Homemade, Mom Life

Our Favorite Family Christmas Traditions

I love the hope and joy that the Christmas season brings.  Honestly, I wake up singing Christmas songs in my head and there is a welling up of happiness always brimming beneath the surface.  Sure, there is the added {self-imposed} pressure of a decorated home, gift-buying, and other holiday obligations, but every Christmas I work hard to keep those aspects from stealing any joy.  And every year, I strip a little more of the unnecessary away from our Christmas season.  As I do that, I can more clearly see the traditions that mean the most to my family…and I press in and hold on to those…tightly.

Vintage Christmas Decor

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In case you are looking to add some family Christmas traditions, or are just curious as to what our family does, I thought that I would share our top 6 favorite family Christmas traditions.

1. Advent.

If you’ve read my blog at all around the Christmas season, then you know that I absolutely love celebrating Advent as a family.  I love it in a church service, but when it’s just the five of us discussing the birth of Jesus throughout the month of December, the meaning of the season is heightened.  We have used some incredible resources over the years and I shared an entire blog post all about it…click HERE to read it.  The Christmas seasons since we began to intentionally celebrate Advent as a family, have been the most joyous and meaningful for all of us.

Advent Jesse Tree

2. New Christmas Ornaments

Friends, this one has taken on a life of its own.  I started the tradition when our daughter was a baby and I never realized how significant it would become for our children.  Every year, I present them {on Christmas Eve morning} with a new ornament for them to add to the tree.  Now, this isn’t just any ornament that I randomly picked up at the store.  {And that is totally fine if you do that…trust me, it’s much easier than what I do!}  Their yearly ornament is a reflection of them and their year.  It could be something simple, such as the year we gave our 2 year old son an ornament with a dog on it since he was obsessed with dogs.  Another example would be a ballerina ornament when our daughter began ballet.  But…there are some years that I know it would be impossible to find an appropriate ornament in any store or online.  On those years, I make them an ornament.  It’s nothing extravagant, but these ornaments always mean the most to them.  Like the year our daughter started reading and was always reading a book, I made a “chapter book ornament”.  I’ve made them ornaments from photos, crayons, Lego blocks, and stuffed animals.  And every December, the fun we have when they go through their boxes of ornaments is worth all of the thought and effort.

Handmade Christmas Ornament

Handmade Christmas Ornament

3. Sinterklaas Day

This is a fun and unique one.  I am half Dutch and in an effort to incorporate a tradition from the Netherlands, we add this one in each December.  But let me be honest: it sneaks up on me!  Every single year.  And I will not deny or confirm the fact that I {may} have fudged the date a time or two in the past because I was not ready.

From my research, Sinterklaas is the Dutch version of St. Nicholas and he arrives in the Netherlands on December 5th.  It is a big celebratory holiday in the Netherlands and we have incorporated just one of the traditions.  On the eve of Sinterklaas Day (which is December 4th), my children each place a pair of shoes by our fireplace.  Inside each set of shoes is carrot for Sinterklaas’ horse.  We sing a song up the fireplace to invite Sinterklaas to visit us.  The song is my kiddos favorite part.  Why?  Because they insist that their Dad make up the song.  And guess what?  He goes along with it and we are always laugh in joy at the end of his made-up song.  That’s because, well, he’s funny.  But also a little ironic because he is definitely not Dutch.  Just goes to show you what a good sport Mr. Little by Little Farmhouse is!

Oh, and before the morning of December 5th, Sinterklaas has replaced the carrots with a gift for each of the children.  Some years he has brought books, others have been toys, and even games.  Nothing extravagant or expensive, just a fun little thing to start our December off with a blessing.  This year he has gone a bit practical…with a fun twist.  Spoiler alert: each kiddo is getting a head lamp!

Sinterklaas Day

4. Kids Gift Exchange

This has got to be one of the sweetest traditions.  From the time my oldest two were in early elementary school, they would make or buy a present for each other.  Some years, the gifts were handmade from what they could find in our home.  Other years, they have purchased supplies to create a gift.  And sometimes even, they have some money to spend on gifts.  They know one another so well and their gifts are always so thoughtful.  One of their favorite parts of this tradition is that they get to exchange these gifts on Christmas Eve morning, so it satisfies a little bit of the excitement of opening presents.

5. Christmas Movies

We don’t watch a lot of tv or movies…actually {nerd alert} we mostly watch nature documentaries on Netflix.  However, at Christmas time, we really enjoy watching some of our favorite holiday movies.  Sometimes we sneak one in during the day and other times, the whole family gathers with popcorn and blankets and cozies up for the night.  Some of our favorite are: White Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Santa Clause, Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Miracle on 34th Street, Elf, Polar Express, and The Muppet Christmas Carol.

6. Christmas Eve Shepherd’s Meal

This is a new tradition for our family as we just began it last year.  But, let me tell you, it is definitely a keeper.  My parents spent Christmas Eve and day with us last year, and the 7 of us really enjoyed this meal together.  This year, it will just be the 5 of us and I know that it will be a fun highlight of our evening.

I was introduced to this tradition by Sally Clarkson in her, “The Life-Giving Home” book.  {I love all of Sally’s books, but this is one of my favorites.}  She explained what her family did and I basically just copied her.  So, I can’t take any credit for this, but I can highly recommend it for all of you.

The idea is to create an evening that causes us to contemplate upon what really happened that night so long ago when Jesus was born.  And one of way of doing that is to think about the shepherd’s who were in the fields.  Last year, we ate at our table in the dining room, but this year, I may have us make it a bit more like a picnic by gathering together on our living room floor.

We will turn off all of the lights and, in turn, light a lot of candles, which creates a fun environment.  We’ll sit around and enjoy a delicious spread of cheeses, meats, crackers, dried fruits, nuts, figs, and such.  I was pleasantly surprised by how well the kids enjoyed trying cheeses that they had never had before.  I splurged a bit on various goat cheeses and everyone loved munching on this easy-to-prepare meal.  {It took a lot of pressure off of me to cook yet another meal.} We all loved this dinner so much that we are really looking forward to our Christmas Eve shepherds meal again this year.

Christmas is a special time to celebrate the birth of Jesus with our families and I think that He loves that we pour a little extra into our families at this time of the year.

What are some of your family’s Christmas traditions?




  1. Oh my goodness, Leigh!! I absolutely LOVE your traditions!!! I especially want to use your Shepherds Meal idea! What a great tradition- all of your traditions!!😍😍

    1. Leigh

      Thank you, Sarah! The shepherds meal is brilliant…and I need something brilliant and easy on Christmas Eve! ♥

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