30 Christmas Eve Activities for Families | Christmas Eve Family Traditions

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Find the right Christmas Eve activities for families to get started with this year, and who knows? In a few years’ time, the kids could already be thinking of these as your own family traditions for 24th December. And there are some awesome Christmas Eve ideas for families to get stuck into, trust us!

Having some Christmas Eve family traditions to look forward to can really help to keep everyone calm and happily occupied on 24th December. It can also help to extend the festive season, as you can start getting into the swing of things during the night before Christmas!

Christmas Eve things to do with the family don’t have to cost a lot of money. Or even a single cent in some cases. You don’t necessarily need a lot of time, either, as we know parents can be pushed in that way too during late December.

From simple craft projects or dinner with a difference to using technology to your advantage, read on to discover which Christmas Eve family traditions you could end up calling your own. Which will you end up trying out – and loving – this year?

30 of the best Christmas Eve activities for families

Let’s get started! Here are 30 of the most awesome family things to do on Christmas Eve.

1. A Christmas Eve movie marathon

With so many Christmas movies to choose from, you could easily spend the entire day snuggled up on the sofa, watching Christmas films back to back. There are so many for all ages, from toddlers to adults with a penchant for movies that recall the times of Christmas past.

This is among the best Christmas Eve ideas for small families – and much larger ones too. Whether it’s Arthur Christmas or Frozen II for the little ones, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation for the grown-ups, Shrek the Halls or a Harry Potter movie for school-age kids or Elf for everyone, there are so many films to see during the festive season.

Get prepared by grabbing some popcorn and stirring up some hot chocolate before settling down to a Christmas Eve movie marathon. If you haven’t yet seen The Snowman and the Snowdog, Home Alone, The Grinch or even Gremlins, perhaps it’s high time you did!

Click here to shop for Christmas movies

2. Track Santa Claus

For the younger members of the family, it’s all about the visit from the white-bearded one dressed in red. So why not track the big man’s progress by using the official NORAD Santa Tracker? This involves the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) tracking Santa’s simulated flight, so you can watch the night skies for signs of anything unusual and exciting.

Don’t forget to tell the children that Father Christmas does of course make his way to our part of the world first! As Australia is one of the first countries to see 25th December each year, the kids living here are among his initial ports of call. So there’s no chance of him running out of gifts before he gets here. Not unless someone’s been very, very naughty indeed…

If they want to, the kids could also make a special viewing ‘telescope’ from kitchen paper or toilet roll inners. Decorated however they like, it’s something else that will keep them busy earlier in the day. Glitter, of course, is essential – it is Christmas, after all!

Alternatively, pop a toy telescope into their Christmas Eve box. Spotting Santa has be up there with all the best Christmas Eve family games – and competitions! Why will spy the sleigh first?

Click here to see toy telescopes

3. Experience a church service

Show kids the real meaning of Christmas – if you’re so inclined – by taking the family to a church service on Christmas Eve. See what’s on at your local church in advance, and you can attend whatever event appeals to you most.

Midnight Mass is a favourite among Catholics. Though it’s late, the kids could probably do with a late night on this night of all nights! So why not give it a try this year?

Your local church may also have special carolling services aimed at families. Or they might even put on some sort of nativity re-enactment.

4. The Great Australian Bake-Off

If you’re heading elsewhere for Christmas dinner this year or someone else will be manning the barbie, then you might well feel like doing a spot of baking on Christmas Eve. Kids love to put out freshly-baked cookies and milk – or something stronger – for Santa, so why not get them involved in whipping up their own batch of biscuits?

Of course you don’t have to draw the line at cookies. There are plenty of other edible goodies you can bake too. Simple jam tarts, pretty cupcakes, homemade sweets, a big cake to cut into generous slices – the possibilities are almost endless.

If you or someone in the family prefers savoury treats to sweet, that’s no problem either. How about a batch of cheese scones to serve slathed in butter, a quiche to serve with the Christmas Day BBQ, or even a loaf of bread to enjoy the next morning? Whatever you make, baking is among the most fun things to do on Christmas Eve with your family.

To spread the love, why not deliver some home-baked goods to your favourite neighbours?

Click here to buy Christmas baking books

5. Take a trip to see the Christmas lights

Abbeyfeale Street Christmas lightsTingalpa

Seeing the lights in your city also has to be one of the most popular Christmas Eve family events. Take a walk or a trip in the car to find the finest festive displays in your neighbourhood, town or city. How many can you tick off the list?

Whether you live in Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Darwin, Melbourne, Perth or somewhere in-between, there will be sites around you which are just the best for Christmas lights! If in doubt, simply Google it, or ask a friend or neighbour for their recommendations. From official city centre displays to local streets that go all-out, there’s bound to be somewhere nearby that will make the kids go wide-eyed with wonder.

Don’t forget to take some coins with you – sometimes there’s a charity collection organised by whoever has put the lights into place and pays to keep them switched on. If you do live somewhere more remote, though, why not buy an affordable disco ball light to get the party started at home instead?

Click here to browse kids’ disco lights

6. Have a Christmas sing-along

Belting out a few tunes gives your lungs a workout and always guarantees that feel-good factor. It’s also super cute to see children singing. Especially when the little ones get their words mixed-up a bit!

Stick to the classic Christmas carols they’ve learned at school, at kindy or from the TV, or play Christmas hits that all the older family members will know the words to. You can buy all kinds of Christmas music albums, so if you don’t have one already why not treat yourselves to Michael Buble on vinyl or Elvis on CD? Or please everyone buy getting something like NOW 100 Hits Christmas.

There’s another toy idea for that Christmas Eve box here too – how about a low-cost kids’ karaoke microphone? A sing-along might just beat all the other fun family games for Christmas Eve, hands-down!

Click here to find Christmas music albums

Click here to purchase karaoke microphones for kids

7. Make Santa’s Magic Key

You know how it is… kids hear all those stories during December about how Santa always makes his way down the chimney. So how can you get around this to relieve their anxiety? By making a magic key for Santa, of course! Or even – if you’re too busy – by buying one to hang out.

This is one that can form part of your family Christmas Eve traditions. Along with hanging up the stockings and putting out a drink and some cookies for Santa. Try searching on Google or Pinterest if you’re in need of a little inspiration.

In fact a simple gift or luggage tag – plus any old key you have lying around – will do. Just make sure it’s not a working one for your home, or you might get the sort of visitors you didn’t expect and certainly don’t want! The idea is to hang your key on the front or back door, so Santa can gain access without needing that chimney to slip down.

Click here to search for Santa’s Magic Key

Christmas Eve ideas for families

8. Show a personal message from Santa

Another of the family activities on Christmas Eve that harnesses the power of technology comes courtesy of Portable North Pole. Via this you can set up a proper personalised message from Father Christmas, which uses details like their age, name and gift list to make it unique to them.

The videos are switched up every year, and you can even tell Santa if they’ve been naughty or nice lately. Yep, parents have been known to use this in their favour from time to time when the children are misbehaving. We won’t tell Saint Nick, we promise…

9. Pack up a picnic

Whether it’s to enjoy at the local park or in your own backyard, cooking is the last thing that many busy parents feel like doing on Christmas Eve. So when you make that last chance dash to the shops for veggies and so on during the last few days before, be sure to pick up some picnic goodies too.

Simple fare is best in this case. Buy quiches to slice up and serve cold, a selection of ready-made salads, prepared sandwich fillings and a pack of wraps so everyone can make their own, sausage rolls and so on. Crisps, dips, cheeses and nibbles like olives or stuffed mini peppers and tomatoes will also go down well (with the adults, at least).

Don’t forget to throw in a few sweet treats – it’s only Christmas Eve once a year! To make it an extra special experience, why not invest a family picnic backpack that you could use all summer long?

Click here to take a look at picnic backpacks

10. Bottle some fairy lights

Clean out some used wine, beer or spirit bottles and the kids can have fun when making their own illuminated fairy light displays. You can easily buy the strings of wine bottle lights from places like Amazon, and usually you get between six and 12 per pack. Sometimes more.

The lights come attached to a cork, which you use as a stopper for the bottle. It’s so simple to do, but this probably is best for older kids due to the dangers of working with glass.

A line of lit-up bottles makes a great Christmas Eve display on a shelf once they’re done. Or pop it on a windowsill so everyone in the neighbourhood can see! You can also use them in the garden – as long as there aren’t any storms forecast which might pose a threat to safety, of course.

Click here to see wine bottle lights

11. Hang the Christmas stockings

If you haven’t already done so, among the top things to do as a family on Christmas Eve is to hang up the stockings, all ready for the annual visit. Planning where to put them can all be part of the fun – whether that’s on their bedroom door handle or a strategically-placed set of hooks.

Again, there’s the option of keeping the kids busy earlier in the day here. Buy a set of plain burlap make your own Christmas stockings for them to embellish as they see fit, or invest in an applique or needle felting kit for a design to recreate.

Designing their own doesn’t have to be difficult. A simple embellished initial apiece is plenty to show whose is whose. Alternatively, pick a different colour per person. If you want to keep them happy for longer, why not let the kids loose on designing a stocking for every member of the family?

Click here for a selection of make your own Christmas stockings

12. Play all the board games

If you have family board games to play on Christmas Eve, then there’s no better time to break them out! This is when you can all sits down and enjoy a little healthy competition over the Monopoly, Scrabble or Trivial Pursuit board.

Or grab more hands-on games such as Jenga or Throw Throw Burrito, or a modern one like The Game of Life Super Mario Edition. Small kids, meanwhile, will love games like the Hungry Hungry Hippos Dino Edition.

We have a whole article dedicated to family board games here.

Click here to view family board games

13. Open Christmas Eve boxes

Christmas Even boxes are a growing tradition for Christmas

Christmas Eve boxes are here to stay – and why not? It’s such a great way to spread the joy. You don’t even need to spend any more money, as you can simply use some of the cash you’d have spent on regular Christmas gifts for the next day.

Another way to spend less is to buy things you would have anyway. Such as new socks or pyjamas, or some chocolate to round things off after dinner. If you like, all your Christmas Eve gift ideas can be packed into a personalised box, or you can buy small boxes for party favours, arriving guests or the kids.

Whether you go OTT or stick to small, simple gifts, Christmas Eve boxes are such a fun way to appease excited kids! What’s wrong with opening a few early presents before Christmas morning?

We wrote about Christmas Eve boxes here. We also write about Christmas Eve boxes for her and Christmas Eve boxes for him because we LOVE this tradition.

Click here to check out Christmas Eve boxes

14. De-clutter for charity

If the kids are about to get a whole load of new toys, games and clothes for Christmas, then keep them busy on Christmas Eve by having an early summer clear-out. You can donate the spoils to your local op shop, or teens could even sell them via social media sites.

Nearly-new goods might fetch more than you think, so you could divide the proceeds between yourselves and your favourite charity. It’s a great way to get the feel-good factor. On a practical level, it saves you making space for all the new stuff once it’s time to put the presents away.

15. Snuggle up with a story

Screen time isn’t the best idea late at night any any time – but especially, perhaps, when small minds are likely to be working overtime. Wondering exactly what surprises Santa’s visit has in store.

So why not read a book with the children instead? You can choose between complete classics and more contemporary Christmas books. Stick with Dickens if you love English literature, or go for something more modern such as If I Were Saint Nick by the Cat in the Hat.

From The Night Before Christmas or an Enid Blyton anthology of festive stories to A Timeless Collection of Christmas Tales (in three volumes), there are lots of books that can bring pleasure to everyone as Christmas Day approaches.

Click here to shop for Christmas stories

If they are not what you were looking for in the way of great family traditions for Xmas, try these:

  1. Decorating the Christmas tree together
  2. Sending Christmas cards to loved ones
  3. Creating handmade Christmas ornaments
  4. Visiting a local Christmas market or festival
  5. Making fresh fruit cocktail and mocktails
  6. Going ice-skating at your local ice rink
  7. Hosting a Christmas party with family and friends
  8. Making a gingerbread house or gingerbread cookies
  9. Donating toys or volunteering at a local charity
  10. Going on a Christmas-themed scavenger hunt
  11. Making homemade Christmas decorations
  12. Taking a family photo in matching Christmas outfits or coordinating colours
  13. Creating a family Christmas scrapbook or photo album
  14. Setting up a family “Christmas countdown” with a special advent calendar
  15. Organize a neighborhood caroling event.

Which Christmas Eve activities for families will you try?

So which activities and ideas will get your Christmas Eve family party started? There’s plenty of Christmas Even family fun to be had. The best thing is that you don’t even need much money or time to get involved!

Join our Facebook group to jumpstart your Christmas planning all year long!

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Janine Mergler

Janine has a Bachelor of Education (Secondary) from the Queensland University of Technology and works as an editor of the popular Families Magazine. Janine owns the Christmas in Australia website because she is a huge fan of Christmas and everything about the festive season and she wants to share it all with you! Travelling the country to find all the best Christmas experiences in Australia, she can be found celebrating Christmas in July and getting more and more excited as 25th December approaches! Join my Christmas in Australia Facebook group too!

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