I always imagined that we would have tons of fun family Christmas traditions. Christmas is a magical time, and I wanted to bring lots of Christmas magic into our family. But once we had a kid, and then another, (and then some more), things got a bit hectic and chaotic around the holidays. As much as I wanted to have traditions, they slipped out of sight as Christmas neared.
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So now I’ve decided to start fresh over the last two years of Christmas and incorporate some fun Christmas traditions that would make the whole season magical for the kids. These traditions for kids are fun, most are inexpensive, and some are new, unique Christmas activities that aren’t your typical find. I’ve also included a few meaningful Christmas traditions that the whole family will enjoy.
Hopefully you can find some fun holiday traditions for the family among these ideas!
1- Ice Skating
We live near two towns, and both offer an ice rink or an ice trail. We’ve taken the older kids a couple years now to go ice skating. Their first time it was exciting, but challenging. Luckily, nowadays most ice rinks will offer what we call Ice-Skating-Walkers. They look like a big, plastic walker, and they glide on the ice, helping the child balance and build confidence as they skate! These make it a great winter activity for all ages. And, as these little ice rinks are run by the recreation department in each town, it turns out not to be too expensive for a nice night of ice skating!
Check out what local ice rinks are near you for a fun, family night out! It makes a great Christmas tradition with kids!
2- Search For The Best Light Displays
This free holiday tradition is so much fun that we usually end up driving around every weekend in December to find more light displays. This is a cheap, magical way to add to holiday spirit!
While your nearest big-city may offer incredible light shows that you can pay to see (and are probably worth it!), it’s likely that whatever town you live in also has local people who have gone above and beyond to decorate their own house. A simple search in your local FaceBook group will yield results showing you the best light displays in town!
3- Make Christmas Cookies Together
Each year, we do a big baking day. My daughter and I (and whoever else wants to jump in!) will spend about 6 hours in the kitchen making a large sampling of Christmas Cookies. We start with one, and while the dough chills in the fridge or cooks in the oven, we start another. We make hundreds of cookies in one day! We’ll sort them out and deliver them to friends after. Making Christmas Cookies together is a great day for bonding and fun. We turn up the Christmas music and it feels a little bit like a Hallmark movie when everyone gathers in the kitchen to bake.
Many of the recipes we use come from Sally’s Baking Addiction, where she has a HUGE list of Christmas cookie recipes!
4- Deliver Cookies to Friends
After we have hundreds of cookies made, we get plates and start dividing up the Christmas cookies! We cover them and spend an afternoon driving around, far and near, to friends whom we want to deliver some Christmas cheer! This is a great way for kids to see that while cookies are good, sharing is better 🙂
5- Make Gingerbread Houses
This is a common tradition for the holidays, and it’s one we usually do as well. My husband’s family took this tradition very seriously growing up (and even into their adult years for those that still lived close to home.) His mom would spend what I assume was all-day-long making homemade gingerbread, cut out the pieces, and make homemade icing. She got it really thick and perfect to hold the big pieces together. She would have bowls of candy set across the table for the little ones to decorate each house.
We take the easy way out and buy a gingerbread house kit from our local store. It’s still a lot of fun and easy on clean up!
6- Hold a Door Decorating Contest
Usually every year at school, each classroom will decorate their door for a friendly school contest. 2020 brought us a whole lot of things we didn’t expect, like schooling at home. So we decided to have our own door decorating contest, and I think this activity will stick for years to come!
We used a bunch of butcher paper and decorated with that. My son didn’t use butcher paper at all, but just colored construction paper and different supplies to make his decorations. We all had a ton of fun coming up with ideas a spending the night being creative. This fun, family Christmas tradition hardly costed anything, but lasted for hours!
(We use butcher paper in SO many projects and activities, like our Harry Potter Day. So if you’ll be doing a lot of activities, it might be worth buying some. It really comes in handy. And it lasts a LONG time!)
7- Holiday Bake Off
The Holiday Bake Off is a fun tradition we started a couple years ago and have a lot of fun with. We split into teams and each team chooses a holiday dessert to make. They plan and shop for ingredients and we choose one night where both teams go to work baking their dish of choice! We then taste all the desserts and vote for ourselves 😂. The competition makes it fun, but the yummy desserts at the end make it better.
8- Find a Service Idea or Project
Christmas has so much fun and festive activities surrounding it, but I really feel like the best way to get into the spirit of Christmas is to focus down on what it’s about. I had a connection to someone who worked at a school where there was a lot of need.
We began just with one family, then our friends wanted to join in, so they got a family, too. Then I realized how generous our neighborhood was when I posted the opportunity to help. Through everyone’s help, we were able to bring Christmas under the tree (actually, including a few trees!) of 9 families.
My contact who helped make this possible shared stories she overheard, after the surprise drop offs, of the kids at school talking about how they WOULD have presents for Christmas this year. She said their attitudes were changed.
We took our kids along to help with two days of dropping off gifts and had so much fun ding-dong ditching the families! I have a few pictures and videos my kids love looking at, which I won’t post for privacy reasons.
So whether it’s Christmas shopping for a family in need, buying a toy to drop at your local toy collection, or volunteering time at a homeless shelter, make sure this tradition of giving of time and/or money makes its way into your family! It’s the best way to teach about the spirit of Christmas!
9- Making Christmas Cards to Send Friends and Family
Some years, my daughter will get out my stamps and glitter and embosser tool and hand-make some Christmas cards to send her cousins or friends. The other kids inevitably get involved as well, and it turns into a fun night of card-making.
You don’t need fancy tools to make fun Christmas cards though. You can simply have little ones draw a picture, make a reindeer face or snowman from little thumbprints, or draw pictures and send to grandparents or aunts and uncles.
10- Christmas Movie and Hot Chocolate
My kids LOVE any time they are allowed to have screen (we don’t have cable. Or Amazon. Or Netflix. Or anything else), so it’s really a treat to be able to watch a movie together. Their favorite holiday movie is Home Alone (did you know there were 5 Home Alone movies? We just got them all a couple years ago and they love all of them, though I wouldn’t recommend them for little-littles.)
Serving up some hot chocolate while they watch is just icing-on-the-cake 🙂
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11- Around the World Christmas
Christmas is celebrated differently around the world. Learning about Christmas traditions around the world can be really fun and really educational. And it can be a great way to incorporate new traditions into your home!
Did you know that a Guatemala Christmas tradition is to eat Guatemalan Tamales for Christmas Eve Dinner?
Christmas traditions in Scotland include burning a second-growth twig to clear away bad feelings. Homes in Scotland will also put candles in their windows to signify that they welcome strangers into their homes, as a way to honor the Holy Family who was searching for a place to stay the night. Christmas Traditions in Scotland haven’t been around long though, as Scotland was banned from celebrating Christmas for nearly 400 years!
Or use some great books to learn more about Christmas traditions around the world
12- Fun and Festive Obstacle Courses
Obstacle courses can be even more fun at Christmastime! Adding a few sensory products can really make an obstacle course festive. We like to use red yarn to make lasers, but we add some jingle bells onto the yarn. This makes it festive, and it makes it so we know if someone has touched a laser!
You can also drape a white sheet or blanket over some chairs to make a tunnel, but make sure to decorate inside with lots of Christmas lights to be able to see through the tunnel! These fun additions make the kids stay and play a while, all while adding a festive touch!
13- Walk down Main Street
Whatever town you live in, it probably decorates for the holidays (or hopefully you live near enough to one that does.) We take our kids into town onto the Main Street, where lights and decorations abound. No matter what your town does, it’s probably special and adds a little Christmas magic. As simple as it sounds, just walking down your town’s Main Street can be really fun and a free way to spend time together and enjoy lights and decor at Christmas. Experiencing your own town all lit up is a fun family Christmas tradition that’s affordable!
14- Ride the Christmas Train (or make a train at home!)
Many cities across the nation have a Christmas train that runs. We have one under 2 hours away, so it was fun to surprise the kids with a “train ticket” and take them onto the Christmas Train.
It can be a bit expensive. I’m glad we did it and got to experience it, but we probably won’t be doing it again. Instead, I decided that this year we would ride the Christmas Train at home. I spent a little money to try and make it magical, but overall it didn’t cost much (and not nearly as much as the real thing!)
Don’t forget a nice, big, warm cookie for the train ride!
On the Christmas Train, there are elves that are aboard and entertaining the children with songs, games, and dancing. So I bought a little elf apron from Amazon to try and play that role. While you ride, and if you are in the dining cart, you can order dinner to eat. I made a simple dinner and served it up on our train ride. Then, the Christmas train rides through the North Pole and spots Santa. This part was a little trickier to do at home, so I simply bought some wall hangings / tapestries off of Amazon to set the scene a little and make it feel more like the North Pole.
Here are some fun elf aprons and costumes to help get you into character 🙂
Read more about how to create a Christmas Train at home Here!
15- Make a Christmas Movie
Kids are really creative. My kids are creating things all the time and coming up with new games and pretend-play ideas, so I thought it would be really fun for us all to make a Christmas movie. The kids can be the directors and use their creativity! Put out a few Christmas props such as Santa hats, bells, stockings, maybe a small Christmas tree (or your big Christmas tree, if it doesn’t need to move), Christmas dresses, a string of lights…whatever you’ve got will work! Then watch the magic happen as they create a movie. TIP: I limit it to a 5-minute movie, otherwise things can really go off on a tangent for a while 😉
16- Go to The Nutcracker
I had gone most of my life without seeing The Nutcracker, and that shouldn’t have happened. I’ve now seen it twice in the last couple years, and I love it. There is a great feeling watching toy soldiers, ballerinas, mice, and other characters bring alive a story while using dance. It really is beautiful.
You don’t have to spend a lot, either. If you can go to a big city production, it is worth it. But if you can’t, there are still lots of options. Local dance schools often put on a production of The Nutcracker for a fraction of the price. And, thanks to 2020, there are many virtual showings of The Nutcracker as well, which are also budget-friendly for the whole family!
17- Write Kind Notes to Each Other
This tradition also brings in the spirit of Christmas a little more. Decide on a night where you can all gather and write notes to each other. These can be notes on a piece of scrap paper, colored paper, or even little Christmas cards. Encourage the kids to really be thoughtful about what they write in each family member’s note. Guide them a little: what do they like about that person? What is something fun they do with that person? What’s a great memory they have with that person?
This is a great self-esteem builder, and just a great way to spread love and kindness during the Christmas season. You can choose to read the notes immediately, or stash them away and deliver them Christmas Eve to read together.
18- Make Large Gingerbread Men
I’ve already mentioned a few baking traditions, but I have to include this as well as it is one of my kids’ favorite. We bought a big gingerbread man pan and ever since have made and decorated this giant cookie each year. The kids have a lot of fun with it, and we found a recipe we love that let’s us keep enjoying it for a while after the decorating is done!
(It’s hard to find this exact pan anymore, but here are some other options! The gingerbread one listed below is 8-inches)
19- Take a Family Christmas Photo
Probably a popular family Christmas tradition, this is fairly easy as well. It can be really fun to get dressed up in everyone’s nice Christmas apparel (or maybe in matching pajamas, or ugly Christmas sweaters!) and take a Christmas picture. It’s really special to look back on my kids over the years in their matching dresses and see how they’ve changed and grown each Christmas.
I’m a big fan of wall hangings. We have a few, and taking a family picture is the perfect time to get the most out of it!
20- Have a Christmas Carnival Night
Really this is just a fun way of saying a bunch of Christmas Minute-to-Win-it games! We have gotten more and more into these minute-to-win-it games over the years and we have a lot of fun with them! Here are a few of our favorites:
- Reindeer nose dash – Get two paper plates; one with cotton balls or red pom poms, and one empty. Cover the tip of your nose in petroleum jelly (Vaseline) and start the timer! You have one minute to use your NOSE ONLY to transfer the cotton balls from one plate to the other!
- Cookie Drop- Take one of those homemade cookies and set it on your forehead (you’ll have to look up at the ceiling). Then you have one minute to get it down to your mouth without using your hands. If you drop it, start again!
- Candy Cane Hooks– using only a candy cane, try and hook other candy canes and transfer them from one bowl to another bowl. See how many you can transfer in one minute.
- Marshmallow Drop– This one requires a partner. One partner stands on a chair while the other person lays on the floor below, holding an ice cream cone in their mouth. The partner on the chair drops a marshmallow. The partner on the floor tries to catch the marshmallow in their ice cream cone. See how many you can catch!
- A to Z Christmas– take a paper and list a letter on each line for the entire alphabet (so 26 lines). Take one minute to try and fill in each letter with a Christmas word beginning with that letter.
- Christmas Scramble- Write the word CHRISTMAS on top of each person’s paper. In one minute, see how many words you can make out of the letters in CHRISTMAS.
21- Make Christmas Shirts
Do you own (or know someone) a Cricut? My sister has one, so we have a lot of fun finding a plain, long-sleeve shirt and searching for a fun Christmas design to transfer! This does require a Cricut / Silhouette or connections to one. Or, just look for your local person who charges a fee and let them know what design each of you have picked out! Each person could do their own design, or you can make matching shirts for the whole family!
22- Make Snowflakes to Create a Winter Wonderland
We learned a few years ago how to make some awesome, giant, 8-point, 3D snowflakes. Snowflake-making has never been the same! Check out my Snowflake post for step-by-step instructions on how to make them, and then put them everywhere to make a winter wonderland! (Or at least, just make some simple snowflakes!) This is a cheap, fun family Christmas tradition!
23- Outdoor Winter Activities
There are so many fun winter activities you can do with the whole family, especially if you live in a place that gets snow. I had never gone sledding as a kid, and yes, I grew up in a place with plenty of snow. I just never tried it!
We recently took our kids sledding up in the mountains and it was so much fun. We actually began by snowshoeing into a trail a bit and then found a spot with the perfect hill (my husband was the lucky one to carry all the sleds in.)
It doesn’t have to be sledding though. You can snowshoe or ski or snowboard. Get the family together and build a snowman!
Even in warmer places where you don’t get snow, you probably have an ice rink to go ice skating. Or you could get family and friends together to go caroling. There are plenty of outdoor things to do during Christmastime that you can make a family Christmas Tradition!
24- Pick Out a New Ornament for the Christmas Tree
This Christmas tradition is one of our favorite and out longest-running tradition. Every year, we load up the kids and take them to a local store to pick out an ornament of their choosing. Our tree doesn’t have a theme, so they are free to pick out anything they like! They have picked ballerinas, ice cream cones, snowflakes, and nut cracker ornaments. It creates a nice display and a lot of memories for years to come.
Hopefully you’ve found some fun ideas! I want to inspire fun and creativity in these Christmas traditions for kids, but I also want to encourage finding the meaning of Christmas and connecting with each other as a family. I hope these have inspired you to add some fun and meaning to your holiday season!