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25 Family Holiday Traditions You Can Start Right Now
Updated on
October 30, 2023

25 Family Holiday Traditions You Can Start Right Now

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25 Family Holiday Traditions You Can Start Right Now.
25 Family Holiday Traditions You Can Start Right Now

Do you remember getting to open one present on Christmas Eve, or baking something special on the first night of Hanukkah? Holiday traditions are many people’s most treasured childhood memories. If it’s baby’s first holiday, it’s an even better excuse to kick off your own holiday traditions—either the ones you remember from your own childhood, brand new traditions you’ve always wanted to try, or a little bit of both.

We talked to friends, family members and our very own Babylist team members about the family holiday traditions they loved the most from their own childhoods or the ones they’ve started since they’ve become parents. Most don’t require much effort, time or planning and can be enjoyed by even the tiniest family members. We hope they’ll inspire you this holiday season!

👶 Make or Gift a New Ornament Every Year

“Every Christmas, my grandma would get all of us kids a special Hallmark ornament, and we’re still going! And it’s something she’s continuing for my son and all of our babies now. I still look forward to my ornament at 30 years old.” -Briana

You can also create a photo ornament with a photo of your child for each year, or buy/make something that represents whatever your little one is into that year—dinosaurs, trucks, mermaids, etc. Handprint ornaments are also really fun.

🕎 Light it Up Together

“For Hanukkah, the whole family gets together and brings their own menorahs. We light the candles/menorahs one by one, starting with the youngest child lighting and moving to oldest. We still do separate lighting on the specific nights, but it’s a fun way to all celebrate together.” -Amanda

💭 Pause to Reflect

“My favorite tradition is what we call our family circle. Before our holiday meal, we all stand in a big circle. One person starts and says something they are proud of themself for, something they accomplished, a new hobby—anything positive. Then you turn to the person next to you and tell them why you are grateful for them, what they mean to you and how they make your life better. Our large family includes everyone from toddlers to grandparents. Everyone takes it seriously and it’s always a really beautiful moment that reminds us of what is important.” -Dawn

😴 Get New Pajamas (and Make Them Matching!

Nothing is cuter than matching family holiday PJs. There’s a set out there for every holiday and every style, from traditional fair isle patterns to Star Wars and Disney characters. And there are so many styles out there, you can change it up every year!

🏠 Make a Gingerbread House

The messier the better! It’s also a great activity to get the grandparents and other extended family in on. You can make one from scratch, or to save on time, use a pre-baked kit that just requires assembly.

🍔 Do Something Unexpected

“I come from a really big family, so when we were younger and needed a large gathering place for Christmas Eve that could handle a ton of kids under the age of 12, we somehow landed on the McDonald’s Playplace. It’s kid-friendly and it meant my mom didn’t have to cook. So even though we’re all fully grown now, that’s where we go every Christmas Eve. I’m convinced it’s the best holiday spot in town.” -Maddie

🍗 Change Up the Meal

“For Thanksgiving, my family doesn’t make the traditional American turkey. We makes Panes con Pavo, which translates to ‘bread with turkey’. The turkey is cooked in a tomato sauce and then we make sandwiches after we break the turkey down. We use bolillo rolls and load them up with lettuce, curtido (this is a traditional slaw from El Salvador), sliced tomatoes, watercress, radishes and turkey. Then you take the sandwich and pour the sauce the turkey was cooked in on the sandwich. It’s my favorite meal during the holidays.” -Diane

💁🏽 Give Back

The holiday season is the perfect time to share the love. Volunteer at a food bank in your community, donate to a gift drive or do whatever you can to help others during the holiday season.

“For Christmas, we take our daughter to help us shop to give to Toys for Tots. We hope that it’s a good teaching experience for her to give the toys away she helped picked out.” -Kristina

🎉 Celebrate the New Year

“My family doesn’t celebrate Christmas—but New Year’s Eve is HUGE for us. Russian tradition is similar to Christmas but non-religious, so we have a “New Year’s Tree,” we do presents on December 31 and we have a version of Santa which translates to “Grandpa Frost.” It ends up being an awesome mish-mosh for us since the kids don’t really get the difference yet between New Year and Christmas.” -Lyuba

✨ Be Intentional

“On New Year’s Day, we head to the beach to catch the sunrise and set intentions as a family.” -Dawn

🌲 Combine Traditions

“I celebrate the Winter Solstice and my husband celebrates Christmas, so we figured out a way to use the same tree for both holidays! Winter Solstice uses an undecorated evergreen, so we get a regular pine to bring inside, let it sit undecorated for a couple weeks, and then once the solstice has passed, decorate it with Christmas ornaments.” -Amylia

📚 Read a Different Holiday Book Each Night

“We do book advent calendars! Disney has one that they release every year. We get to read a new book every night and they make for great travel books throughout the year since they’re small and light.” -Kim

🤪 Get Silly

“We always had a silly string fight (inside the house no less!) at my Grandma’s house on Christmas afternoon after we opened our stockings (silly string was always in there!).” -Anne

🎭 Show Your Theatrical Side

“We had a yearly dramatic reenactment of Santa’s arrival on Christmas Eve. I have 30+ family members that live near me, and we’d arrive to grandma’s house to see a beautifully decorated tree with only a few presents underneath. Grandma would let the little kids (and the young adult cousins) know that they better go pretend to be asleep so Santa can come. Kids, some parents, and a few theatrical older cousins would pile into one of the other rooms and pretend to be asleep as “Santa” arrived. Once our fake snores rang loud enough through the house for Santa to know we were asleep, we’d hear sleigh bells outside, someone walking on the roof and then a booming voice indoors of Santa chatting it up with our aunts and uncles. After Santa left, the kiddos would run out to the living room and find tons of new gifts under the tree and soot footprints around the fireplace. I always loved the theatrical nature of the tradition and how everyone became a player!” -Stormie

🏘️ Make It a Community Event

“We fry a turkey (or 10!). In lieu of a formal holiday meal, we toss a bird in the fryer for ourselves + some extras for our older neighbors and friends who have little ones but are short on prep time. It’s a good excuse to gather (bundled up) outdoors with friends and neighbors for snacks (and mulled wine) while the birds cook (they go fast!), and takes pressure off whoever’s in the kitchen making sides.” -Alainna

🍪 Bake Cookies

“Early in December, we start making cookies—my mom always made thumbprint cookies and pfeffernusse, so I like to mix at least one of those in each year. It reminds me of my childhood and my family, and it’s a fun bonding activity with my daughter. Holiday music is a must while baking. On Christmas Eve, we always make madeleines (we leave them for Santa, mostly because I’m too lazy to do sugar cookies, and “Santa” likes madeleines better anyway!). We basically get our sugar quotient for the year in December.” -Karen

🍩 Bake Something Else…Like Doughnuts!

“We make doughnuts as a family to kick off Hanukkah, and the Nutella is disastrous and delicious.” -Lisa

🍽️ Make Space for Others

“My best friend’s family set an extra place setting on their family table throughout the holiday season (both on normal family dinner nights and on actual holiday meals). The idea was to symbolize that their table was always open and ready for people to join—but it would also often play out in real life! There were several times I was invited last minute to their house for a dinner or a holiday and I would walk into a place set for me. It was such a special tradition I’ve never forgotten.” -Rebekah

💌 Frame Your Holiday Cards

If you send out a holiday card, set one aside each year and either frame it or store it in a special place. You’ll love looking back on your old cards and watching your children grow and change.

🏃 Get Active

“We do the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving. It gets the wiggles out of the kids, and it gets me out of having to cook!” -Melissa

🥡 Go Out to Eat

“We don’t celebrate Christmas, so we’ve made it a tradition to go eat Chinese food on that day (since that’s all that’s open usually), but it’s really fun!” -Lisa

🧠 Learn about Other Traditions

Whatever your own traditions may be, it’s always fun to learn about other people’s traditions, too! Shows like Sesame Street can teach little ones (and adults too of course) all about celebrations in other cultures, like Kwanzaa, Hanukkah and many others.

🎁 Make Your Presents Stand Out

“One tradition that I love that I plan to do with our family is to buy a unique wrapping paper for each child. Each child gets all of their presents for that year wrapped in that unique paper, however the kids have no idea whose paper is whose until Christmas morning. You hide a scrap of their paper in the bottom of their stocking. Then once they open their stockings, they will find out which presents are theirs and they can open them!” -Rebekah

💡 Take in the Lights

Go on a drive (or a walk) around your neighborhood to check out the best holiday light display.

🔥 Make a Yule Log

“A yule log is a fun, easy tradition to start. Some years I do two, one real (an actual wooden log I find that we decorate with other winter plants, fruits and candles) and one chocolate! Usually done on Winter Solstice, but some years I’m a day or so off just because I can’t always find the perfect log. Yule logs are super fun to do with toddlers because you ask them to find offerings to stick on the log and they bring in really off-the-wall (but well-meant) things.” -Amylia

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