This post may contain affiliate links. View the full disclosure statement for more details. Sign up for the Schooling a Monkey newsletter to gain access to more hands-on activity ideas!
Christmas is one of our favorite holidays. We love just about everything about the holiday (even the increase in mall traffic). Pretty lights, cold weather, delicious food, shopping for presents, colorful packages, and visiting with family are treasured holiday traditions that we do every year.
Over the years, in an effort to create fun holiday memories with my kids, I’ve collected, adopted, and created some fun traditions that we do every year. No matter the year, you will find us doing these holiday traditions:
15 Holiday Traditions That are Easier than Elf on the Shelf
If you just can’t commit to Elf on the Shelf, these 14 holiday traditions will make Christmas festive and fun with a little less effort.
My grandparents started this tradition with us ever since we were babies. They would buy a new Christmas ornament for each grandchild every year until they turned 18. It made putting up the Christmas ornaments a lot of fun every year because they would pick an ornament that represented what you were into that year.
I picked up this tradition for Monkey and Bo. This year, Monkey picked out a Wonder Woman ornament and Bo picked out a dinosaur.
Special Christmas Paper
I picked up this tradition from my husband’s family. Each person in their family has a special Christmas paper that is theirs forever. All wrapping paper for that person has the same theme. I loved this idea so much, I carried it to our house. In our family, our personalized papers are:
- Josh: Candy canes (the same one he has at his parent’s house just to keep things easy)
- Me: Snowpeople
- Monkey: Angels (she was dubbed the “angel baby” by the grandparents)
- Bo: Bears (she is our little savage creature)
Watching The Nutcracker
Some years we only manage to watch The Nutcracker on video, but my favorite Christmas tradition is to go to a ballet showing. My personal favorite editions of The Nutcracker are the ones done by the youngest students possible. I like a bit of cheese and a lot of mistakes in my Nutcracker productions. One ballet we attended had the dads of the daughter’s as the male party guests. It was so adorable! Another ballet had little tiny three-year-olds dance one of the main dances and it was the most precious thing I have ever seen.
I started making figgy pudding about six or seven years ago and I’ve made it almost every year since. I found a lovely recipe that uses a box cake as a base, which is easy and festive. We always eat it with whipped cream because that makes it taste AMAZING.
Three Special Gifts
Sometimes we don’t follow this and we use other gift-giving practices, but usually, we try to stick to three gifts per child. We have two reasons for this: first, we don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on Christmas each year, and second, we like to make a bigger deal out of birthdays than Christmas for presents. There are so many other cool things about Christmas, presents don’t have to be the main focus.
Real Christmas Tree
About four years ago when our fake tree died, Josh decided we should get a real tree and it has really helped make Christmas amazing. The smell of pine in your house is so festive and picking out the tree is a fun tradition that the kids love. Each year we try to save the little cut off stump to look at the next year. When we get enough, we’ll have to make a fun project from them.
I believe this recipe came from my great grandmother. It is an adaptation of what it called “bird’s nest” candy. However, my great grandmother adapted it to have caramel and nuts and it is a family favorite and a must in everyone’s house. My grandmother always served hers in a gold can and one year she gifted everyone with their own gold can to serve tingalings out of.*****************
Gingerbread is my favorite cookie recipe so we always make gingerbread. Sometimes we make a gingerbread house, but we always make it into gingerbread people and decorate them with fun candies and sprinkles. We have the Ninjabread cookie cutters which are always fun to use.
Festive Christmas Music
I get bored of music easily, so I’m always on the hunt for something new to add to our collection of Christmas tunes each year. One year I found the record that my mother-in-law listened to when she was a child and had someone move it to digital format for us so we could listen to it now. This year, I purchased a Bing Crosby Christmas album.
Holiday Light Tour
Looking at Christmas lights is one of my favorite Christmas activities. We don’t always do it on the same day, but we will always spend one night looking at Christmas lights. There is a fancy neighborhood in Dallas that gives carriage ride tours of lights, and one day, we will get one of those. For now, we just make it festive with hot chocolate.
Monkey and Bo are the only children among our siblings. But they are not the only people to get stockings. On both sides of the family, adults get stockings. We all bring something to add to everyone’s stocking, which is a blast. I like to bring handmade gifts, coffee, and practical things as my editions. One year my brother brought a bunch of silly old movies for everyone including the absolute worst rendition of War of the Worlds in existence. It was awesome.
Fancy Christmas Breakfast
I love breakfast; it is my favorite meal. On Christmas, for breakfast to mean something it has to be extra special. I like to make a variety of six to 10 different breakfast dishes to try. We always have pigs in a blanket and we add in other foods depending on what food mood I’m in that year. Last year we had mostly savory dishes. My grandmother has an amazing recipe for sausage pinwheels that I am going to try to locate and make this year.
I love continued traditions, but I also love trying new things. Each year, I like to try a fun Christmas activity that is new that may or may not become a yearly tradition. Last year, we went to the Candlelight event at the Dallas Heritage Village as our something different. This year, we toured Ice! at the Gaylord Hotel in Grapevine. The ice slide was a hit, but the three hour line was not.
When Bo joined our family, we started purchasing yearly winter/Christmas jammies. The first year, the girls were gingerbread kids and last year we were superheroes. This year, we will be decked in plaid.
Ice Skating at the Dallas Galleria
This year, Bo is now old enough to ice skate, which means a trip to skate around the Christmas tree at the Galleria mall in Dallas is one of the traditions we are starting/renewing again this year. Even though the mall is crazy and you can hardly move because there are so many people on the ice, it is a fun way to build holiday memories. Monkey has been counting down the days since school started until the day we can finally go Christmas skating.
I may be missing some holiday traditions that we do, but these are the main ones. We stretch them out throughout the month of December and have a blast with all of our Christmas activities. Eventually, I would like to add in an annual holiday party to our list as well. As a kid I was always jealous of the movie families who got to attend fancy holiday house parties. A fancy Christmas party will eventually become part of our holiday traditions list!
What holiday traditions do you keep as a family each year?
More Christmas Fun
Join the Homeschooling 101 group for more hands-on teaching ideas!