children decorating a christmas tree

25 Magical Family Christmas Eve Traditions to Start in 2023

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Only the BEST Memory Making Christmas Eve Traditions for Families to Enjoy Together!

If you’re looking for family Christmas Eve traditions to start this year, you’re in the right place.

I’ve compiled a list of only the best traditions for families. You can start them right away, whether you have a new baby or older kiddos.

My husband and I have three young daughters. Which means we’re in the best stage right now when it comes to celebrating holidays!

We’ve had some pretty awesome holidays with them already! But we’re finally living in the home we plan to stay in for many years. So it’s high time we start thinking about starting some new traditions with them.

Which is why I put this list together.

Let’s get started! But first, what’s so great about family Christmas traditions?

christmas tree with glowing lights and presents underneath; text that reads: 25 magical christmas eve traditions to start in 2023

The Magic of Starting Family Christmas Eve Traditions

Looking back to my own childhood, Christmas was a magical time of year. It wasn’t the “same old” day to day life. We had family Christmas Eve traditions that I looked forward to each year.

Things like:

  • Going to Grandma’s house and playing with our cousins.
  • Listening to Christmas music and watching for Santa on the drive home.
  • Christmas treats and food that we only ate on special holidays. 
  • Opening one present before bedtime on Christmas Eve.
  • Leaving milk and cookies out for Santa.

These are the types of memories that I want my children to have. Particularly when they’re older and starting their own family Christmas traditions.

Of course, it’s going to look a little different for every family, and that’s great! There are lots of options, and we can all choose to do the things that matter to us.

But if you’re not sure yet what that is, no worries! I’ve put together this long list of Christmas Eve traditions for families to start. I hope you can find a tradition or two to start with your family this year.

1. Make ornaments and decorate the Christmas tree.

Some families set up the Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving. (Like us!) But if you typically wait anyway, then decorating it on Christmas Eve could be a fun family tradition.

Even better, make homemade ornaments together to add to the existing decorations.

2. Take a family photo in front of the tree.

Once the lights and decorations have been hung on the tree, get everyone together and snap a family photo. This way, you can look back from year to year and see how much the kiddos have changed.

3. Hang up your stockings.

At our house, we usually hang our stockings earlier in the season. But hanging them together as a family could be a magical tradition for your family on Christmas Eve.

Consider buying or making some beautiful, coordinating knit stockings like this set to hang on the fireplace mantel. (Or, if you don’t have a mantel, any place of your family’s choosing.)

4. Attend Christmas Eve services.

What could be more magical than listening to a Christmas Eve service? 

Get everyone dressed in their Christmas best, take some photos, and then have some cookies and hot chocolate after the service.

5. Write a note for Santa.

This is a fun one for the kids! Help them write a note to leave for Santa, then perhaps Santa will return the favor when he visits.

6. Read the Christmas story.

Many families already have this Christmas Eve tradition, but I thought it might still be worth mentioning. Reading the biblical Christmas story is the perfect way to teach young children the meaning behind the holiday.

And as they get older, they might even want to help with the reading.

7. Bake and/or decorate Christmas cookies.

christmas cookies

Make it a competition! Once the cookies have been decorated, take photos and post them to your social media accounts, asking your friends to vote for their favorites. 

This could be a lot of fun, as long as the competition doesn’t get out of hand!

8. Watch Christmas movies.

Have a Christmas movie marathon, or simply choose one family favorite to watch year after year.

A few favorites:

9. Go for a Christmas light drive (or walk).

As a kid, it was always a lot of fun to drive around and look at all the Christmas lights. Some houses were really decked out for the holidays!

Live in a festive neighborhood? Bundle everyone up and put some hot chocolate in a mug. Then walk up and down the street oohing and ahhing over the beautiful lights.

10. Build a hot chocolate bar.

I know I’ve already mentioned hot chocolate a couple times in this article, but here’s another fun idea.

Build a hot chocolate bar, complete with all the fixins: mini marshmallows, whipped cream, sprinkles, and candy canes or peppermint hot chocolate spoons

(What else do you like to put in your hot chocolate? Let us know in the comments!)

11. Go Christmas caroling.

This seems like such an obvious one, but how many of us have actually done it? Gather up the whole family for some good ol’ fashioned Christmas caroling.

This seems like such an obvious one, but how many of us have actually done it? Gather up the whole family for some good ol’ fashioned Christmas caroling.Click To Tweet

12. Open “Christmas Eve boxes”.

Does your family like to open “just one present” on Christmas Eve? Consider putting together Christmas Eve boxes.

You could choose a different theme for these boxes each year. Or you could simply assemble a few items that you can use that night. (For example, pajamas or slippers that everyone can wear that night.)

Another idea is to put together one big box for everyone that includes a board game or movie, snacks, hot chocolate, and so on. The idea is to simply spend time together (and actually enjoy it).

13. Leave food for Santa’s reindeer.

Some leave carrots for Santa’s reindeer.

Others sprinkle “reindeer food” (aka birdseed) in the yard for the magical creatures to eat.

With any luck, it will be gone on Christmas morning!

14. Leave a magical key for Santa.

No chimney? No problem!

On Christmas Eve, leave a “magical key” by the front door that will allow only Santa to enter the house.

15. Decorate a gingerbread house.

family decorating a gingerbread house

You can either make it from scratch or buy a gingerbread house kit.

Either way, it’s sure to be a hit with the kids!

16. Play a Christmas gift game.

Make the usual gift exchange a little more exciting by playing a Christmas gift game. Whether it’s the traditional white elephant game or a variation of it, it could be a lot of fun!

17. Have a board game night.

Otherwise, keep things a little more low-key by playing some card or board games with the family.

Christmastime favorites include:

A warm fire or candlelight, cozy pajamas, and holiday tunes in the background… It sounds like the ultimate family Christmas Eve tradition to me.

18. Do volunteer work as a family.

Make this night a little more magical for the less fortunate, and volunteer at a shelter or the food pantry. A local animal rescue shelter is another nice option if you’re a family of animal lovers.

Another option is to teach the young ones how to knit, crochet, or sew. Then make hats, mittens, and blankets to donate locally for those who might not have warm winter gear.

19. Deliver goodies to the neighbors.

Whether homemade or store-bought, your neighbors will appreciate the thought behind your generosity.

20. Deliver old toys to a local charity.

Too many toys? Get the kids to help you choose anything they no longer play with and donate them to a local charity.

I know, I know — easier said than done!

My girls are pretty attached to all their toys, even if it’s something they rarely play with. However, it’s important to teach kids the value of giving to those who have less than them.

Not to mention, it will feel great to clear out a little space BEFORE bringing any new toys into the house.

21. Have finger foods for Christmas Eve dinner.

Rather than slaving over a huge meal two days in a row, make snack type foods that everyone can munch on throughout the night.

Trust me, this is a great way to make everyone happy!

22. Create handmade Christmas cards.

Most people do this earlier in the season. But if you plan on seeing extended family and friends on Christmas Day, then get everyone together for homemade cardmaking!

Gather up your best card making supplies and let everyone come up with their own creations to hand out.

23. Have a Christmas gift scavenger hunt.

christmas gift with a tag that says made in santa's workshop

One of our favorite things to do as kids involved writing “clues” on scraps of paper. Then we would hide them around the house for the others to find.

Drop some clues and let everyone search the house for their gifts. Much more exciting than piling them up under the tree!

24. Track Santa online.

Kids asking where Santa is at right now? Follow Santa Claus as he makes his rounds on Christmas Eve.

25. Wear new pajamas (bonus points if they match!).

Get all cozy before bedtime in matching Christmas jammies. Don’t forget to snap a photo in front of the tree!  

Which of these awesome family Christmas Eve traditions do you already do together? Which are you going to start this year?

Read more:

5 Great Ways to Save Money on Christmas Gifts

21 Fun and Unique Christmas Gifts for Preschoolers

How to Decorate Mason Jars for Christmas Gifts 

21 Buzzworthy Gifts for Coffee Lovers

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  1. These are great ideas for Christmas Eve. We open one gift, well maybe two, but that’s about it. Thank you for the inspiration to add a bit more this year.

  2. I love the idea of having a Christmas Eve family tradition year after year. We don’t really have one for Christmas Eve, but decorating the tree and making ornaments during the holiday season are two favourites in our family.

  3. I have a chimney, but that key idea is so adorable! Also, I’m loving the updates to your site. Definitly cute! My kids will be doing a cookie party. We did that when I was growing up at my grandmother’s house and I couldn’t have been happier.

    1. Aww, thank you! A cookie party sounds like a lot of fun. I bet my girls would love that! We’ll have to bake some cookies that they can easily help with… Maybe I’ll have them help cut out sugar cookies in Christmas shapes, then put the sprinkles on…..

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