We gathered an extensive list of 150 budget-friendly Christmas traditions ranging for kids and families of all ages and interests.
150 Budget-Friendly Christmas Traditions
What is your favorite Christmas tradition?
One tradition I hold dear is setting up the HUGE Christmas trees from our church. We would untangle the lights, hang the ornaments, and members visited while the kids played.
The Mister talked about going to chop down a Christmas tree in the woods, a hidden ornament, and this bread.
Traditions can really bring warm fuzzies and rarely do they cost a lot of money. We thought we would pull together a thorough list of possible traditions if you are looking for some new ones for your family.
*Just remember, traditions should be fun and not stressful. It just may be time to take out some old ones that no longer work, and add something new, less overwhelming, ones.
Traditional Christmas Traditions
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- COOKIES FOR SANTA – Most know this tradition but what about going to a pottery place and make a special Santa plate to be used each year.
- MAKING ORNAMENTS – Pick one day to make ornaments and then give them as gifts to teachers, neighbors, friends, Aunts/Uncles, etc. Make sure to add the child’s name and the year they made it. Some families do this the day after Thanksgiving.
- DRIVE TO LOOK AT LIGHTS – Change it up by adding this Holiday Lights Award and/or playing Christmas Lights Bingo OR instead of driving ride bikes.
- DECORATE THE TREE – For a switch up, do a different step each day…. lights one day, ornaments another, etc. Serve a favorite snack, dinner, or dessert with each day.
- CAROLING – Make it more fun by wearing silly clothing, new place, matching clothing/colors, pass out candy canes, live stream it, etc.
- COMMUNITY EVENTS – From parades to tree lighting ceremonies, there is always lots of fun activities around most towns. Check your local newspaper.
- FAMILY PHOTO
- CHRISTMAS MOVIES – Go big with a full marathon or certain movies on specific days each year (ie.Elf on Christmas Eve).
- NUTCRACKER PLAY
- CHRISTMAS CRACKERS – You can purchase some or make your own with paper towel/ toilet paper rolls.
- PAPER, CRANBERRY, or POPCORN GARLAND – DIY info here.
- PAPER SNOWFLAKES – Here is a video on a deluxe one.
- UGLY SWEATER DECORATING
- CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN BOARD – Create your own Christmas countdown board.
- GRAVE BLANKETS – The holidays are tough when you have lost someone you love. Making a grave blanket can be therapeutic during a difficult holiday season.
- HANDMADE CHRISTMAS – All gifts are handmade or choose one item to make as a gift each year.
- SALT DOUGH ORNAMENTS – Find directions for salt ornaments are here.
- DIY CHRISTMAS CARDS
- HANDPRINTS TREE SKIRT – Every person in the family has their handprints on this tree skirt.
- DIY WREATH – Make a wreath from yard clippings.
- DIY WRAPPING PAPER – Do you remember potato stamping?
- CINNAMON ORNAMENTS – Boy, do these smell good. Here is a cinnamon ornament recipe.
- POMANDER – Here is a tutorial to make these lovely clove-scented oranges.
- MIDNIGHT SERVICE
- JESSE TREE – This is a decorative tree used during Advent to retell the stories of the Bible that lead to Jesus’s birth.
- PRAY OVER RECEIVED CHRISTMAS CARDS
- ATTEND A LIVE NATIVITY
- SCRIPTURE READING BY CANDLELIGHT
- BABY JESUS GIFT – Each year we hold back the baby Jesus from the nativity scene. On Christmas morning, He is the first gift opened and placed in His manger.
- ADVENT WREATH
- STOCKING FOR JESUS – This is often a white stocking and on Christmas Eve every year, every member of the family takes a piece of paper and writes down one thing they want to give to Jesus.
- GIFT FOR JESUS – A station is set up where everyone can write a gift to Jesus.
- CHRISTMAS HOME PLAY– People or puppets act it out.
- AGAPE FEAST
- BIRTHDAY CAKE FOR JESUS – This tradition involves either baking or buying a birthday cake. Here is a cake recipe.
- CANDLE IN THE WINDOW – This is a tradition in Irish homes to leave a candle in the front window on Christmas Eve. It is a signal of a resting place for weary travelers, such as Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem.
- MANAGER STRAW – Small strips of paper are placed next to the manager. Throughout the month of December, everyone writes down a loving action that was done. That paper is then placed in the manger as the straw for Jesus. On Christmas Day, the papers are read.
- ST NICHOLAS DAY – Dec 6th is a day to celebrate Saint Nicholas. Celebrations include placing candy, trinkets, fruit, etc in slippers (shoes).
- READ THE CHRISTMAS STORY TOGETHER – Luke 2:1-20
- TALK TO WORKERS – As a family, make a night to go out and take to the holiday workers. Maybe take cookies or gift cards to tell them to thank you for what they do.
- ADOPT A FAMILY – Ask a Pastor, a neighbor, friends at work for a family that might need extra assistance, if you don’t know one already.
- GIVING TREE – There is usually an Angel Tree or Salvation Army Tree (and more) in your community.
- RETIREMENT HOMES/SENIOR CENTERS – Many of these centers will let you come by and bring in treats, visit, and/or sing. Often these seniors have no visitors.
- OPERATION CHRISTMAS CHILD – Give a Christmas gift to a child who may never have received one before.
- WRITE A SOLDIER
- TREATS FOR NEIGHBORS – You may want to place it on a GIVING PLATE.
- 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS – Plan an act of kindness each day of the 12 days of Christmas. Wrap gifts, volunteer, pay for a coffee, etc. We have done this several years and it’s such a wonderful way to serve others during this season.
- HOLIDAY SERVICE CALENDAR
- CHARITY HOLIDAY PARTY – For whatever party you throw, have gifts all go to a charity. i.e. Holiday party for the Animal Shelter.
- KINDNESS ELVES – They love to visit your home and spread this happiness with children, encouraging them to do small acts of kindness in their daily lives.
- HOMELESS CARE PACKAGE – This is a great activity for kids to get involved with. Pack them up, you can see what to put in them here, and load them in your car ready to be handed out at any given moment.
- REVERSE ADVENT CALENDAR
- BONFIRE – Setup a hot cocoa station, sing songs, make it a neighborhood celebration.
- SNOW PAINTING
- TAKE A WALK/HIKE
- LUMINARIES – Create your own for your walkway. In our previous neighborhood, there was a family who did it for the whole neighborhood. Here are a couple of DIY tutorials RECYCLED CANS or BAGS
- ICE SKATING
- CHRISTMAS NEIGHBORHOOD CLEANUP – Organizing a neighborhood cleanup day is one tradition that will spiffy up your town. This can also be a great time to check on elderly neighbors and see if they need a little outdoor help.
- BUILD A SNOWMAN
- FOR THE BIRDS – Even the little birdies need a present, don’t they? Find how to make birdseed ornaments here.
- SNOWBALL FIGHT – Don’t have real snow where you are? Do a faux version. We have these.
- GINGERBREAD HOUSES – You can buy, make, or do a graham cracker version.
- HOT COCOA/WASSAIL/EGGNOG – What about a Christmas only mug? Each year the special mug comes out.
- FANCY DINNER BY CANDLELIGHT
- CHINESE FOOD
- OLD FASHIONED POPCORN – Wish that old fashion popper!
- COOKIE COMPETITION – A cookie decorating competition. Might even have a trophy for the winner.
- FAMILY RECIPE – Just about every family has at least one special recipe. We shared one of ours here but pull out that “it takes time” recipe and make an event of it.
- CHRISTMAS OPEN HOUSE – One tradition we have done in the past is to put out appetizers and cookies and invite friends and neighbors over. We have really made some great friendships that way.
- CHRISTMAS TEA
- POTLUCK DINNER WITH FRIENDS and/or NEIGHBORS – One idea, put on a pot of soup and have others bring their favorite bread or dessert.
- MILKSHAKE NIGHT
- CHRISTMAS TOAST– Get out the Martinelli’s, or other beverage, and make a Christmas toast.
- REINDEER LUNCH BAG – One day, switch up the kid’s lunch with this cute DIY reindeer lunch bag. You may even “forget” to send the child with a lunch that day so you can drop it off.
- CHRISTMAS BREAKFAST
- TRADITIONAL FOOD ITEMS– A bowl full of nuts on the table and a traditional nutcracker or oranges in stockings. Simple little things done each year are often when we tend to remember. And do you know why people place oranges in stockings?
- CHRISTMAS PICNIC
- HOMEMADE HOT COCOA GIFT – Families gather everyone up for an assembly line.
- COOKIE EXCHANGE – Gather whoever you like for a cookie exchange. Everyone brings their favorite recipe -two dozen cookies (or more if you like) and goes home with a tray full of a variety of treats.
North Pole Traditions
Unsplash, Mick Haupt
- SANTA FOOTPRINTS
- REINDEER FOOD – Here is a reindeer food recipe and printable.REINDEER FOOD – Here is a reindeer food recipe and printable.
- CHRISTMAS EVE BOX – You can create, or buy, everything needed for Christmas Eve (Santa key, reindeer food, Pj’s, book, movie candy, movie, etc) and put it in a wrapped box to open on Christmas Eve Night.
- LETTER TO SANTA
- ELF REPORT CARD – Fun little way to encourage good behavior. You don’t need to do the Elf of the Shelf for this activity.
- VIDEO SURVEILLANCE – Can you set up your video monitor to catch him in the act?
- REINDEER CAM – See what is happening at the North Pole with this live reindeer cam.
- SANTA’S MAGIC KEY – It only works for the big guy. You can hang it outside for Santa. A good solution for those who don’t have a fireplace.
- ELF ON THE SHELF – There are many who have done this for years and years, but it’s really caught in popularity over the last few Christmases. Here are the ELF, PROPS, CLOTHING, PRINTABLES, and IDEAS.
- TEXTS FROM SANTA –Each day, kids get a personalized fun message from Santa.
- MINUTE TO WIN IT
- NERF GUN WARS – It’s high noon somewhere. Load your weapons and grab your ammo, you may even need extra. READY….SET……FIRE
- CANDY CANE HUNT
- YOU’VE BEEN JINGLED – “If you’ve been Jingled, it means you have a secret friend in your neighborhood. Enjoy your holiday treats and the fun of trying to solve the mystery of who Jingled you. This game is similar to the old tradition of leaving someone May Day flowers or the Secret Santa game, but with a twist.
- JOKE NIGHT – Grab Christmas joke books, tell ones you know, or look them up….whatever you do LAUGH!
- SARAN WRAP BALL GAME – Although we would love to have a game that didn’t use saran wrap, this game is a lot of fun. Here is a video on how to make one.
- FAMILY GAME NIGHT
- SCAVENGER HUNT GIFT GIVING
- REINDEER GAMES – 7 Rockin reindeer games are here, including passing the antlers and reindeer relay race.
- OPEN ONE GIFT CHRISTMAS EVE
- 24 BOOKS OF CHRISTMAS – Wrap 24 books, from the library, thrifting, or ones you already own, individually. Every night a child can pick from the pile of books to read that evening.
- ORNAMENT GIFT – Give each child an ornament based on their interests. Tip- write on the box or tag, the year it was given.
- CHRISTMAS PHOTO BOOTH – Setup a special area, with props and all, to capture moments throughout Christmas Day.
- GRATITUDE NIGHT – A night for each person to tell the other what they appreciate about each other.
- OPEN GIFTS AT MIDNIGHT – Some families open all their gifts at midnight. So bring on the coffee.
- FILM IT – Capture the kids, on film, first thing Christmas morning.
- CHRISTMAS MEMORY BOOK – Keep a log of each Christmas.
- CHRISTMAS CONVERSATIONS CARDS
- PHOTO BOOKS/HOME MOVIES
- GRANDPARENTS MEMORIES – Take notes of grandparents’ histories and stories. Write them down and turn them into books. It makes a great gift as well.
- FAMILY STORY NIGHT – Everyone sits around and shares a favorite holiday memory.
- CHRISTMAS LETTER TO CHILD – Write a holiday letter to each child sharing a memory of the past year, a memory of your childhood Christmas, or what they mean to you.
- FAMILY NEWSLETTER – Newsletters are a pretty popular way to share what the family is up to but some families have each person write their own part. Little ones can draw a picture.
- CALL FAMILY MEMBERS
- PAJAMA DAY – Yep, pick a day and everyone stays in their PJs.
- SANTA HATS – Shouldn’t everyone have a Santa hat? On Christmas morning, the youngest grabs their hat and hands out the Christmas gifts.
- CRAZY SOCKS – Everyone in the family gets a pair of wild socks. Feet pictured required.
- CHRISTMAS JAMMIES – Whether you buy them matching or just get new ones for the crew, Christmas pajamas are part of many celebrations.
- MALL WRAPPING – Head to the local mall where a charity is wrapping gifts. While waiting, everyone gets a favorite beverage and visits.
- WRAPPED DOORWAY – The doorway is wrapped up ready for kids to break through on Christmas morning.
- PRESENT WRAPPING COMPETITION
- CHRISTMAS PILLOWCASE
- TRAIN RIDE
- KIDS ROOM CHRISTMAS TREE – Let each kid have their own small tree and decorations.
- 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS ACTIVITY BOXES – Each day is filled with an activity for that day and the supplies needed.
- DATE NIGHT SANTA – A night out on the town where the only gift purchasing is for the other person.
- CHRISTMAS DAY MOVIE
- YEAR IN REVIEW LETTER – Write a letter to yourself documenting your past year.
- TALENT SHOW
- GO SWIMMING
- CHRISTMAS LIGHTS/MUSIC – Is there anything better than the TV off, tree lights on, and Christmas music playing?
- GRINCH NIGHT
- BOXING DAY
- JIGSAW PUZZLE
- CHRISTMAS BUCKET LIST
- CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS TREE – Some have a tradition of actually finding the “saddest” tree in the lot as their Christmas tree.
- BUY A NEW CHRISTMAS BOOK – Here are a couple of suggestions, The Christmas Cookie Sprinkle Snitcher, and Small One.
- CHRISTMAS PICKLE – It’s the last ornament to be hung and the first child to find it gets a little gift. Find more on the custom here and get a pickle HERE.
- ANOTHER CULTURE – Pick up a library book, or search the web, and get ideas like this or this one from another country.
- STOCKING NOTE – The tradition starts at the tail end of Christmas. As you pack up the stockings for the year, each person writes a note with hope for the next year.
- CAMP OUT – Kids sleep under the tree on Christmas Eve or kids sleepover at grandparent’s house while parents get ready for the big day.
- GROW A CANDY CANE
Gift Giving Traditions
- BEST OF GIFTS /STATE GIFTS – Each person chooses one of their favorite products and all items are then part of the gift box to everyone you are sending gifts to. State version – Pick items that are made in your state
- SPECIAL DELIVERY BAG
- “REGIFTMAS” – Look around your home and find a gift you didn’t use and throw a ‘regiftmas’ party.
- COLOR CODED WRAPPING – Wrap each person with their own distinct wrapping paper.
- SNOWMAN GIFT TOWER
- RANDOM GIFT – The Mister’s family has a toy alligator that makes the rounds. He doesn’t show up every year. No one knows when or where he will appear, he just does. The recipient holds the alligator hostage until they are ready to release him.
- CHRISTMAS SHOPPING WITH KIDS – Each child went with a parent to a store with their money. They picked out the gift(s) for the siblings/the other parent. Parents would then meet up and switch. Grandparents could take the kids out and do a lunch and shopping event as well.
- GIFT STATION – Create an area with misc craft items. Each person can go to the craft station and create gifts for one another. If you can leave it up, people can do it throughout the month or one day.
More Christmas Inspiration
Here are a few of our holiday posts:
NOW, we have to know, what did we miss?
Add your budget-friendly Christmas tradition in the comments so others can find more ideas.
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