30 Most Adorable Christmas Traditions That Make the Holidays Magical
Traditions so sweet you'll get a toothache.
For many families, Christmas is accompanied by the same staid means of celebrating each year. You trim the tree, you take photos with Santa at the mall, and you leave out a couple of cookies on Christmas Eve hoping the man in the red suit takes a bite or two before Christmas morning. However, if you’re eager to hit the reset button on your holiday celebration and make it a much merrier occasion, doing so is easier than you think.
If you want to infuse your Christmas celebration with a little more cheer this year, it’s time to add some new traditions to your holiday arsenal. Not sure how to start? We’ve rounded up 30 adorable Christmas traditions your whole family will love. So read on, and feel your spirits rise!
Adopt an Angel tree
If you want to take a break from simply adding to your own family’s gift pile this holiday season, consider participating in the Angel Tree program.
The program, sponsored by Prison Fellowship, allows individuals to provide gifts to a child whose parents is currently incarcerated and bring some holiday cheer to the kids who need it most. And for those working with limited budgets, adopting an angel doesn’t mean having to part with the bulk of your paycheck—providing some kindness to these kids will typically run you under $30.
Build gingerbread houses
Wholesome, adorable, and a great way for the whole family to bond, building a gingerbread house is an wonderful and timeless Christmas tradition every member of the family will love. Better yet, for those with a sweet tooth, decorating your holiday masterpiece provides you an excuse to dig into those gum drops virtually guilt-free.
Wear family pajamas
Who says that you need to shell out a huge amount of money on fancy holiday outfits you’ll only wear once for Christmas? This year, master the art of the aww-worthy Christmas tradition by grabbing a set of matching pajamas for you and your loved ones.
Cheesy? A little. Still worthy of a million Instagram likes? Definitely.
Participate in an ornament exchange
Feeling like your tree could use some sprucing up (pun intended) this year? Arrange an ornament exchange with some friends and family members. Simply bring out those ornaments you’re no longer loving, make some drinks or holiday treats, invite your loved ones over, and swap out those lackluster tree charms for some brand-new baubles.
Ride The Polar Express train
If you want to make Christmastime magical for the kids in your life, look up your local Polar Express train ride. These adorable trips, which take place across the United States throughout the holiday season, offer kids a chance to sing carols, meet Santa, enjoy some holiday treats, and even take a trip to the “North Pole”—an adorably-decorated version of Santa’s house set up along the train route.
Go Christmas caroling
Want to bring some holiday cheer to your neighbors this year? Gather your friends and family and head out for some Christmas caroling. Whether you’re singing more traditional songs or breaking out your best rendition of “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” you’re sure to bring some serious joy to anyone who gets to listen while having plenty of fun yourself. And if you’re curious about the backstories for your favorite December-time songs, check out The Secret History Behind These Timeless Christmas Carols.
Volunteer at a local soup kitchen
Giving back is the essence of the holiday season, and there’s virtually no better way to make a difference in your community than by volunteering your time at a local soup kitchen.
Just make sure that you book your volunteer time well in advance—many soup kitchens find themselves inundated with volunteers around the holidays, so it’s important not to overburden them.
Check out a holiday light shows
Make this holiday magical for your whole family by treating them to a holiday light show. Fortunately, virtually no matter where you live, you can easily find one near you, whether it’s a town-sponsored event or just a neighbor with an impressive holiday display. Or, for that matter, load up the car and trek to the Best Christmas Tree in Your State!
Leave a treat for the reindeer
If you have young children, it’s time to start including Santa’s reindeer in the holiday fun. Instead of solely leaving treats out for the big man on the night before Christmas, make sure to leave some snacks for his reindeer, too—a few apple slices and baby carrots won’t go unappreciated.
Participate in a cookie exchange
Eager to host a holiday party, but aren’t exactly in the mood to have a rager in your living room? Try a holiday cookie swap instead.
Once you know how many attendees you’ll have, invite every guest to make between six and 12 cookies for each guest, in addition to a dozen cookies everyone can snack on during the festivities, and make sure everyone prints out recipe cards to share.
At the end of the party, everyone will go home with a huge number of delicious treats, as well as instructions for how to make them, without paying a cent beyond the cost of materials. And for a few traditions that have been lost to time, check out these 17 Famous Christmas Tradition Nobody Does Anymore.
Host a family sleepover
While December may not be a great time for traditional camping, you and your little ones can enjoy the excitement of a campout right in the privacy of your own home. Set up some play tents in your room (or around the Christmas tree), read spooky stories, make s’mores, and fall asleep cuddled up in your respective sleeping bags while waiting for the big guy to arrive.
Leave Santa footprints outside
Decorate the inside of your home with some powdery footprints this Christmas Eve. After your kiddos are tucked into bed, create a stencil by tracing one of your shoes on a piece of paper and cutting out the shoe-shaped center. Sprinkle baking soda or flour through the stencil to create the impression of snowy footprints and in no time, your home (or porch, or walkway) will be a winter wonderland.
Make salt dough ornaments
Eager to personalize your Christmas tree this year? Try making some salt dough ornaments with the kids in your family. Simply combine four cups flour, one cup salt, and a cup and a half of warm water and roll out your dough, cutting it with cookie cutters to create shapes, making a small pencil hole in the top of each ornament for ribbon. Bake the ornaments at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for an hour and paint them once they’re cool.
Eat breakfast with Santa
Don’t feel like schlepping to the mall to have your kids pose with Santa? Take them to a breakfast with Santa event instead. Low-key, fun, and a great way to make your kids less scared of the man in the red suit, this is one adorable Christmas tradition the whole family will be eager to participate in.
Open an advent calendar
What’s better than celebrating Christmas? Celebrating Christmas for an entire month. Get your family a refillable advent calendar and make it part of your regular Christmas tradition. Whether you fill it with candy or small toys, this tradition will make everyone in your family giddy with anticipation for the entire month of December.
Binge-watch Christmas specials
Sure, the Friends Christmas special may not be a classic by some people’s standards, but if you want to make the most of the holiday season, it’s well worth it to watch something you actually enjoy instead of hosting the thousandth screening of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. So, load up on your favorite shows’ Christmas episodes and binge-watch them all with your significant other the night before the big day.
Donate to Toys for Tots
If you’re intent upon brightening the holidays for someone else, think beyond the confines of your own family and friend group. Toys for Tots, run by the United States Marine Corps Reserve, allows participants to donate new toys at one of the numerous drop boxes across the country. The toys are then donated to children in need, making their holiday season much merrier in no time.
Take Christmas photos with your pets
Who says you need kids to take Christmas photos? Call up your local portrait studio (or hire a photographer to come to your house) and get your pets in on the action, costumes and all. Bonus points if you actually send those photos of your pets in their holiday finest out as your Christmas cards.
Cut your own Christmas tree
Instead of simply buying a tree from your local Christmas tree seller, why not make a day of it and cut it down yourselves? Bring your spouse, your kids, your parents, or your friends with you, and enjoy the sense of accomplishment that only channeling your inner Paul Bunyan can give you.
Open a holiday box on Christmas Eve
Waiting for Christmas day to roll around can be tough, even for the most patient revelers. To help reduce the anxiety that stems from waiting, pass out a holiday box to your family members on Christmas Eve. Pack it with a holiday-themed book, some hot cocoa mix, and a festive item of clothing and enjoy watching your loved ones’ faces light up when they open their gift.
Host a holiday potluck
Don’t feel like making a holiday feast this year? Then don’t! Instead, host a holiday potluck for members of your inner circle. Invite each guest to bring a dish and a drink. Not only will this save you countless hours in the kitchen, it’ll also mean that when your guests leave, so do the dishes they brought, saving you on clean-up time, as well.
Visit a Christmas market
Popular throughout Europe, German-style Christmas markets are starting to make headway in the United States, as well. At these unique seasonal shopping destinations, you can find handmade gifts, enjoy seasonal treats, and generally soak up the spirit of the season. Not sure where your nearest Christmas market is located? Check this handy directory for the one nearest you.
Write a letter to Santa
Want to wow your kids this Christmas? Write a letter to Santa—and actually send it. Around the holiday season, The United States Postal Service will reply to letters sent to the North Pole, complete with a postmark from Anchorage, Alaska. Just make sure that you have your letter in the mail by December 8th—and for full instructions on how to get your letter into the right hands, check here. And for some less-charming traditions, discover The 30 Worst Holiday Trends of All Time.
Pay off layaway items at your local store
If you’ve got a little extra padding in your holiday budget, why not make someone else’s holiday a bit more magical? Head to your local Target or Walmart store and visit their customer service department, where you can offer to pay off a layaway account for a family that hasn’t been able to fully pay for their Christmas gifts this year.
Make a popcorn garland
Tinsel is tacky, not to mention bad for your pets and the environment. This year, create a more eco-friendly alternative to trim your tree with by making a popcorn-and-cranberry garland. Simply thread some popcorn and cranberries onto a thin fishing wire, creating a loop at either end of the garland so it doesn’t come apart. Add it to your tree and you’ll instantly have an adorable homemade decoration to admire.
Catch a Love Actually screening
Sure, Love Actually has its flaws. Alan Rickman betrays Emma Thompson. Everyone in the Prime Minister’s office is wildly unprofessional. Mark is an obsessive creep who kisses his best friend’s wife. That said, the movie is still a holiday classic, so if you can keep from throwing your popcorn at the screen in rage when Mark reveals the “To me, you are perfect” card, it’s worth checking out if your local theater will be playing the holiday classic this year.
Filling a stocking for your furry friends
Who says that pets can’t partake in the yuletide joy? This year, get your four-legged friends a stocking of their own and fill it with treats and toys. While they might not totally understand what’s going on, they’ll definitely be excited nonetheless.
Watch The Nightmare Before Christmas
While some people host screenings of this classic film at Halloween, this Tim Burton masterpiece is, without a doubt, a Christmas movie—it’s right there in the title, folks. This year, watch in style by inviting your friends over for a costumed screening of the film. Bring out your spookiest snacks and top those skeleton costumes with a Santa hat for good measure.
Create and share a holiday playlist
Sometimes, the last thing a person wants is another present to unwrap (and potentially return). This year, instead of getting every last person on your list a gift they won’t necessarily love, create a holiday playlist and send it out instead. Armed with your pre-selected list of Christmas songs, even the biggest Grinches are sure to get in the holiday spirit.
Read The Night Before Christmas together
There are some adorable Christmas traditions that are every bit as fun today as they were over a century ago. Case in point: ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas has been a holiday staple since it was first published in A Visit From Saint Nicholas back in the early 19th century. This year, gather your loved ones around for a reading of this classic Christmas tale—you’ll be amazed at how one simple story can get any kid (or adult) instantly excited to celebrate the holiday. And if you’re looking for a fun lead-in to the holiday, try out these 20 Super Fun Ways to Spend Christmas Eve.
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