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10 Fun Holiday Traditions You Can Start This Year

If you’re looking for some new traditions to start this Christmas season, this list of Fun Holiday Traditions You Can Start This Year will give you some great ideas. From tree lightings to reading books, there’s something for everyone.

For more tips of making this the best holiday, check out all of our Christmas posts.

An inflatable Santa and gift bag with the words "10 Fun Holiday Traditions You Can Start This Year" digitally written on top.

Traditions are so important. I really can’t stress that enough. Traditions are what people remember. You probably don’t remember the exact gifts you got in your Christmas stocking when you were six years old, but you probably do remember that you got your own Christmas ornament every year.

​Or maybe you don’t remember that because you don’t have any family traditions.

If you don’t, you can still start some with your own family. Of course, you can (and should) continue your own traditions. But, if you’re looking for some new ideas, we have a great list of fun holiday traditions you can start this year.

A Christmas tree and gifts on display in a hotel lobby with the words "Ways To Have A Stress-Free Holiday Season" digitally written on top.

Don’t feel like adding new traditions to your already busy time has to be stressful. These are just fun things to do between now and Christmas Day. For more help making sure you’re not overwhelmed during the holiday season, check out our Ways To Have A Stress-Free Holiday Season.

10 Fun Holiday Traditions You Can Start This Year

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The Christmas tree and decorations at Leland in Lights.

Go to a tree lighting

Watching a tree lighting is on our list every year … mostly because Pete works for the town and has to work the tree lighting every year and mostly because it’s a tradition we started when the town first started having a tree lighting.

Our town’s tree lighting is usually amazing. Santa Claus comes, there’s a train that takes you around the park to see the Christmas lights (there are over 50,000 at our town’s park), crafts for the kids, a Christmas letter writing station, food trucks, and more. It’s such an incredible community event for the whole family.

​Last year, we went to the tree lighting in Wilmington too, which was amazing. The town had free hot chocolate and candy canes, a brass band, and more.

So definitely see when your town is doing its tree lighting and head over. It’s a great tradition to start (and a great way to support your town).

A "just married" Christmas ornament on a tree.

Buy a new ornament

Buying a new Christmas ornament every year is my favorite tradition.

Growing up, my mom would would go shopping the day after Christmas and would buy me and my brothers a new ornament. When we were grown up and in our own apartments, my mom gave us all our ornament collection so we could decorate our Christmas trees.

I started the tradition when Pete and I moved in together. Every year, I get us a personalized ornament that reflects what we did that year.

In 2012, I got one of the state of North Carolina since we moved that year. I also got us an engaged one because, well, it was a big year. In 2014, I got a Just Married ornament. The next year, I got a traveling one since we went to Japan. Then there was one for our new house and our new car, some other trips, and some inside jokes.

It’s so nice to go through the ornaments each year as we decorate the tree. Yes, a real tree because another of my traditions is that we get a real tree every year. Someone said on our Facebook page that her kids say “fake tree, fake Christmas” and I absolutely support that statement. (Of course, if you like a fake tree, you do you. But for me, a real tree is the way to go.)

An engaged couple at The Little Dipper in Wilmington, NC.

Have your own “us only” Christmas

This time of year is so busy. The holiday season is filled with us traveling to see friends and family. I love it, but I don’t love that it means Pete and I don’t really get to spend Christmas together.

So the first year we were in North Carolina and traveling for Christmas, we started our “us only” Christmas. The Thursday before Christmas, we would go out to dinner just the two of us, and we would exchange some of our Christmas gifts. Not all of our gifts because we would save some to open on Christmas morning, but just a small gift to make it feel like Christmas. It’s a nice way to just pause the season and hang out just the both of us before the chaos begins.

When we were growing up, we used to travel a lot for Christmas too. But, on Christmas Eve, my mom would let us do a small gift exchange with just our family. We were all allowed to open one gift (or all our gifts to each other, depending on how we were feeling).

Doing something just as a couple, or just as your family, to make sure you take some of the Christmas time for just yourselves is a really nice way to slow down during the season.

Four plastic popcorn boxes filled with popcorn.

Watch Christmas movies

We watch a lot of crime shows after dinner because I enjoy them and because, usually, you don’t have to pay too much attention to them. But on the weekends, we’ll set up a movie. During the Christmas season, we have to watch Christmas movies. That’s a fun way to get into the holiday spirit.

Last year, we watched A Christmas Carol (the old, old version, not the Muppets one) for the first time in a long time. Of course, we make our at home movie nights special with homemade popcorn and snacks. If you want to make it so much fun for your kids, you could make homemade tickets, set up sleeping bags in your living room in case your little kids fall asleep, and more.

There are a bunch of classic holiday movie options on streaming networks, like The Polar Express and How The Grinch Stole Christmas. If you don’t have any streaming services, you can rent a movie from Amazon Prime. There are so many options, you’re bound to find something every family member will like.

A Charlie Brown Christmas book.

Read Christmas books.

If movies aren’t for you, you can read a holiday book as a family instead.

I’ve seen people who have made Advent calendars with Christmas books. Each day, kids get to open a new book. You can get ones that you can read as an entire family or ones that older kids can read to younger kids. If a book a day is just too many for your bookshelf to handle, you can do one every Sunday instead. Remember, these are your new family holiday traditions, so you set the rules.

If you do want to get a couple books and need help with ideas, we have a list of 10+ Best Christmas Books For Kids that you might want to check out.

The day after Christmas is a great day to go shopping. Check out 9 Things To Buy The Day After Christmas in this post on

Mail Christmas cards

I love Christmas cards. I’ve given them out since, gosh, high school. Maybe even middle school.

There’s something so special about thinking of people and sending holiday cards. Every year, new friends get added to our Christmas card list, and that’s always really special. So is displaying the cards we get from family and friends.

What I really do like is a lot of people send out photo cards with pictures of their kids from throughout the year. That’s such a nice way to watch the kids growing up, especially since most people are spread out from friends and family.

A decorated gingerbread house.

Make Gingerbread Houses

Gingerbread houses are not the easiest of the Christmas treats to make. There are so many photos online of people who draw tornados to stick out of the top of their collapsed gingerbread houses. Other people add dinosaurs and blame them for the destruction.

But making the houses is such a fun experience. We usually buy a gingerbread house kit and build it with my nephew every year. And even though it’s generally a disaster, we really enjoy making it together. I have really good memories from making them with him and my mom, so hopefully he’s building core memories too — because goodness knows, we’re not building very functional houses.

Christmas tree meringue cookies on a green napkin.

Bake Christmas Cookies

One of my favorite Christmas traditions is my mom baking Christmas cookies for platters to bring to work for her coworkers and for when we would see our extended family. She would bake cookies for so many weekends and would let us help (and eat least pretty ones).

Even now, as an adult, I get so excited when she starts talking about baking cookies.

We have a great list of The Best Christmas Cookies To Gift to give you some fun ideas. But don’t feel like you have to bake all of them. You can just sit down with your kids to bake cookies for Santa. Pick a single cookie, whatever is your kids’ favorite, and just bake those cookies. You kids will absolutely love helping.

A single family home decorated in over 50,000 Christmas lights.

​Drive around to see Christmas lights

One of the best things we did when we were kids is drive around to see all the Christmas lights. That’s a free Christmas activity (well, except for gas) that you can do as a family.

You can make it really special by making hot cocoa and playing Christmas music in the car as you drive around the neighborhood.

This is actually one of those family Christmas traditions that I’ve (accidentally) kept into adulthood. A couple weekends ago, my mom and I went to the downtown lighted Christmas parade together. After, we drove around our community to look at the Christmas lights all over. Our community actually has a holiday lights contest this year, and there’s a map to show all the homes that are entered. So that was an easy way for us to plan our route.

A Mickey Mouse and Disney Princesses Advent calendars.

Open an Advent calendar

So, this is one that you won’t be able to start this year because we’re almost halfway to Christmas, but definitely for the future.

Growing up, we each had our own Advent calendar every year. As an adult, my brother buys me an Advent calendar every year for my birthday, so that’s a really special tradition that we have as grown ups. This year, he got me (and Pete) an Italian cookies Advent calendar. In the past, he’s gotten me a chocolate Advent calendar and got Pete one with tiny metal puzzles.

We have a long list of Advent calendars for the whole family (including a DIY Advent calendar for your pets). Like I said, too late for this year, but good for the future.

Which of these new holiday traditions are you going to start this year? Let us know in the comments.

Janice B

Thursday 14th of December 2017

My favorite tradition is to drive around looking at Christmas lights. Afterwards we go out for dessert before going home to finish wrapping gifts.

Betty Curran

Thursday 14th of December 2017

My favorite tradition is driving around town to look at the holiday lights

Janine Hwang

Thursday 14th of December 2017

My favorite holiday tradition is bakin* and decorating holiday cookies

Richard Hicks

Thursday 14th of December 2017

Trimming the christmas tree with the kids is a tradition


Thursday 14th of December 2017

Celebrating Jesus first then gift giving