Does your family make a Christmas family bucket list? We often take some time together as autumn winds down to ask different family members what they want to do for the holiday season.
There are so many fun holiday activities available to enjoy with the whole family. We have favorite things we love to do together, and cherished family traditions from our childhood homes. We also love to add in new traditions each year.
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Free Printable Christmas Bucket List for Families
If you are looking for great ideas to get into the holiday spirit with your family, look no further! This post will walk you through dozens of fun things to do with little kids, preteens or teens.
We’ve also created a free printable Christmas bucket list for you to download. It’s a chart with 30 easy ideas to do as a family.
Looking for non-Christmas ideas? Check out our 75+ Winter Activities for Teens and Families.
Unique Holiday Bucket List Ideas
1. Ugly Christmas Sweater fun
This is all about the silliness of Christmas clothes! Some families host a party and invite everyone to come in their favorite ugly sweaters.
Another easier idea that I’ve seen lately is to make Christmas cookies and decorate them as “ugly Christmas sweaters”. Either way, you’re sure to have lots of laughter and some great photo ops!
2. Saint Nicholas’ day, or other holiday traditions
This is a tradition in some European countries that involves putting chocolate coins in shoes on December 6. It celebrates the historic Saint Nicholas and his generosity.
For homeschooling families, or families who want to help their children experience different ways of celebrating, look into how other countries celebrate Christmas, or Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, an so on. We did this as a unit study one year, and had lots of fun learning together.
3. Make snow cream or old-fashioned maple sugar candy
We found a recipe online for “snow cream”, and when we finally got a decent snowfall one year, the kids loved making ice cream from caramel sauce and snow!
Traditional maple sugar candy used snow and maple syrup to make a delicious winter treat. Both recipes are pinned on our Winter Ideas Board on Pinterest.
4. Craft/ holiday bazaar
My girls always include Christmas bazaars or craft shows on the Christmas family bucket list. They love to do their Christmas shopping for each other and support local businesses and artists.
5. Christmas crackers, hats & crowns
My family has participated in this British tradition for as long as I can remember. Buy some authentic Christmas Crackers and enjoy “popping” them.
Take a photo with the silly hats at your Christmas Eve or Christmas Day meal.
6. “Sock” someone or do a 12 days of Christmas gift drop
Fill a stocking with goodies and (covertly) drop it at the neighbor’s house with a message to pass the deed on to another house. My friend Shelly has the full description and free printables to use.
One couple I know chooses a family in need to bless with 12 days of Christmas gifts: they drop off gifts secretly at the family’s house for the 12 days leading up to Christmas.
Free / Budget Family Christmas Bucket List Activities
7. Advent Calendar
Having an advent calendar or Christmas countdown calendar is a great way to kick off the Christmas season! Buy the chocolate or candy ones that come with a small treat behind each door— I suggest one calendar per child.
For families that don’t want to use candy or sweets, a Lego Advent calendar can be a great alternative! Or get a refillable, reusable calendar and fill it with your own candy, treats, or fun holiday activities.
@dinkumtribe Love my Christmas countdown! One kid each day gets a turn to have a candy cane every day in December leading up to Christmas. @dinkumtribe @dinkumtribe @dinkumtribe #countdowntochristmas #countdownchristmas #adventcalendar #adventcalendar2022 #quiltedadvent #handmadechristmas #candycanecountdown #itsalmostchristmas🎄 Inspired by @Lance Bass ♬ original sound – Lance Bass
The countdown calendars are so helpful for little ones, and for ADHDers who struggle with time blindness, since it helps mark the passing of days until Christmas Eve.
8. Catch snowflakes on your tongue
Here’s quintessential Christmas fun for kids of all ages! If you have the opportunity to enjoy a snowfall, get out and snap some silly photos of the family catching snowflakes.
9. Sing Christmas Carols together
One of my favorite Christmas traditions is sitting in the living room with my family, singing Christmas carols. Print out the words for your family’s favorite carols or songs and have a singalong.
As Buddy the Elf says, “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is by singing loud for all to hear!”
10. Family game night
With a little extra time off, it’s the perfect time to enjoy board games that you may not have time to play together during other seasons. We love Castle Panic and Exploding Kittens.
11. Christmas caroling
If you really enjoy singing, take your family caroling at a local homeless shelter or retirement home (call ahead to make arrangements). You could also visit your neighbors and sing a few carols at the door.
12. Christmas Tree decorating
We make this a party night at our house! We get out our Christmas tree decorations, crank up the Christmas songs and decorate together as a family.
Instead of a big dinner, we make special appetizers and small bites to snack on throughout the process.
@dinkumtribe Recipe for clam dip coming soon! We traditionally have appetizers for our tree trimming night. @dinkumtribe @dinkumtribe @dinkumtribe #treetrimmimg #appetizersfordinner #familytraditions #easydinnerideas #christmastraditions #christmastok #christmas2022 #christmasfoods ♬ We Need a Little Christmas – Angela Lansbury
Each child chooses which ornaments they want to hang so everyone is involved.
13. Christmas movies
For years, my sister and I watched the 1954 version of “White Christmas” together as our sister’s Christmas tradition. My husband’s family grew up watching “A Christmas Story”.
There are so many Christmas movies available! Choose a few favorites or just have a movie marathon day when you play them in the background while doing other activities.
14. Christmas music
We have a rule in our family that we can’t start playing Christmas music until the day after Thanksgiving. Then Christmas songs are pretty much on repeat throughout December!
We take turns letting different family members choose the station or style of Christmas music they enjoy.
15. Hot cocoa
Our kids love having a cup of hot cocoa before breakfast with whipped cream and holiday sprinkles. We try to serve hot cocoa several times during Christmas break when our mornings are not so rushed.
You can also do a hot chocolate bar party— an extra special dessert as part of other fun Christmas activities, like a movie night or after looking at holiday lights. Pinterest has tons of hot chocolate bar ideas.
16. Borrow Christmas books from your local library
Also, many libraries have free/inexpensive holiday or Christmas events. Younger kids can enjoy a story time, while bigger kids may appreciate a crafting or movie event.
17. Christmas lights
One item that always makes it onto our family Christmas bucket list is driving around to look at Christmas lights. Sometimes we only do that locally in town, but whenever possible we try to go to a bigger holiday light display or even a light show.
@dinkumtribe This incredible lights display is an annual event held at Azalea Park in Brookings on the Oregon Coast. @dinkumtribe @dinkumtribe @dinkumtribe @travelsouthernoregon #christmaslights #christmaslightinstallation #christmaslightsaremyfavoritecolor #holidaylights #holidaylights2022 #southoregoncoast #southernoregon #southernoregoncoast #adhdfamilytravel #familytravelcreator #oregonfamily #pnwfamily #pnwfamilies #oregonfamilies #familytravelvlog #familytravelblog #familytravelinfluencer #travelwithkids ♬ Jingle Bells – Christmas Background Music
We’ve also done a scavenger hunt to look for specific Christmas lights or decorations, and our kids had a great time looking for Rudolph, Santa, the Grinch and other items on the list!
18. Local town parade
Many small towns have a Christmas parade— check your area and attend one for a boost in Christmas cheer!
@dinkumtribe The Christmas Parade in Jacksonville was a festive way to start off the holiday season! @dinkumtribe @dinkumtribe @dinkumtribe #christmasparade #christmasparade2022 #victorianchristmas #christmasinoregon #adhdfamilytravel #familytravelcreator #oregonfamily #pnwfamily #pnwfamilies #oregonfamilies #familytravelvlog #familytravelblog #familytravelinfluencer #travelwithkids #youroregon #thatoregonlife #traveloregon #visitoregon #oregonisawesome #bestoforegon ♬ Here Comes Santa Claus – Gene Autry
19. Christmas Story
It’s part of our family’s faith— our own Christmas tradition is to read the Christmas Story from the Bible in Luke chapter 2 and Matthew chapters 1 and 2. We usually do that on Christmas Eve.
If you want a non-religious reading, check out the poem “Twas the Night Before Christmas” or “How the Grinch stole Christmas”.
20. Volunteer to help at a Christmas event in your community
Volunteers put on Nature’s Coastal Holiday in Brookings, Oregon (see video above in the “Christmas lights” section).
One of the local churches in our area has volunteers giving our free hot cocoa and cookies at their light display.
It’s another great way to get into the holiday spirit.
21. Make stovetop potpourri
Here’s an easy recipe: a dozen whole cloves, 1-2 cinnamon sticks, a whole sliced orange or apple. Simmer in a small saucepan on the stove until the house smells amazing.
Extra Fun Family Christmas Bucket List Ideas
22. Ice skating
We’ve never lived in a place where a white Christmas is the usual, so any kind of winter sport is novel for our family.
Ice skating is one of those classic winter activities that I also associate with a traditional Christmas. It’s a lot of fun, even if it takes some practice. All of our kids enjoy ice skating when we have the chance to do it.
Sometimes there are temporary skating rinks set up in different cities during the holiday season.
23. Christmas cards
I personally love to give and receive Christmas cards from friends and relatives. We string any photos or cards on ribbon over a doorway or along a wall so that we can all enjoy them as part of our Christmas decor.
It can be quite a task to send out cards to everyone you may want to include, so make it a special family event. Play a Christmas movie or some music, put out the fun snacks or appetizers and work on the addressing, stuffing envelopes, and stamping together.
24. Gingerbread house kit
You can buy a pre-made kit or make your own. We’ve done both, and the gingerbread house kits tend to work better. Last year we found an Oreo House kit – it was delicious!
25. Christmas ornaments
We gift our children one ornament each year so that when they’re adults they’ll have some childhood ornaments to take to their own homes. If you don’t have a lot of ornaments, make some for yourself! Handmade or hand decorated ornaments also make great gifts to give to friends.
We often have our kids make ornaments to give to extended family. It’s a great project to spend quality time together, and it also provides a unique gift for extended family members.
26. Family photo
Of course, we try to get at least one family photo during the Christmas season. We usually don’t make this a formal photo shoot, but some families enjoy wearing matching sweaters, or matching pajamas for their annual Christmas photo.
27. Christmas craft
Kids on Christmas break usually need some activities to stay out of mischief, and a Christmas craft can be just the right idea. Cut paper snowflakes, or spread pine cones with peanut butter and birdseed for the birds if you need inexpensive ideas.
Of course, if you love crafting together, go for the more complicated ideas!
28. Christmas book
I have friends who wrap up a Christmas book for their kids to open and read each day leading up to Christmas. Even if you don’t want to do 24 Christmas books, reading a Christmas book together can be a precious memory for you and your children.
29. Christmas shopping
We encourage our children to buy gifts for each other as well as for others they love. That often means myself or my husband taking one child to the store (or on Amazon) and helping them select gifts.
Even if you can’t spend a lot, visiting stores when they are decked out for the holidays is a magical experience in itself — toy stores in particular!
30. Have a family Secret Santa gift exchange
Everyone is assigned a different name and spends the Christmas season buying Christmas gifts (or just one main gift) for their assigned person secretly. Then on Christmas morning everyone gets to open their gifts and find out who their Secret Santa is!
Another way to do the Secret Santa game is that everyone gifts multiple small gifts to their person throughout the season while their person is trying to figure out who is giving them Christmas gifts.
31. Christmas decorations
I personally love nutcrackers, and I love the traditional look of pine and red bows and candles, so I decorate with those throughout the house. When I first got married, I loved snowmen, so many of my decor items reflected that.
Whether you have a theme, or just an eclectic collection of Christmasy items, having a day or weekend set aside for Christmas decorating is one of the best things to have on your Christmas family bucket list.
32. Candy canes
We eat them, we put them in hot chocolate, we crush them up and include them in our cookies… peppermint candy canes are everywhere at our house.
One year we hid dozens of candy canes like an Easter egg hunt throughout our yard and sent the kids out to find them.
@dinkumtribe Inexpensive and easy ways to make Christmas special for your kids and teens! @dinkumtribe @dinkumtribe @dinkumtribe #adventcalendar #chocolateadventcalendar #chocolateadventcalender #adhdchristmas #adhdtiktok #cheapchristmas #cheapchristmasgiftideas #cheapstockingfillers #moneysavingtips #moneysavingchristmas #christmasonabudget #moneysavingmomhacks ♬ original sound – DinkumTribe ADHD family travel
I nearly always include a giant candy cane or peppermint stick in our kids’ stockings.
33. Volunteer at a food bank, or donate to a food bank
Christmas is a great time of year to think about and share with others who are less fortunate. Food banks are often in need of donations, or you can volunteer your time.
This is the perfect way to help your family remember others during a time of year that can easily become too commercialized.
34. Christmas pajamas
I love this idea, though I haven’t yet managed to pull it off! My uncle’s family gives everyone the gift of new matching Christmas pajamas on Christmas Eve, so that everyone can wear them on Christmas morning. The photos I’ve seen are fantastic!
35. Visit Santa Claus
Whether you call him St. Nicolas, Father Christmas, Santa Claus or something else, a visit to the North Pole (or your local holiday events) is a favorite tradition for many families.
36. Themed movie night
Take the Christmas movies a step further and do a Christmas movie theme night!
We did a Grinch theme movie one year and enjoyed Grinch-y snacks and a “pin the heart on the Grinch” game while watching one of the Grinch movies. It’s a fun memory for all of us.
37. Random act of kindness
This “most wonderful time of the year” is not so wonderful for many people who are grieving, or experiencing job loss, or any number of other challenges.
Taking the time to think of and share a random act of kindness — or several! — can increase your own Christmas spirit and make someone else’s season a little brighter.
38. Bake Christmas cookies
For years, my mom and grandmothers baked dozens of Christmas cookies each year to eat and to give as gifts to other families. I don’t have a lot of time or energy to do that much baking, but as my kids have gotten older, they can make some simple recipes on their own.
You can also just grab a can of sugar cookies from the grocery store to bake up at home. Done is better than none!
39. Snowball fight
This is a must on the few occasions when we get snow at home. Getting out in the fresh air to chuck snowballs at siblings or parents is one of the most fun Christmas bucket list ideas!
If you don’t get snow where you live, grab an indoor snowball kit!
40. Snow day
We usually make a plan to drive into the mountains for a snow day.
We enjoy sledding, but as our kids get older we are looking forward to trying skiing, snowshoeing, tubing, or snowboarding.
@dinkumtribe Sledding in the forest near Mt. Jefferson! @dinkumtribe @dinkumtribe @dinkumtribe #sledding #sleddingseason #sleddingfun #snowdayfun #oregonwinter #oregonsnow #adhdfamilytravel #familytravelcreator #oregonfamily #pnwfamily #pnwfamilies #oregonfamilies #familytravelvlog #familytravelblog #familytravelinfluencer #travelwithkids ♬ Sleigh Ride – Leroy Anderson
41. White elephant gift exchange
Teens especially love this idea, and it’s great for a teen Christmas party.
Everyone brings small gifts wrapped up and puts them in the center in a pile. Then one person at a time gets to choose a gift from the pile and unwrap it. (This is the simple version, but there’s lots of rules and variations besides this online).
This game is the most fun if the dollar amount is small ($5 or less) and if everyone understands that their gift should be as creative as possible.
I once received a straw that was wrapped in at least 5 boxes— it started off the size of a suitcase! Hilarity is guaranteed.
42. Christmas performances
So many choices! We love to attend at least one performance each Christmas: the Nutcracker ballet, Handel’s “Messiah”, a play, an orchestral performance or chorale, Portland’s singing Christmas tree…
43. Roast chestnuts (Or maybe not!)
Having heard the famous song for my entire life, I requested that we try roasting chestnuts one year— yuck! Oh, well, at least I’ve experienced it now.
I suggest marshmallows or popcorn instead if you don’t like chestnuts. 😊
44. Go on a sleigh ride, Polar Express or Christmas train
Many towns offer something like this in the holiday season. This year our kids got to ride in a horse-drawn carriage— a holiday bucket list item for at least one of them!
@dinkumtribe Our kids loved riding in the horse-drawn carriage ride! @dinkumtribe @dinkumtribe @dinkumtribe #victorianchristmas #victorianchristmasaesthetic #jacksonvilleoregon #oregonchristmas #historicoregon #horsedrawncarriage #adhdfamilytravel #familytravelcreator #oregonfamily #pnwfamily #pnwfamilies #oregonfamilies #familytravelvlog #familytravelblog #familytravelinfluencer #travelwithkids ♬ Sleigh Ride – Ella Fitzgerald
45. Kiss under the mistletoe
Brian and I make a point of getting some mistletoe to hang up in the house. It’s more goofy than anything else, but it’s a good reminder to us and our kids that our marriage is still a priority in this busy holiday season.
46. Christmas Eve Candlelight Service
This is my new favorite tradition! May local churches offer a candlelight service, and it’s a beautiful quiet space in a fast-paced world.
47. Build a snowman, or snow fort, or make snow angels
Definitely include this on your snow day trip, or if you get a snowfall at your house!
48. Christmas cookie exchange
Organize this with friends or neighbors, and enjoy trying other family’s Christmas cookie favorites.
49. Elf on a Shelf
We’ve never done this, but there are a plethora of ideas for Elf on a Shelf on Pinterest. I’m not a fan, but lots of families love it!
50. Go get a fresh Christmas tree
Here in Oregon, fresh Christmas trees are available everywhere— you can even get a permit to cut one down in parts of the forest! There are few smells that evoke Christmas more than fresh fir or pine. If you can’t get a tree, see if you can get a fresh wreath or some boughs.
51. Try ice hockey or curling
Any kind of ice or snow play is especially fun at Christmas time!
52. Christmas tree lighting
Many cities or towns have a Christmas tree lighting, and it’s one of the best ways to kick off the holiday season.
@dinkumtribe Mt. Angel Christkindl Market was rainy, cold and perfectly festive! @dinkumtribe @dinkumtribe @dinkumtribe #christmasmarket #christmasmarkets #christmastreelighting #bavarianfood #christmasinoregon #christmasinthepnw #pnwchristmas #oregonchristmas #adhdfamilytravel #familytravelcreator #oregonfamily #pnwfamily #pnwfamilies #oregonfamilies #familytravelvlog #familytravelblog #familytravelinfluencer #travelwithkids ♬ A Holly Jolly Christmas – Christmas Music
53. Enjoy some egg nog
My husband loves egg nog, so it’s one of our family Christmas bucket list items. If egg nog isn’t your thing (me neither!) maybe you’d enjoy a peppermint mocha, or some gluhwein, or another traditional holiday drink—where I grew up in Jamaica, we enjoyed sorrel as a Christmas beverage.
54. Bring home a poinsettia
Poinsettias are bright and colorful tropical red and green plants that bring a smile to my face all winter long.
55. Write a letter to Santa
Here in the US, there are several options for doing this. We drop our Santa letters at the mailbox in Silverton, Oregon by the mural.
@dinkumtribe Checking out Silverton’s murals: send a letter to Santa Claus here and get a real response! #silvertonoregon #santaclaus #santaclausiscomingtotown #ibelieveinsantaclaus #ibelieveinsanta #silvertonartwalk #christmastownusa #lettertosanta #letterstosanta #christmasfunforkids #christmasfunfortoddlers #christmastreelighting #artwalks #exploreoregonshistory #oregonexplored #adhdfamilytravel #familytravelcreator #familytraveltiktoker #oregonfamily #pnwfamily #pnwfamilies #oregonfamilies #familytravelvlog #familytravelblog #familytravelblogger #familytravelvlogger #familytravelinfluencer #travelwithkids @dinkumtribe ♬ original sound – DinkumTribe ADHD family travel
56. Operation Shoebox
Many families and churches get involved with this fun Christmas charitable gift idea— for details, go to https://www.samaritanspurse.org/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child/
57. Visit a live nativity
My husband took our kids to do this one year, and they all loved the experience of seeing the animals and experiencing the Nativity Story this way. Check churches in your area to see if there’s one near you.
58. Make snow globes or shake a snow globe
Buy a pretty snow globe, or look on Pinterest for instructions to create your own.
59. Buy a wreath or make one
I always try to have a fir wreath on my front door during December. Here in Oregon, the cold moist weather makes it last over a month— but if you live elsewhere, make one out of craft supplies or buy an artificial one.
60. Celebrate Advent
My husband did this when he was growing up, so now we do it with our kids, We light a new candle every Sunday of Advent. Then on Christmas morning, our kids rush out to see the final candle lighted to remind us of the Christ Child’s arrival. It’s one of our family’s favorite Christmas traditions.
61. Check out a historic Christmas event
We visited Wolf Creek and Jacksonville, Oregon this year to see an authentic Victorian Christmas celebration.
@dinkumtribe The Women’s Parlor at Wolf Creek was all decked out for Christmas! @dinkumtribe @dinkumtribe @dinkumtribe #victorianchristmas #christmasinoregon #adhdfamilytravel #familytravelcreator #oregonfamily #pnwfamily #familytravelblog #bestoforegon #stagecoachstop #applegatetrail #californiahistorictrail #historicoregontrail #oregonstateparks ♬ Carol of the Bells – Christmas Background Music
62. Take a holiday vacation or getaway
Many national and state parks are open throughout the holidays (excepting Christmas Day). It’s often a time of year when there are fewer crowds, so you can enjoy the beauty without all the people.
We visited the Redwoods this December during our children’s interterm school break, and it was perfect! If a vacation hasn’t made it on your family Christmas bucket list this year, maybe add it to your calendar for next year.
63. Go to a different culture’s holiday celebration
We visited a Christkindl Market in Mt. Angel this year. Our kids loved seeing all the nutcrackers and German wood carvings, and we heard about the pickle tradition for the first time.
Your local communities may have similar cultural celebrations during the holiday season.
What’s on your family’s Christmas bucket list?
With over sixty Christmas and holiday ideas, I’m sure you’ll have no trouble creating the ultimate Christmas bucket list for your family. From our family to yours, we hope you’ll have a Merry Christmas season together!
© Copyright Jennifer D. Warren 2022. Updated November 12, 2023.