade, but eventually they became more affordable and spread throughout Europe and America.

Assortment of colorful vintage Christmas cards.

7. Bake Christmas Cookies & Treat Your Whole Family

The magical month of December fills the air with the delicious aroma of Christmas cookies! This sweet tradition can be started anytime in December. Let's enjoy baking cookies and unleash our creativity. We can surprise our neighbors, friends and relatives with these delightful treats during visits.

To bake festive cookies, we can use various cookie cutters in festive shapes like stars, Christmas trees, bells, snowmen and snowflakes. Different colored frostings and colorful sprinkles can be used to make the cookies look even more festive. If you like to create, you can bake a gingerbread house or make gingerbread decorations. The tradition of gingerbread baking became especially popular after the Brothers Grimm's German fairy tale, "Hansel and Gretel," was published.

When baking cookies, we can't forget our special guest who arrived every year! On Christmas Eve, it's a tradition to leave a few cookies and a glass of milk for Santa Claus and his reindeer as a tasty snack.

Festive Christmas cookies shaped like holiday symbols.

8. Traditional Christmas Eve Dinner

Christmas Eve is the pinnacle of the holiday season. This is a night when the whole family usually gathers together and enjoys the meal together. Christians families celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on Christmas Eve and attend midnight mass. The traditions and customs of Christmas celebrations vary around the world, reflecting different religions and cultures.

A traditional Christmas dinner is a highlight of Christmas Eve, in which we usually enjoy the following dishes:

  • Roast turkey is the most common main dish at American Christmas dinners. It is usually stuffed with herbs, bread and fruit,
  • usually served with cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and vegetables,
  • in some regions, tamales, roast goose with red cabbage, or roast pork are preferred to turkey,
  • coastal areas often favor fish and seafood dishes for Christmas dinner, with options like crawfish jambalaya and "seven fishes" seafood salad being popular choices,
  • for dessert, we commonly enjoy pastries like strudel, pie, or muffins,
  • we also treat ourselves to a glass of eggnog, which is a popular drink during the Christmas season.
Christmas dinner spread with roasted turkey and candles.

Dishes served at Christmas dinner are often those that have marked our childhood with their flavors and aromas, passed down through generations. These are the dishes that connect generations and create the warmth and coziness of the holiday season.

9. Write a Letter to Santa and the Reindeer!

Every year, Santa Claus visits children all over the world. To help Santa Claus know what they want, children can write him a letter, in which they tell him what they would like for Christmas. They should remember to write their name and address and tell him if they have been good or naughty this year. Santa has a magical way of receiving letters so yours will definitely reach him.

To write your own letter to Santa easier, you can download a handy PDF document.

10. Visit Santa

For centuries, Santa Claus has brought joy and sparked the imagination of children all over the world. Although he lives in the North Pole, at Christmas time he takes a magical journey in a flying sleigh pulled by reindeer and visits children all over the world. During this festive season, children also have the chance to meet him in person.

Many children excitedly visit Santa Claus, taking photos with him and sharing their wishes with him. Today, Santa Claus can be found in various locations, including department stores, Christmas fairs and special events. Holiday Lane is one of the events where you can meet Santa during the holiday season.

Origin of Meeting Santa for Christmas

The tradition of capturing a photo with a child in Santa's arms dates back to the late 19th century. It's said that Scottish entrepreneur James Edgar first dressed as Santa Claus in a department store in Brockton, Massachusetts, to the delight of children. His idea was extremely well received by the children and soon it became a Christmas tradition in other stores as well. Before that, children could only see Santa Claus in magazines and newspapers.

Family taking a selfie in front of a Christmas tree.

3 Extra Cool Ideas for Children 

1. Santa's Footprints

Does your child also wake up on Christmas morning and "Did Santa visit us?" If you want to have unforgettable proof that Santa visited your home too, Santa's footprints are the perfect solution! On Christmas Eve, wait for your children to fall fast asleep, and then create magical Santa boot prints. All you need is a cookie tray, flour, and two boots as big as possible. 

  1. Sprinkle flour on the cookie tray. 
  2. Place the tray of flour near the fireplace (or wherever Santa usually enters your home) 
  3. Press the two boots into it to leave visible footprints. 

You can also print additional footprints outside the tray leading to gifts. On Christmas morning, when children see Santa's footprints, they will be delighted with the "proof" that the real Santa visited them!

2. Sleeping Under the Christmas Tree with Children

The Christmas tree brings the magic of the holidays to our homes every year. Suggest your children to go camping under the tree in the living room on Christmas Eve! Set up the pillows and blankets, bring out stuffed animals and create a comfortable bed for sleeping. They will be thrilled with the idea of sleeping under a Christmas tree decorated with twinkling lights. Make a movie night with children and watch one of your favorite Christmas movies with a cup of delicious hot chocolate.

Child napping by the glow of Christmas tree lights

3. A Walk Through a Winter Wonderland and Creating Natural Christmas Ornaments

Have you ever experienced a magical feeling of walking through a snowy-covered forest? Take a walk with your children along the forest trails and observe the animals tracks, trees and plants that have dressed up in winter attire. This is a great opportunity for playing and creating. While hiding among the trees and exploring the forest paths, you can gather natural materials to make beautiful Christmas ornaments. You can collect soft moss to decorate your nativity scene, pine cones of all shapes and sizes, branches of spruce, fir, and other trees. At home, you and your children can use these materials to create unforgettable ornaments that will decorate your Christmas tree and fill your home with warmth and a holiday atmosphere.

Kids playing in the snow on a sunny winter day.

To Sum Up …

In conclusion, Christmas family traditions are deeply ingrained in American society, as well as across the globe, and are an essential part of the December season. Some old customs are slowly changing, while new traditions are emerging. Religious and secular customs merge with family traditions. In any case, the core essence remains unchanged - the celebration of Christmas is undoubtedly passed down from generation to generation, allowing us to create new experiences and beautiful memories together each year.