What Are Your Holiday Traditions?

What are your holiday traditions? I just read about an awesome ritual that I’d love to adopt…

In Iceland, books are exchanged on Christmas Eve, and you spend the rest of the night reading. People generally take their books to bed along with some chocolate. How cozy and wonderful does that sound?

(More fun facts: Iceland publishes more books per capita than any other country, and new books are typically published only during the Christmas season—the frenzy is called Jólabókaflóð, or the Christmas Book Flood.)

Wouldn’t you love to do that? What other traditions do you have? I’d love to hear, we’re trying to create a bunch! :)

P.S. Five holiday traditions, and decorating our first Christmas tree.

(Via Viewers Like You)

  1. i love takeing a good book to read on holiday and just chillout on the beach

  2. Funny because we’re started doing this a few year ago and it’s now a tradition (we’re french). It’s also a good way to pass a message sometimes ;-) have a lovely year.

  3. Reading all these comments makes me miss the days when my boys were little!
    One tradition they used to love was the Christmas bed: A few weeks before Christmas I’d put red sheets and a red/white patterned quilt on their beds, and Christmas Eve I’d hang a little stocking on their bedpost with candy or small toys. They were always so excited to wake up to a little treat first thing!

  4. Love reading all these! We do new jammies on Christmas eve and on Christmas Day we always bake a birthday cake for Jesus and eat it after we see a movie!

  5. In Iceland actually ALL of the gifts are given on Christmas Eve, not just books, as the holiday is actually observed then. Christmas day is for visiting family and eating.

  6. Growing up we had a similar tradition, but instead of receiving books Christmas Eve, Santa would leave books in our room so that when we woke up we would have something to read in bed while we waited for everyone else to wake up and go downstairs! :)
    xo TJ

  7. My husband is Croatian and this year we are staying in Croatia for the holidays instead of going home to PA. I was really excited when my father in law gave us each a bunch of wheat seeds. You keep them covered with water/moist for about 12 days before Christmas and you watch the wheat grow!

    I’m not sure yet what they do with the wheat on Christmas but in my Polish family, we also have a bit of hay or straw under the tablecloth at dinner to remind everyone of where Jesus was born so I am assuming it,l be something similar to that. I love new traditions :)

  8. I feel so detached from starting Christmas traditions! Our daughter is only 22 months and even if she’s almost 2, she has no clue! We live far away from my parents and my Inlaws so this year we finally decided no traveling and we are spending the holidays t home just the 3 of us. I Loved reading everyone’s ideas! We did go out and choose a real tree, we’ve been singing Christmas songs which my daughter loves and I let her watch Charlie Brown’s Christmas Miracle which mesmerized her. The tradition I plan to pass along to my daughter is to host a Tamale making party every year with my closest girlfriends (since I don’t have family nearby). If they help make tamales and drink up with me they can each take home some tamales for their families. As for books we are all over that–all 3 of us love books so she’s deginitely getting a few as gifts. I’m hoping that as my daughter gets older and we make more friends we will begin to develop more traditions!

  9. I love this tradition! We always read “The NIght Before Christmas” on Christmas Eve by the fireside. My grandpa used to read to us, but now that he has passed, my dad will read it to my children.

  10. I love the Iceland tradition! My Christmas Eve tradition has changed over the years. Most recently my family and I have been eating take-out, random desserts and watching It’s A Wonderful Life.

  11. Our first gift of Christmas has been a book from my parents each and every year. I’m so excited to give my three-month old Little Humans this Christmas morning!

    I’m starting a tradition in my little family where my son will get a special bag with his name on it and he will leave a couple of toys in it each Christmas Eve for Santa to bring children who don’t have as much as we do. It teaches generosity and charity and clears out some stuff before new things come in!

  12. My parents would hide a tiny pickle ornament on the tree Christmas morning, and whichever kid finds it gets a special present!

  13. Ahhhh I love antons little face here! He’s like “hey your book is better than this one!”… Sweeties x happy holidays

  14. I love the ideas above of leaving root beer and carrots out for the reindeer, and playing “I Spy” with the ornaments on the tree- how cute!

    Growing up in El Paso, my family (and most of our neighbors) lit luminarias on Christmas eve. They said it would help guide Santa’s sleigh to our house!

    My husband and I started a tradition in college (as broke students) to get a box of donuts and cartons of milk, and drive around Austin’s best neighborhoods to rate their lights!

    Another tradition I want to implement is baking cookies for our local firemen!

    Great post, Joanna, thanks!!

  15. The kids have individual advent calendars and the family has one (that i put together) of activities to do throughout the month of December. We read out of the bible Luke (birth of Jesus), We have advent candles that we light for each advent Sunday. We listen to soooooo much Christmas music (I make a Christmas playlist every year). On Christmas eve we normally meet up with family and have dinner and open gifts. This year we are leaving for Christmas :) going to Nürenberg Germany for three days to visit the Christmas Market.

  16. My husband and I choose a night near Christmas to walk away from all the wrapping and baking and craziness inside, and walk the dog around our extended neighborhood to see all the lights. It’s simple and usually doesn’t take more than a half hour, but it’s become a tradition we look forward to year ’round.

  17. I love that tradition! My family always celebrated the Dutch Sinterklaas (Dec 6) as a way of separating the gifts part of the holiday season from the religious part of the season. We still got Christmas gifts from grandparents etc at family parties closer to Christmas, but having giddiness of anticipating gifts out of the way by the time the 25th arrived allowed us to focus on celebrating Christ’s coming to earth. Plus, just think of how uncrowded the stores were when we did our Christmas shopping! ;)

  18. I’m central European and we always celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve. It’s dark and magical when the tree is all lit up and you see the presents for the first time (we also put the tree up on Xmas Eve when I was a kid). I don’t think I will ever get used to Xmas morning thing, but I guess I will have to since that’s what my husband grew up with. I think when we had a kid we’ll do some sort of compromise… like half presents on Xmas Eve, half Xmas Day.

  19. I LOVE this tradition! I hadn’t heard of it before, but I think it’s an excellent idea. Also, I love that you’re reading BEING MORTAL. I got it for my husband for Christmas and I’m about to order him FOOD: A LOVE STORY based on your recommendation ;-). Thanks so much for doing these great gift guides every year. You always think of the best presents.

  20. This is so sweet! I love reading and I think this is a great way to get the kids more interested as well.
    We dont celebrate christmad but for every new years all the kids under 12 yrs old spend an hour after dinner prepping and then performing a show for everyone else!

  21. We make salt dough ornaments. Super easy and good messy fun for little ones.

  22. Our favourite traditions include nightly walks around the neighbourhood (bundled up – it’s freezing in rural Nova Scotia) to check out the Christmas lights; deciding on our “top 5” houses with lights and taking those people a Christmas card on Christmas Eve morning; picking out tags off the Salvation Army wish-tree and getting our two kiddos to help us choose toys and clothes for those in need; the annual gingerbread house decorating contest with my husband’s family. It’s over-the-top competitive and there’s a (homemade and so ugly but amazing) trophy :)

  23. I love this book idea – especially the hiding away and reading in bed, but probably not in the cards for a Mom with two rowdy boys! But we do get a new christmas book every year , they get put away every year with the christmas decorations, so when we open up the christmas box the next year the kids are excited to start to be able to read their christmas books again!
    Also my family has always played the guess what ornament I’m thinking of we all pile on the couch put on a fire, turn out the lights and let the tree grow then some one has to think of an ornament while the others take turns asking questions (is it a ball shape? is it red? etc) we usually stick to yes or no, but the little ones get to ask whatever questions they want – my boys love it and it really works from kids to adults

  24. Every Christmas Eve after the midnight church service my mom reads me The Gift of the Magi and The Night Before Christmas (she even recorded this story for me one year as a gift: )

    Even now (I’m 27) she reads these two stories to me every year. I have memorized most of The Gift of the Magi and when I recite it in my head, I can do it in my mom’s voice. I remember very well how she says each word.

    If you’ve never read The Gift of the Magi, please do. It’s a beautiful story.

  25. On Christmas Eve, for as long as I can remember, my family will set out root beer and carrots on the front porch for the reindeer. Then, we all gather around someone’s bed with The Night Before Christmas, and each person will read a page until it’s finished, then head straight to bed to wait for Santa!

    Sarah Nicole

    French Press

  26. We make reindeer food. Its oats and glitter(so the reindeer can see it) mix it up and sprinkle it outside. We do it every Christmas eve before my son goes to sleep.

  27. wrapping every gift with small red velvet ribbon. just above the knot a little card, made from old Christmas cards (with a little hole to tread the ribbon through) and finished with a little bow from the same band of ribbon. On the card is the name of the person for who the gift is. It create uniformity with the pile of gifts and its very festive. On the first day of Christmas after brunch the unwrapping begins, one starts by giving a present, the person unwraps the present and can take al the time he of she wants and then he/she picks out the next present. It usually takes the whole afternoon but its really fun.

  28. In Norway, as on Iceland and all the Scandinavian countries, Christmas Eve is the big thing, not Christmas morning. That is when we have family gathered around us, and we share traditional meals and open presents. In Norway, it is very common to start the Christmas celebration around lunch time on the 24th of December, when we eat a sort of rice pudding with cinnamon and sugar. An almond is put into one of the servings, and everybody wants to find it. The one who finds the almond, gets a special gift. And if you have kids, our Norwegian version of Santa Claus (“Nissen”), are very likely to turn up during the celebrations at Christmas eve, with gifts for the children.

  29. On Christmas Eve we would always come home from candle light service, open up our new cozy, Christmas pajamas and gather around to listen to my Mom read the holiday book she had picked out for that year. My favorite was The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey and Jolly Old Santa Claus- the illustrations are BEAUTIFUL in both.

  30. We love to burn a candle with the numbers 1-24 and countdown to Christmas. We love our Christmas calendars especially the Lego one! We love finding our Elf on the Shelf and we love adding one ornament to our tree each year.

  31. I love this time of year, mostly because of traditions like these!

    Here in Brazil we dont have strong traditions about reading in the holidays, this isnt a “thing” here. But besides of our culture.

    Its usually very simple: A Secret Santa and a good family dinner.

    Helô, from Vestido do dia

  32. Wow The book tradition sounds amazing! I will try and have it this year!
    I come from an Italian family so Christmas is the ultimate family reunion. We eat panettone and drink wine and talk and talk and talk. It is one of my fave times of the year no doubt.

  33. So many fun traditions! For our family, we see the Christmas Carol play every.single.year. I have not missed a performance in over 20 years and it’s been the same actor that has played Scrooge for 35 years…crazy! We also go to church on Christmas Eve–I love hearing the Christmas songs.

    My good friend hosts Christmas Eve dinner every year and they make fresh cioppino to share, along with crusty bread and lots of wine! ;)

    This year, our son is 2 and a half and I’m excited to start some new traditions of our own…like waking up on Christmas morning and opening presents as just our little family of three before heading over to our family’s house for the big day-long celebration!

  34. Love this Joanna! My mom gives us chocolate turtles (its a type of candy in canada – can you get them in the usa?) every year for christmas. and we STILL in our grown up years, get new pajamas for christmas eve. a nice way to wake up for christmas morning!

  35. When J.R.R Tolkien’s children were growing up, he would write letters to them each year pretending to be Father Christmas. He would make up stories about the North Pole, scribble in shaky handwriting, and draw beautiful illustrations to accompany the letters. When my sister and I were growing up, my dad found a book of the collected letters at the public library. He would take it out of the library each year and read the letters out loud to us on the nights leading up to Christmas. I remember being so fascinated by the magic of the letters and giggling with my sister as our dad yawned over and over while he read. He was so tired from work but always took the time to sit down on the couch with us. One year, my mom bought a copy of the book so we would always have it. At 24, it is still one of my favorite things to look at each Christmas.

  36. Too many to count! From running down the stairs on Christmas morning with my three older siblings (things have changed now that we’re in college and beyond…), to mom’s gigantic Christmas breakfast, to the midnight vigil service on Christmas eve – I love it all! Best time of the year, hands DOWN!
    ~ Samantha

  37. This IS our Christmas tradition. It’ a way to honour my grandfather’s childhood memories from the mountains of Canada when he would exchange Christmas presents on Christmas eve because the day was spent looking after the livestock. we give books because My Mum’s a book guru (she runs the website) she would always give us the perfect books. :)

  38. Christmas Eve books have been our tradition for many years but it comes from my Dad who lived in the wilds of the Rocky Mountains in Canada as a child and always opened presents on Christmas Eve because mornings were too busy with livestock. Christmas Eve books have been our Australian nod to his family tradition.

    We open our books after a dinner of fish, feta, olives and hummus and a reading of the nativity.

  39. I’m Jewish, so Christmas traditions have never been a thing in my family. However, last year I got to experience my boyfriend’s family’s Christmas Eve traditions and they were lovely. We started with the annual dinner at his aunt’s house with pierogi the whole family makes the day after Thanksgiving (and then freezes). His parents are Catholic, so we went to midnight mass (at 10pm), then headed back to his parent’s house along with his siblings. They then do a Polish tradition called Oplatek. Pretty much everyone gets a wafer, then goes around and has a short, private conversation with everyone else about what it means to have had that person in their life for the past year and gives them good wishes for the future. You then exchange bites of wafer. The wafer itself is a bit odd, but it was so nice to have these little private moments with everyone.

  40. We have two:

    1) “The Search” – on Christmas morning, my mom (and my grandma before her) hands each child an envelope with a clue in it. We rush around the house, following the clues, until they lead us to one gift, usually our most-wanted gift of the year. After 5-8 clues, you might find your gift in the dryer, or the mailbox. It’s a blast, and it wouldn’t be Christmas without people running around the house, shouting for help with their clues. I’m 26 and we’ve done it every year – my grandma started the tradition over 50 years ago.

    2) Every Christmas morning, we eat Dutch baby ( with sauteed apples and raisins.

  41. I don’t know how it started, but the Christmas tradition I love the most is my father reading Cajun Night Before Christmas in his best Cajun accent after Christmas Eve service.

  42. that is such a great tradition! for my sisters and I, we always open our gifts by the fireplace, and bake something yummy the night before that we can have for christmas breakfast while opening the presents!

  43. That is so cool! I was already planning to gift my toddler a new pair of Hanna Andersson Christmas PJs and book about Christmas on Christmas Eve. On Christmas morning we will have her one special wanted gift. We do just four gift – something to wear (new PJs each year), something she wants ( a rolling pin), something to read, and a new ornament, which she get when we decorate our tree. Minimalism is what we are striving for. :)

  44. This sounds amazing, but my introverted self already spends much of the winter (and most December evenings) doing this! I have spent every single Christmas Eve (except one, when I lived in Germany) with my giant extended family, and it’s just THE BEST. Cousins upon cousins, and now kids of cousins :) Santa fills stockings for the little ones, and my crazy uncles watch Christmas Vacation and pause/rewind/laugh at all the same parts as the year before. I love that my son & any future kids will likely grow up with this family celebration, a reliable touchstone year after year. But we are definitely planning to keep the next day quiet with a focus on just our immediate family. This year we’re trying the french toast recipe you posted a few weeks ago–we’ll see if it becomes a tradition!

  45. One tradition that seems small but is a big deal in my family is an orange in our stockings. My great-great grandmother was so excited to see fruit trees when she first moved to California that she put oranges in everyones stockings. Its fun to eat oranges and watch everyone open presents.

  46. We starting posting our holiday cards on the inside cover of a new Christmas book every year. One sibling and 5 years later, it’s so fun to go back through the old books and talk about how they’ve grown, the 3 yr old’s obsession with dinosaurs that year, etc.

  47. Each year we sew a button onto our stockings that represents something special about the year. This year everyone is getting a monogram button with the letter R to symbolize our first year with baby R.

  48. So as you get older and your friends grow up and have kids it’s hard and expensive to keep up with all the kids birthdays. So I skip the birthday present (unless I’m invited to a party), and instead, I get every FAMILY a Christmas book and send them out on December 1st to get them into the holiday spirit. Some of my favorites, Snowmen at Christmas, Twas the Mouse Before Christmas (out of print, am searching for more copies), How Santa Lost His Job, Gingerbread Pirates, The Christmas Truck, The Carpenters Gift, and the new one this year is The Last Christmas Tree.

  49. On Christmas Eve, some of my family members and I come together to sing some guilty-pleasure pop songs and Christmas carols on Karaoke. Then the next day, we have an all-day party full of food, sports, movies, and White Elephant.

    I think exchanging books is such a wonderful idea! If I have kids, I think that is probably one tradition I would start.

    Thanks for such a heartwarming post!

  50. As an Icelander, I wanted to mention that this “tradition” of bringing new books into bed on Christmas Eve comes naturally for us, since we open all our gifts on Christmas Eve, not just books! For us, Christmas starts at 6 o’clock on the 24th with a formal dinner – and then gifts are opened throughout the evening :)

  51. I think most homes in Iceland buy chocolates called Nóa konfekt at some point in December. It’s not quality candy but it has become part of the holidays throughout the years. Most families also bake a variety of cookies (usually the same kind year after year) that are only made and eaten in December.

  52. The Atul Gawande book you’re holding is a bit heavy for holiday reading. :)

  53. That sounds right up my alley! I’ve created a tradition of always giving books to my sisters, and now to their kids, for Christmas. Since I’ve always been a bookworm it makes sense for Auntie Joy to give books…and Iook forward to finding the perfect book for my nephews and niece at each age.

    One of my favorite family traditions is pretty silly: about 10 years ago we decided to go to Chinatown (LA) for Christmas Eve dinner, and it’s become such a fun night to look forward to, with all of my stepdad’s family. We go to Yang Chow’s and have their crunchy rice soup, famous slippery shrimp, and lots of beer. :)

  54. Off topic: the deer print! Where did you get it???

  55. Lasagna and A Christmas Story on Christmas Eve… one gift is allowed to be opened – new pj’s to wear to bed :)
    Christmas morning is for mimosas, a breakfast soufflé, and family.

  56. That’s funny, I’m a first generation immigrant from Iceland and I have never heard of this tradition.

  57. We get Chinese food on Christmas Eve (a tradition that started when my parents were newlyweds and has carried over 25 years! We get new jammies on Christmas Eve. We get a new book on Christmas Day. My dad always gets my mom a beautiful children’s Christmas book. We eat monkey bread on Christmas morning.

  58. My mom has always given us a Christmas ornament to open on Christmas Eve. Now that my siblings and I are older we have been able to take some of those ornaments home to put on our own trees. (My mom’s were getting too full anyway so it worked out perfectly!)

    We also have my Dad’s parents for Christmas every 3rd year. (They make the rounds to each of their children’s homes. Whoever has my Grandma and Grandsir for the year get matching pajamas!

    Making a certain recipe only during the holidays is always an easy one too. Then you always associate that smell with your Childhood Christmas. My family does our Great Grandparent’s Cinnamon Rolls and Handmade Noodles.

    Hope that helps!

  59. Every Thanksgiving evening, my family gathers around and we watch Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas”. It’s how we prep ourselves for the holiday season!

    That Icelandic tradition is one for the books, though! It sounds like my kind of perfect evening!

  60. I think traditional stockings are a bit silly. Huge, flat, fake socks. But I love the origin of the tradition, so rather than having Christmas Stockings, we get a nice new pair of boot socks for each person in the family, and fill those with goodies instead. Then after Christmas, we each have a great new pair of warm socks to wear all winter long :)

  61. My sisters and I always slept in the same bed on Christmas Eve. It was so fun! We would hide under the covers buzzing with excitement listening for Santa’s sleigh to land on the roof. Then at some point the middle sister would get mad at us and leave because she wanted to sleep and then feel guilty and come back a little while later. She did it every year and it accidentally became a part of the tradition! We did it all the way up until I got married when I was 25 (I’m the oldest) and my sisters were furious that I slept with my husband instead of them! Now I can’t wait for my kids to do the same when they’re a bit older. We had a million fun traditions growing up, but that was my favorite.

  62. love this idea! what a nice tradition

  63. awesome to hear from people from iceland!!!! what kind of chocolate do you eat? is there a tradition there? :)

  64. My son and I re-read all of our Christmas favorites from when he was little (he’s 13 now): The Polar Express, The Night Before Christmas, A Lump of Coal, The Mousehole Cat.

    It would not be Christmas without reading these books several times.

  65. When we were little our grandmother gave us an ornament for the tree. We opened them on Christmas eve and when we all left home, we took our ornaments with us. Now my mom gives my girls an ornament to open every christmas eve. It’s fun to open something and when you are an adult it is nice to have a little piece of home to take with you. We also buy ornaments every time we take a trip. And when we decorate our tree we reminisce about all the trips we have taken together.

  66. Talent show on Christmas Eve :) As adults, my sister and I still love to pick out a special piano duet.

  67. As an avid reader, I LOVE this idea! I especially like the “head off to bed with a book and some chocolate” idea…anything with chocolate is a good tradition in my book (pun kind of intended)!

  68. Our family does a puzzle together on Christmas Eve. Sometimes it’s a tough one and the fun carries forward for a few days as we work away at it together.

    So nice to do something that is not ‘electronic’ these days!! Happy Holidays to you and your family Joanna!

  69. What a beautiful tradition. I LOVE it.

  70. Love that literary tradition! We always read our collection of Christmas picture books on Christmas Eve, actually. My dad and I used to listen to The Hobbit on tape around Christmas, with the lights off and just the tree’s lights shining…

  71. As children, me my brother and sister all got brand new pyjamas before we went to bed on christmas eve night so we could unwrap our presents in them the next morning. Even though we are all grown up now my Mum still buys them for us and its still nice to go to bed feeling all christmasy and pretty.

  72. D says...

    My family has been celebrating Christmas together for over 30 years now. For a while we all went to my grandparents house, but when they moved to Florida we switched to each daughter (my mom has 3 sisters) taking a turn each year. We start at midday with a brunch my grandma makes, then hang out and drink until early dinner. Then we exchange Christmas gifts- there are so many of us now that we do an all-family secret Santa. Ou have to open your gift in front of everyone and be subjected to oohs, ahhs and some good natured mocking.

    Then it’s desserts and family stockings, where toothbrushes and toothpaste are often traded for warm socks or shampoo. Last year we had an indoor snowball fight with fluffy fake snowballs (totally worth it and an amazing gift for kids). We also do holiday themes occasionally- first was Christmas pajamas, then ugly sweaters, followed by Hawaiian Christmas (complete with tiki bar) and finally all white Christmas (which was hilariously awkward).

    We always always take a photo of the cousins – one pretty one and one goofy one. I have 25 of these now and it’s by far my favorite tradition

  73. We have chocolate malts and hard rolls with butter for breakfast every Christmas morning. I’ve never skipped the tradition, in my 42 years. Our parents grew up in The Bronx, and it was their treat at a soda fountain after church on holidays. They decided it was something to carry forward, and I am forever grateful!

  74. In lieu of an Advent calendar, we are opting to read one “new” Christmas book with our three year old son at bedtime from December 1 through Christmas Eve. He has really taken to it and I love it as a way to celebrate and also to get away from the same old, same old bedtime books. Some are ones we already had, many are borrowed from family or the libraries.

  75. last year my husband and I stayed “home” for Christmas instead of traveling to see our families (gosh it was so nice!!) but we went ice skating in Newport (Jersey City) on Christmas Eve and got tacos from our local Mexican restaurant for taco Tuesday ($8 for 5 of them!). Now we’re making it a tradition that we have taco Tuesday on the Tuesday before Christmas. If Christmas falls on a Tuesday, we’re eating tacos for Christmas! Maybe it sounds silly, but it’s fun for us :)

  76. On Christmas morning, we always go to the movies! We see something at about the 9 AM showing, after picking up bagels & coffee. It’s really untraditional, but we love it – been doing it for years!

  77. I love this book tradition from Iceland. I’ve adopted it at times without even knowing (and without it being Christmas.) I hope you don’t mind my directing my followers to this wonderful post. Thank you.

  78. we get to open one Christmas present early, Christmas jammies :)

  79. We started a new one this year – A Christmas Countdown with Books.

    Normally, I box up our holiday books in January and haul them out at the end of November. This year, instead of the ushe – putting them in a bin to read throughout the month of December, my mom suggested a book-centric way to count down Christmas.

    Beginning December 1st through the 25th, we’ll open and read one Christmas book a night.

  80. every year we open one gift on christmas eve abd my dad reads us the polar express. i’m 26, my brother is 23, even when we were on vacation or not with him, he calls to read it to us!

  81. I actually made this decision that I wanted to start my own tradition where every year I buy a book for each family member that is either meaningful to me or that I believe will be meaningful to them. I bought my mom and sister the “Being mortal” book (Thanks for the gift guide post with it!), a novel I have always loved for my dad, and the Malala book for my younger sister.

    Now I’m wondering if I should give these on Christmas Eve instead of putting them under the tree for the morning :)

  82. We have appetizers for dinner – my mom makes mini-hamburgers on little rye toasts and baked clams and shrimps with cocktail sauce. We watch A Christmas Story about a zillion times all day and then open presents afterwards.

  83. Honey & I started a tradition last year (stole it from Hallmark movie :)) – We find eachother an ornament that represents a memory that we made together in the previous year, then open them on Christmas Even and hang them on the tree!

  84. that does sound like a wonderful tradition! especially lovely to start when you have kids, I think. something to remember for the future :)

  85. Here is Australia we do christmas crackers of course. We also see Santa scuba diving at the aquarium. This year our local library gave all the kids little bags of oatmeal dusted with glitter. It’s called reindeer food. You’re meant to leave it on your stoop to show Santa where to stop. My two year old is obsessed. And all the lovely Aussie Christmas books like Christmas wombat. We are expats and we don’t want our children to feel that they missed out because they aren’t drinking chocolate by the fire. Half of the world celebrates under the baking sun so I’m always on the lookout for tropical Xmas picture books. Oh, and inspired by love taza, we put a mini Xmas tree in the nursery which the babies decorated. Another thing my daughter obsessed over. Now we have a baby tree and a mama tree.

  86. i love these:) thank you so much for sharing.

  87. New ornament every year! I’m one of 4 kids and we love having our personal collections of ornaments attached to specific memories or childhood interests, and getting to reflect on those things each year when we hang them up

  88. This will be the third Christmas for my husband and I and it has been so fun to try out different things and see what we like best and what works for us! Our favorite so far is watching It’s A Wonderful Life while drinking a large mug of homemade hot chocolate on Christmas Eve. We’ll probably add wrapping presents to that list when kids come along. ;)

  89. On december 5th, we celebrate Sinterklaas en exchange our gifts. We write a poem relating to the receiver, an event in the past year and the gift. The receiver reads the poem out loud for the group.

    We never had presents at Christmas.

  90. This year, on my side of our family (all adults) we’re skipping big gifts and doing a “Stockings-Only Christmas.” We’re making it a group effort and following a few guidelines like: each stocking must include:
    1 food gift
    1 homemade gift
    1 beauty or fashion gift
    1 home-y gift

    We’re excited! Since there aren’t any young children on my side of our family, this is a fun alternative to traditional gift giving.

    I just posted about it here actually:

  91. Traditions are wonderful! One of my most favorite things about Christmastime. LOVE the Christmas Eve book idea!
    Growing up, we got a new pair of pajamas and wore them all day on Christmas! My parents also gave my siblings and me one ornament each. I gathered a lovely collection over time and took them with me when I got married 3 years ago. Now my husband and I have a wonderful collection of ornaments that serve as sweet reminders of my childhood. I plan to do that for our kids someday!
    Also, making a birthday cake for Jesus was always fun and meaningful, helping us to focus on the real reason for the season!

  92. Growing up we had the tradition of Santa Mouse, a little mouse that travels with Santa and leaves tiny presents for the kids hidden somewhere in the tree, tied with a long golden ribbon. It was always a favorite activity, to search for the little gifts, and to read the book each year. My sister now tucks tiny gifts from Santa Mouse into the tree for her kids. It’s such a sweet story!

    We also have a tradition of always having chocolate covered cherries on the night that we decorate the tree. Not sure where that came from, but it now feels like a necessary part of the holiday to me!

  93. Oh! I love this tradition… books, chocolate, bed and family!
    I want to do it!
    My tradition: all members of my family play Pictionary o similar… is very funny

  94. My family always reads “The Littlest Angel” by Charles Tazewell. It’s a tear-jerker, especially if you are a dog lover like we are.

  95. We always used to drive around neighborhoods looking at people’s lights and decorations. Since my husband and I have married, we always go on a Christmas date. We get coffee or hot chocolate and go to a craft store to buy materials to make ornaments. We’ve made a different kind of ornament each year.

    Our traditions, I’m sure, will change some now that we have a nearly one-year old son, but we are looking forward to spending his first Christmas up in Chicago where we are WAY more likely to see snow than our home in Texas. :)

  96. Oh I love this! Thinking of things like Christmas traditions make me want to have kids sooner rather than later :)

  97. I feel like traditions are the most fun of christmas and we evolve and add new ones every year. So far we have: watch elf and eat cookies to kick off the season after thanksgiving (sometimes after dinner but usually at some point over the weekend). We have a few christmas ornaments but we’ve committed to making hand-made, disposable (or edible) ornaments every year so we don’t amass a huge amount so one year we did pipe cleaner snowflakes, one year all paper snowflakes, one year cookies and popcorn garlands, etc. then we always celebrate on christmas eve (I’m european) and we stole a friends family tradition of having lots of fancy appetizers coming out at different times so you start with a platter of oysters and then open a few gifts…then break and have some gougeres or cheese and crackers…followed by some more gifts, etc. Finally, one of our gifts is always a new game so we’ll end the night playing it. very relaxing! christmas morning we open the little gifts in our stockings over breakfast and it’s usually an italian pannetone but this year I’m planning on doing liege waffles. :)

  98. I LOVE this!! I always unintentionally give books as gifts to my loved ones for all occasions. I never even noticed until my roommate pointed it out. Now I can make a tradition out of it :)

  99. I think I may enjoy Christmas Eve more than Christmas. My grandparents always host a fondue dinner and then we exchange gifts. Then everyone started having babies and my grandmother took fondue away thinking a larger meal would better suit the occasion. I am happy to announce that after 5 years of peaceful protest, the fondue tradition has been restored. Democracy in action!

  100. Hi Jo! I´m a spanish girl and in my family it´s a tradition in Christmas Eve to meet all this night to have dinner and to sing Christmas carols close to the chimney. Merry Xmas!!

  101. Love this! Why don’t I live in Iceland?!

  102. My mom used to give us ornaments every year. When I finally started to have my own tree, she handed off all of my beloved ornaments that I’ve been collecting through the years. She even forked over my “baby’s first Christmas” ornament!
    My husband and I now try to collect them together- we got one on our honeymoon, for example. They are a beautiful way to mark time and reflect during the season.
    Also, I’ve always been fan of the “hodge podge” tree. My Christmas tree will never, ever be coordinated or pinterest worthy and I love it that way.

  103. A friend of mine keeps all holiday-related kids books put away January through November.

    Then, in December, she wraps each book individually and places them in a basket.

    Her boys open one book every night and they read it as a family. Even though they’re opening the same books as the year before, they get so excited every single night! I love this tradition and will be starting it with our family next year!

  104. what a wonderful tradition! i love receiving books, and giving them (even to my family members who don’t like to read :)

  105. We always get to open 3 gifts on Christmas Eve, pajamas, a new stuffed animal and a book. Now that my boys are teenagers we don’t do the stuffed animal but they still wait with excitement to slip into cozy new pjs and start a new read… I love this tradition. We did it when I was a young girl too.

  106. take a christmas picture of your family every year. then decorate with them every year. it’s fun to see the changes.. kids growing up, different houses, etc..

  107. My Grandmother got a Christmas ornament every year for me so I had a whole collection of ornaments for my tree by the time I had my own place. I have started the ornament tradition for my own daughter. Another tradition, My Dad read The Night Before Christmas to me and my sisters every Christmas Eve. He now reads it to my little girl and nephew.

  108. As an Icelander I’m proud to say that I take part in this wonderful tradition. One new book and lots of chocolate is a must on Christmas Eve :)

  109. People in Iceland usually exchange all the christmas presents on Christmas Eve, not only the books, since that is traditionally the biggest day of christmas for us :)

    P.s Love your blog

  110. My favourite tradition is a story book advent calendar. I wrap up 24 winter/solstice/xmas themed books and each night at bedtime (or naptime if the small person can’t wait) we unwrap one. Then they all sit in a basket and get read throughout the season. It’s so much fun and we’re really enjoying reading favourites remembered from last year (I update only 1 or 2 per year as the baby-ish ones we had get outgrown).

  111. In Brazil we always have an special dinner for the Christmas Eve, and we also play Secret Santa with our family and friends. :) It’s really nice to spend our Christmas with people we love.

  112. This year we started a new tradition with my four year old daughter, Finley. We made an advent calendar out of mittens that hangs on the mantle. Every night I write a Christmas activity on a piece of paper and put it in a mitten. Every morning she runs to that day’s mitten and we read the fun activity. We’ve had a Christmas movie night, s’mores by fireside, decorated the tree, a carriage ride, and sponsored a family in the area to buy clothes and toys for. Whether the activity is big or small she has a blast. I want the holidays to be filled with memories of time spent together, not just all about what Santa brings. I also want it to be about giving to those in need. Honestly my husband and I have had as much fun with it as she has. 10/10 would do again.

  113. the kids get new pj’s every xmas eve and a special book to read.

  114. We always got a new pair of Christmas pajamas on Thanksgiving, and the day after we would go and get our Christmas tree. It marked the start of the season for us, and its a tradition I have started with my own daughter/husband. We each got a significant/themed ornament too, so now I have a lovely collection.

  115. jm says...

    Love this tradition!

  116. Love the treasure of books you described. That sounds like a lovely tradition to start.

    When I was a child, we went to midnight mass, then we would be allowed to open presents. I never got piles and piles of presents, usually just a few small items or one large, special item.

    On Christmas morning, my mother usually made a strata (breakfast casserole that soaks all night, eggs/milk/ham/baguette). Christmas day was more about relaxing and enjoying each other’s company than presents.

  117. I think we got this from Dear Amy: we leave an new unwrapped book at the foot of our son’s bed on christmas eve. so, when he wakes up, he has something to page through as he waits for the rest of us to lead him to his stocking. We’ve done it since he was 2 and he’s 7 now. My son loves books!

  118. I love this tradition! I’m excited to read other’s comments. This year I’m starting a scrap book and I’m going to make one page every year and have it out with our decorations.

  119. This is the first year my husband and I are spending Christmas together (we just got married in September!), and in the past we have done our own gift exchange and romantic dinner the week before we each went our separate ways to see family. This year we’ll be visiting my family together, but we’re still upholding our tradition. Before we fly out we’re doing our yearly cookie decorating, cocktail drinking, nice dinner making gift exchange just the two of us, and we plan to continue this special tradition :)

  120. Once our tree is up, each night while my sons are in the bath ‘Santa’ puts a different christmas themed book under the tree. We all then sit on our sofa, light our swedish angel chimes and read the book together. I have a selection of books that we use each year from the Grinch, the Night before Christmas, to Stick Man and my son loves seeing them again each year. His little brother just wants to cheek them!

  121. I heard this from another friend and we have implemented this year. I have 3 kids (7, 5, and 2) and over the years we’ve collected a lot of Christmas books. This year, on December 1st, I wrapped up 25 Christmas books (in brown paper with red & white twine) and put them in a big, green antique-y looking container that someone gave as a wedding gift. Each night we open one and read it. The container of wrapped books makes a festive decoration (you could also put them under the tree), my kids LOVE opening something each night, AND our books are all actually getting read! In the past I feel like I’ve filled the container up with books and some get flipped through but most aren’t actually read all the way through, particularly the ones in the bottom. I plan on continuing this tradition for years to come!

  122. My family bakes or makes treats for our neighbors (cookies, jam, baguettes with flavored butter). Then on Christmas Eve afternoon, we deliver them one by one, stopping to chat with neighbors. We also choose one boy and one girl off an angel tree that gifts presents to children in our community. The kids usually pick out the toy and an outfit for them and help wrap it. We’ve been doing that tradition ever since they were born.

  123. We leave new pyjamas and a Christmas themed book on the pillow of our children while they’re in the bath. Well, I say ‘we’, it’s the elves that do it, obviously.

  124. My family bakes or makes treats for our neighbors (cookies, jam, baguettes with flavored butter). Then on Christmas Eve afternoon, we deliver them one by one, stopping to chat with neighbors. We also choose one boy and one girl off an angel tree that gifts presents to children in our community. The kids usually pick out the toy and an outfit for them and help wrap it. We’ve been doing that tradition ever since they were born.

  125. My husband and I decorate the Christmas tree while blasting music and drinking champagne! Then, before we fly out to see the rest of our families, we give each other all of our gifts.

  126. LK says...

    I’m so glad you posted this! My husband and I just got married, so with this being our first Christmas married, we want to start up some new traditions and try some new things… See what works for us. I might have to steal a few from readers.

  127. Each Christmas we pick a country and try to celebrate Christmas incorporating as many traditions from that country as we can. Santa Claus gives my son gifts made in that chosen country, and always a pile of Children’s books from said country – though as my son’s birthday also falls in December the elf gives him a book for his birthday – so far I have been able to source a Christmas story from each country we’ve selected.

  128. I love this idea! We often have “family reading night” at home, where we cozy up and everyone gets their own book – the kids with picture books, the grown ups with magazines or some novel. We will have to start this tradition for sure.

    While we’re not British, we love Christmas Crackers! They are so much fun.

  129. On Christmas Eve we always eat sushi and have crackers and cheese for snacking while watching It’s A Wonderful Life, and then we go to Midnight Mass. We also always have a cheese ball on the cheese tray that no one ever eats, but the year we skipped it everyone made a comment on how sad they were to see that the cheese ball wasn’t there.

  130. Oh, I love that! Our family keeps traditions pretty simple – in the days leading up to Christmas, my stepmom bakes a bunch of butter cookies and we spend a whole day decorating them as a family. Also, my dad and I have a one on one “date” where we go to lunch/dinner and I help him shop for my stepmom :)

    I’d love to build more traditions with my own family someday – this one is a great start!

  131. We open pj’s on Christmas eve, go to midnight mas and have mimosas and tea ring for breakfast christmas day

  132. It’s so hard for me to think of “creating” new traditions because I’m so entrenched in my family’s, even though I’m an adult now. One my live-in boyfriend and I have started is having “our own” intimate Christmas before we start traveling to visit families for the holidays. One night the week before Christmas we make a special dinner, exchange gifts, and watch something Christmas-y on TV. It’s become one of my favorite moments of the holidays.

  133. This is Chicago-specific, but I love riding the annual holiday train! It’s over-the-top and a little ridiculous, but really fun (especially for kids). I wrote a post about it:
    Riding the Holiday Train

  134. I love this tradition! Books are my favorite and it sounds like a lovely way to spend the evening!

    One of my favorite childhood traditions is putting our gifts to each other in stockings at the foot of our beds before we went to sleep. In the morning all of the kids would get up first and pile into one bed and open our stockings together while we waited for our parents to wake! We still do this today even though we’re all in our twenties!

  135. i’ve been away for far too many years – and she’s now married and living off as well – but for our teenage years, my sister and I always played Christmas Eve Scrabble