I once read that family traditions are great for kids because they represent family unity, strengthen the family bond and help kids make sense of their world. Plus, they can make life really fun, give everyone something to look forward to, and create wonderful memories to look back on.
Of course, there’s no better time to start new family traditions than around Christmas time, and Christmas Eve is a lovely date to fill up with some family traditions that you can replicate every year.
And before you worry that starting family traditions at this time of year is yet another thing on the to-do list, relax: I have found a whole stack of easy-as-pie Christmas Eve traditions that you can start without breaking a sweat, rushing around shops or forking out loads of cash for.
1. Attend a service
Whether you’re a religious family or not, plenty of churches operate an open-doors policy at this time of year, offering Christmas Eve carols, kids activities and evening services, all of which can be a new and exciting way for your family to mark the date.
2. Open one present
The kids will love the excitement of opening just one present from under the tree before they go to bed. New pyjamas are a popular gift, as the kids can pose for a photo and go to bed in their new gear, buzzing with excitement about the next day.
3. Christmas movie night
Gather the family around for a special Christmas movie that everyone can enjoy. Snuggling together on the couch and munching on Christmas treats together will become something everyone looks forward to each year.
4. Letters for Santa
Help the kids write a letter or draw a picture of thanks for Santa and leave it by the tree so he can be sure to read it while he’s dropping presents off. This is also great for encouraging gratitude in children.
5. Stories by candlelight
Instead of the usual bedtime story, make this ritual even more special by reading a Christmas book like The Night Before Christmas surrounded by candlelight, or simply under the lights of the Christmas tree.
6. Moonlight walk
Christmas Eve is a great night for a moonlight walk, perhaps to see some Christmas lights, talk about the next day, or simply to get rid of some energy in anticipation for sleep that night. It’s also a nice way to get some family time in before the big day.
7. Snacks for Santa
Have the kids decide what drinks and treats to leave out for Santa and his reindeer when he stops by that night. Don’t forget to leave some evidence that the snacks were found and appreciated – perhaps drop a little bell left by a reindeer, or sprinkle some flour to represent snow from Santa’s boots.
8. Letters to your children
Use this special night to write each of your children a letter, wishing them a Merry Christmas and describing some memories from the year and what you’ll be looking forward to doing with them the next day. Over the years, these will make lovely keepsakes.
9. Family photo
Before everyone goes to bed that night, gather them round for a family photo or selfie that captures the excitement and magic in the air. The next day might get a bit too frantic to get a decent photo in and you might not be in the mood for photo battles!
10. Bake treats
Bake some special Christmas goodies with the kids, which you can leave out for Santa, deliver to neighbours or simply enjoy as a family.
11. Note from Santa
Craft a note from Santa for the kids to discover the next morning. This could be a thank you note or a letter affirming their kind behaviour and family values.
12. Leave out a ‘Santa key’
If you don’t have a chimney, you’ll need to leave out a ‘Santa Key’, which the big guy can use to magic his way into your house. You can craft one of these up with the kids or purchase one to hang on your front door on Christmas Eve.
13. Video your kids
Interview your kids about what Christmas means to them and what they’re looking forward to the next day. Watching these when they’re older will be pure gold.
14. Family gathering
Mark Christmas Eve by putting on a family BBQ and inviting loved ones around to spread festive cheer. If you don’t have family local, invite kindly neighbours or friends who are home for the holidays.
15. Track Santa’s journey
Use a tracking app like Santa Tracker to keep tabs on where Santa’s at in his big journey around the world.
16. Check out Santa’s reindeer
Santa and his reindeer are real! Watch Santa looking after his reindeer and getting them ready for the task ahead.
17. Christmas cruise-about
Wait until it’s dark, and put your pyjama-clad kids in the car for a cruise around the streets looking out for Christmas lights. Some streets put on massive displays that have to be seen to be believed, plus the kids will love being out after dark.
18. Deliver gifts
If you love your neighbours, or have friends and family nearby, use Christmas Eve as a present delivery day and have the kids take part in the other joy of Christmas – the power of giving.
19. Family carols
Up for a bit of a sing-along? Have everyone pick their favourite carol and gather around for a fun singing session. Make it as silly or serious as you like.
20. Leave some toys out
Ask the kids to select some of their old toys that are still in good condition and place them in a bag for Santa to collect and deliver to other children in need. When the kids are asleep, hide or deliver the bag to charity and leave a note from Santa in its place.
21. Make an ornament
Pick something that represents a memory from that year, such as a photo, ticket, small toy or some other trinket and hang it on the tree. Over the years you’ll have a beautiful collection of memories to talk about every Christmas when you put the decorations up.
22. Hang up the stockings
Make a big fuss of putting up the Christmas stockings for Santa to fill with goodies when he arrives.
But wait! Christmas isn’t just for kids! Here are some traditions for you to enjoy as a couple:
23. Watch a Christmas movie in bed
Dust off your copy of Love Actually, or whatever Christmas movie you both love and snuggle up in bed to watch it together.
24. Exchange presents with each other
Christmas Day can be such a whirlwind that it can be hard to truly enjoy exchanging presents with your partner. To make the occasion more special, do it under the tree once the kids are in bed.
25. A Christmas love note
Write each other a love letter about your favourite memories from the year and why you love spending Christmas with each other.
26. Your favourite take-away
If ever there was a good reason to opt for a take-away, it’s Christmas Eve. You’ve worked hard to get to this point and the next day isn’t going to be much easier. Treat yourself to your favourite cuisine and enjoy the convenience of someone else cooking for you.
27. Hot chocolate (or glass of wine) by the tree
Christmas trees in all their glory are kind of magical, especially if you can take the time to really appreciate them. Whip yourselves up a hot chocolate and snuggle by the tree to take in the Christmas magic and enjoy each other’s company before the craziness of the next day arrives.