13 Engaging Ideas to Celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas 

Continue the Christmas celebrations after the New Year with activities for the entire family.

Published November 28, 2022
girl making cookies for Christmas with her mom

The 12 days of Christmas likely brings to mind the festive song that's been a popular Christmas carol since the 18th century, but there's more significance to this time period than you may think! There are countless 12 days of Christmas ideas and activities to celebrate special moments, and they can be an exciting extension of the Christmas season so the celebration doesn't have to stop on December 25th.

The Significance of the 12 Days of Christmas

The excitement of Christmas day often takes center stage for the month of December and the holiday season in general. However, the 12 days that follow December 25th, leading up to January 6th, are nearly as important as the day designated for celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. The twelve-day gap in this stretch of time is said to mark the days leading up to the visit from the Magi. Much like Advent is a celebration of anticipating Christ's birth, the 12 days of Christmas is a celebration of the news of his birth spreading throughout the land.

How to Celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas

You can celebrate the 12 days of Christmas in any way you feel suits your family's holiday festivities. You might choose to give unique gifts on each of the 12 days as a way to remember the gifts referenced in the song or try simple ways to make each day special with a fun activity for your children to engage in. Some families observe the traditional 12 days by beginning festivities on Christmas day and carrying the celebration into the New Year, while others start celebrating on December 13th so the 12 days can coincide with other Christmas celebrations and traditions. Regardless of how you choose to celebrate and why your family can enjoy any combination of cheerful activities inspired by the 12 days of Christmas.

Activities for celebrating the 12 days of Christmas can include gift giving, serving your community, crafts, and even simply enjoying movies as a family. Find what works best for your family and weave it into your Christmas holiday traditions to create memories for seasons to come.

12 Days of Crafts and Games

Celebrating the 12 days of Christmas as a family might involve a lot of crafts and games to keep younger children engaged and excited. Mix and match different ideas throughout the 12 days or stick to one theme to keep things simple.

Grandmother helping granddaughter decorate Christmas cookies

Create Cheerful Crafts

A great way to get adults, children, or senior citizens involved in celebrating the 12 days of Christmas is to plan a fun craft for each day. The crafts can be simple but significant and can be altered depending on the age or ability of those you're celebrating with. You might try crafts related to the number of each day or crafts based on the gifts mentioned in the beloved Christmas carol. We love these creative ideas:

Create Friendly Competition With Holiday Games

A family game night is always a fun way to get children and adults engaged in quality time. Play one game each night of the celebration or designate 12 holiday-themed games you will play as your family's schedule allows. Try classic games your family loves all year long or introduce new Christmas-inspired games to mix things up.

Give Gifts of Celebration

Celebrate the gift of what the 12 days of Christmas represents by giving gifts to people in your life in a way that suits your budget and schedule. This is a great learning opportunity for children as well as a wonderful reminder for adults.

Encourage Generosity

Celebrate the 12 days of Christmas with a gift each day. If you're looking to make the celebration fun for your children, choose small and inexpensive gifts every day, like books, socks, and favorite candies. Give coworkers simple gifts that offer plenty of yuletide glee like gift cards, candles, and personalized office supplies. Encourage your family to be generous together by making gifts for neighbors, teachers, and family members. Remember, sweet treats and homemade foods count as gifts as well.

Give the Gift of Serving

A memorable way to teach the importance of serving others during the holiday season is to find a way to serve someone each day of the 12 days of Christmas. Children can learn the joy of helping others as they search for daily opportunities to be kind, helpful, and generous. Schedule a few planned service activities like visiting nursing homes, park cleanup, serving at the local animal shelter, or writing letters to members of service and veterans. Activities that involve serving others are usually entirely free or budget-friendly ways to celebrate. If you have a large group of family and friends who observe the 12 days of Christmas, consider a fundraiser you can operate together for a good cause.

Get Cozy With Christmas Movies

Movies are one of the easiest ways to get family and friends excited to spend time together. Choose a 12-day or night lineup that gets your loved ones ready to enjoy the 12 days of Christmas.

Family watching Christmas Movies

Reconnect With 12 Romantic Christmas Movies

Prioritize your relationship or marriage by committing to watching 12 romantic Christmas movies during the 12 days of Christmas. Remember, the point is not necessarily the movie itself, but rather that you are celebrating the gift of one another's love and loyalty. Try classic Christmas movies that feature a central love story, or made-for-tv-movies that are cheesy but oh-so-sweet. Try one of these Christmas movies that feature a central love story:

  • Miracle on 34th Street
  • Four Christmases
  • Last Christmas
  • It's a Wonderful Life
  • Meet Me in St. Louis
  • Last Holiday
  • The Holiday
  • Love Actually
  • Surviving Christmas
  • The Santa Clause 2
  • Elf
  • Serendipity

Watch Movies That Are Family Friendly and Festive

Christmas movies can be a good source of entertainment and quality time. Choose family-friendly titles and invite friends over to join in on the fun. Watching movies at home can help you connect and celebrate with loved ones of all ages - and it makes little to no impact on your budget. Be sure to serve hot chocolate and plenty of holiday treats to amp up the festive fun. Try classic Christmas movies or movies that both kids and adults love. Here are some of our favorites:

  • How The Grinch Stole Christmas
  • A Charlie Brown Christmas
  • The Polar Express
  • Home Alone
  • Rudolph The Red-nosed Reindeer
  • Santa Claus is Comin' to Town
  • Frosty The Snowman
  • The Santa Clause
  • A Christmas Story
  • Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas
  • Mickey's Christmas Carol

Try Non-Holiday Movies

Get every member of the family involved by letting each person add their favorite movies to the line-up. You don't have to focus only on Christmas and holiday movies. Once Christmas is over, you may be ready for movies that don't have quite as much holiday cheer. Try movies that get you excited for a fresh new year or those that reinforce your family's values.

Celebrate With Food

Most celebrations and holidays are made better by the food you look forward to enjoying. Create a fun new tradition with food-centered celebrations for the 12 days of Christmas.

Happy family mother and children bake christmas cookies

Make Meals Merry

Adults and children alike will savor a fun Christmas-themed meal during the 12 days of Christmas. Make things easier on yourself by choosing fun and easy breakfast, lunch, or snack ideas for each day. Children might love waking into a festive breakfast each morning or your spouse might find joy in a Christmas-themed treat tucked into their lunch bag. Treat coworkers, friends, and classmates to Christmas-themed snacks, candy, baked goods, or coffee.

Bake the 12 Cookies of Christmas

Cookies are a staple food group during the holiday season and there are too many options available to choose only one or two. Celebrate the 12 days of Christmas in the sweetest way by baking cookies each day of the celebration. This can be a fun activity for families with kids or couples to do together. Bake them for your family to enjoy or choose to spread the holiday cheer every day by sharing them with your family, friends, and community.

Other Ways to Celebrate

You don't have to follow tradition or common ways of celebrating the 12 days of Christmas. Choose a method of celebration that feels practical or exciting for you and your family.

Create a Holiday Bucket List

Let your family help decide what activities you will experience during the 12 days of Christmas by creating a holiday bucket list. Sit down and write everyone's ideas out. Then decide on your 12 favorites, display them for your family to see, and choose one each day to check off your list. Whether you celebrate the 12 days of Christmas before or after December 25th, this is a great way to be present during the holidays with those you love.

Deck and Declutter The Halls

With the 12 days of Christmas falling during the New Year, what a perfect time to declutter your space. Use 12 days to focus on 12 areas of your home that need to be decluttered, organized, and refreshed. Play Christmas movies or music during your decluttering process to make the chore feel more cheerful.

Host a 12 Days of Christmas Themed Party

If celebrating over the course of 12 days feels stressful or doesn't work with your busy holiday schedule, host a one-time party instead. Invite friends and family to attend and serve drinks, food, and treats inspired by the popular Christmas carol. Hand out party favors, have plenty of holiday decorations, and play fun party games as you celebrate 12 days all in one night.

Read the Entire Christmas Story

Since the 12 days of Christmas are based on the coming of the Magi after the birth of Christ, you might enjoy reading and discussing a part of the biblical Christmas story with your family every night of the celebration. The first two chapters of the book of Luke in the Bible describe the days leading up to the birth of Christ, specifically Luke 1:26 - 2:40. You can always read past this point to get a full picture of Jesus' life on earth.

Choose a Celebration That Brings Your Family Joy

No matter how or why you celebrate the 12 days of Christmas, what matters most is that you and your loved ones feel the joy of the season. Focus less on doing everything perfectly and focus more on the people you get to do everything with. Celebrating this season isn't about giving the most luxurious gifts, being the best hostess, or being the most fun parent. Rather, activities for the 12 days of Christmas are meant to remind you of the truly important gifts in life - the ones you can't wrap with paper and bows.

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13 Engaging Ideas to Celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas