There are so many fun, inexpensive holiday traditions to enjoy with your family during this most wonderful time of the year!
Christmas is by far my favorite time of the year!
Since we’ve had kids, the holidays have become even MORE special and magical. I love seeing everything through their eyes again and watching how excited they get for things that have become second-nature to me year after year.
We grew up with different traditions in our homes that we’ve enjoyed passing down to the kids, and along the way, we’ve managed to start some new ones of our own too!
12 Inexpensive Holiday Traditions to Enjoy with the Kids
These holiday traditions to enjoy with your kids are sure to get everyone into the Christmas spirit!
Send out Christmas Cards
This has been a fun tradition that I started right after my husband and I got married. We have always had dogs, so we would always include a “family photo” of us with the doggies, and every year they tended to get more and more elaborate.
After a few years I started making my own cards and before I knew it, it turned into a 2 month project to get everything done in time to send out!
Fast forward to today with two small kids and we’re now back to the more traditional picture cards that includes a family photo. (You can see some of my favorite fun Christmas card ideas in this post 😉 ) My son knows that it’s “the” picture that will be getting sent out to all of his friends and family and always excited to strike his pose! We will see how that lasts as the kids get older 🙂
Cut Down a REAL Christmas Tree and Decorate It
So I grew up with fake Christmas trees and my husband grew up with real Christmas trees and I remember being SO excited to go get my first real tree for the holidays once we were married! It has become our tradition every since and is something we look forward to every year! We ALWAYS go the day after Thanksgiving to pick out a tree, we ALWAYS stop and get hot cider to take with us, and we ALWAYS do it as late in the day as possible so it’s dark by the time we get home. It’s just so fun to have it be dusk with the bright Christmas lights on at the tree farm by the time we’re done. And now that we have kids, it’s become even a bigger tradition in our house. Our son has been BEGGING to get a tree for about the last month and he was beside himself when it was finally time to go and pick one out.
We then head home, get the tree up, and start decorating it the same night. We turn on Christmas Carols, make sure we have some hot chocolate around with some Christmas cookies to munch on, and we all take turns putting the ornaments up on the tree. It’s SO much fun and this year was especially wonderful since both of the kids were now old enough to really help out and get into picking the ornaments out that they wanted to put on the tree. They loved seeing their baby ornaments and the old ones as well. Another year, another success!
Make a Christmas Eve Box
I’ve seen this great idea in multiple places over the last few years and finally bit the bullet and started this with the kiddos last year. It is SO much fun.
We have always made it a bit of a mandatory rule in our house to keep Christmas Eve free of any major family commitments over the years so we have this quiet time to just spend with the kids and prepare for all of the fun of Christmas Day. We make a big meal, go play in the snow (if we have some!), and just make it about our immediate family for the day.
Last year, I also tackled the idea of giving the kids a “Christmas Eve” Present. I gave it to them early in the day so everything could be enjoyed during Christmas Eve. It was a box filled with a new set of Christmas Pajamas (which we got snuggled in early with), some popcorn, hot chocolate K-Cups for our Keurig, a small ornament, and a holiday book.
It also included homemade “tickets” I made for movies and shows we would watch throughout the day, like “A Christmas Story”, “Elf”, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, and “Frosty the Snowman”. The kids had SO much fun and it was a great way to spend a fun day together and truly enjoy each other for Christmas.
Take a Ride on the Christmas Light Express
There is an area in our community that has about a 6 block radius that the town likes to call “Christmas Lane”. EVERY house in this area decorates their yard with lights to the MAX and it is always such a treat to go and see what people did new this year. My son thinks it’s the most magical thing on the face of the earth and one house even has a full-blown train set in their front yard that there is always a crowd around. It’s amazing!
We generally park, walk up and down the blocks, and take some hot chocolate with us. If it’s absolutely crazy cold out, than we do our tour in the car, but regardless, this is a tradition that we have done forever and it’s always so much fun to see all of the houses with their decorations. I’m just glad I don’t live in that neighborhood because I just couldn’t handle the pressure! 😉
Why not surprise your kids with a ride on the “Christmas Light Express” to see all the holiday lights near you! One evening take care of business as usual and let the kids get in their pajamas for bed. In the meantime pack up a few snacks, get the holiday music ready, and get your Christmas Light Express tickets ready to hand out to them (these can be printed FREE in this post). Then it’s time to hit the road!
No need to pay for anything other than the cost of gas for this holiday tradition!
Get a New Ornament for the Christmas Tree
This is another tradition my husband and I started many, many years ago and we have passed it down to the kids, who have SO much fun picking out a new ornament!
We generally just grab one from a kiosk in the mall while we are out and about holiday shopping over the month of December, but it’s always one that we can personalize with our names and the year. These are some of my FAVORITE ornaments to put on the tree every year to see how our family has grown. It’s so sweet!
We also try to also remember to buy a Christmas Tree ornament every time we are on vacation. It may be May when we are on vacation somewhere, but trust me… if you look, you’ll find a place with an ornament! I love looking back at all of our travel adventures and vacations with the great Christmas ornament collection we have created!
Last year my son was finally old enough to attempt to build a gingerbread house. I’ll admit, it was a bit of a flop, but he was 3 at the time and the most important thing was that HE thought it was the coolest thing ever!
He has already been asking when we are going to do it again, so I can already see that this will be a new tradition year after year in our household! But this time, I’ve done a bit more research and have a renewed vigor to tackle this gingerbread house and make it the coolest thing ever!
Well… if my son doesn’t end up trying to eat all of the candy first like he did last year. 🙂
Birthday Cake for Jesus
Depending on your religion, Jesus is the reason for the season, as he is in our home! We want to incorporate the importance of this with our kids, so we make sure that throughout the holidays, we read books that focus on the religious aspect of Christmas and share as much as possible that it’s really NOT about Santa and all of the presents.
It falls a bit on deaf ears right now with the commercialization of everything that has to do with Christmas and with how young our kids are, but hopefully we’re laying good groundwork to make sure our kids are centered and balanced when it comes to Christmas in the future.
One thing we do to make sure we remember what Christmas is really for? We make a birthday cake for Jesus! The kids, of course, love a good cake, but we make sure we explain what it’s really for and why we have a cake to begin with. And of course, my son wants to help get it all together because he’s such a good little helper!
Going to see Santa Claus
I don’t think there could possibly be a bigger holiday tradition for many families than going to make the annual trek to see Santa! We have years where it is a huge success and I look back fondly on those pictures of my two sweet little munchkins. And then we have the years where they didn’t want ANYTHING to do with Santa and there was kicking and screaming and it was a blurry mess of a picture where Santa looked like he might leave and go back to the North Pole ASAP!!
We’ve already done our yearly pilgrimage to see Santa and it was a bit of a mix of both of those scenarios. My 4-year-old was SO excited to tell Santa what he wanted this year and was super into getting to the front of the line to share his list. My 2-year-old daughter who normally will go and talk to strangers on a whim? Not so much. She wouldn’t even CONSIDER the idea of going anywhere near him.
Alas…I captured some good pictures this year 🙂
I remember being a little girl and absolutely LOVING when Advent was close so my Grandma would give me my Advent calendar!
I had the one every year where you opened up the door and a little piece of chocolate would pop out. I always looked forward to it so much and it was a great way to remember what we were counting down for in the first place.
I started this with my son this year and so far, he is loving it! Every night he asks what number we’re going to get to open tomorrow and right away in the morning, he can’t wait to go and see what the next door will hold.
Advent calendars have changed a lot over the years, but the concept is still the same! You can see some creative DIY advent calendars in this post. I actually made sure that every day is also accompanied by a Bible verse to read, as well. What a fun season!
Participate in a Giving Tree
There are SO many great organizations that are looking for a little extra help this time of the year. We always participate in a local giving tree where you choose an “ornament” from the tree that outlines what you are supposed to buy. For example, our local giving tree is used to help underprivileged families in the area enjoy a nice Christmas despite the hardships they are facing. So the ornaments on the tree will say things like “8 year old girl who loves Dolls” or “6 month old baby with no new toys”, etc. It gives you a direction on what to buy and once the item is bought, we than have to take the things down to the organization that is responsible for distribution.
I love getting my kids involved in something that I have been doing for years so they see that not everyone is as lucky as they are and to gain a little perspective on what the season really is about. It helps to create giving hearts and teaches them to be thankful for the things that they do have, while also making sure they are a part of something wonderful and so loving right here in our community.
Walmart, Sam’s Club, and your church is where you can usually find a giving tree if you don’t already know of one nearby.
I’m a sucker for creating Christmas cookies! I’ll admit, my stamina has wavered since having kids and it’s definitely more difficult to get the motivation to create all of these wonderful Christmas cookies that our families enjoy at all of our holiday gatherings, but a tradition is a tradition!
Now I have help in the form of a 4-year-old cookie decorator/taste-tester! Back in the day, I would spend many days doing many different types of cookies that we would plate up and take to all of the holiday gatherings that we were invited to. Now? We stick with the old-fashioned cookie cutter Christmas cookies, which works out great because my son LOVES decorating all of the different forms that are made! And he also loves helping with the actual cookie cutter part.
I remember helping my mom with all of the cookie cutter sugar cookies we made over the holidays and I remember what a wonderful time I used to have getting a little assembly line together and finishing the tasks at hand. I love that my kids will remember making all these delicious cookies with me too 🙂
Elf on the Shelf
Yup… I’ve been suckered into the Elf on the Shelf craze! To be honest, my husband takes care of this one. He is WAY creative on setting up our Elf in action-packed scenarios and we also only do it for the “12 Days of Christmas”. I don’t think anyone in our house is ready to do it for a whole month yet before Christmas is here, but committing to 12 days is doable!
Need some ideas for your Elf? Subscribe to my free email weekly newsletter to get a printable Elf on the Shelf planner and checklist 🙂
Secretly, I think my husband gets a big kick out of it and tries to outdo himself every day! My son gets also gets a big kick out of seeing what the Elf is doing in the morning once he wakes up and always is wondering how he did it. It’s a magical time in my kids’ lives and I’ll do anything to keep them little for as long as possible enjoying these carefree moments that they have been blessed with.
It seems like such a shame that we only get to do all of these holiday traditions once a year, but I suppose that is what makes them so special. It sure is fun to follow our traditions and watch the kids light up with all of the excitement! Enjoy!
Do you have special holiday traditions you enjoy doing year after year with your children? Let us know below in the comments.