13 Christmas Eve Traditions to Make the Night Special

Updated May 17, 2021
Joyful family celebrating Christmas

Whether you're spending the evening with family, celebrating as a couple, or getting together with friends, creating some new Christmas Eve traditions is a wonderful way to make this important night even more special. The key to creating great Christmas Eve memories is making every tradition meaningful and truly fun. That way, you'll want to do it year after year.

Christmas Eve Traditions for Families

Christmas can be a magical time when you have children, whether they're toddlers or grown-up kids visiting home. In addition to the usual Christmas Eve family traditions of hanging stockings and setting out cookies for Santa, these special ideas for new traditions can last for generations.

Keep a Christmas Eve Journal

Life changes quickly when you have kids, and it's fun to mark the year with a family journal. Choose a blank book that has a holiday cover, or decorate a plain journal with an old Christmas card or another holiday motif. Each year, every person in the family can record what they love about Christmas and how the year has gone. Younger kids may need an adult to write down their words, but as kids get older, they can do their own journal entries. It's totally fine to keep these short and sweet, or you can write for pages. Over the years, this journal will make a wonderful family record of your holidays together.

Read a Special Holiday Book

Choose a special holiday book to read together as a family every Christmas Eve. Snuggle in a special chair or on the couch with hot cocoa, cookies, and other holiday treats. Don't forget to take pictures of this family reading time, so you can document how kids grow and the family changes each year. These are a few books that are wonderful for this type of Christmas Eve tradition:

  • The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore
  • The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
  • A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
  • A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas

Make a Toy Donation

Christmas Eve is a good time to remember those less fortunate, and it's good to model holiday giving for kids. You can go through old toys the kids have outgrown and donate them on Christmas Eve, or you can purchase toys and deliver them as part of an angel tree program or Toys for Tots.

Woman making toy donations

Light a Christmas Carousel

There are many different types of Christmas carousels, from high-end German designs with carved figures to inexpensive stamped metal options you can find in the discount store. All of these carousels features small candles you can light, and the heat from the flames causes the carousel to turn. This can be a magical experience for kids, and it's a beautiful way to celebrate the night before Christmas as a family.

Traditions for Celebrating Christmas Eve as a Couple

There are lots of fun ways to celebrate Christmas Eve with your partner. Whether you're just married, dating, or have been celebrating together for years, these are some great Christmas Eve traditions for couples.

Drive to See Christmas Lights

Nothing beats a Christmas Eve drive to see the lights, especially if you put some carols on the car stereo and have some hot chocolate in to-go mugs. You can plan your route out in advance or spontaneously explore the best lights in your area. Since this is an annual Christmas Eve tradition, you can even do both: Follow your traditional route first and then explore someplace new.

Have an Annual Holiday Movie Night

Watching a Christmas movie together is a great way to have a low key celebration with just the two of you. You can go with a classic like It's a Wonderful Life or a comedy like Elf. There are tons of must-see Christmas movies to choose from. You can wrap gifts together while you watch or simply snuggle on the sofa and enjoy your time together.

Cook a Romantic Christmas Eve Dinner

While Christmas Eve isn't always considered a romantic holiday, there's no reason you can't turn it into one. One way to do this is to have a romantic dinner in, especially if you choose a really special main dish. Consider a seafood feast, a homemade pasta dish, or something fun and interactive like cheese fondue. No matter what you select, it's fun to have the same food each year to make it feel like an annual tradition.

Romantic Christmas Eve Dinner

Christmas Eve Traditions for Singles

If you're single on Christmas Eve, you can make special memories on your own. These are some traditions you'll love doing year after year.

Drop Off Cookies to Neighbors

Holiday baking is more fun when you can share the results with others, and Christmas Eve is the perfect time to do this. Ahead of time, pick up some cellophane bags or pastry boxes and plenty of Christmas ribbon or bows. Put cookies into the boxes or bags, decorate with ribbon, and add a holiday card. Then on Christmas Eve, drop the cookies off for your neighbors to enjoy.

Volunteer at a Food Pantry

Christmas can be an especially difficult time for those in need, and your volunteer efforts can make a huge difference. Organize a food drive for Christmas Eve, volunteer at a food pantry, or do something else to help those in your community who are less fortunate. When you make this an annual tradition, you'll find that your Christmas Eve becomes especially meaningful.

Volunteer at a Food Pantry

Make a Yearly Christmas Ornament

If you enjoy crafting, you can make an annual Christmas ornament every Christmas Eve. Try out different techniques, such as origami ornaments, beaded ornament kits, crocheted ornaments, and more. You can also use Christmas ornament patterns to make some different designs. No matter what type of ornament you make, be sure to attach a tag with the date or write directly on the ornament to label it with the year. That way, when you look back in Christmases to come, you'll see each year's ornament on the tree.

Traditions for Celebrating Christmas Eve With Friends

Getting together with friends is a great way to spend the holiday. These are some fun Christmas Eve traditions for adults, and you can also try these with kids.

Host a Christmas Game Night

A game night is a great way to celebrate Christmas Eve with friends. You can try some adult Christmas games if everyone is older, or you can get the whole family involved with board games, card games, holiday charades, and more. Either way, this is a fun way to make memories with friends.

Have a Gingerbread House Contest

An annual gingerbread house contest can be a super fun Christmas Eve tradition for friends of all ages. You can have each family decorate a house, or you can separate people into teams based on age. It helps to have the houses baked ahead of time. You can purchase a kit or use a gingerbread house pattern to create your own. Then on Christmas Eve, have everything necessary to decorate. Think lots of icing, candies of all different shapes and sizes, pretzel rods, and anything else that sounds like fun. At the end of the evening, everyone can vote on which house is the best.

Hold a Hot Cocoa Taste Test

All hot cocoa is not created equal, and you can do a blind taste test with friends to prove it. To start this fun Christmas Eve tradition, have everyone bring 2-3 varieties of hot cocoa and a blindfold. Then mix up the different kinds of cocoa and keep the names hidden. Have tasters try the different types and vote on the best ones. After everyone has voted, tally up the results to see which hot cocoa variety wins. Each year, people can bring new types of hot cocoa to try.

Create a Tradition Everyone Will Love

No matter what you choose to do on Christmas Eve, this holiday is really about connecting with others and having a cozy, fun evening before the bustle of Christmas morning. As long as you're having a good time and doing something you enjoy, you'll be creating a tradition that everyone will love.

13 Christmas Eve Traditions to Make the Night Special