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Family Christmas Traditions

Establishing strong family Christmas traditions helps to create lasting memories, build family ties, provide children with a sense of security and belonging, and preserve family legacies.  Whether you celebrate the religious aspects of Christmas, non-religious aspects, or a combination of both, we have ideas for you. 

Elf on the Shelf
This is an activity the entire family will enjoy. Based on the family tradition Carol Aebersold began with her family in the 1970s, this cleverly rhymed children's book explains that Santa knows who is naughty and/or nice because he sends a scout elf to every home. During the holiday season, the elf watches children by day and reports to Santa each night. When children awake, the elf has returned from the North Pole and can be found hiding in a different location. This activity allows The Elf on the Shelf to become a delightful hide-and-seek game.

Light an Advent Candle
Find time either once a week or each night to light a candle of the advent wreath and talk about what the week of Advent represents.  If you are in need of an Advent wreath, Advent Calendar, or are looking for ways to celebrate the weeks of Advent together then be sure to see our Family Advent Activity Collection

Get Talking
Bring your family closer, create new traditions, and strengthen bonds with family and friends with the Christmas Box of Questions Game.  The game contains 82 conversation-starters, such as: "Are you a last minute shopper or is everything checked off your list by July?"  "Is there a homemade gift that you would like to give or receive?"  "What is your Christmas wish?", and "What is your favorite thing to do on Christmas eve?"

Blessing Book
Start a blessing book by buying a simple journal.  Keep the journal from year to year and have family members add new blessings every year.  For those children that are not yet able to write, a simple picture will do.

Good Luck Wishes
Try this Polish tradition on Christmas Eve. Make or buy unleavened bread.  Have each family member share a piece of the bread and as the bread is shared give all family members a kiss and wish of good luck.  For those wanting to incorporate a true Polish tradition, substitute Oplatek, a wafer, for the unleavened bread.

Birthday Cake for Jesus
Bake a birthday cake and sing Happy Birthday to Jesus.  This is a simple way of reminding ourselves and children why we celebrate Christmas.  Remember the birthday cake doesn't have to be anything elaborate.  A simple box mix or even an Easy Bake oven cake will do!

Christmas Tree Decorating Party
Set aside a special time in December to decorate the Christmas Tree as a family. Make simple appetizers or finger foods to share and eat as you decorate the tree.  Play Christmas music in the background and talk about all the fun things you will do as a family this Christmas season.

Give Gifts to Baby Jesus
Using your Giving Box money, purchase layette sized clothing and wrap as presents for baby Jesus.  Then as a family, stop by a homeless shelter or home for mothers and children to donate the gifts.

Cut Down a Christmas Tree
Why not try cutting down a Christmas tree this year rather than buying one off the lot or putting up the artificial?  This is truly a fun filled way to celebrate the Christmas season and one the family is sure to remember for years to come.  The National Christmas Tree Association can help you find a Christmas tree farm in your area.

Manger Ritual
As a symbol of the waiting and expectation of Jesus' birth, each night unwrap and place in the manger one piece of the nativity scene. Save baby Jesus for Christmas Day.

Read Christmas Stories
Set aside time each night to read a different Christmas story, saving The Night Before Christmas for Christmas Eve.

Advent Calendar
Count down the days of Christmas by purchasing or making an Advent Calendar.

Family Christmas Pajamas
I started this tradition a few years ago. On Christmas Eve the kids get to open two presents...one is their pajama's and the other is a book. From our reader Lynn

Ornament Collection
I’ve long collected ornaments for my tree. I pick them up when I travel, I hold on to those given to me as gifts, I even a have few ones I made with my roommates after college when we were too broke to buy some for our tree! Every year as I unwrap these ornaments one by one and hang them on the tree with my family – we share stories about each ornament and enjoy lots of laughs! I recently started collections for my girls with the hope that one day when they have their own trees – they will enjoy pulling out their collections and sharing stories with their kids as much as I do! ~ Noelle Abarelli / SmartMompreneur.com

Make Reindeer Food
Reindeer Food LabelThis is a fun family tradition and is an easy inexpensive gift to share with other families.  Combine 1/2 cup of dry rolled oats and 1/4 cup of either glitter or colored sugar (more environmental friendly) in a either a sturdy plastic bag/bowl, paper bag (no larger than lunch size), or glass container. Use this graphic to add a decorative label and hand them out as gifts to your friends and family.  On Christmas Eve, let the kids sprinkle the Reindeer food on the front lawn, so that the Reindeers can enjoy a snack while Santa is working.  To print and use this graphic, simply click on the image (it will open in a new window), right click with your mouse, and click copy image or save image as.

Leave Reindeer, Santa, and Sleigh Tracks
Enhance your kids' excitement by leaving behind Santa, reindeer, or sleigh tracks either in the snow or on your kitchen floor or fireplace mantel.  You can use a boot from your closet (big heavy work books work best) to leave Santa tracks in the snow or if you don't mind a little mess, use Insta-Snow Powder (available at Steve Spangler Science) or soot from your fireplace.  To make reindeer tracks, download the reindeer track printable and trace it onto cardboard.  For sleigh tracks use either a ski or snowboard. 

 "Something You Want, Something You Need, Something to Wear & Something to Read"

To help our kids focus less on getting and more on giving at Christmas, we created this rhyme - "Something you want, something you need, something to wear & something to read."

So, for the last 8 years or so, we buy 4 presents for each kid in the house. That doesn't mean they only get 4 presents. I usually try to hand make something for them each year.

They also get a very full, very large stocking because I love, love, love doing the stockings. And they are to make a gift for each of their siblings, unless they find a way to earn money to buy their siblings gifts (but normally they choose to make them anyway, even if they do have the money to buy a gift).

So there are always plenty of presents to open on Christmas morning, but it isn't ridiculous and it isn't all about what they're getting. They're usually more excited to see the reaction to their siblings gifts. ~ Laura White-Ritchie/BrainyFeet