I’m so excited for the upcoming Christmas season now as a family of 2. Last year we had a 5 month old so we didn’t start too many traditions because our daughter was still too young to get anything out of it.
This year she’s a walking, talking machine and will be 17 months, so I can’t wait to start making our Christmas bucket list.
Growing up, I didn’t have many Christmas family traditions, but I want my kids to remember all the things we did as a family. I hope they remember all the silly Christmas traditions we put on our Christmas bucket list.
Here are some ideas for Christmas traditions you can start with your family. I’m going to try to check as many of these off my bucket list this year.
36 Family Traditions for Your Christmas Bucket List
1. Chop Your Christmas Tree at a Tree Farm
Every family has the preference of real tree vs. fake tree. I’m partial to a fake tree because I have toddlers and don’t need them shaking down all the pine needles from the tree.
However, the smell of a real tree that you picked yourself is like no other.
Many families like to choose a day where they always go to the tree farm to pick their tree. Typically it’s right after Thanksgiving or whenever you plan to get your house set up for Christmas.
A lot of tree farms stepped up their game in recent years, making it a fun outing along with getting your tree. They have hot chocolate, fire pits with marshmallows, candy canes, and more.
2. Make Hot Cocoa
What kid doesn’t love some hot cocoa during the holidays? It’s one thing that I remember a lot about my childhood and making sure that I got as many marshmallows stuffed into that mug as possible.
Get festive with fun hot cocoa flavors like peppermint or caramel and spruce it up with extra marshmallows, candy canes, chocolate syrup or sprinkles. Also how cute is this personalized hot cocoa mug? I got them for my kiddos and they were obsessed!
I create the ultimate hot chocolate bar at our house and have all sorts of goodies we can add to our cup of cocoa.
Get even more creative with the trendy, new hot cocoa bombs. These are bound to be a huge hit with your kids.
Related Post: 26 Irrestistible Hot Cocoa Bomb Recipes
3. Watch Christmas movies
Make some popcorn and grab your hot cocoa and sit down for some nights of classic Christmas movies. For little kids and big ones, there’s always something for everyone.
Watch classics like Miracle on 34th Street, Elf, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Home Alone, The Polar Express, A Christmas Carol, Jack Frost, Christmas Vacation, The Santa Clause, A Christmas Story, etc.
Check out this list of the best Christmas movies of all time to watch with your family.
4. Sleep Under the Christmas Tree
Here is something I can’t wait to add to our Christmas bucket list – sleeping under the tree.
Basically, you camp next to the Christmas tree after you put it up with decorations.
It’s an event for your family! Watch a late night Christmas movie, set up a sleeping bag with lots of blankets, pillows, and all the hot chocolate you could want.
5. See a Christmas Tree Lighting in a Local City or Town Square
Most cities have an annual Christmas tree lighting even the small ones. Your children will love seeing the huge tree being lit and all the other activities and festivities that the city council may have to offer.
You’ll find all sorts of Christmas festivals to add to your Christmas bucket list. Some have corralling, hay rides, and lighting displays.
6. Watch a Christmas Parade
Our local towns have all sorts of Christmas parades to watch.
It all starts with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, something we always watch in our jammies with hot cocoa. This signifies to me that the holiday season is here, and we love seeing all the different floats that the companies create.
However, you don’t just have to watch parades on tv! You most likely have local ones happening nearby.
It often seems like nearly every weekend there is a Christmas parade to watch. Find the local ones to you and add a few to your Christmas bucket list.
Kids love seeing all the floats, fire trucks, and getting candy!
7. Have an Advent Calendar
Christmas advent calendars are fun, and you can find both religious and non-religious options. Most end with candy each day, but there are all sorts of ideas like toys in a theme that your child will love, like this Cocomelon one below.
You can make your own advent calendar too! Instead of candy, I loaded an advent calendar with all of the Christmas bucket list activities I knew for certain were happening on a particular day.
The other days had candy canes; it’s a fun way to count down the days and get children even more excited for Christmas.
8. Donate Clothes and Toys
The holiday season is surely a time to give and receive. A great way to get in the spirit is to give to those less fortunate.
Need to clear out some clothing closets, toy bins, or drawers for all the upcoming gifts? This is the perfect reason to do it!
Donate some of these old items that you and your child don’t use anymore and get your kids in on the giving too. If you’re fortunate enough to be able to purchase new gifts for families in need or charities, that’s a great idea too.
9. Santa Claus Train Ride
A longtime Christmas tradition is the Santa trains. Sit on an old-fashioned steam train and take a ride with Santa and his helpers. You can usually find these in various areas in your state.
Google your local “Polar Express” & Christmas train rides with Santa that the kids will love! These events book up early so don’t wait, and they are expensive.
So, consider if this is a Christmas tradition you want to continue for the long run!
10. Read Christmas Books Together
Each night, read a new Christmas or holiday inspired book with your kids. You’ll find classics and new books to fill your shelf, making this such a special time with your kids.
Here are a few of our favorites.
- The Polar Express
- Bear Stays Up for Christmas
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas
- Snowmen at Christmas
- The Night Before Christmas
- Little Red Sleigh
- How to Catch a Gingerbread Man
- Christmas Farm
11. Kindness Elves
The Kindness Elves are a new spin on Elf on the Shelf with a sweet twist. The Elves leave your child notes with acts of kindness to participate in.
This is a really great concept that gives children the true meaning of Christmas and how to be giving and a good person. I hope that more children will be using these elves.
12. Breakfast with Santa
Breakfast with Santa is a long time tradition that many establishments have to offer. Whether it’s your local diner, Applebee’s, fire station, or school, you can see Santa at so many different places this holiday season.
These events usually give small donations to charities, offer photos with Santa, and include a scrumptious breakfast for families.
13. Make Homemade Cinnamon Ornaments
The best Christmas trees didn’t come out of an HGTV magazine; they’re the ones your family creates together. Homemade cinnamon ornaments add a delicious aroma to your home, and they’re easy to make.
They’re similar to salt dough ornaments, but I found they’re much easier to get the right consistency.
14. Make Popcorn and Cranberry Garland
Try adding homemade garland to your Christmas bucket list. You’ll find all sorts of garland ideas to make, but my kids always like popcorn and cranberry garland.
You have to use a needle and a thread, so I suggest waiting until your kids are a bit older.
If you want to do this with little kids, skip the popcorn because it can be hard to stop the popcorn from breaking as the needle goes through. Cranberries are a bit easier, and use a thicker needle!
15. Have a DIY Felt Christmas Tree for Kids to Decorate
Any young child from babies to preschoolers will absolutely love using a felt Christmas tree! You can position it close to your own tree or anywhere in your home.
These felt trees allow your young one to “decorate” their own tree instead of playing with the fragile ornaments on your real tree. They’ll love taking the pieces on and off while learning all about the different ornaments and developing fine motor skills.
Related Post: Felt Christmas Tree Toddler Activity
16. Have a Holiday Game Night
Another idea for your Christmas bucket list is to schedule a holiday game night. This can definitely get speedy, so I suggest you buy one or two games a year and gradually add to them as your kids get older.
My husband and I like this Monopoly Elf Christmas Game that features locations and moments from the beloved movie.
The Santa Claus Game teaches kids that it’s just as fun to give gifts as well as receive gifts. Sometimes, kids need encouragement to enjoy the act of giving as much as receiving.
Your family may also love the Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer Board Game. It’s great for the whole family as you journey through the winter wonderland to find misfit toys and bring them back to Santa.
You can even try something simple like playing Christmas bingo. All you need is some printable Christmas bingo sheets!
17. Enjoy the Snow
If you live somewhere with snow or are within drivable distance to snow, you need to enjoy it. Nothing is as magical as a white Christmas, so take a drive in the mountains or hit up a lodge.
If it snows at home, make sure you take advantage of it. Make snow angels, build a huge snowman, and have a snowball fight. Kids love this, and adults feel like they’re young once again!
18. Volunteer Your Time Together
It’s a lovely idea to volunteer your time during the holidays and taking your children with you is a great way to teach them these values too.
Contact your local homeless shelter, food bank, nursing home, or hospital to see if they could use your help.
19. Drive around to see the Christmas lights
There are some people that go all out on their Christmas lights and decorations. It’s amazing to see some of these houses set to music or with your child’s favorite characters.
Look up houses in your area that are listed for having the best festive light displays.
Something we tried last year was using a Christmas light scavenger hunt. That was fun and kept the kids engaged!
Make sure you look up paid light displays as well. We go to as many as possible and typically grab dinner at a drive-through so we can eat and see all the lights in our car.
20. Go Ice Skating
A lot of ice skating rinks pop up during the holiday season, and they look beautiful. That’s why Hallmark uses them in so many of their movie settings.
Getting kids to ice skate is tricky, but if you have older kids, I suggest putting this on your Christmas bucket list. It’s also a great Christmas date night to consider!
21. Make a gingerbread house
Put together a gingerbread house with your child. It’s something that children of any age will love. The little ones may need some more help than older children, but they’ll all love the finished product! Just make sure they don’t sneak all the candies before they’re done!
22. Elf on the shelf
This elf on the shelf tradition has been around for awhile now. Keep your child on their toes as you bring an elf into the house and tell them that they’re reporting back to Santa every night.
This is a great tactic to get them to behave, but it has even become a fun time for the adults too! You get to plan fun, sneaky activities that your elf can get himself into overnight and your little one will be amazed by their elf’s antics.
From getting into the toothpaste to soaring from the ceiling fan, your child will find their elf in a new position every morning and be so amazed. Check out how to make your elf’s entrance special with these free printable welcome letters and awesome ideas for your elf on the shelf every night.
23. Decorate the tree
I’m sure this is one of your typical family Christmas traditions, but make this event extra special by adding more fun elements to it. You can wear your matching Christmas pajamas, blast Christmas tunes, or reminisce on each ornament and the significance it has to your family.
24. Put Up All Your Home Decorations Together
Decorating the house can take a whole weekend if you’re one of those families who goes all out. Let this be a special time to spend together as a family as you reinvent your home into a Christmas wonderland.
A great family Christmas decoration idea is to get a nativity set from outdoornativitysets.com.
25. Get a New Ornament Yearly – Or Make One!
The ornament can symbolize something that has happened the past year, something your children have accomplished, a new hobby, or something they enjoy. I also like to get a family photo ornament every year so we can look back and see how our family has grown through the years.
You can choose a family ornament that just shows the people in your family or customize an ornament that has your family’s whole photo in it.
26. Attend Mass/Church
Bring back the reason that this holiday began and put Christ back in Christmas for your children and family. It’s important to remember what we’re celebrating this season, not just the presents and gingerbread.
Growing up, we always added a candlelight mass, and those are beautiful memories!
27. Sing Christmas carols
There are so many Christmas carols that your family can learn and sing together. Whether they’re classic, religious songs or simple pop Christmas hits, your child will love belting out their favorite Christmas tunes.
Honestly, we play Christmas music all the time! I listen all season long from November to December with no shame, and our kids love it.
28. Bake Christmas cookies
Oh the smell of homemade cookies baking in the oven is such a fond memory of childhood for most kids. That same scent at Christmas time just makes it all the better.
Cook up your child’s favorite cookies like gingerbread, sugar, or anything they wish and have them decorate them exactly how they’d like. Load up on the icing, sprinkles, and decorations because it’s Christmas time!
My kids always look forward to these days on our Christmas bucket list. They all have Christmas cookie cutters, and we are working our way through this Christmas Cookie Cookbook. Each year, we try a few more, and we’ve found a few new favorites.
29. Write a Letter to Santa and Send It to The North Pole
Texts from Santa and Emails to Santa are great websites that offer free communication with Santa! Your child will be amazed when they see that they can actually communicate with Santa and tell them what they want.
If you’d like to do it the old fashioned way, have them write a letter to Santa with one of these cute templates and send it on it’s way to the North Pole.
30. Make Cards for Loved Ones
Instead of buying cards at the store, consider making cards for your kids to send to those they love. It’s a great way to spend a snowy afternoon, but be mindful of your budget.
Some use nature items to make cards like greenery to make ribbon and twigs for decoration.
31. Take Pictures with Santa
Of course this is a family Christmas tradition that will never die. Get your classic photos with Santa at any mall near you.
You can also find photo opportunities with Santa at other events in your community, just check out your local Christmas events.
32. Wear matching family Christmas pajamas
This has been a trending Christmas tradition for families, especially because you need that matching family photo for your social media feed! Find some adorable matching family Christmas pajamas at Target and wear them Christmas Eve or anytime during the holiday season.
33. Go on a Family Vacation over Christmas Time
When the weather gets cold up north, most of us want to get out of down. Of course, it’s always nice to be home for the holidays, but many may enjoy taking a trip down south.
Start a family tradition where you go away every Christmas- the kids will thank you later!
34. Do a Christmas Craft
As the holiday season approaches, kids want to work on all the crafts now that school is out and the temperatures get lower. One of the best things to do with kids is make paper Christmas wreaths together!
Wreathes are a classic symbol of Christmas, so it’s no surprise that parents and children alike enjoy making them together.
Paper wreaths are commonly made in preschools and kindergarten classrooms around the country, but you don’t have to wait for your kids’ school to make one – try it yourself!
35. Find more local Christmas and holiday events
If you’re in a city or large metro area/suburb, you’re bound to find a ton of events (both free and paid) to add to your Christmas bucket list.
I always find the best place to look for these events are on Facebook. Join your local town or county Facebook group or follow some local businesses. They always post their events on Facebook.
Here are some ideas to look for:
- Christmas tree lightings in different squares, cities, or businesses
- Breakfasts with Santa
- Candy cane hunts
- Christmas carolers
- Holiday house decorating contests
- Dinner with characters
- Holiday hayrides
- Breakfast with Santa
- Free Santa visits
- Food/toy drives for charity
- Gingerbread house building contests
- Events at toy stores
- Holiday train ride
- Holiday light shows at local Botanical gardens, theme parks, and more
- Visit a small city that creates a Christmas village feel
- Santa waving from a fire truck tour
Specifically, if you’re local to NJ, check out all of these guides on NJMom for local Christmas events in your state.
36. Make a Christmas Sensory Bin
I hope this gave you some great ideas of Christmas traditions to start as a family. What are some of your favorite traditions that you have done in past years?