14 Unique Holiday Traditions To Start This Year

Thanks to Honda Odyssey for sponsoring this post. 

I never much thought about Christmas traditions and where they came from until I was grown up, married, and in my own house. Traditions were just traditions; they were just what Christmas was. But once I was out on my own, I realized those were my traditions because somebody in my family started them. Whether it was my parents, my grandparents, or my great-great-great-great grandparents, who knows! The point is that somebody somewhere along the way decided to make things happen. I’m sure they varied over the years, changing with each generation and each branch of the family, but they were still my family’s traditions and they were what made Christmas feel like Christmas.

Once I was married, I was naively shocked to realize that my traditions weren’t necessarily my husband’s traditions. We slowly worked to figure out how to combine our traditions, but it wasn’t until our son came along that we realized it was truly up to us to create his traditions. He’s a little on the young side for understanding Christmas (not quite two years old), but that’s the perfect time to start. (That way if we mess up or don’t like it, he’ll never know!)

Now we just need to come up with what our traditions are going to be. Here are a few fun and unique holiday traditions we may start this year.

  • New Traditions 1 of 15

    I already know a few things we'll be doing this year: waking up in our home with our son, opening stockings, and then moving on to the presents under the tree. But all the other tiny things are still up in the air. 

    I asked some friends what their favorite traditions were to spark some ideas. They ranged from singing Elvis' Blue Christmas every year to feeding Santa's reindeer to celebrating their heritage with a Polish Christmas. 

    Click through for a few more ideas I love!

    Photo credit: Heather Neal

  • Christmas Bucket List 2 of 15

    The Christmas Bucket is a fun way to count down the days in December until Christmas instead of a traditional advent calendar. The bucket is filled with 25 numbered gifts and envelopes, each containing a small item or activity. Gifts can be new or old, big or small. The fun is in the unwrapping and excitement, not how big the gift is inside. This family (bucket pictured above) includes fun activities for the kids like drinking cocoa with mom before bed, making Christmas ornaments, and taking old toys to the homeless shelter (I love that one!) There are also fun things like red and green play-dough, coloring books, and holiday-themed movies.


    Photo credit: TheWorkmanFamily

  • Shoes for St. Nick 3 of 15

    A bit of a variation on the tradition Christmas stocking, some families leave their shoes outside their doors on the eve of St. Nicholas Day for him to fill with treats. Since St. Nicholas Day happens earlier in the month, December 6th, it's a fun way to spread out the holiday cheer.

    Photo credit: SkiptomyLou.org

  • 25 Books of Christmas 4 of 15

    This is another fun way to count down the days until Christmas and get your kids excited about reading at the same time. Wrap up 25 Christmas books and open one each evening beginning on December 1st. Then you can sit down and read the book together before bed. By the time Christmas day rolls around, you've read 25 new stories and your child owns 25 new books! 

    If I did this one I think I'd wrap the same 25 books up again year after year. They'd still be new and exciting but I wouldn't end up with a collection of hundreds of holiday books.

    Photo credit: 320sycamoreblog.com

  • Sparkling Reindeer Food 5 of 15

    Santa gets milk and cookies, but what about the poor reindeer? When I was a kid we used to put out carrots for the reindeer to munch on, but I love this fun twist: mix together oatmeal and glitter or sprinkles and spread it out for Santa's reindeer to enjoy while he's busy delivering presents. This cute printable tag from The TomKat Studios makes it even more fun with a cute poem:

    "Sprinkle this reindeer food outside tonight,

    The moonlight will make it sparkle bright.

    As the reindeer fly and roam, 

    This will guide them to your home."

    Photo credit: The TomKat Studio

  • Christmas Eve Box 6 of 15

    This idea is a fun tradition for Christmas Eve - a way to get the excitement rolling! Wrap up a box filled with goodies for a Christmas Eve activity, like books or movies, along with snacks like popcorn and hot cocoa. A set of snuggly PJs to curl up in while the kids watch or read is fun too. This box is from Frugal Fanatic.

    Photo credit: Frugal Fanatic

  • Matching PJs 7 of 15

    I think lots of families are familiar with this one, but if you're a new parent you may not think about starting it yourself: each year gift your kids a set of matching holiday pajamas. Not only is it something new for the kids to wear to bed on an exciting evening, it makes for really cute Christmas morning pictures. (Aren't these kids adorable?!)

    Photo credit: NYCTaughtMe

  • Santa’s Sack 8 of 15

    Not only is this a great tradition for kids, it teaches them to be generous and giving at the same time. Instead of just receiving toys on Christmas, you can use the Santa's Sack tradition to teach them giving their own toys to other kids is fun and kind. Have your kids pick out some of their toys or books and fill up Santa's Sack on Christmas Eve. Leave it under the tree for Santa to come pick up when he drops off your presents.

    Design Dazzle even has an easy tutorial for you to make your own Santa Sack.

    Photo credit: Design Dazzle 

  • Dates of Christmas 9 of 15

    I've been trying to get my husband to go for this for years - maybe publicly calling him out on the Internet will motivate him to do it (Probably not.) I love the play on the "12 days of Christmas", turning it into the "12 DATES of Christmas". Instead of focus on gifts and concrete objects, this tradition focuses on experiences and spending time together. It's a great tradition for both couples with kids and without - it's always important to spend quality time with your spouse or other loved ones. 

    It's a great opportunity to pick fun activities you haven't tried before, or always wanted to and just haven't made the time for. I know what my #1 Christmas date would be: go ice-skating!

    Photo credit: A Beautiful Mess

  • Curb the Gifts 10 of 15

    Even though my son is too young to actually tell me what he wants for Christmas (or even understand Christmas) this is a tradition my family will be starting this year, so it's something we can continue to do as our son grows up. It's a great way to teach kids that Christmas isn't all about presents or how many you get, and it's an easy way to keep your spending in check. It's an easy concept - choose four gifts, one that meets each of the criteria: something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read. I've already picked one too many for the "something to read" category for my son. I can't wait to come up with ideas for the other ones.

    Photo credit: Do You Get Butterflies

  • Ornament-a-Year 11 of 15

    My mom has done a variation on this tradition with me since I've been a "grown up" - each year she gives me a white snowflake Christmas tree ornament with the date on it to add to my blue, white, and silver Christmas tree. She's also given me ornaments that represent big life-events, like buying our first house, our first married Christmas, baby's first Christmas, and even fetus' first Christmas while I was pregnant. 

    Many families start this ornament tradition when their kids are little, adding an ornament that means something special to their collection each year. When they grow up and move out on their own, they have enough ornaments to fill up a whole tree.

    A twist on the tradition: my friend Allison says, "Similar to ornaments, my dad gave us nutcrackers...every year...every kid...4 kids...yep that makes for over 100 nutcrackers!"

    Photo credit: Whatever

  • Key for Santa 12 of 15

    Not every house has a fireplace, so what's Santa to do when there's no chimney to climb down? The Dating Divas have you set with this printable tag for Santa's magical key. With the key he can walk in the front door and not worry about climbing down a chimney.

    "This key is very special you see,
    because we don't have a chimney.

    It won't work for you or for me,
    so hang it on your door and let it be.

    Go to bed and worry no more,
    Santa will use it to open the door.

    Close your eyes and close them tight,
    because The Jolly Old Man is coming tonight!!"

    Photo credit: The Dating Divas

  • Christmas Pickle 13 of 15

    The pickle isn't just any old Christmas ornament. It's a sign of good luck! Families that follow the Christmas Pickle tradition hang the pickle ornament on the tree last, deep within the branches. The first child to find the pickle on Christmas morning gets a fun gift.

    Photo credit: ThePickleOrnament

  • Elf on the Shelf 14 of 15

    I can't decide whether I can bring myself to do this one or not. It looks like it takes a lot of creativity and imagination, but I guess that's kind of what the holidays are all about: a little magic. The Elf on the Shelf is a fun Christmas tradition where an elf comes to visit to check up on the kids for Santa; to make sure they're being nice. The "magic" Elf can't move during the day, but at night he reports back to Santa and tends to get into some mischief while the kids are sleeping. The excitement comes when the kids discover what antics the elf got into overnight, like unrolling all the toilet paper, climbing into the bag of sugar, or pulling the ornaments off the Christmas tree. 

    I've bought a stuffed Elf on the Shelf, but I'm not quite sure my 22-month old is quite ready for it just yet.

    Photo credit: ElfontheShelf.com

  • ELFED! 15 of 15

    A little bit like being "Boo-ed!" on Halloween, getting "elf-ed" (or doing the "elf-ing) is a fun way to include the neighborhood in the holiday festivities. You fill a bag or basket with holiday treats or goodies and leave it on your neighbors porch - just don't let them see you! Once somebody has left a surprise on your porch, you hang a sign letting everyone know you've been elf-ed, that way everyone gets a chance to join in the fun.

    Photo credit: blogsillynillydesigns.com


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