The best family Christmas traditions to start this year.
Christmas is just my very very favorite season. I love the lights, the snow, the Christmas traditions for families, planning that perfect gift for a loved one, and the joy I feel from everyone around me. It truly is the most magical time of the year!
December is the perfect month for establishing family traditions. My hope is that one day my little family will look back on their childhood and remember the sweet memories and traditions we made together.
You do not have to spend a lot of money to make these memories with your family. A lot of activities can be done completely FREE! Here are 20 FREE or FRUGAL Family Christmas Traditions!
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Free or Frugal Family Christmas Traditions
1. Decorate the Christmas Tree
Each year our family hikes through the forest to cut down our Christmas Tree. This is one of my favorite things to do all year!
After we find that “perfect” tree we bring it home, turn on some Christmas music and spend a fun evening decorating it together. Our Christmas tree is decorated with salt dough ornaments, candy canes, and all the things that bring sentimentality and love to my life. The ornaments made by the hands of my sweet children are ones I will cherish forever!
2. Read Christmas Stories By The Christmas Tree
Another Christmas tradition that I love is reading a Christmas story by the Christmas tree each night. It’s such a sweet, magical time as a family. It’s so easy and cheap to do too!
Every night for the entire month of December we turn off the lights in our house, sit in front of the lit up Christmas tree, and read a Christmas Story. I’ve been collecting sweet holiday short stories from the internet and Christmas picture books from thrift stores.
3. Looking At Christmas Lights
Take a drive as a family and look at all of the Christmas lights around town. We have found a few favorite neighborhoods that we enjoy visiting each year.
I always pop popcorn for the kids (and me!) to snack on during the drive and the kids bring a blanket and wear their pajamas. Of course, we have our favorite holiday music on in the background. It is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to enjoy the holidays together as a family.
4. Bake Holiday Goodies
I mean really, does it get any better than holiday baking?? I think NOT! With hundreds of different recipes and treats to choose from, we could be baking all month long!
Holiday baking is a fun tradition to do with your kids. My kids love to help in the kitchen, ESPECIALLY if they know treats are involved! A few of our holiday favorites are gingerbread men, cinnamon candy, pretzels dipped in chocolate, cookies, and homemade toffee.
5. Deliver Neighbor Gifts
After all the holiday baking it’s so fun to deliver those yummy homemade goodies to friends and neighbors. This is a great activity to get the kids involved with.
Package the plates together in a cute wrap, make a card for each plate and spend an evening bringing some joy to our little neighborhood. I love this tradition and the way it brings a community together.
6. Christmas Countdown With An Advent Calendar
My kids love counting down for Christmas each day with our homemade advent calendar. It is very similar to this Christmas Tree Calendar. Each day they get to put a new ornament on the tree. I love watching their faces light up as the tree fills with ornaments. When the tree is full, Christmas is here. It makes the long wait a little bit easier for the excited kids!
7. Watch A Christmas Movie
Plan an evening and have a Christmas movie night together as a family. I love snuggling up with my family and enjoying a feel good holiday movie. We enjoy classics like; It’s a Wonderful Life and White Christmas; or a newer family favorite is Elf.
Netflix has a lot of great Christmas movie options, or check out a few from your local library.
8. Make A Christmas Craft
There are hundreds of darling Christmas Craft ideas all over Pinterest. These are so fun to do with the kids during a school holiday break. Be creative and try something new each year.
9. Make Paper Snowflakes
Homemade paper snowflakes can add a fun and whimsy look to your home. Spend an afternoon cutting out paper snowflakes with your family and hang them around your house.
Here is an easy paper snowflake tutorial to follow. It’s such a joy to see every snowflake with a different unique design.
10. Host A Christmas Eve Dinner
Another fun Christmas traditions I look forward to each year is hosting a family Christmas Eve dinner. I invite over my extended family, cook a big Christmas dinner and play a few games. It’s such a fun way to enjoy Christmas together and make the day special. To help keep the costs low I ask everyone to bring a side dish to share.
11. Write Letters To Santa
My kids love to write letters to Santa Clause every year. I am personally not a huge fan of the traditional letters to Santa, where the kids ask for all the things they want to be brought to them. Instead, I have my kids write to tell Santa about all of the good and nice things they have done throughout the year. I have told them this is how Santa decides if he will bring them a present or not. My hope is this will encourage them to focus more on being kind and less on materialist things.
12. Light the World
We have been participating in Light the World for the past few years. Light the World is a campaign sponsored by my church. It encourages families to look for ways to serve within their family, community and in the world. It is absolutely open to EVERYONE! The focus is less about religion, and more on service and love.
There are so many different ways to serve and love others. Bake cookies for your local fire department, participate in Operation Shoe box, volunteer at a local soup kitchen, or become “Secret Santa” for a family in need. I love having my kids participate in this and have found it really brings the true spirit of Christmas into our home.
13. Act out the Nativity
Every Christmas Eve my kids act out the nativity as an adult reads the story out of Luke 2. The kids dress up as Mary, Joseph, The Wise Men, etc.
I love this tradition and how it helps us focus on the reason for the season.
14. Make a Ginger Bread House
Spend an afternoon making a ginger bread house with your family. You can usually find fairly cheap kits at your local grocery store. One year we just used graham crackers and homemade frosting. For decorations we used items already in my pantry, like chocolate chips, marshmallows and almonds. It really doesn’t matter how fancy of a house you build, all that matters is that you’re spending time with your loved ones.
15. Have A Christmas Cookie Exchange
Invite some friends over for an annual Christmas Cookie Exchange. Ask everyone to bring a dozen cookies and enjoy socializing and taste testing all of the different holiday cookies. You might even find a new favorite recipe! One of my favorite Christmas cookie are these Christmas Tree Cookies.
16. Send Out A Christmas Email
A much cheaper way to reach out to friends during the holidays is to ditch the traditional Christmas card and instead send out a Christmas e-mail. You can include a few pictures and a short update of what your family has been up to over the past year. I have even seen some free email card services you could look into!
17. Host A White Elephant Party
Host a White Elephant Party at your home. Ask everyone to bring a wrapped gift (something they already have around their house). Play a fun gift exchange game (these can be found on Pinterest) to decide who will open which present.
This is a fun way to exchange gifts with friends, without having to spend a lot of money on everyone. It also brings a lot of laughs!!
18. Make A Hot Chocolate Bar
Set up a hot chocolate bar on Christmas Day. Keep it simple to prevent overspending. A few peppermint sticks, some marshmallows and whipped cream are all budget friendly ideas. Try out my easy homemade hot chocolate mix recipe for something to quick and delicious you can make at home.
19. Attend A Christmas Concert Or Event
Look to your community for free Christmas Concerts and Events happening around town. Does your community put on a free nativity, light parade or other special concerts? You can usually find at least a few Christmas Concerts at the local high school.
Pick one or a few of these activities you can attend as a family. Many of them will be free, or maybe just a few dollars. It’s a fun way to spend a night out of the house and support your community.
20. Cookies for Santa and Reindeer Food
Your kids will love setting out milk and cookies for Santa Clause on Christmas Eve.
Consider going one step further and make Reindeer Food. This is so easy to do by mixing oats and glitter together. Sprinkle the magic reindeer food out in your yard to help the reindeer find your house.
Spend Time Together
The most important part of family traditions is that you focus on spending time together. It doesn’t always matter what you do, as long as you are focused on each other.