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20 Unforgettable Holiday Traditions Your Family Will Love

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Traditions within a family are always so much fun, but I think there is something so special about them during the Christmas holiday season. Here are 20 amazing traditions that your family will absolutely love.

Over the years we have come to embrace new traditions while still holding fast to some of our favorites. We don’t necessarily incorporate all of these traditions every year, but over time, these are some of our newer favorites and some of the ones that my husband and I have been doing long before we ever even became parents.

The thing about traditions is that they can be simple or they can be extravagant. They can be costly or they don’t have to cost anything at all.

Now that my oldest kids are teens, it is so touching to see how they still love these same traditions. They also like watching their younger siblings delight in many of the same traditions that they loved when they were little.

Whether you have a complete repertoire of traditions and are looking for a few new ideas or are looking at implementing some traditions for the very first time, there are plenty of them to choose from here, and there are things that are loved by children (and adults) of all ages.


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1. Christmas tree hunting

Every year since I was a young kid, my family has gone Christmas tree hunting over the Thanksgiving weekend. Living in Michigan, we have done this in every kind of weather you can imagine, and for years when I was a kid we were joined by another family, too. We continued this tradition after my husband and I got married (so it was then my parents, sisters, and the two of us), and it has only grown to include all of our kids as well as my sisters and their families when they happen to be in town.

2. Ornament hanging

After we put the lights on, the ornaments are always a big deal. When I was growing up my grandparents got their grandchildren an ornament each Christmas, and my mom was always diligent in writing the dates on the boxes. It is always fun for me to guess which year I received various ornaments.

When we started having kids, they received ornaments from my grandparents, too, and this tradition has been carried on by my parents now that my grandparents are gone. This means that my kids all have a ton of ornaments, too.

Each child gets to put their ornaments on the tree, one at a time. As you can imagine, this ornament hanging process takes a long time. It is something we always look forward to, however, and it is one of our favorite traditions.

3. Learning about Christmas

This is one of our favorite books The Adventure of Christmas: Helping Children Find Jesus in Our Holiday Traditions to read during the holiday season, and it tells the story behind many of the common traditions of Christmas. We generally let the younger ones choose a new topic each school day. It is so fun to know the “backstory” to many of the traditional things that we have done in the American culture for years.

4. Christmas caroling

At times we have done some Christmas caroling in nearby neighborhoods. This is really fun to do with another family.

5. Donating to needy families

Some years we choose an organization to donate toys to for children in need. This is always a family affair as we are all involved in the buying, wrapping, and drop off of the gifts. It really is a special and memorable experience.

6. Wrapping, opening, and reading Christmas books

Over a period of a few years, I collected inexpensive Christmas books. I wrap them all up, and we pick a new one to read each night between Thanksgiving and Christmas. A new kid unwraps one each night, and we read them together. It is always fun to guess based on the size and shape what book is in each one since many of them we know. This is the only time each book is read. Then at the end of the Christmas season, they are rewrapped and ready for next year. We add new ones as I find them. Here are a few of our absolute favorites.

The Christmas Wish

Bear Stays Up for Christmas (The Bear Books)

God Gave Us Christmas

Polar Express 30th anniversary edition

7. Driving around to look at Christmas lights

This is really fun to do when neighborhoods come together to put on a spectacular light show, but just looking in general is fun. We try to make it extra special by having popcorn, candy, or hot chocolate to drink while in the car.

There is one house we are sure to go to every year. It is a bit of a drive, but they have an amazing display that is all set to music, synchronized and everything. It is so cool to see every year!

8. Making homemade decorations

Sometimes my older girls and I will make homemade Christmas or winter decorations. They aren’t always all that much to look at, but they sure are fun to make.

9. Baking Christmas cookies

We have certain cookies that are reserved for this special time of the year. As much as we love them, we do our very best to only make them during this season.

10. Making homemade items for family, friends, or neighbors

Sometimes we do food items, but we have also done homemade drink mixes, soaps, decorations, or cleaners. These are usually things that we make as a family, and they vary from year to year. However, it is always more blessed to give than it is to receive.

11. What God wants for Christmas

If you have never done this with your kids, you need to stop what you are doing and get this right now, it is that good. Just click on it!

This is put out by Family Life, and it is an amazing accounting of the Christmas story and the role that each person plays, even the things we often don’t think of like Gabriel. There is a new present to open with each added character that comes into the story, and the anticipation for each new box is always the best part to watch, especially with the younger kids. There is a cute poem and a little page or two reading about each character. Kids as young as 18-24 months love to participate and learn.

12. Christmas specials on tv

In fact, we love them so much that we have an old VHS tape of the classics that we watch every year. They have been our favorites since our kids were little (some of them were even around when I was a kid), and as long as we have a VCR to play them on, we will continue to play this old, raggedy tape. And, it’s ok if the kids stay up way too late sometimes!

13. Going to a nearby mall to watch their awesome train display

This actually started with my dad since he loves trains, but it is something that we have done on our own, too. Malls can also be a great place to see some fabulous decorations and really get into the holiday spirit.

14. A community service project

We have gift wrapped, visited hospitals and nursing homes with different groups to sing or perform, or volunteered time in various ways. Giving of your time with as many family members as you can is a great holiday opportunity and a way to remain focused on the spirit of giving.

15. Visiting a holiday display at a local museum

We have a botanical gardens that is simply beautiful, and during the Christmas season they have traditional trees from countries from all around the world on display. There are plenty of festivities, too.

16. Attending a community concert or performance

Band concerts, plays, and even major productions like ballets are so fun to do during this time of year. These events can be pricey or they can be free, but there is nothing like it.

17. On Christmas Eve we love drinking eggnog

Some years we have made our own and some years we just buy it, but Christmas Eve eggnog is a fun family tradition.

18. Reading of the Christmas story in the Bible

We often do this while drinking our eggnog, but we do this as a family with all of our readers taking part. This can take awhile, but it is always such a memorable time. This is done best with everyone wearing their pajamas 🙂

19. The three gift rule

We have done this since our oldest was a baby. We choose to give each of our children three gifts, just as baby Jesus received. Our gifts also follow this same pattern: a new Bible, one thing they need, and one thing they want. We also do typical stocking stuffers, but with only three gifts for each kid, we can maintain a budget, and our kids savor each gift.

20. Wrapping up the Baby Jesus

Another longstanding tradition has been that we remove a Baby Jesus from one of our nativity scenes and wrap it. Then, one of our children receives this gift as one of their three presents. Everyone looks forward to seeing who will get it each year, and we do our best to creatively wrap it so that it remains a mystery until it is opened. This has been a great reminder to our kids of what really matters on Christmas…that Jesus is the ultimate gift, and this it is His gift of life, death, and eternal life that we celebrate.

Hopefully you have gotten some new ideas for holiday traditions in your family. Some of these are so easy, but they make such a huge impact in our kids’ memories. Find some you want to try and have a great holiday season with your family!

What are some of your favorite holiday traditions for the Christmas season? I’d love to hear in the comments!


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