10 Holiday Traditions to Start with Your Family

christmas family traditions
Image via Amanda Rodriguez

If you’ve spent any time hanging out with me here or on my other lifestyle blog, the last word you’d likely use to describe me or my family is traditional.  We probably fall more squarely into the silly, fun, adventurous-as-long-as-it-doesn’t-involve-sleeping-outside-or-eating-insects category.

Sure we like to have fun and spend at least 83% of our days laughing, smiling, and burping our ABCs having a good time, but when it comes to holidays we are traditionalists through and through.

I’m not sure what it is about the Christmas season that brings out my inner June Cleaver, but she dusts off her apron, locks my inner Mariah Carey diva in a back closet somewhere, and goes to town with the decorating, and the baking, and the elaborate lying to my children about Santa everything, only letting her out when it’s time to get our Christmas carol on (and, yes, I’m pretty sure I sound just like Mariah when I sing.  Pretty sure).

There are things that I have been doing to celebrate Christmas since I was a baby courtesy of my parents, like driving aimlessly around town looking at Christmas lights and baking cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve.  And, there are new traditions that I have started with my own family that we wouldn’t let a year go by without, like taking a silly holiday photo and having a family sleepover on the floor of our boys’ room Christmas Eve.

Want to start some holiday traditions with your family?  Here are some easy, fun, and memorable ideas!

10 Holiday Traditions to Start with Your Family

1.  Take a holiday photo.  We do this every year and I love pulling them all out and displaying them around our house during the Christmas season.  We also use it for our yearly holiday cards and our family members and friends really seem to enjoy seeing the progression of our lives this way.

2.  Go Christmas caroling.  Even if you’re not lucky enough to sound pretty-much-exactly-the-same as Mariah Carey, it’s the sentiment that counts.

3.  Play secret Santa with your neighbors.  Bake some cookies, put them in an unlabeled, pretty box or bag, pop it on their doorstep, ring the bell, and RUN!  Probably the only time playing ding dong ditch is ok.  We do it for a week straight and then label the last box so they know its from us.  Kinda fun to never let them know who it was and leave them guessing too.

4.  Build a gingerbread house.  No, you don’t have to bake it yourself.  You can buy a kit like we do.

5.  Bake something.  We like to have cookie parties with friends.  Everyone brings their favorite cookies and then we sit around and eat them together until we feel like barfing.  Best.  Parties.  EVER.

6.  Go light watching.  Put the kids in their jammies, shove some hot chocolate in some thermoses, then climb in your car and drive around to ooh and ahh at the ambitious people in your hood who decorate their houses every year.  Some cities even have designated routes you can take to see the best lights.  We’re not that organized so we just drive and take what we can get.


7.  Play Elf on the Shelf.  We don’t actually do this because it was too expensive and labor intensive for me to buy.  But, lots of families love it.  We do a fake-Santa-on-the-mantle-who-is-supposedly-a-camera-where-Santa-can-watch-you-act-up-from-the-North-Pole version.  Nothing like Elf on the Shelf, but The Dudes don’t know that.  I pull that thing out every December and behavior around here gets cleaned up with a quickness.

8.  Write Santa letters.  Letter writing is a dying art, but we like to revive it to give Santa a shout out every year.  The kids think it’s just so they can tell him what they want, but I make them address it, proof it, and fill out the envelope correctly too.  Teaching moments can be found anywhere, right?!

9.  Do some good.  We do the Toys for Tots thing and this season we also participated in Operation Christmas Child for the first time.  We like to remind the kids that they are fortunate to have the things they have and giving them the opportunity to help someone who isn’t is a good way to do that.  Plus, they feel all warm and fuzzy inside after they volunteer their time or donate their items.

10.  Read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.  My dad used to do this with my brother and me every Christmas Eve.  I try to remember to do it with my kids, but sometimes we just wind up watching The Miracle on 34th Street or It’s a Wonderful Life (another family tradition from my parents) while I doze off on the couch.  It’s the togetherness that counts here I think.

What holiday traditions do you share with your family?!

What do you think?

10 Holiday Traditions to Start with Your Family

Amanda has been wowing the Internet since 2008 when she launched her pretty-much-useless guide for parents, parenting BY dummies. As it turns out, her parenting advice is not generally useful for more than a good laugh, but sometimes that’s exactly what you need! Amanda spends her offline time (which is embarrassingly limited) running a photography business, working as a social media director for a local magazine, writing freelance articles about stuff she loves, wrangling her 3 little Dudes ... More

Tell us what you think!


  1. TomNardone says:

    Hi my name is Tom Nardone. I really enjoyed your postI wrote an article about shopping during the holidays. I referenced your article as a related link. and put it on my site If you would like to see it you can go to


  2. love numer 5 8 and 9 we will be doing those

  3. To be honest, if someone left unlabeled, random cookies on my doorstep….I’d bin them straight away. Bit creepy if you ask me!


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