Thursday, 1 December 2016

20+ Christmas Family Traditions That DON’T involve Santa!

I’ve blogged before about how as a family we don’t really ‘do’ Santa/Father Christmas. One thing that is a bit tricky with this decision is the number of Christmas traditions that relate to the big man in the red suit – from the old-fashioned mince pie and carrot left out and Santa’s grottos to more modern crazes like reindeer food and Elf On The Shelf.

So, to think about how I could create our own family traditions, I asked a range of other parents what their non-Santa-related Christmas traditions are. I’m sharing them here as I think they will useful not only for families like mine that but also for families with older children who know The Truth (ahem) or just want to have some traditions that will last as their children grow.

So here they are, over 20 Christmas family traditions that you can do without reference to the big FC …


“We have advent jars instead of a calendar, I put activities and little gifts in the jars”  Bamm Boo

“We have this... it's our advent calendar and each day has a different activity. Lots of crafty things but also includes thing like donating to food banks, driving round to look at lights on houses etc” Messy Blog

“We do a random acts of kindness calendar. Here it is” – Giggles Family Vlog

“We do an activity advent calendar and every year we go to the woods and decorate a lonely tree. Here is lasts years” - Gingerlillytea

Other Preparations

“Just the crib: adding figures each week and then Baby Jesus on Christmas Eve” – HeadInBook

“We pick (an) expensive (decoration) each year. Have a day dedicated to decs and tree and lights.” – The GrownUp

“We decorate the tree together. One year my hubby did the tree by himself and couldn't understand why I burst into tears shouted at him and then stormed out (okay sounds a bit OTT but HE JUST DIDN'T GET IT!). On the more positive side, mum would make her mince pies, we'd have Amy Grant's Christmas CD on and make the mince pies. That combined with the "Holidays are Coming" advert we knew Christmas was coming. That's before you get to all the church stuff we do each year.” - HanPlans

“December 12th is St Lucia’s Eve. Every year, I put a crown of candles on my head and take a tray of snacks upstairs to the bedrooms in the middle of the night. It’s not something my family did as a child. It’s not a particularly common tradition anywhere, not even in Scandinavia where services in celebration of Saint Lucia are widely held. It does involve a midnight feast, though, and that makes it a winner with the boys. It is, I’m told, one of the best things about our family.” – Frogotter

“We do carolling. When I was younger we went to the village centre on Christmas Eve and sang. Now we live in a village on our own we go to the light switch on and carol singing round the community shop.” – East Sussex Mummy

“We (the hubby and two kids) have a couple of traditions. We like to attend the Christmas light switch on at Bluewater - I always end getting emotional during the fireworks! My sister comes over and we paint the windows - as in she draws on a humourous Christmas image on the main one and I paint it - on the side window we always have the nativity scene - I can supply pictures if you want! We also attend the Christmas Eve service at our church and the kids get to dress up and be really involved! I love it!” – Jog On Mum

Christmas Eve

“Ever since I was young, my family always took a trip to The Barrowlands market in Glasgow every Christmas Eve: if you've never heard of 'The Barras' it's essentially the dumping ground of Central Scotland, pirated DVD's, stolen gear and antique stalls that couldn't look further out of place amongst the rest. In theory, it's the last place anyone would want to spend a holiday, but it's tradition, and it's packed every year. I'm not sure whether I quite want to continue with my little one this year, I'm not exaggerating when I say it's not exactly family friendly anymore, but I'd love to continue with a less than traditional tradition.” – Life With Boys

“We go to kids church service on Christmas eve, then when we get home the 'Christmas box' will have appeared with new PJs for the whole family (which get put on straight away), a Christmas DVD (also on straight away) and popcorn, chocolate, marshmallows and hot chocolate.” – Jane from Norris Box

“Every year we do a Christmas Eve buffet for the family and then all put on our Christmas pyjamas, watch a Christmas DVD together.” – Five Little Doves 

“We always have mulled wine in our slow cooker on Christmas Eve and have family over for a gossip. It's one of my favourite foodie things about Christmas and I look forward to my own homemade mulled wine every year!” MentalParentals

“My daughter is just turning one, but we are just starting some traditions! We plan to drive around and look at the local houses' Christmas lights on Christmas eve, followed by hot chocolate near the fire” A Mundane Life

“We go to the Christingle service on Christmas Eve which is really special (and a bit of a fire hazard if I'm honest).”Life By Naomi

“For the past 8 or so years my husband & I have had a gingerbread house competition. We make & decorate our own gingerbread house on Christmas Eve after everything's done (last year I was up until about 4am) & our families then have to pick whose is best. He is the current reigning champion. Raging. (I have photos - still think mine was better last year.)” – Glasgow With Kids

Christmas Day and beyond

“Everyone in our house chooses what they want for Christmas breakfast in advance and that's what they get on Christmas morning. Even if it's chicken nuggets or melted marshmallows. We always have a ceilidh in my parents house after everyone's had a little bit too much mulled wine. It usually ends with much falling over & a bunch of bruises.” – Glasgow With Kids

“We don't open the presents until AFTER lunch! Apparently that's not popular (and we're mean!)” – Lycra Widow

“My husband’s family always have a Christmas quiz on Christmas Day. His dad spends all year making it and we all love it. It's the highlight of our year.” – Mumsy Midwife

“We always use our leftover turkey from Christmas Day to make khoresht fesenjan. It's a Persian recipe that is beYOND delicious. It uses pomegranate molasses and walnuts to create the most rich, sweetly savoury and moreish sauce that you've ever tasted. It's a fab use for the leftover meat, and we're hoping to expand it in the coming years to take in a few other Persian dishes too. None of our family is Iranian, but we really like to celebrate other cultures in our household and introduce our son to the idea of them. For us, Christmas is an excellent time to do that what with the "peace on Earth" message!” – Vie Choufleur

In Memory

Amongst the festivities it’s important to remember that, for some people, Christmas is hard. If you’re missing a lost loved one this Christmas, I hope that you can find some comfort in a tradition of your own …

“Ours is rather sombre but is meaningful to us. My fiance/the girls stepfather died suddenly a few years ago. Since then, we light an advent candle every night in December in his memory and the three of us attend a memorial service at our local church, where people can remember loved ones by placing a personalised bauble on the church Christmas tree.” – That British Betty

What non-Santa-related Christmas traditions do you have? 


  1. Great post. My family also does a buffet on Christmas Eve, with a few drinks obviously.

    1. Sounds great! I think we need to get better at Christmas Eve traditions, it tends to get overlooked in amongst everything else going on.

  2. What a lovely ideas...It's great to read the traditions that other people have.

    1. I loved putting this post together, so interesting reading what other people do for Christmas!

  3. I am from Germany so our Christmas Eve Day normally involves having a lazy morning and then having potato salad and sausages and then we open up some presents from us as parents.

    1. Potato salad and sausages is definitely a tradition I could get on board with!