Christmas is my all-time FAVORITE holiday! Bar none, hands down. The entire month of December just feels magical. The decorations and lights everywhere you go, the Christmas carols, the Christmas movies on tv, holiday foods, holiday parties and get-togethers, snow (well, maybe not if you live in the South) and crisp cold weather, the anticipation to Christmas morning, the beautiful Nativity story, giving and receiving gifts…I could go on, but you get the idea. That indescribable Christmas spirit. There’s no other holiday like it and what makes it even more special are the traditions. Every family, every couple, every person has at least one personal sentimental tradition that they do every year to make it uniquely their own. Now that I have a baby I’m even more excited to share with him the traditions that I grew up doing and begin new ones of our own.
I’ve compiled a list of 10 traditions that you can do with your family this holiday season!
- Look at Christmas Lights. This is a big tradition in our family — we like to ride around and admire all the houses decorated in twinkling lights around town. It’s a simple activity, perfect for cold weather, with maximum enjoyment for all ages, plus it’s absolutely FREE. Wear your Christmas pjs, which the kids will love, and bring hot apple cider to add to the experience! If you’re looking to take your lights experience up a notch, there are a few ways to do that while not breaking the bank. Check out Rock City’s Enchanted Garden of Lights and Holiday Lights at the Chattanooga Zoo.
- Countdown to Christmas with an Advent Calendar. Traditionally, the Advent Calendar is a religious calendar used to count down each day to Christmas morning and share the Christmas Nativity story with a piece of chocolate or candy. This is a great way to make counting down to Christmas more fun and interactive for kids! Most stores sell inexpensive premade Advent Calendars or you can buy a decorative one to add to your Christmas collection to use every year. It can also be a Christmas activity craft for the kids to do, like making a paper garland chain, and homemade crafts are always fun! Make it a little more special by adding activities like reading a new holiday book each night. Each day, get together to count down one more day to Christmas. Extra tip: look into adult Advent themes. They can be a lot of fun!
- Visit a Tree Farm. If you trim a live tree, consider visiting a tree farm to pick it out! A lot of farms and bigger tree lots make the experience fun for the whole family. Bundle up and take some hot apple cider!
- Personalize an Ornament. The most memorable ornaments are the ones that make you think of the Christmas in which you first hung it on the tree. A great way to remember each Christmas and add a tangible memory to your collection of ornaments is to personalize one! You can buy personalized ornaments from a store with your family name and the date, make homemade ornaments, or let your kids pick out a new ornament of any kind to add to the tree. It’ll be something they look forward to doing every year with Christmases to come full of happy nostalgia and stories!
- Night Before Christmas Box. Each person in the family gets their own special box to open on Christmas Eve. Inside can be a pair of new pjs to wear that night and maybe a Christmas movie to watch or a new book to read at bedtime. You can also find cute printables to include in the box online, and many are free!
- Donate to Charity. A great teachable and meaningful to gift to give your children is the act of giving back to the community. As a family, you can choose a purposeful way to donate to a charity of your choice. Operation Christmas Child and the Angel Tree are great ones to do with kids. For Operation Christmas Child, you fill a shoebox with items to send to an impoverished child and drop it off at a designated location. You’ll see the Angel Tree at many department stores. Simply take a name of a local child or family in need off the tree and purchase a gift for your “Angel.” Another idea is to donate toys to a local toy drive. Help your children either pick out a new toy for the toy drive or donate right from their own collection (which can also be a win for cleaning out the toy box). Also, consider your local food bank. They’re always in need and very busy this time of year.
- Cookies and a Movie. Kind of like dinner and a movie, but a lot more fun and way more cozy! Making the cookies can be as simple as putting the premade dough on a baking sheet and popping them in the oven or making them from scratch — it’s completely up to you! Once the cookies have cooled, set up a “Decorating Station” to include items like sprinkles, frosting, M&Ms, marshmallows, etc. and let the kids decorate their own. Once the cookies are decorated, watch a favorite Christmas movie and enjoy the cookies together.
- Go to a Christmas Concert or Play. There are many events that go on during the month of December and some are even FREE. As a family, pick out at least one concert or Christmas play to attend together, like the Nutcracker or the Singing Christmas Tree, and enjoy the magic of the season by listening to Christmas carols or taking in a classic Christmas story.
- Elf on the Shelf. Your kids will enjoy searching for Santa’s Elf helper each morning and see what silly antics they’ve been up to during the night. If you’re already doing Elf on the Shelf, make it even more entertaining by coming up with scenes to find your Elf in or have your Elf leave an activity for your kids to do.
- Jingle a Friend. Leave your friend or neighbor a “Jingle” with some Christmas treats. Put together a basket of cookies or little gifts with a note that says “You’ve been Jingled” and leave it on their doorstep as a surprise! You can find free printable notes online.