8 Favorite Christmas Eve Traditions
I was talking to a friend of mine this morning whose children are grown and out on their own. My question had to do with whether or not to keep doing one of our annual holiday traditions when it seemed my kids were being pulled to participate in other things, in other directions. “Do not stop your christmas eve traditions,” she said. “Traditions are so important; you’ll see it more as time goes by. And once you stop them, it’s very difficult to start them again.”
Every family celebrates special holidays in their own way. Christmas Eve is no exception, with families incorporating a wide variety of traditions, from the sacred to the sentimental. Here are a few of our favorites. Maybe they will inspire you to start a new tradition this year with the ones you love!
1. Pajama game.
In more than a few families we talked to, each family member is allowed to open just one gift on Christmas Eve. Several of these same families know exactly what they’re opening: snuggly Christmas pajamas. This traditional kick-off to the giving and receiving of gifts gets everyone set for bed and looking cute for Christmas morning photos.
2. Christmas Eve Hot Chocolate and Christmas Stories.
Before your little elves head off to bed, spend part of the evening drinking hot chocolate and sharing Christmas stories. We have 10 Great Christmas Stories you can print out and read to your children tonight. Some also have free e-reader versions. Of course, you can always go right to the source for your Christmas story and choose a reading from the Gospel.
3. Candlelight communion.
Many of our families treasure memories of attending a candlelight service on Christmas Eve, with some even taking communion. While attending church together is a year-round family staple, there’s something uniquely moving about the dim lighting, the glow of the candles and the words of the age-old Christmas hymns.
Can’t make it to church with small children or elderly relatives? Then bring the warmth of the experience to your living room. Just dim the lights, let members of the family read the story from scripture, and sing your favorite carols by the glow of candles.
4. Sibling slumber party.
The anticipation of Christmas morning can bring together a group of siblings like little else. Some maximize the fun by sleeping together in one room. It’s fun to have someone to whisper to while listening for reindeer hooves on the roof!
5. Caroling the neighborhood.
What better way to spread Christmas cheer than to serenade the neighbors? Some families love bundling up after a hearty Christmas Eve dinner and singing their way through the neighborhood. Who knows? If you’re good enough, there might be hot cocoa and cookies in it for you!
6. Stuffer scramble.
One family reported a hilarious tradition that started on the parents’ first Christmas together: having just married 6 days earlier, they realized they had no “stocking stuffers” for one another. In a panic, they set out for K-Mart and had only 15 minutes until closing to come up with unique, funny gifts for one another. It was so much fun, they’ve done it every year since—on purpose!
7. A scattered, dashed, covered and smothered Christmas.
If your Christmas Eve service makes a big family meal difficult, you could join the ranks of families who enjoy a holiday meal at Waffle House! It’s one of the few places open on the holiday, and makes for a low-stress, budget-friendly meal on the way home. Because nothing says celebration like syrup.
8. Light ‘Em Up.
Light up another family’s Christmas Eve by playing elf. One family we polled did this on their Waffle House stop by secretly paying someone else’s check . Then they leave the restaurant and watch from the car. They love seeing the joy and surprise on the face of the unsuspecting diners when they learn it’s “on the house.” You can also light up the night for someone who has to work on Christmas Eve, such as a pharmacist at a 24-hour drugstore, or a gas station attendant. Here’s how to Light ‘Em Up!
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Dana Hall McCain writes about marriage, parenting, faith and wellness for print publications and iMOM.com. She’s a mom of two, and has been married to a wonderful guy for 17 years.