I was one of “those moms.” You know the type. I was out to do the best, be the best and put on the best show. And Christmas just gave me the opportunity to go above and beyond. But then one year, after I realized my kids were thrilled with a handful of marshmallows in front of the fire with a Christmas story, a trip to a local store to buy a gift for a toy drive, or simply making Christmas cookies—I found freedom and joy in Christmas again. When I realized Christmas didn’t have to be about me and boosting my own ego, we had so much more fun, and the family Christmas traditions we created are richer and something worth hanging on to.
Our family Christmas traditions don’t have to be extravagant. Many times, they don’t even have to cost anything—some of the best memories don’t! I’m going to share with you 10 mostly free ideas you probably haven’t tried to kickstart your Christmas spirit this year and find your joy again this December!
10 Mostly Free Christmas Tradition Ideas You Probably Haven’t Tried
- Show Time: Check out your community’s theater listing for live plays or dance performances during the holiday season. Some cities offer free events during this time of year! You can also check local libraries, high schools, and restaurants for performances.
- Advent Love Notes: You’ve heard about Advent calendars filled with candy, but love notes? Use this opportunity to pour out some encouragement on your family. Fill an Advent calendar with notes each day of things you love about your family.
- Embrace an old tradition. What’s something you remember doing as a child? Recreate it, bring it back to life, and make it your own!
- Shopping Spree: Take the entire family to Target, Walmart, or a Dollar Store to wake up your inner competitive nature. Set a time limit, split up with a few dollars each, and off you go! (Make sure you don’t send young kids off by themselves, of course!) When you get home, wrap your presents and do a gift exchange to enjoy some laughs and see who came up with the most creative and fun gifts. Who knows—you might unwrap a new tradition or even bring a bored teenager back to life!
- Shared Traditions: Invite a few families from your community over and share your favorite Christmas traditions with each other. The more culture, the better! This is a great opportunity to learn about how others celebrate Christmas, the foods they eat, and the traditions they grew up celebrating.
- Celebrate your oldest relatives. They are a treasure of memories. Yes, December is busy, but you’ll never regret the time set aside to spend with family, and your children will always remember the time getting to know their relatives.
- A Parade of Lights: A twist to the usual Christmas lights experience—make it a competition! Have the kids create a map of your neighborhood. They get to be the judge of the best lights there. After the judges have decided, let them create an award to deliver to their favorite house.
- Christmas Eve Interviews: Have a family interview on Christmas Eve and record it. Come up with some fun questions you want to ask each other such as: What are you grateful for this year? What are you most looking forward to about Christmas this year? What do you hope to get for Christmas? It will help pass the time on Christmas Eve and will be a fun keepsake!
- Enforce a hugging policy on Christmas morning. Slow down. Take the time to watch each person open their gifts, and then share a hug between gifts. This will help you remember it’s not about the gifts, but how special family time is together!
- Start your own tradition. How is your family special and unique? Use that to create a brand new tradition that fits just you.
I hope you know that you don’t have to do it all, but you can find some ways to do a few things that work really well for your family to bring peace, unity, and joy during the likely chaotic holidays. Traditions can be important because they help you intentionally find times to bring your family together, especially during busy times.
Find the time. Make the time. Enjoy the time.
Scripture may not give us detailed instructions about Christmas and how to celebrate the holidays, but it does have a lot to say about love. And this season can be all about love and unity within our families. 1 John 4:12 NIV tells us: … if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. May we be people who love and pass love on through our Christmas traditions!