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Christmas traditions are the little things your children will remember for years to come. They are what make the season special. The memories your kids will want to relive with their kids someday.
Now, we’re not talking Pinterest-level Elf on the Shelf antics or Christmas cookies that would make Martha Stewart jealous.
Ain’t no one got time for that.
Instead, Christmas traditions can be simple and low-cost. Something fun and special that brings your family together, without putting a weight on your shoulders.
To help you create realistic and frugal Christmas traditions with your family, we’ve put together a complete list of Christmas traditions that you can start this year – whether your kids are toddlers or are adults families of their own.
Psst – If you haven’t checked out our post on the Four Gift Rule yet, stop over to keep your holiday gift budget under control!
Frugal & Fun Christmas Traditions
- Christmas Movie Night – Host a family Christmas Movie Night complete with popcorn.
- Have a hot chocolate party – Make homemade hot chocolate with cocoa, sugar, and milk. (Or just use Swiss Miss, no judgment here.) Make it a party by adding marshmallows, candy canes, or whipped cream for toppings. Let everyone make their own and discover who’s most creative!
- Popcorn Garland Party– Simply string together popped popcorn on strands of dental floss. For a festive touch, add cranberries to the design too.
- Homemade Butter – Make your own butter and use for Christmas dinner. Put the children to work and have them make butter the old-fashioned way by shaking jars of heavy whipping cream. All you need are either baby food or mason jars filled halfway with heavy whipping cream, and start shaking!
- Christmas Light Show – Ride around to different neighborhoods and look at Christmas lights and decorations. Bring mugs of hot chocolate or snacks for the ride!
- Bake cookies for Santa – Decorate them with lots of sprinkles and icing (or whatever Santa likes). Try a crazy Pinterest recipe and see who can get closest to the photo result!
- Wrap Christmas gifts together as a family – Bring all the fun wrapping paper into one room and prepare gifts for extended family and friends. If you’ve adopted a family in need for the holidays, put their gifts together as a family!
- Christmas Sing-A-Long – Have each member of the family pick their favorite song and everyone sings it together. (A Christmas song lip-sync battle could lead to many laughs too!)
- Special Christmas Breakfast – Make a simple breakfast for Christmas morning. It could be a casserole, your favorite banana bread recipe, those delicious packaged cinnamon rolls, anything that is easy to assemble.
- Make a gingerbread house – You can either use a kit or make your own with any candy and decorations you already have on hand. You can also find versions made with graham crackers that are even easier (and cheaper) to assemble.
- Feed the Reindeer – Scatter “Reindeer Food” in your yard (make your own out of a mixture of glitter and oats) on Christmas Eve.
- What Do You Want for Christmas? – Record each of the family members as they tell you what they are asking for this year. Make a short video of everyone’s wishes and watch old videos at the beginning of each new Christmas season.
- Love Note Advent Calendar – If you have an Advent Calendar, fill it with notes to each family member, instead of, or in addition to, filling it with candy. If you don’t have an Advent Calendar then you can use 24 envelopes and have the kids decorate each one.
- Annual Christmas Picture – Take pictures of your family in the same place every Christmas.
- Christmas Chain – Make a construction paper chain with 25 links. Have the kids break a link each day leading up to Christmas.
- Use Your Good China – Remember that expensive china everyone said you needed to register for when you got married? Pull it out, or your favorite dishes, and use them for a special dinner during Christmas.
- Love Your Neighbor – Bake extra goodies together to give to a neighbor.
- Volunteer together as a family. Work in a soup kitchen, go caroling in the local nursing home, adopt a family in need or donate gifts to Toys or Tots.
- Visit a Christmas Tree Lighting – Go together as a family to the lighting of the Christmas tree in your hometown every year.
- Give an Ornament – Give an ornament to each child each year. It will build their first set of ornaments when they are ready to move out and have their own Christmas tree.
- Create Handmade Gifts – Make a handmade item to give to a grandparent or special friend. Ideas such as pictures, handprints, or homemade ornaments are perfect for this.
- Feed the Sweet Tooth – Give the same type of candy every year to each person in your family.
- The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear! Go Christmas Caroling in your neighborhood.
- Have Family Story Time on Christmas Eve – Read “T’Was the Night Before Christmas” or any other classic Christmas story on Christmas Eve.
- Smells Like Christmas – Make a stovetop potpourri and let the enticing aroma fill up your house.
- Play Christmas Games – Play games such as Christmas Bingo, The Santa Claus game, or Christmas trivia.
- Christmas Letters – Write a letter to each of your family members expressing your love.
- Christmas Coupon Book – Have each family make a “coupon book” which will be good for things (such as cleaning a room or choosing the movie for movie night) for each family member.
- Hunt for Christmas – Makeup a Christmas scavenger hunt around the house or your hometown.
- Letters to Santa – Have your kids write a letter to Santa. Mail them at the local post office or library.
- Christmas Mugs – Get special Christmas mugs to use for your hot chocolate and coffee all through the holiday season.
- Christmas Cooking Challenge – Make a family recipe that you haven’t tried before. If your kids are older, assign each family member a course.
- Special Holiday PJs – Gift special Christmas pajamas or festive sleepwear on Christmas Eve or for the holiday season.
- Find New Christmas Books at the Library – Check out Christmas books so you can read a different story each night leading up to the holiday. We love Bear Stays Up For Christmas and Olive, the Other Reindeer!
- Seasonal Quotes for Christmas Surprises – Write out fun Christmas quotes that make you happy and post them in random spots around your house for little moments of holiday spirit for your family.
- Create Your Own Ornaments – Make simple homemade ornaments such as ones with candy canes and googly eyes or decorated clothespins.
- Keep an Eye on Santa – On Christmas Eve go online and track Santa’s whereabouts. You can start seeing updates as of December 1.
- Draw Funny Christmas Elves – Each family member starts with a blank piece of paper. Drawing only one line at a time, and then passing it to the next person, draw Christmas elves. When someone feels like the drawing is done, they can start naming the elf with just one letter. Each family member adds a letter until the name and drawing are complete.
- Have a Special Christmas Eve Toast – Have a toast on Christmas Eve while putting the cookies out for Santa. You can use eggnog or sparkling cider.
- Have a Paper Snowflake Competition – Make cut out paper snowflakes and use them to decorate around the house. Check out these easy-to-follow paper snowflake patterns!
- Celebrate the Year – Have a set time to talk about your favorite events from the past year. Share your wishes for the upcoming Christmas and coming year.
- Late Night Fun – Let the kids stay up until midnight one evening. Watch Christmas movies, eat popcorn, or play games together. Put away cell phones and tablets to focus on each other.
- Celebrate Your Community – Invite your neighbors over and enjoy coffee and a dessert together. It doesn’t have to be elaborate – just a simple snack and a great excuse to connect with people in our lives.
- Holiday Coloring Fun – Put down a paper tablecloth and let your kids draw and write all over it. It would be especially festive if they used red and green pencils, but any color will work.
- Enjoy Christmas Cards from Loved Ones – Display the different Christmas cards you receive throughout the house or in a designated spot. Let your kids take turns pinning them up!
- Mail Handmade Christmas Cards – Have the children draw pictures or write Christmas cards to people you want to show a little extra love to. They can even make cards to send to a local hospital or nursing home.
- Create a Christmas Bucket List – Sit down as a family and create a holiday bucket list with little activities you would like to do – like watching a certain movie or baking cookies. Check something off the list each day!
- Attend a Christmas Concert – Find a free local (or very low-cost) Christmas concert and go together. If your local area isn’t holding one, look into those offered by the local high school or college.
- Play ‘Christmas Pickle’ – Buy a pickle ornament and play the ‘Christmas pickle’ game – yes, this is a real thing. The first child to find the pickle on Christmas morning gets an extra present.
- Burst Into Christmas – Tape wrapping paper up to the doorway or stairwell and have kids run through it on Christmas morning. The more wrapping paper the better! (And it could keep them in their room until Mom has a cup of coffee and is ready for present opening!)
Make Your Christmas Celebrations Unique
You don’t have to spend a fortune to make amazing memories with your kids. And while I can’t promise that your holiday season will be stress-free (family, am I right?), I can promise that long after the presents are unwrapped, the things your children will remember most are the simple Christmas traditions you have created as a family.
What are your family’s favorite holiday traditions? Share in the comments!
Hi, I’m Sara! I love being a wife and mom to 3 very active children. I spend most of my time working full-time, driving kids to all of their activities, cooking, and cheering on my favorite football teams. I love writing about juggling this crazy adventure called life. But most of all I love to share insights and tips on finding the most joy in the midst of the everyday.