I live for the holiday traditions we’ve grown up on and I think it’s those traditions that create all the magic and anticipation of the Christmas season. Traditions are what give us that nostalgia and those feelings of comfort. And while we honor our old traditions year after year, we always have our eyes open for opportunities to welcome new traditions — moments and memories we can recreate year after year to call “ours”. Traditions that Eliza will also hopefully hold special and take a piece of with her when she has her own family some day. Today, I’m sharing some of our annual traditions, traditions submitted by readers, and a new tradition I’m ecstatic to implement this year — a nightly Christmas book advent, leading up to the day of Christmas. I hope this post can help get your heart in the spirit, and may even give you some ideas, or reignite old enjoyed traditions that have been lost along the way.
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Planning for Holiday Traditions
Nothing will dissolve a Christmas tradition more quickly than not planning ahead. Calendar and block off time for anything special you want to make sure you and your family take part in. Even if it’s something that only takes a few minutes, when we get into the heat of the season, time seems to fly by and it’s easy to miss something and later say “you know what we forgot to do this year?” If baking is a priority, calendar it. If you want to go caroling, calendar it.
Also, while lots of family activities and annual favorites don’t require shopping, many do. And with recent supply chain challenges, it’s more important this year to be organized, plan ahead and think beyond just the gifts on your list. In addition to your Christmas gift lists, there are so many random purchases that pop up throughout the season. Our Walmart+ membership has already come in handy so many times and we’re barely even into November. Making time to shop for baking supplies and in the same thought, shop for Christmas pjs… and accessories for spirit week at school… and a hostess gift… and stocking stuffers… and hot chocolate makings… (and, and, and — you know the feeling!) is mentally draining. And if you’re hustling too hard and going in too many different directions, it can put you in a slump and totally zap all the goodness out of the season.
There’s so much multi-tasking and list making but I’ve found that the earlier I start (with everything from decorating to gift shopping to securing our Christmas cards), the less stressed I am in the long run and the more quickly I can enjoy the season with my family. While the porch may look like an overflowing stock room some days, the more I can purchase from one place, the less I have to recall about what I ordered and from where. While time is at a premium right now (and honestly, isn’t it always? haha), I’ve used my Walmart+ membership for everything from a sporadic realization I need more laundry stain remover, to quick stock-up on seasonal supplies, to stocking stuffers and larger gifts. Along with loving that our membership comes with free shipping, no order minimum on last-minute gifts at the same low price as in stores (excludes most Marketplace items, location & freight surcharges) — which makes it totally ok to check out multiple times a day, if necessary — those with Walmart+ memberships are also getting first dibs on Walmart’s Black Friday deals! This is a brand new benefit which means…
- Members can shop online Black Friday deals four hours before everyone else
- The early access is inclusive of all three Black Friday events
- All online Black Friday deals are included
*Note: this benefit is not available to trial members; while supplies last.
You can become a member HERE for $98/year or $12.95/month. You can also click HERE to get even more information on Walmart+ membership benefits and specific benefits as related to your physical address.
Family Christmas Traditions
When it comes to our personal holiday traditions, most have stemmed from our childhoods and some have organically become habit, and evolved into longstanding traditions. Here are a few.
- Serve festive “eaties” on Christmas Eve (a kitchen full of finger food & apps!)
- Watch Love Actually and The Holiday, at least once
- Perpetual advent calendar
- Leave snacks and water for delivery people
- Play the “I see lights” game (when we’re on our way home, we keep track of who wins by whoever scouts the most houses with lights and says “I see lights!” first)
- Toast with special cups and fizzy cider around the Christmas tree (we dedicate one night to this, saying what we’re thankful for, and cheers-ing after each person takes a turn)
- New pajamas for each family member, wrapped to open
- Sprinkle reindeer food outside (glitter, oats) and treats for Santa on Christmas Eve
- My mom still gifts us each with a special Christmas ornament and I do the same for Eliza and Dave
- Bake Christmas cookies
- Fashion a gingerbread house from a kit
- Send Christmas cards (I try to have mine ready to go so I can send the day after Thanksgiving)
- Recognize special helpers — teachers, mailman, garbage pickup, home and yard helpers
- Start watching Lifetime and Hallmark Christmas movies
- Wear pj’s all day on Christmas Day
- Decorate early
- Decorate Christmas trees in our bedrooms
- Read “Night Before Christmas” on Christmas Eve
- Hot cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning
- Special breakfasts/lunches during and after shopping
- Lunch or supper with friends
- Visit with Santa
- Burn seasonal candle scents non-stop
- Have a festive evening out with Dave
- Give to local charities
- Gifts from Santa are not wrapped and are arranged like magic
- Make plans to travel and see fabulous light displays (Dahlonega, Browns Bridge Church, Rock City)
Christmas Book Advent: A New Family Tradition
After a reader submitted this tradition, and in seeing my friend, Jamie, take her own spin on this concept last year, I decided to introduce a Christmas book advent to our family this year!
Here’s how it will work…
Starting on December 1, Eliza will unwrap a Christmas book each night that we can read as a family. With 24 books total, this ritual will run through Christmas Eve. If 24 books sounds overwhelming, don’t worry and keep this in mind…
- I was able to quickly cart and make multiple orders that arrived quickly using my Walmart+ membership — again, there’s no minimum order amount and free shipping is unlimited.
- You can build on the collection you already have. While I did order several new books, several are from previous years. You can put away the books at the end of the year and re-wrap them the following year. The books should be enjoyed year after year and the surprise is what book you’ll open each night. You can phase out any books that the kids out-grow, to make room for a couple new books each year.
- If 24 books is a lot to commit to or too substantial of a collection to build at once, consider doing a “12 days of Christmas” and stick to the 12 days leading up to Christmas. Or, just 12 nights throughout the holiday season (just make sure to calendar so you don’t accidentally skip!) You could even do one book per week! While I love the idea of a book a night for every night in December, this is your tradition and you can make it be whatever you want it to be!
I went through our books — both old and new — and determined which night each book would be read. Most aren’t date-specific, but a few work well on certain dates — ex: night 1: a simple story about Jesus and the reason for Christmas to lead us into discussion; 5 More Sleeps to Christmas to be opened on December 20; The Night Before Christmas — the final book to be read on Christmas Eve. For the rest of the days, I just tried to mix them up — I chose a silly book one night but followed it with something more classic the next.
Some books are short, some are longer… some are books that will be enjoyed while she’s in her youngest years, others can be enjoyed for many years to come. As a reminder — Eliza is two and a half 😉 These are the kids books that are making up our book advent countdown this inaugural year, plus the day to which they’re assigned…
Christmas Books for Kids
- The First Christmas
- Merry Christmas Daniel Tiger
- The Littlest Reindeer
- Peppa Pig and the Christmas Play
- All the Colors of Christmas
- Merry Christmas Mouse
- Little Blue Truck’s Christmas
- Pick a Pine Tree
- The Pokey Little Puppy’s First Christmas
- How to Catch an Elf
- A Birthday Party for Jesus
- A Very Fiona Christmas
- Ten Little Reindeer
- The Mitten
- A Silly Milly Christmas
- God Gave Us Christmas
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas
- 5 More Sleeps ‘Til Christmas
- Bluey Christmas Eve with Veranda Santa
- I Am Max
- The Polar Express
- The Night Before Christmas
Once I had all the dates selected, I got to wrapping! I wanted the book advent to stand on its own and be simple, but special. With my Walmart+ membership, I ordered my supplies — here’s what I ordered:
The paper and wooden stars shipped free and arrived at my front door quickly. The inexpensive twine and the gold paint marker were actually in stock at my local store so I opted for curbside pick-up and Dave grabbed them on his way home. While Walmart+ actually has unlimited free delivery on fresh, high quality groceries for holiday gatherings — from your local store with a $35 minimum (restrictions apply) — as one of their most enjoyed benefits for tons of customers, we live just a little too far out of range currently. I’m hopeful we’ll be included in this added benefit soon as they continue to expand this portion of the membership, but until then, my ordering and swinging by the curb still works quickly ;).You can check your address HERE to see if you qualify for this portion of the membership benefits.
I decided on all brown craft paper for all the books, except the final book, to be opened the night before Christmas. I used the special plaid paper for that one 😉 You can go as simple or elaborate as you like when it comes to numbering — you can even write directly on the paper. I loved these wooden stars though, and plan to save them to use in future years. Ironically, they come in a pack of 24!
When they were all dressed, I lined them up in order, placed them in a basket…
and tucked them under our nostalgia Christmas tree — the family ornament tree in the conversation room.
If you’re looking for more ideas or want to see what others will be busy doing during the holidays, here are some more Christmas traditions that were submitted by readers.
More Reader Christmas Traditions
- My brother, sister and I slept in the same room on Christmas Eve.
- We got to open one present on Christmas Eve.
- I do a Christmas Eve box every year. It has Christmas pj’s, a movie, treats, games, etc.
- Santa presents are unwrapped. Christmas morning breakfast we don’t make any other time.
- We read the Christmas story from the Bible before we open gifts.
- Christmas Eve Seafood Gumbo, open one present each on Christmas Eve.
- British Christmas crackers on Christmas Eve dinner — everyone wears the crowns.
- Prime rib roast for Christmas dinner.
- Dad shops at grocery store and wraps up everyone’s favorite snacks.
- Fam has a few appetizers late Christmas Eve afternoon while wrapping gifts and watching Hallmark movies.
- Santa puts candy canes and mini balloons on the tree when he comes to leave presents.
- Matching Christmas pj’s on the 24th and cookie baking for Santa.
- Watch The Holiday every Christmas afternoon. Stay in pj’s ALL day.
- Christmas Eve dinner in the living room in front of the fireplace.
- Steamed lobsters with Lay’s potato chips on Christmas Eve — so easy and also special!
- Christmas breakfast
- We don’t typically have traditional Christmas food every year. We switch it up and sometimes it’s wings.
- I always put an ornament in the stocking!
- Everyone gets “waiting for Santa pajamas” and a new ornament on Christmas Eve.
- Wear our pj’s and go looking at Christmas lights in the car.
- Brunch and a performance of the Nutcracker.
- Elf on the Shelf brings things for the boys to do (light display, scavenger hunt, gingerbread kit.)
- My boys help me bake goodies and we deliver to neighbors on the street.
- Participate in gift giving program at work/school (ex. Salvation Army Angel Tree)
- Photo frame ornament with the year. It’s fun to look at the photos while decorating the tree.
- Christmas ornament for each person signifying something that happened to them that year.
- We always open one gift on Christmas Eve. The gift is a pair of Christmas pajamas!
- Decorate homemade sugar cookies the week of Christmas and share with our neighbors.
- Midnight mass on Christmas Eve!
- We open one present on St. Nick’s Day (December 6) every year and the rest on Christmas Eve.
- We always read The Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve.
- My mom gets us all Christmas pj’s and fives them to us on Thanksgiving.
- Christmas morning the four of us. Afternoon/evening = full house.
- Christmas pj’s. Only gift everyone gets to open Christmas Eve.
- Christmas Eve service, then dinner just for our family on Christmas Eve.
- Christmas socks in stockings, take picks of our sock wearing feet in front of the Christmas tree every year!
- I have given my daughter Christmas pj’s on December 1st for 19 years!
- Our family goes to The Greenbrier for Weekend with Santa.
- When I was growing up, my parents told us Santa brings the tree and I hated this tradition. It was so embarrassing when friends came over and no tree!
- My husband makes us shrimp n grits after our kids open Christmas gifts in the morning!
- My parents let us open one gift on Christmas Eve and I loved that!
- We have a gingerbread house contest and the winner (chosen by Insta) gets a gift card.
- Gave our kids an ornament every year, gave them all when they moved out.
- Buy an ornament on our vacations; have a dedicated tree we call our Travel Tree.
- I buy an ornament for my kids (and nieces and nephews) every year since they were born. When they get a place of their own they will have ornament for their own tree.
- We go to the Christmas tree farm and cut our tree down day (or weekend) after Thanksgiving.
- I read The Night Before Christmas to my children on Christmas Eve and it’s magical!
- Our family opens gifts from each other on Christmas Eve. Only gifts on Christmas Day are from Santa!
- Ugly Christmas sweaters (or pj’s,) hot cocoa to go, Christmas light scavenger hunt.
- Festive hats, light up necklaces, and such when we open gifts. My grown children and grands love it!
- Christmas crackers (the poppers) at our Christmas dinner!
- Act out the nativity story Christmas Eve with family. Then Santa comes for a visit!
- Making Tamales!
- Christmas Eve morning box: pj’s, book, movie and snacks.
- Lining up on the stairs, youngest to oldest until my dad would yell, “SANTA came!”
- Always watch Christmas movies together.
- Pj’s on Christmas Eve.
- Candy witch. Leave the candy by the door and witch flies it to the moon and leaves a gift.
- I put 2 -3 Lotto scratchers under the dinner plate with a penny for some fun after Christmas dinner!
- Our family takes turns hosting Christmas Eve / Christmas Day.
- We eat Guatemalan tamales on Christmas Eve right after 12:00 midnight after opening the gifts.
- My Mom buys everyone in the family a book. It’s the last present we open.
- Christmas Eve…dinner and packages at the in laws, then Christmas Eve church service.
- Twelve days of Christmas drinking glasses at dinner, we sing before the meal.
- The fun we all have playing Christmas games and winning prizes!
- On Christmas Eve, we put hot chocolate in to-go cups and drive around to view lights.
- My parents come over for Christmas Eve and we do late afternoon dinner and open presents.
- This year I’m going to make donuts!
- Baked goods to immediate neighbors; doorbell; sing one song; wave goodbye!
- Homemade cinnamon rolls Christmas morning.
- Martha Stewart gingerbread houses.
- Eggs Benedict and mimosas Christmas morning…after gifts.
- Driving through neighborhoods looking at lights with hot chocolate in a thermos.
- Christmas cookie baking marathon the day after Thanksgiving. Freeze ’til Christmas!
- Hiding the pickle in the tree.
- We put the Christmas tree up after Thanksgiving and bring it down the second week of January.
- In Latin America, we usually celebrate Christmas the 24th and we open gifts on the 25th.
- Our extended family near and far wears matching pj’s all Christmas day.
- We have a small get together and do an ornament exchange.
- Christmas Eve we go to church and then to a friend’s house with multiple families.
- Christmas morning — all the mimosas and Land of Nod Cinnamon Pull Apart.
- Christmas Eve — pj’s and a book to open and appetizers all evening.
- We go several times to drive and check out Christmas lights with hot cocoa.
- We block the hallways so kids can’t see the tree and presents. They have to wake me up. Then we line them youngest to oldest and play “Holly Jolly Christmas” as they walk in.
- Hide pickle on tree, the first kid to find gets to open a present.
- We do The Giving Manger to focus on acts of service leading up to Christmas.
- We still get Christmas jammies every Christmas Eve. They appear while we’re all out looking at Christmas lights
- Christmas Eve church service.
- December 1st bring out the Christmas dishes and use them every day for the entire month.
- Three course fondue for Christmas Eve dinner — cheese, broth to cook meats in and chocolate.
- Christmas Day — beef tenderloin, mashed potatoes, green beans and rolls. (We like food traditions.)
- Rock City Enchanted Garden of Lights. Our daughters look forward to it every year!
- Starting this year, but doing our local train ride for Christmas!
- Christmas Eve was always at my grandparents. Eating, singing carols and Santa visited.
- We do new Christmas Eve jammies, even w/my kids being 21 and 24. They would be sad if we didn’t.
- Make reindeer food (oats and sprinkles) and on Christmas Eve, toss it on the lawn.
- All our kids have a Christmas Eve sleepover in our bonus room with their matching pj’s and the kids.
- We hang a sheet over the door to the room where Santa drops the presents, so no peeking.
- We go the Garden Lights at the Botanical Gardens. It’s very magical!
- Christmas pj’s, looking at lights on a weekly basis, having nostalgic tree.
- Open matching Christmas jammies on Christmas Eve.
- Spirit boxes on December 1st — pj’s, ornament, holiday trinkets, book, etc.
- Decorate gingerbread house on Christmas Eve after having hot oil fondue dinner.
- My family goes to the Christmas tree farm the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
- No standard gift exchange with extended family. We play $10 item “rob your neighbor.”
- Baking cookies with the kids and my mom! Yearly tradition!
- A tamalada — where family and friends gather to make tamales ahead of Christmas.
- Christmas pj’s left by Santa early on Christmas Eve. Kids wear them to bed. Great Christmas pics!
- Christmas Eve, we invite all of our friends without local family over for a night of appetizers.
While you’re getting your traditions in order — planning for the regulars or even prepping to introduce a new tradition — organize your thoughts and if you’re serious about following through, make sure you have what you need so you’re ready to go when the time comes. As you work your way through your holiday prep list and Christmas list, you can try a Walmart+ membership for 15 days for free as you place unlimited orders with no shipping fees, but as a reminder, only those who have paid Walmart+ membership plans will be eligible for four-hour-early Black Friday deals shopping! You can check out current Walmart gift specials HERE, and mark your calendar for the next Black Friday event. The Walmart+ membership itself makes a great gift, too!
Also, if you’re looking for some stocking stuffer ideas for kids or class gifts, you can check out THIS post on easy, affordable party favors and goodie bags!
Have a favorite tradition to share or something that’s unique to you and your family? I’d love for you to share it in the comment section at the bottom of the post!