20 Fantastic Christmas Eve Traditions

With Christmas Eve just a few short weeks away, it’s time to start planning a day of festive magic! It’s an especially exciting time for children, so we’ve put together a list of fabulous ideas to make Christmas Eve memorable for the entire family.

Make a gingerbread house

One of the greatest Christmas traditions is building a gingerbread house. These impressive, intricate, and literally sweet little buildings are a joy for the whole family to create together. You can make the sections from scratch, using a tried-and-tested gingerbread recipe, or you can purchase a boxed kit that contains all of the required components, including icing and decorations.

Why not also make some gingerbread men to go with your construction? All you need is some gingerbread dough, an appropriately-shaped cookie cutter, a drizzle of icing, and decorative pieces. Go big with a gingerbread village, full of beautifully-decorated houses and inhabitants!

Throw an ugly sweater party

Ugly sweaters are a hilarious Christmas tradition; the more outlandish, the better! There are plenty of clothing retailers that now offer Christmas sweaters; some are relatively mellow, with intricate patterns and subtle nods to the season, whilst others are completely flamboyant, with elaborate designs, different textures, even lights! Celebrate questionable festive style with an ugly sweater party! You can invite friends and extended family as a relaxed pre-Christmas gathering, or keep it simple with close family only.

Customizing ugly sweaters is a fantastic craft project for kids (and grown-ups!). Simply grab a sweater, some tinsel, felt, fabric paints, bobbles, glitter, and anything else that can feasibly be attached. Spend an afternoon creating masterpieces, with Christmas music or a cozy festive movie in the background, then enjoy showing them off at your party!

Set up a Christmas Eve treasure hunt

A fantastic way to burn off some of the kids’ energy is to plan a festive treasure hunt. Use fun, straightforward riddles and hints to guide them around your home and garden, with a present at the end, or several small gifts along the route (or both, if they’ve been especially good this year!). The prizes needn’t be elaborate - most of the fun is in the activity itself! – and can include items such as temporary Christmas tattoos, light-up finger puppets, mini pinball games, and string light necklaces.

Make a Christmas scrapbook 

Another fun activity for the whole family is to sit together and create a Christmas scrapbook. Take photos throughout the festive season, either on your camera or smartphone, print them off using a specialist photo printer, or use an instant camera for a retro vibe! Gather all your special memories, then take a blank scrapbook, some double-sided sticky tape, markers and glitter pens, and begin organizing and decorating your special collection of photos. Make it an annual tradition, and you can build a compendium of treasured memories over time. A wonderful opportunity to reminisce about Christmas past, and look forward to celebrations in the future!

Bake fresh cookies and deliver them to neighbors

At this time of year, it’s a fantastic opportunity to teach your children about service and giving to others. A practical way of doing this is to bake a large batch of Christmas-themed cookies, then delivering them to your neighbors. Simply choose your favorite recipe, run up a batch of dough, cut the cookies out in festive shapes, bake in the oven, and allow to cool. Decorate with sifted icing sugar, or make some frosting in different colors, and let your creative side out! Your children will have a wonderful time helping out, and it provides them with pride and ownership in contributing toward a good deed. Wrap in cellophane or brown paper, and make your deliveries with the family in tow!

Make a donation or volunteer at a homeless shelter

If you’re short on time but still want to make a contribution to your community at Christmas, it’s worth getting in touch with your local homeless shelter, soup kitchen, or food bank, and making enquiries about any materials or ingredients that they need. Pick the items up during your regular grocery shop and take your children to drop off your contribution. It’s another practical way of demonstrating the importance of service and encouraging an appreciation of their blessings. If you have some spare time, consider volunteering with a local organization; if you have older children, bring them along, too! This gives them an opportunity to continue learning life lessons, and to understand different perspectives. Most importantly, it provides the whole family with an opportunity to help those in need.

Play a few games of Christmas bingo

A great game for parties and low-key afternoons alike, bingo can be taken up a gear with a Christmas edition. Much in the same way as a Christmas treasure hunt, the prizes need not be ostentatious; a few simple treats for the winners will be perfect. Enjoy some Christmas tunes in the background for ultimate festivity!

Snuggle up for a festive movie

If you’ve had a busy Christmas Eve, there’s nothing better than taking some time out, snuggling together under a blanket, and watching a treasured festive movie. Whether it’s Home Alone, Elf, Love Actually, or the perennial Christmas favorite, Die Hard, choose something you will all enjoy. Grab a couple of snacks, get comfortable, and enjoy a little quality down time!

Hang your Christmas stockings

As daylight gives way to the evening, excitement will be reaching its pinnacle! If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to hang out your Christmas stocking. They can be placed over the fireplace, under the Christmas tree, or outside of bedroom doors. Anywhere that Santa can easily get to them, without waking curious kids!  

Take a stroll around the block and check out the lights

To blow off a little steam, stretch your legs, and contribute to your local area’s festive spirit, why not take the whole family on a stroll around the block? It also gives you an opportunity to visit your neighbors to offer festive wishes, and drop off any cards or gifts you have for them. You may even have events going on in your area, most of which are usually free; take part and enjoy the community aspect of the season.

Sing a few Christmas carols

Gather around the piano – or the speaker! – and sing your favorite Christmas carols. It’s a great excuse for the family to join together and harmonize, while confident soloists can even put on a dazzling show of their own. If you are attending a festive service, it’s also a fantastic prelude. Create lyric sheets and print off plenty of copies; that way, everyone has to join in!

Open your Christmas Eve boxes

Some families have a tradition whereby a small present or box of gifts are shared on the night before Christmas. These may contain new pajamas, socks, a few novelty items, and sweet treats such as candy canes or chocolate coins. There’s no need to spend a lot of money on these gifts; keep it as a simple gesture to build excitement for the following day.

Wind down with a mug of hot cocoa

To encourage a cozy atmosphere, and to warm up after an invigorating walk around the block, make a batch of steaming hot cocoa. You can add festive spices or a dusting of ground hazelnut to maximize the indulgence! If you have special Christmas mugs, it’s time to bring them out! A sprinkle of marshmallows and a squirt of whipped cream create the perfect hot chocolate, and there are even edible gold stars that can be added as a final touch, to emphasize the magic of the season!

Get changed into brand new pajamas

Whether they are part of a Christmas Eve gift box, or simply an extra surprise, new pajamas are a popular way to herald in your festive celebration. A great idea for a memorable photo is to buy matching pajamas for your family and have your picture taken together. You can even buy pajamas for your dog, so everyone in your family will be included! Have your photo printed, and you can keep it in this delightful Christmas frame.

Put out your magic key

Chimneys and fireplaces are not as commonplace as they once were, and many homes are now built without them. Children might be worried that Santa Claus can’t deliver his presents without one, but fortunately, there is another solution! Give your children a magic key to the house that only Santa can use, and they can leave it somewhere safe for him. Of course, it shouldn’t be one of your usual keys, but a decoy. You can buy one ready-made, or you can create one yourself, using card stock or modeling clay, decorated with glitter or metallic paint. It’s an excellent craft project for kids, and something for which they can take complete ownership.

Check out the NORAD Santa tracker

Did you know you can now track Santa’s Christmas Eve progress in real time? Check out NORAD’s Santa tracker to follow him as he drops gifts around the world. Before your kids go to bed, log on to a laptop, tablet, or smartphone, and check out the areas Santa has already been, and how far he is away from making his visit to you. This should encourage your children not to fuss when they’re sent to bed!

Leave some cookies and milk for Santa, and carrots for the reindeer

Before they retire for the evening, remind your kids to leave out some treats for your festive guests, to say thank you for their gifts. You can use one of your regular plates, or buy a set specifically for Christmas Eve, which contains a plate and milk bottle for Santa, as well as a bowl to present snacks for the reindeer. If you’ve been baking during the day, retain a couple of cookies or gingerbread men, and place them carefully on your plate, pour out some milk – or whichever beverage Santa would prefer to enjoy! – and prepare a couple of carrots for the reindeer. In the morning, there should be some gracious nibbles, or if the offerings are particularly delicious, just a few crumbs remaining!

Off to bed for a Christmas story

It’s finally time for the little ones to go to bed! In the run up to Christmas, it’s a great idea to have a few festive story selections on hand, such as The Night Before Christmas, The Littlest Christmas Tree, or How to Catch an Elf. Allow your kids to pick out their favorite, get comfortable under the covers, and enjoy a relaxing story. Remind them that Santa can only visit if they are asleep, and hopefully this will be enough to settle them for the night.

Work a little magic with Santa’s footprints and reindeer dust

To make Christmas morning extra special, you can create some magical evidence that Santa has made his visit – aside from the presents, of course! It’s straightforward to create this illusion, and the delight it’ll bring to your children is completely worth the effort. To make Santa’s footprints, simply take some all-purpose flour, sprinkle it over a hard floor (so that it is easy to clean in the morning; don’t be tempted to try this on a carpet!), then walk through in a pair of flat shoes or boots. Dust a little silver or iridescent glitter over the top for extra magic! You can also add a light scattering of gold glitter by the door to indicate that the reindeer have visited.


You’ve had a busy day! Don’t forget to allow for some down time. Try to wrap all the gifts in advance to make your Christmas Eve a little easier. Rearrange Santa’s delivery as you see fit, then give yourself a chance to unwind properly, before the excitement ramps up again on Christmas Day! Take a relaxing bath, enjoy a glass of mulled wine, or treat yourself to one of those delicious cookies!

We hope these Christmas Eve traditions will help you to have the most fabulous festive season. Happy holidays!

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