There's nothing we don't love about Christmas! The food, the tree, the songs, the films - there are so many great traditions that we all take part in, but our favourite ones are the ones that just our family does.
Whether it’s pyjamas under the tree on Christmas Eve or a homemade tour bus to go and see the Christmas lights, we’ve tracked down some adorable new family traditions for you and the kids to make memories with this year, and every year after that. With a little homemade snow and a sprinkle of creativity, it’ll be your merriest, most magical Christmas yet!
Perfect for parents who aren’t fans of Elf on the Shelf, Reindeer in Here is the new Christmas tradition that children will love. The cuddly reindeer is Santa’s little spy, who comes from the North Pole to get to know children better, and report back to the big guy. Children are encouraged to name and play with him, so parents don’t need to get involved – one less thing to worry about during the festive season…
2. Reverse Advent Calendar
Everyone loves advent calendars, but have you tried making a reverse advent calendar with your children? Instead of opening their calendar and getting something every day, with the reverse they have to put something in instead.
You can do it items of food or clothing that can then be taken to a food bank or charity, and donated to help those less fortunate that are struggling at Christmas time.
3. North Pole Breakfast
Welcome in Christmas with a festive bang and host a North Pole breakfast for your family on either the first day or first weekend of December. The idea is to give everything a Christmas theme, from the food, to the decor, to the drinks! Lots of families coincide their North Pole Breakfast with starting Elf on the Shelf, another fun family tradition.
4. Christmas Eve Box
Treat your little ones to an extra gift at Christmas and make them up a special box especially for the 24th of December filled with Christmas themed gifts. The idea is that these extra presents in their Christmas Eve Box will get them even more excited for Christmas Day with things like an extra bauble for the tree, some festive pyjamas to wear on Christmas morning and a Christmas film.
5. Homemade advent calendars
Start the celebrations right at the start of December with your very own homemade advent calendars. You can buy a fabric or wooden calendar, or make your own – our matchbox advent calendar is perfect for beginners. Once it’s complete, fill it with your little ones’ favourite sweets and treats – they’ll find it so much more exciting than the standard square of chocolate.
6. Leaving food out for Santa
An oldie but a goodie, leaving mince pies and a glass of milk out for Santa is a lovely Christmas ritual that every family should perform on Christmas Eve. If the Santa in your house isn’t too keen on mincemeat, you can substitute cookies or cakes instead. Just don’t forget the carrot for Rudolph – flying round the world in 24 hours is hungry work for him too, you know!
7. Christmas pyjamas
Credit: NYC Taught Me
Christmas pyjamas are the perfect pre-big day treat to get the excitement started early. Leave the PJs under the tree on Christmas Eve and let the kids unwrap them just before they go to bed – all whilst patiently nodding “yes it was lovely of Santa to come early…” They’ll look adorable in their festive jammies – and if you give them matching sets, it’ll make for a super cute photo-op in the morning!
8. Flour (or icing sugar) footprints
Credit: The Party Artisan
If your kids are the suspicious types that need a little extra evidence of festive presence, try this clever trick. Cut out a set of footprint shapes from paper or card, then sprinkle over flour, icing sugar or glitter (depending on how handy with a vacuum you’re likely to be feeling the next day!), and there you have it – Father Christmas footprints that will have the kids baffled.
9. Tic-Tac candy cane plants
This. Is. Genius. Plant mint Tic-Tacs in a tub of sugar, and get the kids to “water” them with glitter every day. Then, when their attention is diverted (we recommend the Elf DVD on repeat), replace them with candy canes, which have magically “grown” from the teeny minty seed. The look on their face is absolutely priceless – especially when you tell them they can eat the candy cane afterwards!
10. Crepe papered doors
Credit: Secrets of a Supermommy
Got a roll of crepe paper and some sellotape? Then, thanks to the SuperMommy, you’ve also got yet another fun Christmas morning surprise. Stick strips of crepe across all of the little bedroom doorways, and then feign totally ignorance – it was obviously all the doing of the elves, who obviously didn’t want them sneaking out of their room before the morning. Once the fun of the initial shock has worn off, let them run through your handiwork (because what child doesn’t love destroying carefully built structures?) and get them to head straight for the tree.
11.Elf on the shelf
Credit: A Few Shortcuts
Speaking of the work of a crafty elf, we’ve totally fallen for the mainly American tradition of Elf on the Shelf, where you put an elf doll in all sorts of naughty situations and let the kids find him in the middle of his mischief. This one’s got himself into a pickle with wrapping paper, but there are literally thousands of fun scenarios for your little chap online – just set him up and watch the laughter begin.
12. Homemade cards
There’s no Christmas card more special than a homemade Christmas card, and it’s a project that the whole family can get involved in too. Set out some stencils, glitter, coloured paper and stickers, and make an afternoon of it – your family will love receiving a handmade creation from the kids, and they’ll have great fun making them too!
13. Gingerbread houses
Alternatively, if your lot prefer craft they can eat, set up a cookie decoration station and build a gingerbread house! You can buy kits really cheaply or make your own (our gingerbread house recipe is quick and simple), but either way, make sure there are plenty of icing tubes, sweets and sprinkles to hand. Give each child a wall or piece of roof to decorate and then stick them together to form an edible family home – and remember to dust it with icing sugar for that final snowy touch. They make adorable presents too!
14. Sleep under the tree
The kids can do this as a solo mission of the adults can join in too, but either way, sleeping under the tree is a great way to make another night of Christmas fun. Leave the lights on, watch a Christmas movie and make a real occasion of this simple treat. This tradition obviously doesn’t work on Christmas Eve, because Santa needs the space to do his work, but let them choose any night they like beforehand – it makes the build up even more exciting!
15. Capture the magic!
Credit: Capture the Magic
This is 100% the best website we’ve discovered this year. All you have to do is upload a picture of your living room, kitchen, hallway (basically, wherever you keep the tree) and the clever bods at Capture the Magic allow you to superimpose Santa into the snap! You do have to pay, but it’s less than a tenner for three pics, so if your budget stretches that far, it’s worth it to spread a little extra Christmas magic.
16. The Christmas light express
Credit: The Real Thing with the Coake Family
Ready to have your heart melted even more by this idea from American mum KC? On an unremarkable December evening, get the kids ready for bed as normal, but leave a very special surprise under their pillows – a ticket on the Christmas Light Express! Load them into the car (well, they can stay up past bedtime just this once…), give them each a hot chocolate and some popcorn, and take them on a journey around town to see all of the best and brightest Christmas lights. It costs next to nothing, but it’s a night they’ll remember forever!
17. Family photoshoot
This one might seem obvious, but whether it’s mum hiding behind the camera or Dad wrestling with the brand new toys, it’s amazing how many families forget to take a picture with everyone in it on Christmas day. No matter how much you think you hate pictures of yourself, in 10 years time you’ll only regret the snaps you didn’t take, so get on the right side of the lens, buy an album to dedicate to these shots and make an effort to update it every year. Soon you’ll have a book full of memories that you can pass on when your kids start making Christmas traditions of their own.