Family-Friendly Christmas Traditions


When I was younger, my parents always told me I’d enjoy Christmas more when I was a parent. As a child who loved getting presents, I thought they were crazy when they said that. Now that I have three children of my own, I know exactly what they meant. I love the holiday season so much more now that I experience it with my boys and husband.

One of my favorite ways to make the Christmas season magical is by creating special family traditions. Over the last eight years, we’ve adopted a lot of fun and special activities to help get us into the spirit.

Free/Cheap Traditions

Since Thanksgiving keeps sneaking its way up in the calendar, our Christmas season is over a month long now. I love it, but my wallet doesn’t. We’ve started and held onto many free or very cheap traditions in our family that are very fun, but don’t break the bank. These traditions include:

  • Driving around and looking at Christmas lights: This is one of our favorite activities. We always hit up our own neighborhood, and then we go out to other Chattanooga area neighborhoods to see their homes. There are some great ones around here!
  • Christmas movies: We watch tons of Christmas movies! We love the old classics and we can usually find all of them on Freeform! Streaming services always have a great selection, too.
  • Listening to Christmas music: Christmas music starts playing in our house on November 1st!
  • Reading Christmas books: We keep a bucket of Christmas children’s books beside our tree and read them throughout the month of December.
  • Christmas scavenger hunt: The last few years I’ve taken the boys on a Christmas light scavenger hunt once it’s dark, and they love it. We look for things like candy canes, snowmen, reindeer, and Christmas trees.
  • Make hot chocolate: We love making hot chocolate and drinking it with the fireplace on.
  • Biblical Christmas story: We make sure to keep Jesus’ birth at the forefront each year!

Daily Traditions

We have a few things we do every day, and the boys love waking up to a new surprise each morning.

  • Advent calendar: We do an advent calendar every year, and it’s a family favorite. There are countless ways to do advent calendars, and Pinterest is an awesome tool for planning one.
  • Elf on the Shelf: I know many parents hate the idea of having an Elf on the Shelf, but my boys are giddy each morning when they run to see what mischief Pal’s made that day. Pinterest is great for this, too!
  • 12 Days of Christmas: This is a new tradition I’m going to start for the boys this year. I’ve seen this done in many different ways, but I plan on using Christmas books for ours.
  • Christmas bucket list: This is another thing we’ve done for years. I make a bucket list for us for each season, but Christmas is my favorite! It’s just a list of things we want to do before December 25th arrives.

Santa Traditions

  • Pictures: We have pictures made with Santa every year! I love displaying past years’ pictures in our house each season.
  • Letter: We also write Santa a letter every year and mail it.
  • FaceTime Santa: We FaceTime Santa every year, too! The boys are amazed by this.
  • Reindeer Cam: We check the reindeer cam as well…we love seeing what Santa’s reindeer are up to!
  • Naughty and Nice List: We put our names in every December to see how Santa is rating us.

Decor Traditions

  • Ornaments: Every year we buy a family ornament to add to our tree. My husband and I started this when we were dating, so our tree is filled with wonderful memories from year to year. The boys always make homemade ones each year, and I love hanging those.
  • Decorating: I know this is obvious, but we decorate our tree the same day each year, and we make a big deal out of it.
  • Real trees: For the past several years, we’ve used real trees in our house. It’s fun to go choose one as a family.
  • Handprint crafts: Every season we browse Pinterest and pick out a good painted handprint craft to make.

Chattanooga Area Traditions

Chattanooga has so many great Christmas events to offer!

  • EPB windows: It’s not Christmas without a stop at the EPB windows downtown. We get milkshakes and make an evening out of it!
  • Local charities: We choose a charity every year to which to donate. There are some great ones in our area.
  • Rock City Enchanted Garden of Lights: This is one of our favorite events each Christmas season. The lights are absolutely magical!

Christmas Eve Traditions

By the time December 24th rolls around, the excitement in our house palpable. We save a few traditions specifically for this day!

  • City Cafe: No matter what meal of the day it is, we always make it to City Cafe on Christmas Eve.
  • Church candlelight service: Our church has a Christmas Eve service that we never miss.
  • Cookies for Santa: Santa has a fresh batch made on Christmas Eve!
  • Christmas Eve pajamas: We let the boys open one present on Christmas Eve, and it’s always cute pajamas!

As you can see, there are countless traditions you can create for your family. No matter what you do, your children are going to love it. These are what my boys remember year to year, not the presents Santa left under the tree. Christmas memories that last a lifetime make the best gifts!