You’ve got your classic Christmas traditions already, but do you ever want to mix it up and add something new? Here are my favorite Christmas activities for families at home. And dreaming of a better day, I HAD to include some out-on-the-town ideas, too.
Guess what? Most of the funky-fresh Christmas ideas came from my super creative mom! She’s an endless supply of clever ideas that have never been done before.
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Christmas Activities for Families at Home
If you’re spending lots of time at home this Christmas, here are my best ideas. Some are a bit more timeless, but there are definitely some fresh ideas in the mix!
Give out “Best Christmas Lights” Awards and Certificates (Free Printable)
Lots of families take a night to drive around town and look at Christmas lights, but this little activity steps it up a notch! Bring some certificates with you on your drive. When your family is blown away by someone’s front yard light display, leave a fun, encouraging certificate on their doorstep.
Plan a weekly Christmas Movie night – or make Saturday mornings extra special.
Some families have a Christmas movie they watch every single year. In our home, the Christmas season officially kicks off once the tree is decorated! Choose one night each week to try out a new (or new-to-us) Christmas movie. Alternatively, enjoy the classics together! Little kids especially love movie night in mom and dad’s bed.
If you’ve got really young kids and strict bedtimes, it can be hard to make movie nights work. Saturday morning movie time can be great, too! Kick it up a notch by pairing it with waffles, pancakes, or any other favorite breakfast food.
Nightly Christmas Story
There’s a chance you’re in the habit of reading a bedtime story every night. When your family’s Christmas season officially kicks off, make a stop at the library, and gather enough Christmas children’s books to get you through the entire season. Here’s a great list from Everyday Reading.
Host a Macho Man Christmas Cook Off for your family, friends, or community group.
Women often bear the brunt of holiday cooking and party planning. If you’re doing in-person gatherings this year, consider hosting a Macho Man Christmas Cook Off, or planning one for your church.
Note: the Christmas season is often overly full of activities, making it hard to find time to rest. Consider hosting a Macho Man Cook Off if you’re wanting to change things up at a usual holiday gathering that you’ll already be hosting. Try not to add another event to your plate!
Macho Man Christmas Cook Off is simple – each man in the group brings an entry for the Macho Man Competition. There are five categories to compete in, if your group is large enough: appetizer, meat, side dish, dessert, and soup/stew/chili.
If it’s a smaller gathering, scrap the categories and just have everyone compete in one category, so you’re truly comparing apples to apples.
Next, set up solo cups with labels for voting. You can provide every contestant with a cup and a sticky label. They can write the name of their dish on the label, and stick it to the cup.
Each person at the party should sample one of every competition dish. Having small plates or little plastic cups helps a lot with managing serving sizes.
Then, simply give everyone a ticket to drop in the solo cup of their favorite dish. Whichever solo cup has the most tickets is the winner!
You can make a homemade prize, offer a gift card, or even donate to their favorite charity.
You can also easily turn this into a fundraiser for larger groups. In this case, have the men bring two of their item. One will be pre-portioned out in small bites for the competition. The other is packaged, whole, and ready to go home with a family. You can auction off the completed dishes, and raise money for a favorite charity, or perhaps your church’s youth group.
Snap a festive holiday card photo.
Professional photos are lots of fun, but the holidays are already expensive. If you’ve got well coordinated outfits and a beautiful outdoor setting, you can do quite a bit with a friend’s iPhone and artistic eye!
Have a pajama swap.
One inexpensive way to exchange gifts with a large group of extended family members is to replace your normal gift-giving with a big pajama swap. Drawing names ensures everyone gets the right size – and pajamas can be so silly and festive!
Draw names in the family, and have everyone choose a Christmas ornament for someone else.
Here’s another way that family members can exchange special gifts! Ornaments give everyone an opportunity to share a gift that can be highly personalized.
Have a Christmas baking day together.
One family I know spends a Saturday in early December baking all day together. They make the family classics, but also try out new cookie recipes. Historically, they’ve packed them up and divided them into thoughtful gifts. Of course, keeping it small and having a stash of holiday goodies for your own home can lower the pressure!
Have fireplace smore’s one night.
Smore’s are such a fun treat. If you make them around your own fireplace, it can feel extra special and cozy! Of course, adding some Christmas music is essential.
Take young kids shopping for their siblings.
One of our favorite things to witness is our kids shopping for each other – whether it’s a birthday or Christmas! We give them a small dollar amount to see what they choose for each other. Kids can actually do a really great job at the Target dollar spot, too.
I like this tradition because it gives kids another way to experience the joy of giving instead of just receiving.
Write letters to Santa.
No matter how young your kids may be, they can still participate in some form of Santa letter writing. Check out these templates that make it a snap!
Find a babysitter and have a fancy holiday date night.
It’s been about a full year since my husband and I went for a proper date night. I do not recommend that! We love our time at home together, but getting dressed up can be a great way to mix it up. I’m hoping to go on a real date this Christmas!
Host a Christmas cookie decorating party (or keep it tiny).
Prepare your sugar cookies in advance, and whip up your own batches of homemade bulk icing. Teenagers in particular love this activity and can get pretty competitive with it. Our family loves to make ridiculous “Christmas cookies” by including Christmas themed dinosaurs, daisies, and other non-traditional goodies.
Have a family Christmas drawing competition with Art for Kids Hub.
If you’ve never shared a screen together and had an Art For Kids Hub family night, you’re missing out. They have tons of Christmas-themed drawing adventures, and it can be fun for kids and adults, too. All you need is Youtube, white printer paper, a black marker, and some colored pencils or crayons. Here are their holiday archives!
Go ice skating together.
There’s nothing particular Christmassy about ice skating, but if your area isn’t big into ice hockey or skating (especially in the south), it can FEEL Christmassy to bundle up and wobble around the rink together. Have the hot chocolate supplies waiting for you back home in the kitchen!
Decorate together – and include kids in the vision process.
If you’ve got young kids in your home, considering being okay with not having a magazine worthy home this Christmas. Let kids get really involved in the decorating. When kids take ownership of the creative process, they’ll enjoy the holiday decor even more! If you just can’t bring yourself to go there, check out my next idea…
Put a tiny tree in every kid’s bedroom – and let them be creative!
You can find little table top trees in every big box store, and it’s easy enough to find ornament sets that suit each child. Try letting them decorate their own tiny tree! It makes a great night light.
Have a gift wrap fashion show.
Round up lots of Christmas wrapping paper. Don’t forget to shop Dollar Tree if you’re looking to make it an affordable event. Put people in small teams – even pairs work well! Each group needs:
- 3 rolls of Christmas gift wrap
- a pair of scissors
- a roll of Scotch tape
- one “Model”
- one “Designer”
Give everyone 10-20 minutes to create a gorgeous Christmas evening gown or any other kind of formal wear. It’s just as fun with boys! Once the timer goes off, judges watch as each model does a catwalk to fun Christmas music. Don’t forget to take ridiculous photos!
Plan a Christmas themed dinner mix-up.
This is an absolute blast – but it does require a bit of planning. I’m hoping this template makes it way easier for you, so others can enjoy all the fun. I’ve done this event with a youth group in the past.
Begin by creating a simple menu that your group will enjoy. You’ll need three courses that will come out separately, and you need to list every ingredient for your own planning purposes. Here’s an example:
- Water with lemon
- Bowl of salad greens
- Spaghetti noodles
- Meat sauce
- Garlic Bread
- Chocolate cake
- Vanilla ice cream
Next, come up with a random, Christmassy mystery name for each ingredient and utensil. Yes, it’s total nonsense, and it’s supposed to be.
Here are my examples, using the foods above.
- Water with lemon (on dasher, on dancer)
- Salad bowl (boughs of holly)
- Dressing (not a creature was stirring)
- Croutons (silver bells)
- Fork (Hark!)
- Spaghetti noodles (bed of hay)
- Meat sauce (a fire so delightful)
- Garlic Bread (three wise men)
- Parmesan cheese (stars brightly shining)
- Knife (no room in the inn)
- Chocolate cake (figgy pudding)
- Vanilla ice cream (let it snow)
- Spoon (angelic hosts proclaim)
Next, create an ordering sheet for each dinner participant, or borrow mine below.Christmas-Dinner-Mix-Up-1
Participants will place their order by turning in their papers, and the food (and utensils) that come out will be so ridiculous! Expect them to be confused, and don’t rescue them from the discomfort. For example, it’s completely possible that someone would receive in their first course a slice of cake, a spoon, dry spaghetti noodles, and a knife.
- Have a small crew in the kitchen who can help you assemble everyone’s plates for each course. Since not everyone will receive the same thing, plating the food takes a while. You have to match each diner’s ordering sheet to the food you put on their plates. It might help to put a strip of masking tape on your counter tops printed with every diner’s name. Their plate can land in their “designated spot” right beneath their ordering sheet. This minimizes kitchen confusion.
- While you’re plating each course, have one person entertaining the diners. While waiting for the food to come out, your group can play a Christmas game, exchange gifts, or a Christmassy photo booth. Have your most fun person out front, interacting with your diners and keeping everything light and funny.
- Don’t forget to play Christmas music.
- Have your guests dress fancy, whether it’s just your immediate family, extended family, church youth group, or homeroom kids. There’s nothing funnier that people dressed fancy and having to eat a pile of spaghetti noodles with nothing on top of them, a piece of cake, and a little pile of croutons.
- Set a romantic mood to make it even sillier. Candlelight, soft Christmas music, and a dim room ramps up the nonsense factor!
- This can work with kids and adults of all ages. The only limitation is that your crowd needs a sense of humor. If your crew is fussy, or if you (the host) acts nervous or uncomfortable, it may fall flat. Our group had a blast, but they also took cues from me, and I was LOVING it. Just think of it as one big Christmas prank!
Have a “Pajamas and Pancakes” night.
Most kids love to have the occasional breakfast-for-dinner night, but it’s even more fun at Christmas! Encourage your guests, even if it’s just your own family, to wear their Christmas pajamas to dinner. Serve pancakes and other breakfast favorites. Pair it with a Christmas movie to make it feel even more special.
Have a cozy little Progressive Christmas Party.
You can do this at home with just your own family, or with friends or extended family. No matter how big or small your event, the concept is the same. You visit a different location for appetizers, main course, and dessert.
If you’re wanting to do it at home, set up your three different courses (apps, main dish, dessert) in three different rooms of your house. If your kids are old enough, you can have each course “hosted” by a different family member.
For example, if your 11 year old is in charge of appetizers, they can pick everything out, cook it all themselves, and host in their room. They may even choose to decorate their room accordingly and plan their own fun family activity (a group art project, or a Christmas party game). When the appetizers are finished, you could relocate to a different part of the house for the main course. You’ll move again for dessert time! To keep it fun and fresh, choose a different style of music for each room, and be sure to let each host showcase their own unique personality.
To have a progressive Christmas party with extended family members or friends, just choose three houses to visit. Each host family will prepare one of the courses and be in charge of one Christmas party game or activity. Guests can travel in their family cars to each site. Bonus! Doing it this way gives you time to digest.
Christmas Gratitude Activities
If you’re like me, you’re always interested in new ways to keep kids centered on the real magic of Christmas, which has nothing to do with receiving presents. If you can find a way to help kids love giving, too, you’ve really hit a home run!
Send soldiers holiday cards.
Here’s a great site that can help you reach out to deployed troops at Christmas or any other time of year.
Help your kids sell hot chocolate in the yard.
You’ve heard of a summer lemonade stand, but what about helping your kids raise money for a favorite charity with a Christmassy hot chocolate bar in the front yard?
To make it work, put your hot chocolate in a crock pot and run an extension cord to the house. Bundle up your kids in warm clothes, and load up your folding table with a full hot chocolate bar.
Hot chocolate could burn, so an adult might choose to ladle the hot chocolate into styrofoam cups. Kids can shine by serving up spoonfuls of candy, spraying whipped cream, drizzling caramel sauce, or adding a candy cane to the rim of the cup. By having lots of customizable options, kids can really have a blast!
Donate to Heifer International and have your kids choose the animal(s).
Teaching your kids about Heifer International is one way to open your child’s eyes to different cultures, and help them experience the joy of giving. Reading more about how the gift of an animal can transform another family’s life is such a great learning experience for kids. Learn more at Heifer International.
Deliver holiday treats to fire stations, nurses, or police officers.
Whip up a batch of your favorite Christmas cookies and deliver them to your nearest police station, nurse’s station, or fire station. Be sure to learn more about Covid restrictions in your area and be extra clean and smart in your preparations.
If that’s not going to be well-received locally, you can also have something store bought delivered.
Family Christmas Crafts
Most of us have at least one kiddo that loves to craft. But craft time with Mama (instead of at school)? That’s next level special! Here are some classic ideas.
Decorate a gingerbread house.
These kids are available pretty much everywhere once December rolls around. Don’t overcomplicate it – just buy a kit at any big box store and go nuts!
Create mason jar snowglobes.
Mason jar snowglobes are so home-spun and sweet. Check out this tutorial from Shutterfly!
Make salt dough ornaments.
Salt dough ornaments are great for toddlers up through teenagers! Here’s a really helpful and inspiring tutorial.
Make a paper plate wreath with little kids.
My little ones made a paper plate wreath last year, and they loved it. They were 6 and 3. There are lots of more sophisticated versions online, but I like the ones that look totally childish. After all, if it’s made from a paper plate, do we really need to class it up?
Redesign your family’s tree skirt with some DIY flair.
I used to have an understated, classy little tree skirt. Then several years ago, I purchased one in plain burlap, and started putting painted handprints from the kids on it each year. I use a Sharpie marker to put their names and the year next to the print. I’m hoping to keep it up every year until our kids are grown. I love seeing their tiny handprints on the tree skirt every year.
Make a popcorn garland for your tree.
I haven’t tried this with my kids yet, but this may be the year! Here’s a quick tutorial. It’s pretty simple!
If you’ve got preschoolers and a snow day, check out these great winter animal crafts for little kids!
Family Christmas Games
Everyone is more open to playing ridiculous games at Christmas.
Christmas Drawing – Paper Plate Hat Style!
This game is too silly. Everyone puts a paper plate on top of their head, and is given a black marker.
A leader is chosen, who will describe a Christmas scene for the group, like a Christmas tree with a star on top and three packages at the bottom. The directions are given one step at a time.
All the artists must draw a scene as it’s described by their leader on the paper plate, while wearing it on their head. It’s incredibly tricky, but every once in a while, someone in your group will be remarkably talented!
Build a snowman.
Every year, we build a snowman at least once. Step up the fun factor by dressing your snow-person up in a fun costume.
Christmas Minute to Win It games
Here’s a great collection of 25 Christmas themed Minute to Win It games!
Have a Christmas-themed talent show in the living room.
Give everyone in your family a 1 week notice to come up with a talent for your family show. You can really make it fun by printing a program for everyone and recording all the performances. You can also invite a small group of friends!
To cut back on the possibility of hurt feelings (especially with younger kids), try to make sure everyone chooses a different category. For example, it would be better to have one magic show, one kid singing, and another dancing rather than everyone trying to out-perform the other.
In my opinion, it’s better not to have awards for family talent shows. Just celebrate everyone’s contributions and have fun!
Play a Christmas version of Celebrity.
Here are the rules for playing Celebrity. To make it a Christmas version, simply swap out the celebrity names for Christmas nouns. Examples might be: silver bells, wrapping paper, manger, Christmas tree, and star.
Go roller skating on Christmas Day, like they do in a Venezuela!
In Venezuela, Christmas always involves roller skating. Assuming you live in warm climate, free of snow and ice, this could be a weird and fun tradition! Venezuelans roller skate to church and back on Christmas Day. Even the roads are shut down for safety! Learn more about Christmas traditions around the world here.
12 Days of Christmas Activities for Families
Extend all the Christmas fun by observing the 12 days of Christmas together as a family.
Order the December box of Universal Yums.
I absolutely adore Universal Yums, but we only participate at Christmas time. Here’s my review! You could easily open one snack a day and share it at dinner time to turn this into some holiday cheer.
Fill an Operation Christmas Child Box
Operation Christmas Child is a really special activity for Christian families who are interested in worldwide evangelism. Learn more about the organization here, then get busy filling your shoebox with special little toys for boys and girls all over the world!
Open tiny family gifts for the 12 days of Christmas.
For the 12 days of Christmas, you can give little gifts. For a more sophisticated option, check out these gift ideas that correspond to the popular song, “The 12 Days of Christmas.” Family Education has a more kid-friendly version.
Come up with 12 ways to serve others as a family, and do one each day.
If that’s too much pressure (it would be for me!), divide up the 12 ideas across multiple family units and each take one day! Here are my favorite serving ideas:
- Provide free babysitting for a single mom
- Sing carols at a nursing home
- Put together an Operation Christmas Child shoebox
- Ring bells for the Salvation Army
- Serve meals at a soup kitchen or deliver Meals on Wheels
- Shop for a child whose name was selected from a Giving Tree in your community
- Take shelter animals for a walk around the property
- Mail cards to active duty military
- Mail cards to inmates – I’ve heard that homemade cards from children are very meaningful
- Choose an animal to give to a family in need with Heifer International
- Offer to help with class parties at a local elementary school
- Read Christmas picture books to struggling readers
Christian Christmas Activities for Families
Is your holiday season feeling too commercialized? You can only mutter to yourself, “Jesus is the reason for the season” so many times before it begins to feel hollow. Here are some ways to practice what you preach.
Give a family gift to Jesus on Christmas Eve.
Growing Kids for the Kingdom writes about a family tradition where their family records a “gift to Jesus” for the coming year on an index card. It takes the place of a family New Year’s Resolution. They put the index card in a gift wrapped box, and each year, they add a new card. Each card is signed and dated annually by the family on Christmas Eve.
Host a Nativity Night Party for friends and family.
We did this with my family this past Christmas. Everyone took on a part in a Christmas nativity play. We all had spoken parts and sang carols together. It was so silly, but my parents filmed it and will love rewatching it as all the grandkids get older. Who cares if you don’t have an audience? Here are some free Christmas play scripts.
Attend a Christmas Eve service.
What’s better than a Christmas Eve Candlelight service with everyone singing Silent Night together? Nothing, if you ask me!
Participate in the Hanging of the Greens at your church.
Many churches have an evening where the church is decorated for advent. It often takes place immediately after Thanksgiving, and for some people, marks the official beginning to Christmas.
Start an advent wreath in your home, and use readings.
Here are a couple of beautiful options for advent wreaths, and the candles you’ll need. Remember that the first two weeks of advent and the last week use purple candles, while the third week a pink candle.
Find a Christian Christmas playlist on Spotify, and stream it often throughout the house.
This is the best way to freshen up your music choices, if you’re getting sick of the same old songs year after year.
Consider replacing Elf on the Shelf with Shepherd on the Search.
Our family has a “Shepherd on the Search” that we use in place of Elf on the Shelf. We absolutely love silly Christmas activities, and have nothing against the elf. However, the Shepherd was a gift to us that we absolutely love.
Each night, the Shepherd searches around the house for the baby Jesus. On Christmas morning, you can find him back at the nativity that’s provided with the toy. It’s a sweet story, and a way to bring a little Jesus back to the season, if that’s something you need.
Barn Night Storytelling
If you’re in a rural area, with easy access to a barn, consider taking your family at night, when the stars are out. Re-read the story about the birth of Jesus, found in Luke 2. Doing it in a barn under the stars might just make the story feel brand new.