There are so many great Christmas Eve Traditions, from Christmas Eve dinner traditions to Christmas Eve family traditions, to opening gifts on Christmas Eve! Discover Christmas Eve traditions around the world and here in the United States.
These are a great way to have the whole family come together during the holiday season. You can make amazing holiday traditions right in your living room and start a new family tradition. Starting family Christmas traditions are fun ideas that make Christmas time truly special. Use this list of new Christmas Eve traditions to spend some quality time together as a family doing fun things.
There are only a few weeks left until Christmas! We’re getting so excited for Christmas this year!
The day after Thanksgiving my husband and Father-in-law put up the Christmas lights, and I love seeing them glow at night! We’ve already put our Christmas tree up and hung our stockings, too. I’m trying to get the majority of my shopping done before December even starts, and I’m almost there!
I love celebrating Christmas and reading the story of Jesus’s birth in Luke 2 in the Bible.
Every Christmas Eve when my parents lived here we would go out to dinner at a nice restaurant, and then sing Christmas Carols afterward. My husband usually brings out his guitar to accompany us, or my sister would play the piano.
Every year since I can remember, we have always read the Christmas story in the evening on Christmas Eve. Occasionally we would go also go look at lights if we had some extra time or take a walk around the neighborhood to admire our neighbor’s festive light displays.
Since I grew up in Austin, another really fun thing to do here is to go to the Austin Trail of Lights.
We didn’t make it every year, but we tried to go as much as we could! The Trail of Lights is located at beautiful Zilker Park and has light displays from businesses all over Austin.
Christmas Eve Traditions Around the World
I thought it would be fun to share a few very “different” Christmas Eve traditions that happen all over the world.
From Japan to Australia to Switzerland, Christmas Eve is celebrated in lots of different ways.
In Japan, Christmas is not seen as a particularly significant religious holiday but as a chance for families to spend time together as part of the year-end activities. A somewhat “quirky” new tradition for people living in Japan is to eat KFC fried chicken on Christmas Eve.
In the freezing cold land of Norway, a fun Christmas Eve tradition is to hide all household brooms on Christmas Eve. It was once believed that witches came out on Christmas Eve and stole the brooms to ride the skies, and people still keep up with the tradition.
Everyone loves Switzerland for their chocolate and their neutrality, right? In this beautiful country, good children receive oranges, apples, and nuts. Santa Claus is called Samichlaus in Switzerland, and he does not ride in a sleigh with reindeer pulling it, he rides on a donkey! On Dec. 6th, naughty children are supposedly carried away in Samichlaus’s big sack and told to clean up after his donkey. Fun fact: in Germany, St. Nicholas also travels by donkey. On Christmas Eve in Switzerland, the Christkind (Christ Child) comes, bringing the Christmas tree and gifts (NOT Santa!). Candies and sweet cakes are brightly wrapped and placed under the tree.
In Venezuela, people roller skate to church early on Christmas Eve morning. This has become such a big tradition that the government closes the streets until 8 am so that families can skate together in safety. Instead of your traditional turkey or ham dinner, in Venezuela, they eat tamales for Christmas Eve dinner. Sounds like fun to me!
Australia is somewhere exotic and fun I’ve always wanted to go. Aussies say that when Santa gets to Australia, he gives the reindeer a rest and uses kangaroos or ‘six white boomers’ (a popular Australian Christmas song!). He also changes into cooler clothes to match the high temperatures in Australia.
A typical Christmas dinner in Australia is cold, or its a barbecue with seafood such as prawns and lobsters along with the ‘traditional English’ food. On Christmas Eve, fish markets are often full of people lining up to buy their fresh seafood for Christmas day.
Christmas Eve Traditions for Families (in the US)
I asked some of my American friends and family what their favorite Christmas Eve traditions were, and I got some awesome responses! Most of my friends live in the U.S. and the majority live in Texas like me, so if you’re wondering why there are not a lot of “snow-related” traditions, that may be why!
Christmas Eve Family Traditions
“Go visit in-laws or grandparents then lights!!!”
“Have all the kids sleep in the same room together! Walking around the neighborhood looking at lights is always fun, watching the Grinch (original). The past few years we have gone out to eat and then gone back to Grandma’s house for our secret Santa gift exchange.”
“We would choose a needy family and deliver gifts and food anonymously. The boys always tried to be fast and sneaky so as not to be seen!”
“We drive around and look at Christmas lights, drink hot cocoa, wear matching jammies, sometimes we watch a Christmas movie.”
“We like to read The Night Before Christmas.” (Check out this list of other children’s Christmas books you could read!)
Christmas Eve Food Traditions
“We like to go out to breakfast as a family on Christmas Eve morning.” (or you could cook your own snowman breakfast)
“We have continued a tradition from my childhood – takeout pizza on Christmas eve so mom doesn’t have to cook. Best tradition ever.”
“Go out to dinner (Chinese) then go home, watch Christmas movies while eating all sorts of yummy desserts that we made earlier that day. We don’t open any gifts until Christmas morning.”
“Christmas Eve we would go out to dinner and then after the tab (bill) came we would leave a candy cane for our server. Hopefully, a small gesture that made their day for having to work Christmas Eve.”
“We smash our gingerbread houses. So much fun!”
“We have a formal Christmas Eve dinner in the dining room with the family.”
“We drink hot cocoa after going out to see the Christmas lights.”
“Put out reindeer food! Just put oats mixed with glitter in their yard (the glitter makes it easier to see from the sky).”
“We always leave out plate of cookies and a cup of milk for Santa Claus, though this year we’re leaving out vegetables because ‘Santa’ (aka my husband) isn’t eating sweets anymore. The kids think Santa shouldn’t have too many sweets either and he can share with his reindeer.”
“Every year we bake a birthday cake for Jesus and make sure to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to him.”
Christian Christmas Eve Traditions
“We try to go to church on Christmas Eve, even if some years it doesn’t happen.”
“We like to watch Christian Christmas movies like The Nativity Story.”
“Read original Christmas story from Luke 2.”
“We like to talk about the Christmas Story with our Fisher-Price nativity set.” (see a full list of great kid nativity sets)
“We usually read the Christmas story in Luke and act it out as a family.” (If you want to do that, check out this post all about nativity costumes to make it an even cuter tradition.)
“Temple Lights…when we lived near a temple that did it.” (talking about LDS temples)
Christmas Eve Present Tradition & Christmas Eve Pajamas Tradition
“When we do our opening gifts on Christmas Eve tradition, we always open and then wear our new matching Christmas jammies.”
“We used to open one present on Christmas Eve after we would get home from church service(s), but now we give each other PJs to wear that night and the next day.”
“We like to walk around the neighborhood and look at lights and then have our kids open one gift which is Christmas PJs.”
“On Christmas Eve we get on our Christmas PJs and slippers.”
“We give the kids a Christmas Eve box filled with things like jammies, popcorn, a Christmas movie, coloring books, hot cocoa, and more. The catch is the kids have to earn by actively participating in the Advent season.”
Other Fun Christmas Eve Traditions
While friend didn’t share these, I found a few more too good not to share:
What are the most popular family Christmas Eve traditions?
There are so many options! Hanging up the Christmas stocking, taking the time to bake cookies, wrapping Christmas gifts together, putting up an advent wreath, going Christmas caroling, having a family game night, watching a holiday movie, or making up your own traditions are always a great idea!
Have a Merry Christmas any way that you want to celebrate with your own family and try out some fun new ways to celebrate the Christmas season!
What are your favorite Christmas Eve traditions? What is something you wish you did or want to start doing with your family this year?
Check out some of our other great Christmas posts:
We spend Christmas Eve at my parents’ house. It’s usually a smaller group than on Christmas Day (I have six siblings and 20 nieces/nephews). When we get home, I prep the overnight french toast casserole (that cooks while we are opening gifts in the morning). After the casserole is in the fridge, we watch A Christmas Story on tv.
Katelyn Fagan says
We always watched a Christmas Story on TV too!
Helen Reynolds says
Throughput pur married life, on Christmas Eve we would have a simple supper of soups with different “embellusments.” Then we would go sit in the living room with all of the lights off except the tree lights. We would let the youngest child pick a Carol and we would sing, working our way up to my husband. One time, my oldest son asked if we were going to “sing to the tree?” That is what we have called it ever since. Now our kids are adults and there are 22 of us when we are all together. But we still all take a turn and sing that many carols! There is a good mix, starting with the young ones of fun songs and then the spiritual ones. My husband always chooses “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear” or “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem.” We are starting to sound pretty good as our family choir grows. . After we have finished, we all kneel for family prayer. The Spirit is always warm a d strong. Then the children head off to bed with their stockings because at our house Santa always puts stockings at the foot of the beds so that in the morning kids can get into them together while mom and Dad sleep a little longer! These are my favorite Christmas traditions.
I LOVE these ideas! Totally sounds like something that we would enjoy and could begin to do.
Katelyn Fagan says
I love it!!
Madeline Walker says
Our family gathers together at my sister’s home for eating and fellowship.
My family always has a warm soup & some homemade bread/rolls/bread bowls on Christmas Eve. This year we’re having my fav, Creamy chicken & wild rice soup & breadsticks. Then when it is time, we gather in the living room where the tree is. With the christmas lights on and other lights off, we read by flashlight the Christmas story from Luke 2. Then, we each get to pick a Christmas hymn to sing as a family. (My parents have 3 grown children and none are married or have kids……so we seem to be shrinking… we would love for it to grow.) My sister sleeps-over (she has her own house 30 minutes away) and we would go to bed, bust since we are all grown we have turned into special Elves that help Santa put out the presents and fill the stockings and eat cookies left out (sometimes). Then, in the morning no one looks as we all gather, then go into the tree room at the same time. After looking at our stockings, we start breakfast which has always been orange rolls (not a cinnamon roll variety, but a different biscuit type covered in orange sauce). Last two years we also make Hootenanny which is a fav for me and my bro (Hootenanny is a german eggy pancake). Then we open presents if any have been “wrapped” [(one christmas I wrapped a box and said we could re use it for next Christmas, so then they had me wrap about 15-20 boxes we store in the craft room closet and it has been tradition ever since…..until a couple years ago. We started not wrapping the presents which we switched from giving to each other to things we needed and could use and just setting them out by our stockings (traditionally on the couches in the tree room)]. So some of our traditions have changed now that we are grown and some traditions we continue because we love them still, but the main thing with our family is that we are together for Christmas.
Katelyn Fagan says
I love all of these so much!!