Christmas Eve Traditions to Start This Year

This time of year is full of tradition for us. We have dozens of traditions that have become really important to our family during the holiday season! I always love talking about ideas for how to make this time of year even more special, so I thought I’d put together a post with some Christmas Eve traditions you can start with your family this year!

Making the holiday special doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. These are all really simple ideas – and most of them don’t require any preparation!

collage of christmas eve tradition ideas

30 Christmas Eve Traditions to Start This Year

Sing carols as a family.

Every Christmas Eve, my family gathers around the Christmas tree to sing a few favorite songs before we open gifts from our extended family. We’ve done it for as long as I can remember and it’s one of my most cherished traditions! It might feel cheesy at first, but there’s something absolutely magical about hearing your whole family belting out some Christmas tunes!

Open one present.

This is a common Christmas Eve tradition, and it’s a simple one to start this year! You can pick out a gift from under the tree for them to open, or you can plan a gift specifically for Christmas Eve. Pajamas are a really common gift for this tradition! Maybe consider pairing them with a new stuffed animal or a cozy blanket to make it extra special.

Family wearing matching Christmas pajamas

Wear matching pajamas.

Speaking of pajamas…having the whole family wear matching Christmas pajamas to bed on Christmas Eve is a guaranteed way to get some super sweet photos on Christmas morning!

Leave out cookies for Santa.

Of course you can’t have a “Christmas Eve traditions” post without chatting about leaving cookies for Santa. Most families do this, but one way to make it feel a little extra special is to add some special touches. Pick out a special Christmas-themed plate and mug just for Santa’s treats. We’ve even had our kids ask Santa if he has any cookie requests when they take a picture with him! Thinking of ways to make it a tad more of an event makes this age-old tradition feel even more special.

Hang one new symbolic ornament.

Each year, pick out a new ornament for your tree that represents a milestone in your family’s year. It can be big or small, silly or serious. Then, wait to add the ornament to your tree until Christmas Eve! It will feel like an event and your family will love reminiscing over the ornaments each year when you decorate!

Wrap everyone’s doors.

How thrilled would your kids be to wake up to a “wrapped” bedroom door? Grab some cheap wrapping paper and tape it up on the outside of their door frame so that when they wake up on Christmas morning they have to burst through it to get out of their room. It will be a really fun (and silly) way to kick off the morning!

Make hot chocolate.

Before you send the kids off to bed, take some time as a family to brew up some special hot chocolate! If you decide to try a tradition like this, I recommend trying out some homemade hot chocolate recipes instead of just making it from a packet. It’ll feel extra special, and will quickly become a treasured family recipe!

Peruse old Christmas photos.

Whether you have them stored on a computer, in a photo album, or just in your phone, it will feel really special to gather up together on Christmas Eve and look through some photos from years past. You can chat about all of your favorite Christmas memories, and it’s guaranteed to make you feel all sorts of warm fuzzy feelings.

family looking at Christmas lights

Go see Christmas lights.

Before the kids get tucked into bed, load everyone up in the car and head out to look at Christmas lights! This is such a fun Christmas Eve tradition because there’s so much excitement in the air, and all of the decorations feel like they sparkle a little brighter on Christmas Eve!

Watch a Christmas movie.

Snuggling up with some cookies and a blanket is the perfect way to spend the afternoon on Christmas Eve! Bonus points if you pick a movie to be your go-to for every year!

Make a popcorn garland.

Kids can get antsy on Christmas Eve, and a craft is a great way to nip that in the bud! Pop some popcorn, turn on a good movie, and settle in to make a popcorn garland to string up on the Christmas tree!

Volunteer together.

A really special tradition you could start with your family is to take some time out of your Christmas Eve to do something for someone else. Volunteer at a local food pantry or homeless shelter. Spend some time delivering gifts to families in your community in need. Help teach your kids the value of giving to someone else this time of year!

Track Santa on NORAD.

One of our favorite activities on Christmas Eve is to track Santa’s progress! NORAD (The North American Aerospace Defense Command) has a Santa tracker every year! You can head to their website for a map that shares where in the world Santa is at any given moment. It’s a great way to convince your kids it’s time for bed – “oh look, Santa’s getting closer! Better get to sleep!”

young boy and his father decorating Christmas cookies

Bake cookies.

We bake cookies all season long, but if you’re looking for a new Christmas Eve tradition, why not whip up a fresh batch for Santa the day of? You can pick a certain cookie you want to make every single year, or try something new every year. The point is, spend some time getting your hands dirty and making something sweet for the family!

Do a Christmas craft.

I love the idea of putting together some sort of Christmas themed craft together for the kids! Places like Target or Michael’s always have some sort of fun craft kit or ornament painting set. Grab one now and set it aside for when the kids are getting a little rowdy on Christmas Eve. Turn on some tunes and have them spend some time creating!

Leave a note for Santa.

In addition to leaving cookies for Santa, you can leave him a little note! Have your kids jot down a quick “thank you” or even a little note to tell Santa what they’ve been up to this season. Be sure to snap a picture of them with the note so they can look back in the future at what they thought it was important to share with the big guy.

Have a fancy dinner.

If ever there was a night of the year where you have a good excuse to get all fancy just to stay at home, it’s Christmas Eve! Light a ton of candles, try a few new recipes, and have everyone get all dolled up. Be sure to nap a family photo!

Have take out.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you’re feeling like you need something quiet this year, why not start a tradition of takeout on Christmas Eve? Put on your PJs, turn on a good movie, and order something in to eat on the couch. Even something as simple as burgers and milkshakes will feel extra special on Christmas Eve.

overhead view of a game board

Play a family game.

My family plays games basically all day long on Christmas Eve! It’s one of our very favorite things to do. Here’s a list of some favorite family games that would be great to kick of your new Christmas Eve gaming tradition.

Read a book together.

Before bed, have everyone snuggle up on the couch and grab a favorite Christmas book to read together. It can be a classic like Night Before Christmas, or just one of your kids favorite Christmas-y books. The point is that you’re all reading it together!

Make a family video.

Here’s a fun tradition that would help create some really great memories. Prop your phone up somewhere so it can see the whole family and spend a minute recording a video talking about your year. Give everyone a chance to share, and maybe even record a few other special moments from the day. Save the videos to watch year after year!

Take the same photo every year.

My family poses in front of our Christmas tree in our matching pajamas every year and it’s one of my favorite photos we take all year long! It’s so fun to watch the boys grow up in these photos, and it’s a special tradition we’ll always keep!

Visit a nursing home.

If you have some time on Christmas Eve, take your family over to a local nursing home to spread a little cheer. Many residents won’t get visitors, and you will make their entire year by popping in to say hi.

Go on a long walk.

After all the eating and treats and chaos of the day, a nice long family walk can be a really great way to bring everyone together. Head out in the neighborhood with some hot chocolate to chat, stretch your legs, and check out some of the Christmas decorations near you!

Have a sibling slumber party.

The kids are going to have a hard time going to sleep anyways – why not start a tradition of sibling sleepovers? Have all the kids pile up in one room. You can set up a tent inside if you have one, or just make a big pallet on the floor. It’ll feel extra special and they’ll be whispering about if they hear Santa until they finally fall asleep.

Open Christmas crackers.

Grab some Christmas crackers to set out on the table on Christmas Eve – the kids will love the fun surprise and you’ll be amazed at how much fun the whole family has with them! Places like World Market always sell them this time of year, and you can even make your own!

young boy decorating a gingerbread house

Make a gingerbread house.

Gingerbread houses are a time-honored tradition in our family, and we usually do them earlier in the season. But, if you haven’t done one yet Christmas Eve is as good a time as any! It would make for a really fun tradition to spend some time on Christmas Eve putting together gingerbread houses, snacking on candy, and listening to Christmas music together.

Wear ugly sweaters.

Another fun idea for your family to start this year is to track down some ugly Christmas sweaters for everyone and wear them all day on Christmas Eve! It’s a little silly, it’s a lot fun, and your kids will love looking back at all the photos!

Leave a treat for the reindeer.

Santa isn’t the only one working hard on Christmas Eve – why not leave some treats for the reindeer too? There are tons of fun recipes out there for various reindeer treats, but something as simple as a few carrots will feel really special for your kids, and you can assure them that the reindeer will be so grateful.

Leave luminaries for Santa.

Finally, this is a really special tradition if you can get your street – or even your whole neighborhood – to participate. Before bed, line your driveway with paper bag luminaries. You can make them or buy them, but be sure to light them up before you head to bed (I recommend faux candles, not real!). It will create a really magical look and will light the street up for Santa’s sleigh!

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