The lead-up to Christmas is an exciting time for everyone. Some may even say it’s the best part of the holiday season. Think of the Christmas market adorned with holiday lights, creating cheer and a festive atmosphere in the cold, dark months of November and December. It all builds up to Christmas Eve, when the official countdown to Christmas Day begins.
In some ways, Christmas Eve has a more relaxed atmosphere than Christmas Day. There’s less pressure to adhere to a specific structure for the day. While most people have more intimate gatherings on Christmas Day, Christmas Eve is often a time that friends and extended family get together to engage in their favorite Christmas Eve traditions that celebrate the holiday season and each other.
On the other hand, some people just sit around waiting for Christmas. But you can make Christmas Eve exciting no matter how you view the day. You can do activities with your family – like watching a Christmas movie or drinking hot cocoa – that will light the Christmas spirit in your home and build even more anticipation for the big day. Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, there are a number of Christmas Eve activities that you can do with your family. They may even lead to new traditions!
Keep reading to get some ideas for fun and creative Christmas Eve activities that promote family bonding and get your family excited about the big day.
Classic Christmas Eve Activities for the Whole Family
When it comes to picking a Christmas Eve activity, sometimes it’s best to just go with the classics you love. Everyone has their favorite activities to partake in throughout the holiday season. From Christmas caroling to making a gingerbread house, there’s no shortage of things that can lift your Christmas spirit and make the holidays memorable.
If Christmas is usually jam-packed for your family, consider moving one of your normal Christmas Day activities to Christmas Eve and give yourselves more time to truly enjoy them.
Check out these suggestions for classic Christmas Eve activities to enjoy with your whole family.
Have a Christmas Eve Feast
Christmas dinner is a big event for many families, and it’s usually one of the biggest feasts of the year. But it doesn’t necessarily have to take place on Christmas Day. Christmas Eve is a great time to enjoy a festive meal with your loved ones. There are several reasons you might choose to host dinner on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day.
First of all, it will free up some time on Christmas to spend with your loved ones. Think about how many hours you must spend in the kitchen to cook a full feast. It’s often a whole-day ordeal that takes away from quality time with your family, which can leave you feeling like the holiday wasn’t complete.
If you have your dinner on Christmas Eve instead, you free up time on Christmas Day to spend with your loved ones opening gifts and doing other activities. In terms of food, you can make a smaller and simpler dinner for Christmas Day, or even eat the leftovers from the night before.
Bake Christmas Cookies
Baking cookies is another holiday activity that many people would say is a requirement for the season. Christmas cookies will have the whole house smelling delicious and leave a scent that will linger until Christmas morning.
There are several types of classic Christmas cookies that you can make:
- Shortbread cookies
- Ginger molasses cookies
- Chocolate chip cookies
- Pretzel hugs
- Snowball cookies
Baking cookies is something the whole family can get involved in. Better yet, you can turn it into a competition and have a Christmas cookie decorating contest to see who can make the most creative designs.
Finally, if you have kids, make sure you all bake cookies and leave them out for Santa Claus — one of the most quintessential Christmas Eve activities. Don’t forget the milk!
Go Christmas Caroling
Christmas Eve is probably the day you’ll see the most carollers out in the streets spreading Christmas harmonies to all. Have your family join in on the fun and go caroling as well.
If caroling door-to-door isn’t your family’s thing, an alternative is to stay home and host your own sing-a-long. You can extend the invitation to your friends and sing your favorite Christmas songs together. If you have some truly passionate singers in your family, you can even have a Christmas karaoke night to kick things up a notch.
Watch Christmas Movies
Watching a Christmas movie is a great cure for boredom on any day of the year, and Christmas Eve is no exception.
Christmas Eve is the perfect time to marathon your favorite Christmas movies. New ones come out every year, and there’s no shortage of family classics to rewatch.
Here are some classics that you should add to your Christmas movie list:
- Home Alone
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas
- The Muppets Christmas Carol
Grab the popcorn and get ready for your Christmas Eve family movie night!
Take Family Photos
Even though Christmas Eve gets overshadowed by Christmas Day, you can still turn it into a memorable day with the right Christmas Eve activities. It’s also a day worth looking back on, so don’t forget to take photos for lasting memories.
You can even make taking photos a whole Christmas Eve activity in itself. Your Christmas Eve photos can be whatever you wish. You can spend the day taking candid photographs of everyone enjoying themselves, or have everyone dress up to take fancier photos. Matching Christmas pajamas have become an increasingly popular trend, so another idea is to get everyone in their PJs in the evening and take your memorable photos then.
Truthfully, it doesn’t matter how you take your photos. No matter what, you’ll end up with memories that will last a lifetime.
Play Christmas Eve Games
Here are some games that are perfect for Christmas Eve:
- Christmas versions of board games such as The Nightmare Before Christmas Monopoly.
- A Christmas Eve treasure hunt around the house for the kids.
- Drinking games for adults, such as this Hallmark Christmas movie drinking game (warning: everyone will get drunk).
The possibilities are endless when it comes to the type of game you can enjoy together. It really all depends on how competitive your family is. If a competitive spirit is hereditary, then you’re in for an entertaining Christmas Eve!
Attend Church Service
If you’re a religious family that attends church, even if only occasionally, then you should consider attending Christmas Eve mass.
Most churches have a Christmas Eve service, which is sometimes one of their biggest services of the year. Better yet, your church might even get together after service and have a Christmas potluck for everyone to enjoy the special occasion together.
Now that we’ve discussed the traditional Christmas Eve activities, let’s talk about more unique ways to spend Christmas Eve with your family.
Creative and Unique Christmas Eve Activities for New Traditions
There are several Christmas Eve activities that may not immediately come to mind but are actually a great way to spend Christmas Eve with your loved ones. Here are some creative ways to spend the final hours counting down to Christmas.
Open Your Gifts
Although the norm is to open gifts on Christmas morning, some families choose to open gifts on Christmas Eve instead. You may opt to do this for several reasons.
If you have a busy schedule set for Christmas Day and less planned on Christmas Eve, it might be easier to squeeze gift opening in the day before. Likewise, if you host a get-together with your extended family on Christmas Eve, it might be nice to have everyone open their gifts together during this time.
If you want to leave some magic for Christmas Day and don’t want to open all the gifts on Christmas Eve, let everyone choose just one gift. Be warned that your children will most likely choose to open what they think is the biggest and best gift!
Arts and Crafts
Typically on Christmas Eve, your kids are out of school and spend the day at home. You’ll want to keep them preoccupied and distracted from their gift under the tree throughout the day while also getting them excited for Christmas. A great Christmas Eve activity to successfully do all of this is to get them doing some arts and crafts.
Whether that means making last-minute Christmas ornaments or snowflakes to decorate the house, arts and crafts will keep your kids busy and build up that Christmas excitement. It’s also a great family activity, so don’t be afraid to get creative and join them.
Arts and crafts are a great Christmas Eve activity to do with your kids, but you can also do them with the adults in your family. There are several more advanced arts and crafts that adults can enjoy, such as:
- Making holiday-scented candles
- Making more elaborate Christmas ornaments for the tree
- Christmas sip and paint
- Creating custom Christmas shirts
Learn About Christmas Traditions in Other Cultures
Although Christmas in North America seems like the dominant representation of the holiday, every country has its own Christmas traditions. Christmas Eve is a great time to learn more about what Christmas means for people in other countries and how they celebrate the holidays.
Here are some examples that you can dive deeper into:
- In South Korea, Christmas is seen as a holiday for couples, similar to Valentine’s Day. Everyone has the day off, and they usually use it to relax or take their loved ones on romantic dates.
- In Japan, it’s common to order KFC for dinner on Christmas. It’s the biggest day of the year for the fast food chain in Japan.
- Sweden, Finland, and Norway celebrate St. Lucia Day, which commemorates a Christian martyr. The eldest girl in each family dresses up as St. Lucia in beautiful white gowns and serves the family traditional buns, coffee, and mulled wine.
This can be educational for both you and your kids, and it may even inspire you to switch up your own Christmas traditions!
Christmas Eve Activities If You Don’t Celebrate Christmas
Christmas Eve doesn’t just have to be for Christians or those who celebrate. Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, there are still a number of Christmas Eve activities that are both entertaining and fulfilling. Chances are there are still several activities that happen in your area that can be fun for the entire family. Here are a few ideas.
Volunteer at a Soup Kitchen or Homeless Shelter
For soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and anywhere else that helps vulnerable people, Christmas is a busy and sometimes challenging day. Everyone deserves to have a hot meal and warm place to rest during the holidays, which is the goal of these organizations. With such a big task at hand, they can use as much help as they can get, which is why volunteering at a shelter is one of the best Christmas Eve activities you can do.
You can bring your whole family along to help out at your local shelter. Tasks that you may be asked to help with include:
- Preparing and cooking Christmas Eve dinner
- Serving dinner to the guests
- Cleaning up
- Preparing beds
- Talking and mingling with the guests
Volunteering your time is a great way to spend Christmas Eve and teach your family about the true meaning of Christmas.
Go Ice Skating
Ice skating is another popular Christmas Eve activity that everyone can enjoy. It’s a great way to get your kids out of the house on Christmas Eve, or it can make for a great date with your partner.
See a Movie In Theaters
As mentioned, watching a Christmas movie at home is one of the most classic Christmas Eve activities for families. But if you don’t feel like watching a Christmas movie at all, you have other options.
Most movie theaters are open through Christmas, and there are actually a large number of movies that come out around Christmas time. So, a great Christmas Eve activity to do with your family is to go see the latest blockbuster in theaters. If you’re lucky, everyone else may be busy doing other Christmas activities, and your family could have the entire theater to yourselves!
Conclusion: Christmas Eve Activities Bring Your Family Together
Christmas Eve is often forgotten, but it’s a prime time to partake in family activities that serve as a warm-up to Christmas Day. Whether you decide to stay up until midnight to open your gifts, have a large family feast, or just take the day to relax, there are endless possibilities for how you can spend the day with your loved ones and get ready for Christmas Day.
You may end up having so much fun doing these activities that Christmas might suddenly sneak up on you!
Note: Some links in this post are affiliate links, and we will be compensated when you make a purchase by clicking through our links. Thank you. Read our disclosure + terms here.