Fun Family Christmas Traditions: 9 Exciting and Inexpensive Holiday Activities

Family Christmas Traditions for the Holidays. 8 Inexpensive Christmas Activities

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Family Christmas Traditions can occur whether your family is large or small, and young or old. Establishing traditions can enhance relationships, evoke warm feelings and create memories that last a lifetime.

Over the years, we’ve read numerous books about the value of family traditions. They add stability to the yearly calendar as the kids and grandkids eagerly anticipate and participate in the preparations for each special event.

Our Christmas Traditions really are a “month-full” of activities and routines that we’ve established over the course of many years. Here are a few of the many we have:

Four Christmas carolers (2 guys and 2 girls) singing at a local resort.

1. Holiday Music / Performances

There are many holiday musical performances this time of year. We attend at least one of the following each year:

  • The Nutcracker Ballet (a local ballet school performs it with admission being a toy for the Toys for Tots program)
  • A church musical (there are dozens in our area)
  • Handel’s “Messiah” put on by a local symphony or church.
  • Several resorts have holiday light and music presentations open to the public with live carolers, ice skating, and gingerbread house displays.
  • Christmas Parades (our favorite one is in northern Arizona – the annual Prescott Christmas Parade)

Most communities are full of holiday events – doing a little research could help you find a perfect one for your family.

2. Gingerbread House Building with Nana

Two girls peeking out from behind a small gingerbread house.

For many years one of our Favorite Family Christmas Traditions was that Annette’s mom would bake loads of gingerbread and host all of the grandkids for a day of making Gingerbread Houses!

As parents, we would all pitch in and buy different kinds of candy and gum for decorating the houses. We’d also help the younger kids as they built their houses.

3. Christmas Light Tour

Many nativity scenes on display in a garage.

Driving around to see houses decorated with Christmas Lights is another one of our favorite traditions. Each year our newspaper’s website runs a list of families who go all out decorating their homes with lights, characters, and music.

We load up the van with our kids and some friends and do a driving tour of homes in our area. There are some favorites – like the one lady who has hundreds of nativities from around the world and a petting zoo of nativity animals.

We bring hot cocoa and cookies and make a fun evening of ooohing and aaahing at the beautiful displays.

Our group of Christmas Lights viewers.
Our most recent group of Christmas Light travelers. We visited 7 neighbors and loved the lights that we saw.

4. Listening to Christmas Music

Annette loves Christmas music so much she plays a little of it every month starting in August, but by December the halls of our home are reverberating with carols non-stop.

Check out our list of favorite holiday music here.

5. Watching Christmas Movies

We have a special box full of our favorite Christmas flicks – some old classics and other new favorites. We watch at least one or two each week in December.

Our list is growing and contains oldies, animated, religious and some brilliant new films.

Here are just a few of our favorite classic Christmas movies:

  1. Holiday Inn  Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby fight for the girls in this song-filled Irving Berlin film. Lots of memorable melodies like White Christmas, Abraham (Lincoln) and many other holiday centered songs. Jim (Bing Crosby) and Lila work as part of a performing trio. They’re tired of the nightclub life and want to quit to run a country inn. There are many twists and turns with Ted (Fred Astaire) and others involved in trying to win the girl.
  2. It’s a Wonderful Life with Jimmy Steward and Donna Reed. We watch this movie two or three times each year and it always makes us cry. 
  3. March of the Wooden Soldiers (Laurel and Hardy), slapstick, good wins over evil, nursery rhymes, and great singing.
  4. Miracle on 34th Street with Edmund Gwenn, Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, and Natalie Wood. We think the old black and white version is best. We watch this a couple of times each year. it’s a story of how love wins over a wounded heart at Christmas.Great historic scenes of New York City in the 1930’s.

Check out our complete list of favorite Christmas movies (with a few added by frugal friends like you).

6. Christmas Cookies / Quick Bread

Every year since about 1985 Annette has baked huge batches of Christmas cookies or pumpkin/banana bread to be given to family, friends, teachers, postmen and other service people.

For about 6 years we hosted a neighborhood cookie exchange with our neighbors. We delivered invitations and had dozens of families attend. Each family brought 2 plates of cookies: 1 to swap and one to be eaten that night.

After the cookie exchange, we lined up in a circle according to the number of years we’ve lived in the neighborhood and shared a little about our families.

7. Giving Presents

Most of the gift shopping is done throughout the year, so December is a time for pulling them out and wrapping. Even our kids had collections of gifts hidden away that they would give to their siblings and extended family.

When the kids were younger we would let them open one present each Saturday (usually from out-of-town relatives).

It reduced the jumpiness that proceeded Christmas and allowed the kids to enjoy each gift and not feel so overwhelmed on Christmas Day.

8. Christmas Eve Traditions

Our Christmas Eve traditions include an extended family gathering for dinner (about 30 people). After dinner, Annette conducts the singing of Twelve Days of Christmas. Each person picks a number—one through twelve—along with the corresponding lyrics.

Usually, it’s two people per number.  We sing the entire song with multiple ad-lib performances and some very strange and original lyrics.

We also have a white elephant gift exchange—we encourage each person to bring a gift of something they don’t need anymore that is in good condition. In recent years we have switched to an ornament exchange.

There’s lots of strategizing, conniving, trading and of course, lots of laughter!

9. Christmas Day Traditions

Christmas Day is a total “jammie day.” No company, no chores, just family, movies, presents, board games and us.

Steve always makes delicious cheese blintzes topped with blueberries and cherries—mmmmm!

For dinner, it’s either roast leg of lamb or Pastichio (Greek lasagna), or Italian lasagna (get our lasagna recipe here.

Watch as Annette prepares Pastichio (Greek Lasagna). This is a family recipe handed down for 3 generations.
Get a .pdf of the Pastichio recipe here.
Watch as Annette prepares her Authentic Italian Lasagna. This is also a family recipe handed down for 3 generations.
Get a .pdf of the Lasagna recipe here.

We have a friend that likes to do a taco bar with her family, so there is less time spent in the kitchen.

Traditions don’t need to be expensive or elaborate to be memorable.

From our family to yours, we wish you the most blessed Christmas of all time.

May your home be filled with hope, light, and family this year.

If you have time, we’d love to hear some of your favorite Christmas Traditions – could you share them below?

If you want to see some great Christmas Crafts and Decor, click here!

Family Christmas Traditions for the Holidays. 8 Inexpensive Christmas Activities

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