25 Christmas Traditions To Start This Year

Christmas Tree Family at Tree Farm
Photo: Ryan J Lane / Getty Images

Holidays offer comfort and joy, mainly because familiar traditions come around every year to remind us of happy memories. Christmas traditions passed down through generations have special significance to a family, but new traditions can also be fun during this time of the year.

Adding more opportunities to gather with family or act like a kid by getting into the holiday spirit is always a good idea during Christmas. Here are some ways to get creative and add general merriment to your holiday season this year. Find your new favorite tradition.

01 of 25

The Countdown Calendar

Girl Opening Christmas Advent Calendar
Elva Etienne / Getty Images

Whether it's homemade by Grandma or a store-bought advent calendar filled with chocolate treats, there's something magical (especially for our littlest ones) about the daily countdown. It's a little way to celebrate the holiday each day leading up to the main event.

02 of 25

The 3 Gift Christmas

Happy Boy Opening Christmas Present
Portra / Getty Images

Something they want, something they need, and something to read. Symbolic to the Three Wise Men and the gifts they brought Jesus, this is a great tradition to start. It helps keep materialistic habits in check while also focusing on things people will genuinely appreciate.

03 of 25

Christmas Sheets

Christmas Bedsheets
Courtesy of potterybarn.com

Matching Christmas jammies aren't anything new. But what about swapping out ordinary sheets for ones adorned with classic holiday characters and symbols? We get so wrapped up in over-the-top gifts that we forget the simple joy that seeing your favorite holiday characters in everyday places can bring.

If you don't want to splurge on holiday-specific sheets, substitute your regular sheets for green and red ones—this adds a festive flair, but you can feel comfortable using the same set year-round.

04 of 25

Take a "Sleigh Ride"

House with Exterior Christmas Lights
Rob Lewine / Getty Images

The best part of this season may be the simple joys you discover along your daily routines. Load up the family, Christmas treats in tow, and drive to the most festive neighborhood in your town. Be sure to put someone in charge of a holiday Spotify playlist for the ride!

05 of 25

Christmas Movie Challenge

National Lampoons Christmas Vacation
Photo: subscene.com

Give the murder-mystery documentaries a rest. Gather your household and list 25 Christmas movies to watch through December. With a healthy dose of kid-friendly flicks for family movie nights, we think this simple tradition will give you something to look forward to at the end of each day.

Start with some favorites like White Christmas, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, Elf, and Four Christmases.

06 of 25

An Ornament for the Year

Pandemic Ornament
3CEtching / Etsy

Ask everyone in the family to choose an ornament that represents the year. This tradition might take some time before your selections turn into beautiful memories. Still, you'll relish recalling fond memories attached to each ornament that floods back every year while decorating the tree.

07 of 25

Sponsor a Family in Need

Family Donating Gifts
SDI Productions / Getty Images

It's always a good time to give back. Before your kids get bogged down in writing letters to Santa asking for X, Y, and Z, take them to shop for a local child who may otherwise have nothing under the tree come Christmas morning. Check with your local school or church. They'll often have lists at the ready of families in need in your local community.

08 of 25

Dress Up

Lighting Candles Preparing for Christmas Dinner
svetikd / Getty Images

Christmas is the perfect opportunity to dress up and give your sweat pants and pajamas a break (except your matching family pajamas, of course). Whether celebrating with friends and family or having a quiet holiday at home, carve out a day to put on your Sunday best and enjoy a good meal. It's such an easy way to make the day feel extra-special.

09 of 25

Organize a Cookie Exchange

Decorated Christmas Cokies
YinYang / Getty Images

Gather your neighborhood and set a date to bake and exchange cookies. Let the kids play Santa and deliver their treats for all to enjoy. It's a great way to feel connected to those around you and get some delicious new cookie recipes.

10 of 25

Participate in a White Elephant Exchange

Female Holding Wrapped Christmas Gift
Emilija Manevska / Getty Images

Not only is this activity a hoot, but unwrapping the creative (and often hilarious) gifts makes gift giving more about the experience than the gift itself. First, put presents in a central location and take turns, each choosing one to open. When it's your turn, it's your choice to snag a previously opened gift or try your luck on an unwrapped one.

Best white elephant gift we've heard of to date? A hamster named John Hammster. It's the gift (ahem, pet) that keeps on giving.

11 of 25

Visit a Tree Farm

Christmas Tree Family at Tree Farm
Ryan J Lane / Getty Images

Maybe you'll ultimately grab yours at your local Home Depot or assemble your faux nine-foot Fraser Fir, but there's something magical about hiking through a tree farm. Use it as an opportunity to snap some family photos—dressed in ugly Christmas sweaters. They'll make for the perfect addition to this year's holiday cards. (That's three traditions in one—tree farm, ugly Christmas sweaters, and holiday cards!)

12 of 25

Send Holiday Cards

Display Christmas Cards
Laurey W. Glenn

Everyone loves getting handwritten notes, especially at Christmastime. Holidays can be lonely for people who live alone or far away from their family, so show them you think of them with a lovely holiday card that shares more than a photo and a standard "Happy Holidays" inscription. These cards can also be a keepsake to display every year.

13 of 25

Enjoy Your Own Tree Lighting

Outside Christmas Ornaments
Chuck Savage / Getty Images

Everyone loves a home covered in Christmas lights. Take it one step further with your very own "tree lighting" at home. Gather the family and stand in the yard for the big reveal Clark Griswold-style. (Drumroll, please!) Come inside, enjoy hot cocoa, and read Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas. We guarantee it will be a tradition your kids ask for every year.

14 of 25

Christmas Caroling

Kids Singing Carols Near the Christmas Tree
Imgorthand / Getty Images

Singing Christmas carols is a long-standing tradition, but take it virtual this year and connect with some loved ones you've been missing. Organize an extended family or friends Zoom call with one rule—everyone sings loud and proud, so it's impossible to pinpoint who is off key!

15 of 25

Celebrate St. Nick's Day

Little hands holding candy canes
Isabel Pavia / Getty Images

A Dutch tradition, Sinterklaas or St. Nick's Day, starts holiday celebrations early on December 5, usually with a small gift hidden inside a shoe. Check your local area for Sinterklaas festivals, or surprise your young ones with a bit of magic with candy or a poem inside their boots this year.

16 of 25

Hide the Christmas Pickle

Christmas Pickle Ornament
picture alliance / Getty Images

You heard us correctly. We said Christmas pickle. This tradition's origins are a bit unclear, but in general, a Christmas pickle ornament hangs on the tree, and the first to see it receives an extra gift. Extend this game by having the person who finds it move the Christmas pickle to a new location, keeping the game going until Christmas Eve or day.

17 of 25

Open One Gift Early

Christmas Decorating Ideas: Gifts
Photo by Laurey W. Glenn

The anticipation for Christmas morning can sometimes be too overwhelming. Alleviate some of your kid's heightened excitement for Christmas day by allowing them to open only one gift on Christmas Eve. You can select the gift and make it something like new pajamas to wear that night while waiting for Santa's arrival or have siblings share their presents the night before.

18 of 25

Build a Gingerbread House

Christmas Table Decorations: Gingerbread House
Photo: Laurey W. Glenn

Constructing a gingerbread house is an excellent opportunity to sit with family and make memories without distractions. Put away the phones and tablets and focus on creating the best house possible.

Turn this tradition into a competition by having multiple sets of gingerbread houses and each person having a specified amount of time to complete it.

19 of 25

Host an Ornament Exchange

Christmas Decorating ideas: Vintage Ornaments
Photo by Laurey W. Glenn

Similar to a cookie exchange or White Elephant gift exchange, hosting an ornament exchange party is a way to encourage creativity and eliminate stress related to gift giving. Since everyone knows what to buy, it's up to them to find to most unique ornament they think everyone will want. Set up the exchange similar to the White Elephant gifting rules, or try a Secret Santa-style exchange.

20 of 25

DIY Placemats for Christmas Dinner

Photo: Laurey W. Glenn, Styling: Rebecca Hawkins

Instead of using traditional linens or purchasing something from the store, take an opportunity to create a unique place setting for each person you expect at your Christmas dinner. This activity can be a great way to involve the kids in holiday planning. As a tip, you should make a few extra just in case you have more guests than expected.

21 of 25

Make a Hot Chocolate Bar

Hot Chocolate Mix
Annabelle Breakey / Getty Images

After a day of skiing or sledding in the backyard (weather permitting), nothing beats a warm cup of hot chocolate. Step up this favorite holiday drink by creating a special hot chocolate bar one day. Make a charcuterie-style board filled with marshmallows, peppermints, chocolates, cinnamon, and anything else you might enjoy in your hot chocolate. Use a slow-cooker to make a large batch while you enjoy the snow outside.

22 of 25

Make Christmas Crafts

Christmas Tree Mason Jar
Southern Living

Turn craft time into your leading Christmas decor shop. Make everything you need to deck the halls and trim the tree. There are several DIY ideas for the holiday season, or you can let your imagination run wild with creativity.

23 of 25

Celebrate the Feast of Seven Fishes

Smoked Trout-Apple Hash Recipe
Photo: Hector Sanchez

An old Italian tradition, the Feast of Seven Fishes, is what it sounds like it is, a Christmas Eve dinner featuring at least seven fish meals. Every family has their version of what the seven fishes should be, but many include dishes with shrimp, clams, cod, and even octopus.

24 of 25

Put on a Christmas Play or Talent Show

Playing a Modern Guessing Game at Christmas
Getty Images

Designed to make memories from the time you spent with loved ones, Christmas traditions are ways to celebrate holidays in silly or unordinary ways. Try encouraging kids to perform a play or host a talent show for the whole family, highlighting everyone's best skills (or lack thereof).

25 of 25

Write Your New Year's Resolutions

new years resolutions
Getty Images

As the excitement of Christmas Day winds down, you might feel a bit blue. Change your outlook by looking to the future and the goals you want to achieve in the New Year. Take time to write down your New Year's resolutions and store them in your stockings to find next year.

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