Christmas Eve Traditions for Families

There are as many ways to celebrate on Christmas Eve as there are families to celebrate it! I asked moms in our Hip Homeschool Moms Facebook Community to share how they celebrate on Christmas Eve, and today I’m sharing their ideas and traditions with you. It’s always fun to read about how other families do things, and you just might find some new activities or traditions you’d like to add to your own family’s celebration!

(NOTE: Some families choose to include Santa as part of their Christmas Eve celebration, and others don’t. Please refrain from commenting on this topic as far as “should you” or “shouldn’t you” include Santa in Christmas. Thank you!  ~HHM Admins)


These are fun Christmas Eve traditions for families to enjoy together!


It wasn’t surprising to find that many families eat special foods on Christmas Eve! After all, food is an important part of our lives—especially during the holidays. I was surprised to find, though, that so many families eat fondue on Christmas Eve! (Often in front of the Christmas tree in a very informal and fun way. Some use chocolate as dip, and others use cheese.) Here are some of the other kinds of foods that are traditionally eaten by the ladies in the HHM Facebook Community on Christmas Eve. (Makes me hungry just looking at the list!)

  • special Christmas cookies or pies
  • cocktail sausages (prepared in the crockpot)
  • cheeseball with crackers (or carrots or other veggies for those who are gluten free!)
  • an enormous spread of seafood dishes
  • loaded nachos
  • spritz cookies
  • homemade chili
  • chocolate fudge
  • Italian foods like pizza or Italian chicken
  • mini pizzas
  • hot apple cider
  • hot chocolate
  • snack foods like crackers or veggies with meat, cheese, or dip
  • smores


Christmas Eve is a time for many families to get together with relatives or friends. Sometimes our family members live too far away to be able to be together, but we can still carry on with our traditional family activities while we think about those we love! If you haven’t established any traditional family activities, here are some suggestions to get you started!

  • We watch the movie Polar Express and have hot chocolate during the “hot chocolate part” of the movie. Other families watch other Christmas movies such as the traditional favorite–It’s a Wonderful Life and/or Jesus-focused movies like The Nativity Story.
  • We gather the family together and play games on Christmas Eve! Wii and Kinect are fun things to do together because “elderly folks and video games equal a recipe for gut busting laughter!” It’s so much fun to play and laugh together! Other families play board games and have an equally fun time!
  • We each open one gift containing new PJs to wear to bed that night so the recipients can wake up looking cute for photos on Christmas morning! (Note from Wendy: I had no idea how many families keep this tradition! It’s not something my family ever did, so I hadn’t really thought about it much, but I’d say over 50% of moms who chimed in with special family activities or traditions included this.)
  • Some families have a birthday cake for Jesus and sing happy birthday to Him!
  • We make Christmas cookies for Santa and then Google his trip around the world to see where he’s headed before sending the kids off to bed. (Some folks leave less traditional snacks out for Santa—like crackers, summer sausage, and cheese!)
  • We use traditional family recipes to make cookies and use vintage cookie cutters to cut them out. Yum!
  • We like to drive around town looking at Christmas lights while eating Christmas cookies and drinking hot chocolate.
  • Christmas Eve Boxes! Each child gets a box with new Christmas PJs, a game or movie, a pack of hot chocolate, and a bag of popcorn. The boxes are topped off with a candy cane. Some families include a new ornament for each child to put on the tree.
  • Our family attends a special Christmas Eve service at church. This service is often a candlelight service. Beautiful!
  • We have a white elephant Christmas gift exchange with the extended family.
  • Our kiddos write a letter to Santa and burn it so the smoke will carry it to the North Pole.
  • We like to toss reindeer food (glitter and oatmeal) onto the roof for Santa’s reindeer. Others leave baby carrots for them.
  • Our family delivers Christmas cookies and other treats to elderly folks in the community.
  • We help the children prepare and wrap up a gift for Jesus. This may be a letter or note to Him.
  • Let the children help bake a birthday cake for Jesus. One family leaves this cake out for Santa to eat as his Christmas treat when he comes to deliver gifts.
  • Family Game Night! This may include just the immediate family or extended family, but it’s always loud and crazy and lots of fun! One family keeps track from year to year of the winners for bragging rights until the next year.
  • We always make English Christmas Bread and leave one slice out on the table overnight. (Tradition is that your family won’t want for bread in the coming year.)
  • We have Christmas Eve dinner for the extended family. Then the children get to exchange gifts and the grownups get to visit. But the main emphasis is on spending time together with loved ones. It helps keep the focus on things that matter.
  • Our family gathers to watch Harry Potter or Polar Express while eating pizza (since this mom grew up eating pizza on Christmas Eve at her grandparents’ house). Then it’s time to wrangle the kids into bed so the grownups can set up presents and Santa gifts.
  • We open our family present bag–including new coordinating pjs, slippers, and hot cocoa. Then we read Luke 1 and the beginning of 2. I love this tradition, and I’m so glad we started it!
  • We always have dinner a little early and then go to church on Christmas Eve. Then we drive around and look at lights. The kids get to open one gift on Christmas Eve – matching pajamas. Then we watch Christmas movies. The kids sleep around the tree that night too.
  • We like to read the story of Jesus’s birth along with ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. We put out Christmas cookies for Santa, and then each child opens one gift for Christmas Eve. Usually the gift is a pair of Christmas pajamas. They love to wear them Christmas Eve and night.
  • We decorate cookies and open presents from family members.
  • We usually go to dinner and then come home and open our Christmas chests (Christmas pjs, snack, and hot cocoa). Then we listen to Daddy read Christmas stories (from the Bible and ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas), open stockings, make reindeer food, and put cookies and milk our for Santa!
  • We go to my mom’s house for Christmas Eve. She cooks supper for us, and after that we have snacks, play games, and open gifts. Since my kids were born, we started a new tradition. My mom makes homemade cookies with the kids for Santa while my husband and I come home and wrap Santa gifts. Then we pick the kids up and come home and let them open their Christmas pjs before bed.
  • It’s my husbands birthday, so we go out to eat. Then we come home and the kids open a Christmas Eve present that has 2-3 best new movies of that year , popcorn, candy, drinks, a board game, and new pjs. Then we watch movies , eat a bunch of junk, and play games. The kids love it!
  • We go to Cowboy Christmas church service and then have an Italian Buffet for dinner. The Christmas movie marathon begins and runs all day Christmas Day. After a game of Naughty Santa, everyone opens their Christmas PJs box.
  • We have a birthday part for Jesus.
  • On Christmas Eve, each family member makes a gingerbread house. Then we take pictures of them and send them out to friends and family to vote on them (not knowing who did which one).


Quite a few families mentioned snuggling up to watch a favorite Christmas movie. Here are a few of the movies that were mentioned.

The Polar Express 

It’s a Wonderful Life 

The Nativity Story 

Irvin’s Berlin’s White Christmas 

A Charlie Brown Christmas 

The Original Christmas Classics Gift Set 

What’s in the Bible? Buck Denver Asks… Why Do We Call It Christmas?  

Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas


Many families enjoy reading a Christmas book together before sending the children to bed on Christmas Eve. Here are some of the favorites that were suggested.

The Polar Express 

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas 

The Biblical account of the birth of Jesus from the Gospel of Luke (Some families read by candle light to make it special.)

The Tall Book of Christmas by Gertrude Elliott Espenscheid (illustrator) and Dorothy Hall Smith (collaborator)   *This book is no longer in print, and the copies that are available for sale are very expensive! I thought I’d list it here, though, just because some of you might be curious to get a look at it. And those of you who are lucky enough to own a copy should hold on to it! 😉

The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado 

Cajun Night Before Christmas  

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (Little Golden Book) 

How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

I’m also sharing this link to a post suggesting some great children’s books for the Christmas season!

How about you? Do you have any Christmas traditions, foods, movies, or books to share with us? If so, please share in the comments! 

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