5 Ways to Celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas This Year

If you want to do something extra special this year why not try celebrating the 12 days of Christmas?

There are so many different ways people choose to incorporate the 12 days of Christmas into their holiday and today I’ll be sharing with you my 5 favorite 12 days of Christmas ideas that you will have so much fun trying out.

Who knows, maybe it will be the start of a new tradition that you and your family continue year after year.


the 12 days of christmas ideas

What it Means to Celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas

There’s a good chance that you’ve heard the classic song, “The 12 Days of Christmas.” Whether you know it by heart or can only remember, “five golden rings!” that is totally ok.

Let me refresh your memory of what the 12 days of gifts are in the original song.

  • Day 1: A partridge in a pear tree
  • Day 2: Two turtle doves
  • Day 3: Three French hens
  • Day 4: Four calling birds
  • Day 5: Five golden rings
  • Day 6: Six geese a-laying
  • Day 7: Seven swans a-swimming
  • Day 8: Eight maids a-milking
  • Day 9: Nine ladies dancing
  • Day 10: 10 lords a-leaping
  • Day 11: 11 pipers piping
  • Day 12: 12 drummers drumming

That song has been around for centuries. It was first recorded in 1780 in England, but it’s speculated that the song originated in France even before that.

The twelve days of Christmas actually technically begin on Christmas Day and end on January 5. (At first, I thought it would be the 12 days leading up to Christmas, culminating in the big day, but for some reason… that’s not how it works.) 

Traditionally, the 12 days of Christmas were a period of rest and feasting beginning at Christmas and running all the way through the New Year’s celebrations. 

But just because that is how the 12 days of Christmas were originally celebrated, doesn’t mean that you have to do it that way. I know many people have now adapted that tradition to give small gifts leading up to Christmas or by participating in special activities leading up until Christmas Eve or Day instead of ending Christmas Day. 

I think following the modern adaptation is more realistic for most moms. The winter break in public schools often ends before January 5, so if you’re hoping to use these 12 days of Christmas ideas to create lasting memories with your kids, planning it for the 12 days leading up to Christmas might be easier.

5 Ways to Celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas

There are so many creative ways to celebrate the 12 days of Christmas. A lot of them involve gift-giving, but they don’t HAVE to. You don’t have to give everyone 12 gifts, but it might be kind of fun to give to someone special. 

I’ll be sure to include some great 12 days of Christmas ideas that are non-gift giving as well, in case you’re looking for something totally different. 

So let’s get right into 5 perfect ways to celebrate the 12 days of Christmas including for husband, for kids, acts of service, movies, and recipes.

12 Days of Christmas for Husband

Once you’ve got kids, us parents tend to get overlooked a bit. Never on purpose, but with so many little hearts to light up all season, so many gifts to buy, and possibly an elf to hide every single gosh-darn night, it’s really easy to let gifting for that special someone take the back burner.

But what if you switched it up and made them a priority with 12 days of Christmas for your husband? Here are simple won’t-break-the-bank ideas to let him know he’s still special to you this year.

I’m giving you more than 12 ideas so you can put together your own list best suited to your hubby’s likes.

Food Items

  • Beef jerky
  • Cashews
  • Almonds
  • Candy
  • Hot cocoa packets
  • Alcohol
  • Chips
  • Pretzels

Clothing Items

  • Socks
  • Underwear
  • A jersey for his favorite team
  • A funny dad shirt
  • An accessory like a hat, tie, whatever he’s into


  • Sports equipment
  • A book
  • Exercise equipment
  • Gaming accessories
  • Tools
  • Barbeque accessories

Free Coupons

Make your own coupons for things that you know he’ll enjoy. They can be something to give him a break around the house he wouldn’t normally get, a promise to do something he’d enjoy whenever he chooses to cash it in, or something a little bit sexy to keep the spark alive. Some ideas are:

  • Coupon for a massage
  • Coupon absolving him from taking out the trash all week
  • Coupon to go to a sporting event
  • Coupon for a kid-free date night of his choice

12 Days of Christmas for Kids

If you tend to get your kids a lot of gifts (I think we all might be guilty there unless you try really really hard not to) even though 12 gifts SOUNDS like a lot, it’s probably less than you are doing right now if you count stocking stuffers… which you should!

Propose to your kids possibly celebrating the 12 Days of Christmas together. Offer them the idea of having one gift a day for 12 days and then LESS gifts on Christmas Day. Maybe there is no stocking, or just 3 extra gifts on Christmas, or just what Santa brings but nothing from Mom and Dad. Think about what would work for you and your family and talk it over with your kids.

It’s really important that you very clearly present this idea to your kids and explain how it would work so that there aren’t any misunderstandings come Christmas day.

They might be completely turned off by not expecting a huge pile of presents on Christmas morning, or there’s a great chance they will be very intrigued by getting gifts almost their entire Christmas break!

Either way, talk this one through first. Be sure they know what to expect and have fun prepping it for them! Here are lots of affordable small gift ideas you can use for your 12 Days of Christmas for kids.

Food Ideas

  • Hershey’s Kisses
  • Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
  • Candy Canes
  • Trail Mix
  • Fruit Snacks
  • Hot cocoa packets
  • Chips

Craft Ideas

  • Popsicle sticks
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Puff balls
  • A hot glue gun and glue
  • Wooden plaques and paint
  • A coloring book
  • A drawing pad and markers
  • A set of cookable clay
  • A bracelet making set
  • Any craft kit

Small Toy Ideas

  • A figurine
  • A figurine playset
  • A Barbie
  • A small Lego set
  • A stuffed animal
  • Anything from the Dollar Store


You can either add various books to their library collection or add new Christmas books. Here are some really fun Christmas books for littles you can try if you want to go that route.

12 Days of Christmas Movies

Let’s take the gift-giving out of the equation for a minute here and try out this really fun way to celebrate the 12 days of Christmas. There are so many Christmas movies to choose from that it’s really easy to celebrate by watching 12 of them together as a family.

To celebrate the holiday with 12 days of Christmas movies, make plans with the whole family to spend some time together each evening snuggling together and enjoying the movie together. You can include fun movies, cartoons, the Christmas story, and more to bring love, light, and some laughter to the season.

Here are some tips for setting up a memorable 12 days of Christmas movie celebration.

  1. Let everyone pick a cozy blanket of their own to bring to the living room to snuggle under.
  2. Make some warm drinks like hot cocoa or cider.
  3. Pop some popcorn over the stove for a real traditional and irresistible snack.
  4. Light a fire if you have one.

There are so many Christmas movies to choose from, but here is a list of over two dozen to get you started. You can pick from this list or choose some of your own.

  • Home Alone 1
  • Home Alone 2
  • A Christmas Story
  • Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer
  • The Grinch Who Stole Christmas
  • A Nightmare Before Christmas
  • A Charlie Brown Christmas
  • Miracle on 34th Street
  • It’s a Wonderful Life
  • Frosty the Snowman
  • Elf
  • The Santa Claus
  • The Santa Claus 2
  • Polar Express
  • Mickey’s Christmas Carol
  • Rise of the Guardians
  • Prancer
  • A Christmas Carol
  • I’ll Be Home for Christmas
  • Jingle All the Way
  • Santa Buddies
  • Christmas with the Cranks
  • National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
  • The Star
  • The Nativity Story
  • The Three Wise Men

12 Days of Christmas Acts of Service

The holiday season is about more than gift-giving, it’s also about giving of yourself. As moms of course we spend the holiday season giving to our kids to make everything as memorable and magical as possible. But there’s a whole lot more about giving that we can teach them that also instills that they aren’t the center of the universe. (Though they probably are the center of yours.)

Celebrating the 12 days of Christmas with twelve acts of service is a wonderful way to teach your children that this really is the season of giving no just receiving, which I think can get lost on kids sometimes. And the best way to give is to those who have little.

It can be tricky to know exactly how to incorporate acts of service when you have young children.

You might not be comfortable pursuing some avenues that are common to incorporate into holiday giving such as volunteering in soup kitchens when your kids are young. Not only can it potentially be unsafe, but it can be chaotic with little ones who get antsy and bored.

That in no way means that if you’ve got small children that you need to skip on teaching them that they too can give to others who are in need and make a huge difference this Christmas. Here are 12 great ways to incorporate serving others into your holiday traditions that will teach your kids more than any school lesson can.

  • Baking cookies for an elderly neighbor. So many elderly men and women live alone in our communities, and many of their families have moved away. Surprising a lonely neighbor with a treat and just knowing that someone is thinking about them this holiday season will light up their Christmas.
  • Participate in Operation Christmas Child, the Angel Tree Program, or a similar program. There are multiple programs run through churches, schools, stores, food banks, and more that take donations for children in need. You can usually pick a gender and age range of a child and fill a shoebox with gifts for them when they would otherwise get little to none. This can be so fun for kids to gift to kids. 
  • Donate to a food bank. Those in need are short on food every time of year, but the holidays are a great time to remember this and donate to your local food bank. You can either have your kids help you sort through the pantry for items that have been sitting for a while and noone loves OR take them on a special trip to design a bag of holiday goodies to donate instead.
  • Sing Christmas Carols. I feel like this is a tradition that has disappeared through the years but there is just something so sweet and magical about people going door-to-door sharing the warmth of Christmas from the goodness of their hearts and not asking for anything in return as we often are when knocking on doors (ie: Halloween, selling cookies, etc.).
  • Donate a toy. At the front of many grocery and big box stores you will find a donation box for Toys for Tots throughout the holiday season. You don’t know which child will be getting the toy, but if your kids are anything like mine, browsing the toy section and leaving without a fuss or request is hard every single time. Shopping for and buying for another child might be tough, but can also be really rewarding and even fun for your kiddo.
  • Help out a local humane society. Animals need help too and helping out at your local humane society can be a great way to spread around your generosity this year. Most take volunteers age 13 and up, but even if your children are younger they can still help out. Call your local shelter and ask what they need. I’ve found them in need of food, blankets, toys, and more. The latter two you can even make which can be extra fun and special.
  • Make a donation. There are so many wonderful programs and nonprofits that are always accepting donations. Decide together what amount (maybe some of their Christmas money, maybe some allowance, etc.) Your child would like to donate and find a program that speaks to their heart to donate to. Starving children, injured animals, deforestation, human trafficking rescue, and the list goes on.
  • Clean up your community. Bring your family or rally together some friends or neighbors and set a date and time to clean a safe place in your community. While the highway isn’t a great choice for kids, consider a local beach or park. All you need are some trash bags and gloves and you can spend a day beautifying the place you live.
  • Become a Secret Santa. You don’t have to be part of a gift exchange to brighten someone’s holiday with a surprise gift. Think of a special friend, a lonely neighbor, a family from your church, or anyone that comes to mind and give them a surprise gift expecting nothing in return. It helps if you can leave it unannounced at their doorstep and label “from your Secret Santa.” Kind of like getting “booed” but for Christmas.
  • Help out others’ during their holiday travels. If you have friends or family nearby that you know are heading out of town for the holidays offer to either get their mail, water their plants, or feed their animals while they are away free of charge. They may insist on compensating so it can help to let them know about this amazing 12 Acts of Service tradition you are starting with your kids and they will be more obliged to accept your gracious offer.
  • Help out at your local retirement center. Christmas can be an extra lonely time for many people living in retirement communities. Holidays can be the biggest reminder of how drastically different their lives are now from how they used to be. Consider donating your time with just visiting, or maybe making Christmas cards or treats to distribute.
  • Leave positive message rocks around town. Spend a day painting rocks with short positive messages on them for people to find. Consider things like, “you rock,” “you are loved,” “hello beautiful,” “smile bright,” “it’s a beautiful day,” or “you are special.” Leave them around town for people to find to brighten their day. 

12 Days of Christmas Recipes

Here’s a fun way to bring the traditional 12 Days of Christmas song into your holiday this year. Use the 12 days leading up to Christmas or the traditional 12 days after to create fun recipes reminiscent of the holiday song. Here are some ideas to get you started with a very creative 12 days of Christmas celebration.

Day 1: a partridge in a pear tree

Day 2: two turtle doves

Day 3: three French hens

  • Enjoy fresh French bread
  • Roast cornish game hens for dinner
  • You can always settle on treating everyone to French fries

Day 4:four calling birds

  • Make bird shaped sugar cookies
  • Make blackbird pie. After all the original lyrics were, “four collie birds” which are blackbirds

Day 5: five golden rings

  • Bake cupcakes with gold sprinkles
  • Buy 5 glazed doughnuts
  • Make an Italian cheesebread ring
  • You could even indulge in some good old onion rings

Day 6: six Geese a laying

  • Cook a goose
  • Or sub goose for chicken and be imaginative
  • Eat gooseberry jam

Day 7: seven swans a-swimming

  • Make cream puff swans
  • Serve any food you can pull off as “swimming.” Soup with noodles swimming in it, pork and beans swimming in sauce, even cereal swimming in milk will work.

Day 8: eight maids a-milking

  • Have hot chocolate
  • Enjoy some ice cream
  • Really anything made from milk works for today!

Day 9: nine ladies dancing

Day 10: ten lords a-leaping

Day 11: eleven pipers piping

  • Any piping hot drink
  • Eat or bake a cake or cupcake with icing piping on top

Day 12: twelve drummers drumming

How will you choose to Celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas?

Which style of celebrating the 12 days of Christmas is getting you the most excited this year?

I think my kids are getting old enough where the acts of service might be really good to start, but I do kind of like the challenge of 12 different recipes that loosely follow the silly song lyrics.

How about you?

Do you have another way that you choose to celebrate the 12 days of Christmas with your family?

Let me know in the comments below.

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