Kellye Fox | 

36 Free (or Cheap) Family Christmas Traditions

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Watching holiday movies might be one of your family’s favorite Christmas traditions. Others might make fruitcake, and some may even hide pickles in their trees (more on that below). Whatever your family Christmas tradition, one thing is certain: it brings you all closer together.

But let’s get real; some holiday traditions are pricey. I like the Nutcracker Ballet but not the $80+ per ticket cost. Traditions don’t have to be that expensive, though. Here’s a roundup of Christmas traditions everyone’s gonna love—including free playlists, printables, and unique ideas to begin this year.

To help you save on all the other holiday things, keep these deals and The Krazy Coupon Lady’s free app close by:


1. Start a family Christmas tradition of adding kids’ handprints to a Christmas tree skirt.

A Tree Skirt with white hand prints on it.

Include the year with each handprint and eventually the entire Christmas tree skirt will be covered in handprints of all sizes. You can get a tree skirt like the one shown for around $10 at Target, or you can make your own for much less with cotton or linen material from Joann Fabrics.

Two photos. An adult using white paint to paint the palm of a child's hand then pressing a child hand covered in paint to a tree skirt

This is the perfect addition to your decorations, whether you have a traditional Christmas tree or not.


2. Go on a Christmas lights scavenger hunt with a free printable.

A house with Christmas lights and inflatables out front

Turn a scavenger hunt into one of your outdoor family Christmas traditions, and bring some snacks along for the ride. Make a list of everything you might see on the scavenger hunt, or use this free Christmas scavenger hunt list printable.

A free Christmas printable for holiday lights scavenger hunt

As an alternative, set up an indoor Christmas Eve scavenger hunt. Let the kids hunt down one present that they can open before Christmas Day.


3. Make a Christmas music playlist to share with all your friends and family.

A person holding up a cell phone with a Christmas tree in the background displaying a Spotify Christmas playlist

Need inspiration? Check out The Krazy Coupon Lady’s free Holiday playlist on Spotify, where you’ll discover our team members’ faves in one place — traditional Christmas songs and boy band holiday jams included. (You’re welcome.)

To add KCL’s playlist to your library, open your Spotify app, hit “Search” along the bottom, and use the camera icon in the top right corner to scan this nifty barcode:

A graphic showing how to add KCL's Christmas Playlist on Spotify


4. Refresh your Christmas movie tradition by wrapping movies to open and watch each night.

Christmas movie being wrapped in festive paper

Unwrapping a surprise movie each night is almost as much fun as watching it together. It’s one of those family Christmas traditions that will go on forever.

If you want to save on wrapping paper, then we recommend Dollar Tree. They always have plenty of options, and the rolls are only $1.25 each.



5. Or wrap Christmas themed books to read every day during the holidays.

Try to aim for 12 books for the 12 nights of Christmas. Each night one child gets to unwrap a book for you to read. Check them out at the library or just use ones you already own.

Use our tips on ways to get cheap books for kids to save when you need to restock your book supply.


6. Put together a night-before-Christmas box.

A red box filled with PJs, popcorn, candy, hot chocolate, and a movie.

Christmas is exciting enough, but being able to open a little something the night before is also something to look forward to. Arrange small gifts in a box of any size. Include new Christmas pajamas or slippers, a movie or a book (even if you already own them!), a fun game, and maybe some hot cocoa and popcorn.

Whether you have kids under the age of five, teenagers, or adult children, this is one of those family Christmas traditions that’s always a bonding experience.


7. Leave candy in shoes in honor of St. Nicholas Day.

St. Nicholas was a real saint known for being kind, helping those in need, and loving children. St. Nicholas Day is on Dec. 6, and traditionally children leave their shoes by the door for him to bring them gifts and treats. Make this a family Christmas tradition and fill shoes with candy. You can even sneak in candy from Halloween.


8. Make DIY reindeer food a new family Christmas tradition.

A person holding a bowl filled with sprinkles, oats, and pumpkin seeds

Mix together a combination of rolled oats, pumpkin seeds, red and green sugar crystals, and sprinkles. Sprinkle your homemade reindeer food in the snow for Santa’s helpers for a fun Christmas Eve tradition.

Note: Stay away from actual glitter or any nonfood items which are harmful to critters who may get into them.

Btw, we have the best no-fail roasted pumpkin seed recipe.


9. Write a letter to a soldier with Operation Gratitude.

A little girl holding a drawing in front of a Christmas tree.

Have every member of the family write a letter of gratitude to the soldiers serving overseas. Operation Gratitude allows you to say thank you, which is especially warming during the holidays when our soldiers are away from their own families.

It’s a great Christmas tradition that’ll help your kids spread joy without spending a dime.

Important note about sending letters: please don’t place letters in individual envelopes. Just bundle them all together and mail them directly to Operation Gratitude; they will take care of the rest.


10. Adopt a family together.

A person holding a stack of presents by an open vehicle trunk

The holidays are the perfect time to teach children and teens the spirit of giving. Make it a Christmas tradition to work with local charities to find a family in need. Then get your family together for buying, wrapping, and delivering gifts.

In order to make your money stretch as far as possible, follow the KCL Deals page. This way you won’t overspend, and you’ll be able to give generously.

Here at The Krazy Coupon Lady, we also believe in the power of giving and not just during the holidays. Our nonprofit organization, the KCL Foundation, supports the refugee community in Boise, Idaho year-round.


11. Set out 12 boxes filled with themes and activities for the 12 Days of Christmas.

Someone putting baking supplies into a paper bag decorated for Christmas

Twelve days of Christmas fun means being as creative as you can — from gingerbread house day to movie day. Inside each box or package should be a full list of ideas and also contain supplies for that day’s theme.

Make sure to save the best for last and a sweet Christmas Eve tradition.

TIP: Instead of wrapping surprises, just decorate paper bags with markers.



12. Create hope notes for next Christmas and tuck them away in holiday stockings.

Kids writing notes on Christmas card stock and putting them in their stockings.

This family Christmas tradition starts on the tail end of Christmas. As you pack up your stockings for the year, each family member writes a note with a hope or goal they want to happen by next Christmas. Put it in a stocking for the following year. It’s fun to read what everyone hoped for and is a good opportunity to reflect on the previous year.


13. Host a Christmas sock exchange.

a bunch of peoples feet together in a circle, all wearing Christmas sock

Host a holiday sock exchange party asking friends to each bring a pair of festive socks filled with their favorite things. Set a budget so everyone ends up with something fun.

A pair of Christmas socks with dogs on them next to Christmas goodies
A pair of Christmas socks with dogs on them filled with goodies and tied with a bow

Need socks? Check out these sock deals all year long.


14. Buy or make a new Christmas tree ornament to represent the year.

A person pulling an ornament out of a box of other ornaments.

Ornaments are the centerpiece of Christmastime, so refresh your stash with some that are new. Need ideas? Here are some great DIY Christmas ornaments the whole family can do.


15. Start a Christmas pickle tradition (aka hide the pickle ornament).

An green pickle Christmas ornament held next to a gift box.

After everyone goes to sleep on Christmas Eve, hide a pickle ornament somewhere in your Christmas tree. This centuries-old tradition dates back to Germany. The first person to find the pickle on Christmas morning gets a special gift.


16. Buy an unexpected Advent calendar for cheap.

Someone taking a Friends themed advent calendar out of a box

Funko Pop, Lego, Friends, wine, and cheese … the variety of Advent calendars these days is amazing. Best part? KCL knows where to get Advent calendars for cheap. We even made DIY Funko Pop advent calendar ornaments to hang on the tree.


17. Play BINGO while watching Hallmark Christmas Movies.

A graphic for Hallmark Holiday Movie BINGO

If you’re one of the many people who love watching these cheesy classics, make it a new Christmas tradition to play movie BINGO. Use KCL’s free Hallmark Christmas BINGO printable and invite your friends and family to join in on the fun.

Hallmark Channel Holiday Movie Schedule for December 2022:

  • Holiday Heritage (Dec. 16)
  • ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas (Dec. 17)
  • Five More Minutes: Moments Like These (Dec. 17)
  • Hanukkah on the Rye (Dec. 18)

All these new movies start at 8 p.m. ET on the listed dates. We have more details on the Hallmark holiday movies here.



18. Make a keepsake ornament showing the length of your child with a ribbon.

Someone holding a clear ornament with a ribbon inside it with a tag that says "This ribbon is special as you will soon see because it's the same size as me! With the name, age, height of a child and the year
Christmas ornament print outs that read, "This ribbon is special, as you will soon see because its the same size as me!" with lines for the year, and the child's name, age, and height

Measure your child’s height with ribbon and place it in a clear ornament. Create several for family and grandparents using this free printable. You’ll be surprised how long the ribbons get every year.


19. Label presents with holiday names instead of real names and don’t tell anyone who’s who until Christmas.

A gift with a tag that says Prancer next to a Christmas ornament

When you fill your friends’ and family’s stockings, place a small ornament at the bottom that reveals their Christmas tag name. For example, a reindeer ornament for the child whose presents are labeled Prancer. This idea will add to the anticipation of gift guessing.


20. Create a hanging DIY Christmas card display using greenery and a tree branch.

A person attaching string, greenery, and Christmas cards with colorful clothes pins to a stick.

Find a small tree branch outside (or buy these birch poles) and tie red and white twine about three inches apart. Be sure to attach twine so that it hangs as well. Attach greenery to the twine, then use clothespins to add your holiday greeting cards.


21. Have a Christmas cookie decorating party.

Some kids decorating Christmas Cookies at a table

Now this is what we call the sweetest of family Christmas traditions. Whether they’re store-bought or homemade cookies, a decorating party is fun for people of all ages. Set up a table with toppings and icing along with a platter to display them. Use these food coupons to save on all the candies and cookies.

These drool-worthy cookie recipes will get you in the baking mood.


22. Dedicate a night to play the Silver Bells memory game.

Hershey's kisses lined up on a counter with several turned over showing matching stickers on the bottom

The Holiday or Silver Bells memory game is just like the traditional Memory game, only this one calls for Hershey’s kisses and Christmas stickers, two sets of each, just like regular Memory. I’m all about family Christmas traditions where everyone gets chocolate.

Two photos. A child adding round stickers to the bottom of Hershey's Kisses and two kids playing a memory game with the kisses

If you want to get Hershey’s kisses for cheap, then follow our Chocolate Deals page. We’ll keep you updated on the best candy deals the entire holiday season!


23. Surprise friends and neighbors with a “Jingle.”

Someone holding a wrapped present and two cards, one saying "we've been jingled" and the other saying, "you've been jingled" with an explanation of the game

It’s like a doorbell ditch but with happy surprises. Drop off treats or cards for a sweet surprise. This free “You’ve Been Jingled” printable explains it all.


24. Compete in a Dollar Tree shopping spree.

Person holding a dollar tree cart

As if you need an excuse to shop at Dollar Tree. For this idea, give everyone a shopping limit like $5 and time limit (such as 10 minutes). The goal is to shop for each family member before heading home and wrapping their secret present for Christmas Day.


25. Set out a Santa sack.

Christmas Santa Sack

Here’s another way to give back to kids in need during the holidays while establishing family Christmas traditions. On Christmas Eve, fill a Santa sack with gently used toys and books. Leave the sack under the tree and Santa will pick it up when he drops off presents.

Before they head to bed, take the bag to a donation center for other families. Not only do you downsize a bit, but the kids learn the value of giving.

TIP: Keep things easy — use a large pillowcase for the sack and write on it with a fabric sharpie.


26. Sprinkle reindeer food in the front yard.

Before bedtime on Christmas Eve, have the kids make a small batch of reindeer food to spread on the lawn to help Santa and his reindeer find their way to your home.

Use a recipe like this one, which is safe for critters to eat:

  • 1/2 cup oatmeal
  • 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1/4 cup red or green sugar crystals

Combine all ingredients and store in snack-size bags.


27. Or feed the birds a Christmas dinner by repurposing cardboard.

DIY bird feed ornaments hanging from a tree outside

We love family Christmas traditions that help others, including our feathered friends. Make a special Christmas bird dinner by using cardboard as bird feeders. Cut pieces of cardboard into heart shapes, and then punch holes for some twine or string to loop through.

Someone putting string through a cardboard heart and spreading peanut butter on it

Start by spreading peanut butter on heart-shaped cardboard.

Someone sprinkling bird seed onto the cardboard heart covered in peanut butter and the finished product hanging from a tree

Then liberally sprinkle bird seed onto the peanut butter and hang outside. Another option is to throw pine cones covered in peanut butter and bird seed into tree branches.


28. Track Santa’s path to boost anticipation.

Track Santa's path.

Beginning Dec. 1 you can use Norad to track Santa. Gather the family around to track his movements and ready yourselves for the excitement. Check his status right before bedtime to ensure that the kids go to sleep on time … and so you can finish wrapping presents!


29. Write a letter to your child, parent, or sibling.

A child writing a letter at a table with colored pencils

Tell your family how much they mean to you by adding letter writing to your Christmas traditions. Break out the pens, colored pencils, and paper to add heartfelt words to share with those who mean the most. Designate someone to keep the letters as keepsakes.

Related: Best Christmas Cookie Recipes of All Time


30. No chimney? No problem. Hang up a Santa key.

An old-fashioned key with a tag that says "Santa's Magic Key

Don’t let Santa miss your house because you don’t have a chimney. Leave a magic key outside the front door on Christmas Eve. Get creative, whether it’s an antique key or one you just found around the house. Decorate it and hang it up.


31. Choose a tradition from another country.

A Ukranian christmas ornament on a tree

This idea works well if you have room for a smaller tree so that you can have your regular and “international” tree. Research a country’s Christmas tradition and find decorations to match. Consider going through your Halloween decoration box for this one.


32. Make a batch of Grinch popcorn.

A bag of colorful popcorn

Bring out your inner Grinch with salty and sweet green popcorn. It’s easy to make, colorful, and addicting. Use this recipe to feed your inner Grinch:


  • 10 cups cooked popcorn
  • 3 cups mini marshmallows
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • Green gel food coloring
  • Red M&M’s or red gel food coloring


  1. Pop fresh popcorn or buy your favorite bagged popcorn seasoned just with salt.
  2. Melt the marshmallows and butter together in a small saucepan. When combined, add the green food coloring. At this point, you could also add red gel food coloring to a separate bowl of popcorn.
  3. Coat the popcorn with the mixture, stirring gently until combined.
  4. Spread on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Top with the M&M’s and additional marshmallows.

If all else fails or you run out of time, try a premixed Christmas kettle corn. Need help finding the lowest cost butter? Check our best tips on where to find cheap butter.


33. Have a family pizza party.

A young boy taking a slice of pizza from a box on a table

Lay out all the ingredients to make pizzas on Christmas Eve. Consider using ready-made pizza crust. Or better yet, just order in from your favorite spot.


34. Or make tamales.

A plate of homemade tamales in front of a Christmas tree

Gather the family around and make this Mexican tradition for your next Christmas Eve party. It will be a family affair and is guaranteed to get a little messy. Try this recipe and choose between beef, chicken, veggie, or make all of them.

TIP: Don’t forget to double or triple the recipe. Tamales freeze really well.


35. Go caroling in a retirement home.

People standing in a line singing Christmas carols and wearing festive hats

There’s no need to limit your Christmas traditions to your home. Spread the holiday magic to senior citizens who might be alone at Christmas. Plan your songs ahead of time, and aim for popular ones so everyone can sing along. Bring them presents and special edible treats, too.


36. Make a snow globe.

diy snow globe

Snow globes never go out of style. Instead of buying them, personalize yours with a DIY craft project. Here’s what you need:

supplies to make a diy snow globe

What to do:

  1. Glue the village pieces to the jar, and let it dry.
  2. Add distilled water and one tablespoon of glycerin to the jar, then throw in the glittery snow.
  3. Seal the jar and glue it to the candleholder.
  4. Shake and enjoy your DIY snow globe.

Be sure to use jars wide enough for figurines to fit inside. The glycerin helps the glitter float better.



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