Looking for fun Christmas traditions to start in 2021?
I’ve been thinking lately about fun family Christmas traditions to start in 2021. I think it’s because I know this year I’ll have JUST given birth to my first baby, and Christmas will be… different.
In an exciting way! (Ok, also in a scary way.) It’s easy for me to jump ahead of myself here, and start thinking about December. Its sort of like… the start of my “new life” is coming, and the first thing that will happen in my “new life” will be Christmas.
Plus I just love Christmas and look forward to it for months anyway.
I’m not allowing myself any sort of great expectations for our first Christmas with a baby… I imagine in reality it will be a very quiet Christmas, with us at home a lot and trying to get some sleep whenever possible. (I don’t even know if I’ll do too much decorating – because what goes up must come down. And I’m sure I won’t be feeling up to un-decorating a whole house just a few weeks postpartum.)
But anyhow, Christmas traditions have been on my mind. What sort of fun Christmas traditions will we develop as a new family – likely not this year… but over the coming years? And what magical Christmas traditions can we steal from our own childhoods?
And which current traditions will we be able to carry on with this year?
Are there new trending Christmas traditions we should be considering?
Why bother starting family Christmas Traditions?
My family has awesome Christmas traditions – very few had to be “put away” when my sister and I actually moved out. And with the coming of pinterest into my life, there are a few that I absolutely plan on starting with my kids – to make special memories that will last them a lifetime.
My sister pointed out recently that it’s not the day to day at home growing up that she REMEMBERS.
It’s the special things we did as a family, the things that were different from the day to day, that stand out in her mind.
I want my kids to have great family memories, and Christmas traditions are one of the most fun ways I can think of to create those memories!
(PS I’ve checked out a bunch of other “good Christmas traditions” lists on Pinterest, and I think you’ll find some totally unique suggestions here!)
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Memory making Christmas traditions ideas (to start this year):
1. Decorate the house on Dec 1st
I love having the whole month of December to enjoy the decorations.
And growing up I loved that there was never a question of WHEN we would decorate. We always got the tree up and all the lights on as soon as December hits.
To this day on Dec 1st, I blast the carols, drink the wine, and deck the halls.
2. Make a Christmas playlist
Speaking of blasting the carols, everyone in the family should have a say in which songs make the Christmas playlist – and let it be the soundtrack for your December.
You can add to it each year!
3. Make Homemade Christmas Cards
These can be easy or elaborate! Anything from a simple family photo stuck on cardstock to adorable handprint reindeers… it’s more about the time you’ll spend together than the finished product.
4. Ditch gifts altogether and take a vacation instead
You could even SAVE money by forgoing the trimmings and jumping on a plane to Disneyland (if you do that, make sure you grab discount Disney tickets), or maybe spending a quiet week on a beach in Hawaii is more up your alley?
Memories you’ll make will last far far longer than legos you buy, and YOU’LL actually enjoy the break too! (You could still get the little people something fun to open from the dollar store!)
5. Make a family holiday bucket list at the beginning of the month
On December 1st, sit everyone down and let each person pick one thing they’d like to do (as a family) in December.
It could be skating, going for a drive to see the lights, building a snowman, baking cookies – whatever they want! Then try to pick dates and schedule the activities so everything on your “holiday bucket list” gets checked off.
6. Fill shoeboxes with treasures for less fortunate kids
Take the whole family shopping for shoebox supplies and teach your kids that Christmas is not ALL about getting. (If you’ve never looked into filling shoeboxes before you can get more information on this awesome opportunity to bless kids here.)
This is a family Christmas tradition that will bless other people and help your kids become better humans!
(The next seven on this list are maybe my tops picks for fun Christmas Traditions for Kids!)
7. Decorate a gingerbread house
This is never as much fun when you have to do all the baking of the gingerbread house pieces… but after they came out with pre-baked gingerbread houses, we did one every year. (Tip: we found we never ate the house anyhow because after sitting out for three weeks the cookie part is pretty gross. Try to find the kits on clearance right after Christmas and save them in the freezer for next year – save a LOT of money!)
You can also make smaller houses out of graham crackers, and that’s just as easy 🙂
8. Bake and decorate Christmas cookies
There are so many FUN ideas for decorating Christmas cookies, and it can be just as much fun (and maybe easier) than decorating a gingerbread house!
Here’s a few SUPER CUTE Christmas cookie ideas!
9. Write letters to Santa
Write letters to Santa with your kids, and send them off… In Canada, you can send your letters to
North Pole HOH OHO
And he will write back!
(You don’t have to tell the kids, but you really should photocopy these letters and keep them in an album. Bring them out to look back on when your kids have kids!)
10. Have a family slumber party
Everyone’s allowed to stay up late and build forts in the living room! (OR have them build forts in mom and dad’s room – this way mom and dad still get to sleep in their bed, but it’s still a party.) Read Christmas stories and drink hot chocolate. Talk about all the wonderful things that happened throughout the year – and write them in a special journal that you can add to every year. Or make pretty paper chains – this one is new to me since I married a Brit, but I LOVE them. (Threading popcorn for garland might be fun too!)
Related: DIY Ornaments to Make With Toddlers
11. Have a Christmas movie night
For as long as I can remember, we’ve had a family movie night (sometime during the week that is Christmas week) and my family always watched National Lampoons Christmas Vacation. With popcorn and hot chocolate, and when we were older, slightly stronger hot chocolate. We still do to this day! On whatever day my family gets to celebrate together, we still sit down and watch Christmas Vacation. Our husbands roll their eyes, but it’s one we aren’t giving up.
(I have to say here, we had a from-TV-recorded VHS when I was a kid and the station had made it a little more “family friendly” when it aired in the 80s. When we finally bought a DVD of it about ten years ago, we were pretty shocked by the language. I don’t recommend Christmas Vacation for families with small kids – unless you can get an edited version. But there are TONS of other great Christmas movies that aren’t so um… grown-up sounding.) This is maybe the simplest of all family Christmas traditions on the list, but I think it’s my favorite.
12. Or Have every night is Christmas movie night
Choose a week’s (or two!) worth of Christmas movies and each night for the week before Christmas, cross one off the list!
13. Family game night
Just like movie night, this is one my family never misses out on… even though we’re all grown up and married. We just take all the new people we’ve collected (and made) back to mom and dad’s for game night, and I can’t wait to do this with my own kids!
As the years go on, track your game night stats in this family game night ledger! The Game Ledger will become a family keepsake to look back on as time goes on. (I’d stick photos in there too!)
Our hands-down favorite game (for adults) is Settlers of Catan. It’s a litttttle bit like risk, but 23 times more awesome. Settler’s is too involved for the really little people; it might be fun to invest in something festive like Rudolph Monopoly and play it every year.
If you – like us – have small kids, here’s our favorite family games that even our 3 year old can play!
Here’s a whole big list of Christmas traditions for kids, if you’re finding the rest of THIS list a little too “grown-up” for your family!
(These next few are the best Christmas traditions for adults or families with older kids!)
14. Fondue Night
Maybe this just seems like Christmas to me because we did it for the first time at Christmas…but it became another important thing on our Christmas traditions list!
It’s so out of the ordinary, and so much fun. Now that I’m thinking about it, I can’t wait to do it this year. A new fondue pot will be on my shopping list since last year we found more than one would have been good.
If you aren’t up for all the hot oil and prep work, you could just have chocolate fondue as desert.
15. Garage sale gift exchange
Hear me out on this one – it’s another one of our favorite Christmas traditions. It’s better done in large groups, at an extended family Christmas or party with a good number of friends. We know it’s coming all year long, and the longer you have to plan for it the better – because you can find the “best” gifts that way. (Bonus: these gifts tend to be dirt cheap.)
Related: How to Have a fun FRUGAL Christmas
We play it like a standard gift exchange – where everyone “playing” brings one gift, is assigned a number and then as numbers get drawn out of a hat you get to choose a gift from the pile. The first person opens a gift, the second person can either take that gift or open a NEW gift. The third person can choose from either open gift, or can open another gift. If someone steals your gift, you can steal someone else’s open gift (just not the one that was stolen from you) or you can open a new gift. Each time a new gift is open, that’s the end of that “round” and the next number is drawn. (We play that a gift is “frozen” – no longer available for stealing – after you have had it 3 times. But we were finding that no one really needed any of the very generic gifts you bring to a party like that, we were playing just to play, not to get the gifts. So we started calling it the garage sale gift exchange – meaning anything goes. Bring whatever you want to get out of your house. ANYTHING. Whatever you end up with you have to take home.
(I got a half-eaten box of liquor chocolates one year. Last year I got an antique breast pump (circa 1900 perhaps) that a neighbor lady found in an old cabin they were bulldozing. Serious. We literally laughed until we cried.) If you get something particularly terrible, keep if for next year and make someone else take it home.
16. After the kids go to bed – have “just you guys” Christmas traditions
So I’m already planning how to adapt this one – can you tell? My British hubby watches a girly movie (by choice) once per year – and that movie is Love Actually and it’s at Christmas time. We drink wine and turn on the Christmas lights and cuddle up. (And then I try to sneak in watching The Holiday too, if it’s not too late! We bought both of these on DVD because they are non-negotiable Christmas watching.) Your “just you guys” tradition can be super simple, but it’s important to focus on each other once in a while.
17. Attend Christmas Eve candlelight service
It’s so easy to forget that Christmas is all actually about the fact the Christ came here for us, to be with us, to save us. This is something I will do with my kids, every year. Take the time out in the busy Christmas season to focus on Jesus, and thank Him.
18. Go for a Christmas lights drive (the most magical Christmas tradition!)
For the last couple of years, we’ve gone driving to look at Christmas lights late at night.
It’s awesome! Take popcorn and hot chocolate in travel mugs. It’s basically free entertainment for the kids, and it’s nice quiet family time where everyone is strapped down. This is easily one of our favorite family Christmas traditions – my kids are starting to ask when we can do this!
(I mean, the holidays can be hectic, and sometimes it’s nice to just do something chill.)
19. Christmas eve gift box
My parents always chose one little gift that we were allowed to open on Christmas eve, after Church, and I always looked forward to that SO MUCH! I love love love the idea of a Christmas Eve gift that’s just one gift for the whole family – like a family movie night – since I do also like the idea of keeping Christmas clutter free. Your Christmas eve box could include a movie, matching family pajamas (my favorite pajamas in the whole world are Lazy One pjs – I would do a whole family set of these…), and snacks.
20. Christmas morning music and hot chocolate
No one ever made us “eat a healthy breakfast” on Christmas morning – it was straight to the gifts, with hot chocolate and Christmas music. Almost always Elvis.
(PS – these next five are amazing Christmas Traditions to start with toddlers or babies – our little people can’t be as involved in all our traditions, but these ones work for EVERYONE!)
21. Read the Christmas story from the Bible
It is NEVER a waste of time to stop and remind ourselves of the true meaning of Christmas and to cement it in our children’s minds.
22. Buy (or Make) a New Christmas tree ornament
Pick out one new tree ornament, and add to your growing collection of “special” ornaments. Or better yet, MAKE a tree ornament every year. You could make salt dough handprints and paint them (these will be precious forever), cut a ring off the bottom of your tree and date it, or dip pine cones in glitter!
23.Hang up Christmas stockings
Get everyone in the family their own Christmas stocking – a personalized one is fun! They can hang empty for the whole month, as decorations, and be magically filled overnight on Christmas eve!
We always opened our stockings FIRST, and it’s so fun to start your own Christmas stocking traditions with your family.
24. Hang your Mistletoe bug
Alright, yours doesn’t have to be a bug.
But hang some mistletoe!
Here’s our mistle-toe bug.
How did this thing get to be a family tradition?
50 years ago, when my grandparents had NO money, as some sort of joke, my grandma made this mistletoe bug from scrap bits that were hanging around the house… and this thing has come out each and every Christmas for the past 50 odd years.
It’s not Christmas around here without the mistletoe bug.
25. Christmas morning family photo
Everyone in their jammies, with their hair crazy, surrounded by wrapping paper. We set the camera on self timer. These are some of my favorite photos to look back on.
26. Special “Santa” wrapping paper
My mom had this massive roll of gorgeous holographic wrapping paper (that she kept hidden for literally YEARS) and every Christmas morning there was one more gift there than there had been the night before, wrapped in the special paper that only Santa used. (I still remember finding that paper years later and thinking it was so fun that she had thought to do that.)
27. Want, need, wear, & read gifts
This isn’t something that we did growing up, but it’s absolutely something I would like to do with my kids! And it’s a great Christmas tradition to start with a toddler or a baby! I really want to keep Christmas from getting too materialistic (and I hate the idea of cluttering the house up SO badly). I love the idea of gifting everyone with something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read.
28. Christmas crackers at dinner – YOU MUST WEAR THE HAT
Also new to me since I married a Brit! But it’s a lot of fun… and I buy the crackers after Christmas every year and put them in storage with the wrapping paper for the next year. (I get them for 75-80% off generally, so it’s a pretty cheap tradition.) Just in case you didn’t get any last year – there are some pretty affordable ones available on amazon.
29. Hide a Christmas Pickle (- what a fun Christmas tradition!)
This one might have some disputed origins, but regardless of where the Christmas pickle tradition started, there’s no denying it’s fun.
You don’t have to use a pickle. (I’ve heard of using a red ball and calling it hiding “Rudolph’s nose”… that’s cute too!)
You can totally hide ANYTHING you want, and it can be unique to your family!
30. Volunteer for the less fortunate
Getting your kids out and doing something nice for someone who has less is a great way to instill gratitude in them for what they have.
31. Special advent calendars
It doesn’t have to be the standard chocolate variety, but my goodness I have reservations about the 25 book variety – unless you plan on buying them all second hand and donating them after! (25 books coming into my house in one month?! NO thank you. If your kids are a little older, I think it would be fun to have each family member decorate their own re-usable advent calendar (like this one) – that way you can go with the standard edible stuff and throw in the odd little toy or special treat (maybe for the Christmas eve drawer?). For the little people, an activity advent calendar like this one (from amazon) might be the best way to go.
32. Serve Boxing day appetizer dinner
I know I keep saying “this is my favorite tradition”, but I can’t actually pick one! After the busy and rushing (and cooking) of Christmas, we (my mom, my sister and I) love to do next to NO cooking on boxing day. We buy a heap of finger food type appetizers and do an appetizer only dinner. (Our husbands ALSO roll their eyes at this. We’ve told them that if they feel like cooking a second massive dinner, they should feel free!)
Creating Christmas Traditions for your family is a very practical way to parent “on purpose”
I think making a point of creating family Christmas traditions is one of the most “on purpose” things we can do for our families – these are the things that will stand out in our kid’s minds when they look back on their time at home. (And remember, their time at home is brief!)
Making the time to enjoy the holidays together, and create memories through family Christmas traditions is something you will NEVER regret.