While it’s hard to top the fun and excitement of Christmas Day, Christmas Eve has always been one of my very favorite days of the year. There are few things I love more than having all of our kids and their significant others together at our house just enjoying each other’s company. :-)
And while I freely admit to often going overboard on special occasions when it comes to food, games, and activities, I believe there’s no such thing as “overboard” on Christmas Eve! Christmas Eve traditions often turn into some of our most cherished memories, whether it’s your first Christmas as a young couple or you’re getting together with your adult kids (like us!)
With that said, it can be helpful to seek out a bit of outside inspiration when it comes to your Christmas Eve traditions. You never know what Christmas Eve ideas you might be inspired by, and what might become a new Christmas Eve tradition!
So today I’ll be sharing a list of 16 of the most fun, creative, service-oriented, treat-centered, family-friendly, and rockin’ Christmas Eve ideas ever! No matter which ones you choose add to your own Christmas Eve festivities, the ideas are sure to make it a holiday to remember. :-)
16 Christmas Eve Ideas: The Best Things To Do On Christmas Eve
1. Bake Christmas Cookies
Would it really be Christmas without homemade cookies? Santa certainly wouldn’t think so. (It’s not hard to imagine that Santa would be terribly disappointed if he arrived at your house to discover there wasn’t a single Christmas cookie waiting for him by the tree, especially after he came all that way!)
In addition to keeping your household on Santa’s Nice List, another worthy reason to bake cookies is the special opportunity to spend time in the kitchen with people you care about. It’s quality time that results in delicious homemade treats—what more could you possibly need for a great Christmas Eve idea? :-)
Sour Cream Cookies
Everyone has their own preferred recipe for Christmas cookies, and in our family it’s my mom’s famous Sour Cream Cookies. These sizable and fluffy cookies are soft, tender, and covered in a generous layer of homemade icing. I often bake large batches of them to give as gifts to neighbors and coworkers, and every time I do, people ask me for the recipe!
But since we’re such good friends, you don’t even have to ask. ;-) Get the recipe for my mom’s Sour Cream Cookies.
Sugar Cookie Creations
Even if you’re not really much of a baker, never fear! Baking Christmas cookies doesn’t have to involve measuring flour or rolling out dough. In fact, it can be as simple as stocking up on a few tubes of refrigerated sugar cookie dough!
Sugar cookie dough is endlessly versatile, and there are all sorts of recipes that you can make with it! Check out this post to learn about five delicious desserts you can make with sugar cookie dough.
Or maybe you’re not a huge fan of cookies at all! No judgment here. There are plenty of non-cookie treats you can make with your family on Christmas Eve. Get the recipes for three of the most addictive Christmas treats.
2. Leave A Surprise For Santa
Once you’ve baked your cookies, be sure to set out a plate for Santa! Leaving a surprise for Santa was always one of the mandatory Christmas Eve ideas in our house back when my kids were little.
In addition to cookies and the requisite glass of milk, we would set out treats for Santa’s reindeer too. We would usually set out baby carrots, but you could set out oats, apples, or whatever you have happen to have on hand. Nothing thrilled the kids more than to discover the next morning that the cookies and carrots had been eaten during the night!
And your surprise for Santa doesn’t have to be limited to food and drinks. You could also spend time writing letters to Santa and leave them under the tree for him to find!
3. Play A Game
Playing a fun game together on Christmas Eve is almost sure to make the holidays even more memorable. And in my experience, the sillier the game, the more memorable it will be! :-) Here are some Christmas Eve ideas that could very well become new family favorites.
Christmas Party Games
Christmas party games are great for parties and family gatherings alike, and they’re sure to add some festive fun to your Christmas Eve. Pick a couple of games to play with your friends and family this year, and you’re sure to make some memories that will last a lifetime.
Check out 21 Christmas party games for all ages and group sizes.
Minute To Win It Games
If you’re looking for games that are simple to both set up and to play, “minute to win it” games are perfect for that! Silliness is pretty much guaranteed with these fast-and-furious games, and there are plenty for kids, adults, or a mix of both!
See dozens of the best minute to win it games — perfect Christmas Eve ideas!
The Flour Game
The history of the “Flour Game” in our family goes back three generations, and for good reason! It’s fun, super easy, doesn’t require a lot of supplies, and everyone in the family can play!
The gist of the Flour Game is that players take turns cutting through a precariously packed pile of flour with one lifesaver candy perched on top. The person who makes the flour collapse has to fish the lifesaver back out of the flour… using only their mouth!
Get detailed rules for the Flour Game and see hilarious photos of the game in action!
4. Open A Family Gift
It’s common for the kids (and even Mom and Dad!) to get a little antsy on Christmas Eve in anticipation of opening presents in the morning. One way to deal with the impatience is to set aside a gift that you can unwrap together on Christmas Eve, preferably one the whole family can enjoy together!
Some families call it a “reindeer gift,” because Santa’s reindeer leave the gift behind when they drop by to scope out the house before the big man pays his visit. Your reindeer gift could be a Christmas movie, a new board game, or sets of matching Christmas pajamas!
5. Make Punch
Make it a Christmas Eve tradition to whip up a big batch of festive punch! It isn’t a party without a bowl of punch, and what is Christmas Eve if not a day-long pre-Christmas party?
Whether you’re interested in a creamy treat like Eggnog Punch, a warm cup of Wassail, or a bubbly Sparkling Cider, you can get all three of these festive holiday punch recipes here!
6. Go On A Drive
As long as the weather outside isn’t too frightful, one of my favorite Christmas Eve ideas is to pack up the family and go on a drive? Even if you stay in your own neighborhood, it’s always fun to see your neighbor’s brightly lit holiday displays! You could even make a special ribbon for the best display and post it on the winner’s door.
7. Watch A Movie
Watching Christmas movies together is a great way to spend your Christmas Eve. Watching Elf is one of our most cherished Christmas Eve traditions, and we’ve done it every year without fail for nearly 20 years now!
But there are plenty of other Christmas movies to choose from if you’d like something a little more classic or nostalgic, like White Christmas, A Muppet Christmas Carol, or A Charlie Brown Christmas. Or you could even go with a movie that’s a little less traditional but still Christmas-centric, like Home Alone or Love, Actually.
If you don’t want to commit to watching the same movie next year, you could set up a rotating schedule of Christmas movies. Or you could play a game where the winner gets to pick the movie! There’s no wrong way to watch a Christmas movie on Christmas Eve—as long as it involves junk food and cozy blankets, of course.
8. Order Takeout
With your Christmas Day dinner just hours away, there’s no need to overexert yourself or make a mess of the kitchen when you can get takeout instead! It’s actually a tradition in many families to order Chinese takeout on the night before Christmas each year, since they’re often among the few restaurants that are open for dinner that night.
Order a little bit of everything and serve it up buffet style so that everyone can help themselves. And since it’s Christmas Eve, it’s also a great opportunity to spread some holiday cheer by leaving a very generous tip!
9. Celebrate Your Heritage
Cultures around the world have many unique traditions when it comes to celebrating Christmas and other winter holidays. You can honor and celebrate your own heritage by incorporating some of those unique Christmas traditions and ideas into your own celebrations.
My husband Dave comes from a long line of Norwegians and I have Swedish ancestry, so we have incorporated some Scandinavian Christmas traditions into our own festivities. I love the traditional straw star that sits atop our Christmas tree, and the many Christmas gnomes around our home that I put out at the start of December. And we always make a large batch of lefse (a Norwegian potato flatbread) on Christmas Eve too!
If you have Italian heritage, you could try your hand at homemade panettone, or if you have English or Scottish ancestors, you could open Christmas crackers with one another! No matter what ideas you come up with, it’s sure to make your ancestors proud and make your Christmas Eve traditions extra special.
10. Observe Religious Customs
While you don’t have to be a Christian to participate in Christmas traditions, it is a Christian holiday! If you are celebrating the birth of Christ, there are plenty of easy Christmas Eve ideas that will help to remember the reason for the season.
You could hold a family prayer, read the Christmas story from the Bible (at our house, it just wouldn’t be Christmastime without a reading of Luke 2), put up a nativity scene, attend church services, or sing a hymn or Christmas song. I can’t resist requesting a family performance of “Silent Night” every year, even though I tear up every time!
11. Sip Hot Chocolate
Here’s a tasty Christmas Eve idea that is perfect for the occasion! Whip up a big batch of hot chocolate! Crockpot hot chocolate is super easy to make, and you can keep it warm all evening so everyone can have seconds (or thirds!)
You could even take your hot chocolate experience to the next level by setting up a hot chocolate bar! Set out small bowls of mini marshmallows, whipped cream, sprinkles, caramel sauce, and peppermint sticks so that everyone can feel free to customize their cups however they want.
12. Read A Book
Gather the family together for a reading of your favorite Christmas stories (or several, if they’re short!) Take turns reading a page each, or pick a narrator and have others act out the scenes!
Need some Christmas book recommendations? Check out Mission’s list of “The 30 Best Christmas Books of All Time”.
13. Make A Christmas Eve Box
With a little bit of planning and forethought, you can put together a Christmas Eve Box that’s packed with everything you might need for your Christmas Eve festivities. Fill the box with Christmas movies, your favorite snacks, some holiday games or activities, a few stocking stuffer-type presents, and whatever else you think you might want!
Not only is it fun to make a Christmas Eve Box for your own family, but they make great gifts for other families or friends too! You could even drop one off to someone on Christmas Eve as a special surprise.
Learn more about putting together your own Christmas Eve Box.
14. Ding Dong Ditch
In a time when social distancing is a must, Ding Dong Ditch is no longer just a way for kids to prank unsuspecting neighbors. This year, it’s a safe and fun way to deliver a gift or a plate of homemade treats to friends and neighbors on Christmas Eve. Just set your offering at their doorstep, ring the doorbell, and run!
15. Check Up On Santa
While you’re relaxing together on Christmas Eve, Santa is hard at work putting holiday gifts under the Christmas tree for families all over the world! Mom and dad can help the little ones check in on his progress throughout the evening via the Google Santa Tracker, which also features Christmas-themed games and activities for kids.
16. Listen To Christmas Music
No matter what Christmas Eve ideas you choose to spend your time on, it’s sure to be even more festive with Christmas music playing in the background. Get my free curated playlist of some of my all-time favorite Christmas songs—all you have to do is press play!
What are some of your favorite Christmas Eve traditions?