20 Family Christmas Traditions Great for Kids (2023)

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The holiday season is filled with family fun, tradition, and joy. It can also be a bittersweet season, as the colder weather roles in and many are missing loved ones they’ve lost. 

That’s what makes December the ideal time to adopt some new traditions. Focusing on connection, love, and fun will help make your Christmas celebration unforgettable.

We’ve compiled a list of 20 family Christmas traditions that your kids will love. From decorating, to delicious food, to faith and fun winter activities, you can make memories together that will never fade. 

Pick out a real Christmas tree.

One of the great holiday debates: a real or fake Christmas tree? While fake Christmas trees are easier to take care of, cost effective, and less of a fire hazard, they’re just not quite as magical. There’s nothing like the scent of a real evergreen in your home. So why not make it a tradition to pick one out each year? Head out to your local tree farm and let your kids pick out their favorite. 

Put out milk and cookies for Santa Claus.

If your kids love the Santa Claus tale, why not lean into it a bit? It’s really exciting for them to await a visit from Santa and all those presents on Christmas Eve. Let them feel like they’re doing something nice for Santa by placing out a glass of milk and a plate of cookies by the fireplace. He must be starving after all those deliveries.

Build gingerbread houses.

We don’t really know where this tradition started, but it’s a really fun one. Buy a ready-to-do gingerbread making kit and craft your delicious miniature homes together. Get creative! Once the gingerbread and icing foundation is built, add your favorite candies for decoration. And definitely get a few bites in while you work. 

Drink homemade hot cocoa.

Do your kids have a sweet tooth? Who are we kidding–of course they do! Homemade hot cocoa is creamy, delicious, and so comforting in the cold weather. Boil water, stir in the cocoa powder and semi-sweet chocolate chips, and let it simmer. Then stir in some cream, and top it off with whipped cream!

Go sledding on a snow day.

Sledding is such a fun activity for the whole family. For just a few bucks you can purchase plastic sleds, and hit the nearest slope for some sledding. This is always a great tradition on a snow day, with freshly fallen snow and bored kids just rearing for adventure. 

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Bake cookies or cinnamon rolls. 

Baking something from scratch is the perfect Christmas tradition. This allows you to flex your baking skills and satisfy your sugar cravings at the same time. Bake cookies and let your kids decorate them with different holiday themes. Or bake fluffy cinnamon rolls to enjoy for breakfast. 

Build a snowman. 

Or a snowwoman or a snowdog! Whatever your kids can dream up. Making things out of snow that come to life, just like Frosty the Snowman, is a beloved tradition for children. It just lends itself to the magic and fantasy of imagination. And magic is what makes Christmas so special! 

Attend a local tree lighting.

Many places have long-since adopted the tradition of a grand tree lighting at the town center. These events bring people together from all walks of life to enjoy the beauty of a tree being lit for the first time this season. But in the end, it’s not about the tree. It’s about connecting with your community.

Listen to Christmas music.

Love it or hate it, Christmas music classics are here to stay. To get in the spirit, tune your radio to Christmas songs that bring cheer and warmth into your home. From Frank Sinatra to Michael Bublé and even Mariah Carey, there’s a Christmas album for any music taste. Just don’t even THINK about listening to Christmas music before Thanksgiving…

Drive around to see Christmas light displays.

There are some die-hard Christmas decorators out there. We all know those homes in each neighborhood. The ones that have their Christmas lights synced up to “Carol of the Bells.” The ones that have enough string lights to be seen from outer space. So pile your kids into the car and peruse through town to find the best Christmas light displays. 

Count down to December 25th with an Advent calendar.

An Advent calendar is a special type of calendar used to count the days of Advent leading up to Christmas. Advent calendars are a Christian tradition, and they come in really fun themes and art styles. Each day when the kids wake up, they can open the little pop-up door of the day and take a special surprise from inside (Hint: it’s usually a piece of candy!). 

Craft a handmade ornament or gift.

Christmas is all about making memories with your kids that will last a lifetime. A physical memento is a great reminder, so pick a tree ornament to make together and complete this fun craft project. From glittery stars to popsicle stick reindeer, you’ll have fun making them and can hang them up year after year.

Attend Christmas Eve mass.

If you follow the Catholic or Christian faith, attending a Christmas Eve mass or service is one of the most meaningful traditions you can participate in. The Christmas mass is a joyful celebration of the end of Advent and the birth of Christ. Triumphant Christmas hymns, candles and incense, and prayer makes for a beautifully reverent evening.

Watch Christmas movies.

Elf? It’s a Wonderful Life? Love Actually? We all have our favorite Christmas movie. Cozy up as a family with some snacks and get to watching. You can either vote on which one to watch, or have a Christmas movie marathon so everyone gets to see their personal favorite!

Decorate the Christmas tree.

Whether real or artificial, one of the best parts about having a Christmas tree is decorating it together. Pop on some Christmas music, and pull out all your favorite decorations. From colored string lights to tinsel to handmade ornaments, adorn your Christmas tree to get in the spirit of the season.

Mail out holiday cards to friends and family.

Reminding the ones you love that you’re thinking of them is a feel-good way to spend the holidays. So get crafty and create your own holiday cards for friends and family. Have your kids write little notes inside to the people they love, and stick them in the mailbox. It’ll make everyone smile!

Volunteer at a nonprofit.

Bringing joy to others, or serving them with your time and attention, is a worthy Christmas tradition. The holidays are a difficult time of year for many people, especially those in need. Volunteer your time at a local nonprofit. Soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and hospitals all need extra help for the holidays. But this may only be suitable if your children are old enough to emotionally process it.

Wear matching holiday pajamas.

For your really young kids, why not buy a cute matching pajama set? You can all get cozy in your white and red striped PJs, and watch Christmas movies on Christmas Eve. Obviously, this tradition will have an expiration date though, so enjoy it while it lasts! Your teenage kids may not be as willing to match with Mom and Dad!

Exchange one gift on Christmas Eve.

Your kids will be dying to tear into their presents on Christmas morning. Give them a little sneak peek and offer a single gift the night before. It’ll temporarily satiate their impatience, and build even more anticipation and excitement for the morning. Who knows, may they have a little something to give you too!

Decorate the house with paper snowflakes.

Not everyone has a keen artistic ability. That’s what makes paper snowflakes so satisfying! All it takes to create these simple crafts is folding some paper of your choosing, and cutting out little shapes around the edges. Each design will look unique, like real snowflakes, and are easy to connect with string and hang up around the house.

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