Every year I look forward to the special holiday traditions that my family has created. While some traditions are new within the last few years (always good to mix things up a bit, right?), some holiday traditions we have continued since our now twelve year old was a baby.
For full transparency this post contains affiliate links, meaning, I may earn a small commission if you happen to click on a link and make a purchase (at no cost to you). It also allows me to see what things you are interested in and helps me create future relevant posts. These small commissions help support my blog (and my kids’ never ending snacking habits!), so please know that I really appreciate you following along!
Volunteering is a holiday tradition that I’d love for my family to do more of not only during the holiday season, but year round. Food banks, donation centers, clothes closets, etc. can all use help right now. I feel that volunteering and helping others goes hand in hand with the true meaning of the season!
Matching Christmas pajamas with my kiddos is one of my favorite traditions. I just love seeing them running around the house in their cute holiday pjs! This year I bought matching pjs for myself as well. My husband is the only one who is the party pooper – no pajamas for him!
If you still don’t have your Christmas pjs, check out my top ten favorites this season.
Christmas Lights in PJs and Hot Cocoa
Driving through neighborhoods in our Christmas pajamas with steamy cups of hot cocoa and looking at lights is a holiday tradition we just started a couple years ago. I love it! My kids are always excited to see old favorites and to discover new light displays.
Zoo Lights/Outdoor Light Displays
We are lucky to live in a city that has endless options for Christmas light viewing. From Zoo Lights to Peacock Lane to The Grotto Christmas Festival of Lights, to a Christmas ship parade on the river, there is so much to choose from. Even if you live in a smaller town, you probably have some type of light display. I grew up in a town of about 12,000 and remember we had a section of town that set out luminaries on a few nights during the holiday season.
My kids love hitting up Zoo Lights – our zoo really has an amazing display!
Donate to Favorite Family Charities
One year for Christmas as gifts to my husband and children, I donated money to organizations relating to things I knew they loved. For my husband I donated to a huge local outdoor nature park full of trails and all sorts of fantastic outdoor fun because he loves trail running there. My son loves animals so I chose a wildlife foundation to donate to, and my oldest daughter likes working with kids and is interested in children’s healthcare, so I donated money in her name to Make A Wish Foundation.
I put each donation receipt in an envelope and placed them on our tree on Christmas Eve. The envelopes were the last gifts they opened on Christmas morning. I think it is another great way to teach our children about things we should really be focusing on during the holidays.
Cookie Exchange or baking cookies as a family
Cookie baking has been a long standing tradition in my family for decades. Started with my grandma, then my mom, and well, it is still mostly my mom! I usually bake a little bit with the kids, but since my mom shows up every year with tins full of cookies, I don’t bake quite as much! Peanut butter balls, spritz, cream cheese cookies, chocolate dipped shortbread, wedding teacakes…I know I am forgetting some of her baking goodness.
My oldest and I also attend a cookie exchange party every year with her friends that is so much fun! Baking with my kids (even the three year old) is such a fun bonding experience. We are making memories AND I am teaching them skills they will need in adulthood!
My kids go nuts for this tradition, and then hate it halfway through when their house doesn’t look as perfect as the pictures on the boxes. That frosting can be tricky! 😉 The last several years we have bought our houses at Costco for about $10 each. I like them because they are pre-built and come with a ton of frosting and candy for the kids to decorate with. Also included are two darling little gingerbread people to decorate.
Family Holiday Movie Night
Now that my kids are older (well, at least two of them), we have a wider range of movies to choose from. And if I’m being honest, more movies to choose from that my husband and I actually enjoy watching! Animated movies are great, but by kid number three, we are pretty much over them! We’ve actually had several of these movie nights already. National Lampoons Christmas Vacation, Scrooged (with Bill Murray), Home Alone, and A Christmas Story are a couple new ones we have introduced them to in the last few years.
Breakfast With Santa
I may be into this tradition more than my kids are. Well, at least the Santa part. My kids really go for the food. How can you not love french toast sticks, syrup, and hot cocoa? While my older two aren’t as thrilled to sit on Santa’s lap, they at least have to stand by him. With a significantly younger sister they are going to have to play along for a long time! 😉
We go to a local restaurant that hosts this holiday tradition, but I have also noticed breakfast with Santa events at our zoo or through local organizations.
Donate to a Gift Tree/Adopt a Family or Child
So many families are in need of extra help around the holidays. We usually participate in gift trees or adopt a family programs through our local schools, however these are everywhere. Try local churches, shopping malls, athletic clubs, or organizations where you live.
While my kids love picking out gifts for other children, families are also often in need of food, gas, clothing, and other items. There are so many ways to help!
We have been slacking on this one lately. Maybe it is having three kids, maybe it is because we are exhausted at the end of the day or maybe we are just plain lazy. We do have a giant pile of Christmas books that I pull out every December 1st. My three year old has been “reading” them daily to herself or with her siblings, but I haven’t really been reading them with our kids as often this year. I love this tradition though. We have so many wonderful books and it truly warms my heart to share them with my children!
Here are a few of our favorites:
The books about Oregon also have different versions specific to other cities and states as well!
It isn’t Christmas without The Nutcracker. As a child I remember listening to the record of The Nutcracker Ballet (yes, record!). Since my oldest was four we have gone with friends to see The Nutcracker ballet every year. Such a sweet tradition!
This year we switched things up a bit and saw The Hip Hop Nutcracker. Definitely not your traditional Nutcracker, but it was so much fun!
One thing I reminded my kids this week is that some of these holiday traditions we can still do even after the holidays are over. I actually don’t mind going to our local Zoo Lights after Christmas because I don’t feel as rushed and it isn’t as crowded. The holidays are so jam packed with events that it can be more enjoyable to sprinkle in a few holiday traditions afterwards too.
What are some of your favorite family traditions? I love hearing about holiday traditions that other families celebrate!