December 4, 2020  

Our Family’s Holiday Traditions

Today I’m sharing all of our family’s favorite holiday traditions. From baking cookies to nostalgic ornaments and our new activity advent calendar, I hope this inspires you to create a new family tradition this year!


Oh Christmas, you are most definitely my most favorite holiday. The twinkly lights, the cozy mugs of cocoa, the fuzzy socks and flannel PJs, the excitement of opening gifts, and all of the family time will never get old.

I thought today would be a fun day to share some of our family’s holiday traditions both new and old, along with a few of my favorite traditions from my childhood. I hope it gives you some ideas and inspires you to create memories with your family this year! Especially in a year where your normal plans may not be happening, perhaps it’s a good year to try out something new.

Creating “holiday magic” is an actual goal I wrote in my Powersheets goal planner way back in January. I feel like Chloe is the perfect age to LOVE Christmas festivities and I want to soak it all in. I’ve tried to be more thoughtful and intentional about the way our family celebrates holidays this year now that our daughter is a little older. Cultivating holiday traditions and making fun memories around the holidays is important to me and something I’m really excited to focus on this month.

chloe sitting in front of Christmas tree

Our Family’s Holiday Traditions

Christmas Cards

I absolutely LOVE sending and receiving Christmas cards every year. It’s truly a highlight of the season for me! Here’s our family’s 2020 Christmas card – can you believe I had that whole card designed and ordered in one lunch break at the office?

emily counts christmas cards 2020

I always take a couple of minutes to write a little family update on the back as well. It’s a nice way to connect with extended family and old friends you don’t see much during the year, and the update is also fun to have to look back on. I like to order a few extras and tuck them away with our keepsakes.

I’ve ordered our cards from Mixbook for years now and they were pretty speedy so there’s definitely still time to order your own family Christmas cards this year. And one thing I always like to say is that it doesn’t matter if you have the perfect professional photo – a family selfie on the couch or a collage with cute candids of the kids from the year is all you need.


Activity Advent Calendar

This is a new tradition for us this year and I can’t tell you how excited I am!! This was 100% inspired by my friend Amanda’s activity advent calendar. She’s done one for years and has almost every year documented on her blog if you want ideas.

I numbered envelopes 1-25 for each day of December and each envelope contains a note with a festive activity for the day. So every day this month, we have something fun planned which means I don’t have to keep track of all the festive activities I want to do. They’re all pre-planned already!

hand holding envelope from advent calendar

Our activities are mostly easy, free things that can be done at home so we’re not talking about anything too elaborate here. So far we’ve decorated Chloe’s room with lights and a mini tree and colored in new Christmas coloring books. Other activities will include driving around to look at lights, a seasonal Oreo tasting party, wrapping presents for cousins, baking cookies, making a gingerbread house, reading a Christmas book, having popcorn with red and green M&Ms in it, watching a movie, etc.

I took Amanda’s advice and kept the weekday ideas really easy. I also wrote everything in a spreadsheet first so I can see at a glance what’s in every envelope and swap days around if we need to. So I like that it’s still flexible but also a way to be intentional with fitting in all of the little things that make this season special.

I tucked all the envelopes into the tree in our front room. I love this tree bare so just a few lights and the neutral envelopes are perfect.

natural christmas tree in front room

ANNUAL Ornaments

This is a childhood tradition that I’ve continued as an adult. I’m the oldest of four kids, and every year my mom would let us each pick out a new ornament at the store. We added our year and name to the bottom of them and filled the tree with our special ornaments each year. Then when we moved out on our own, we had a box full of ornaments to take with us!

I love this tradition and am continuing it with our family. I still hang up many of my childhood ornaments alongside all of the new ones we’ve added over 8 years of marriage. It’s so nostalgic to unpack them every year!

nostalgic christmas ornaments
family decorating christmas tree

Cookie Baking Day

Cousin cookie baking day was a huge deal growing up. It’s probably the tradition I remember the most because there are just so many good memories! Between my mom and my aunt, they had nine kids in about that many years. We lived close, we were close in age, and we spent a lot of time together as kids.

We would all get together for one full day of cookie baking every year and it was the best. Most of our focus was on making gingerbread men and sugar cookie cutouts. We found so much fun in making different shapes, moving our gingerbread man’s arms in different positions, and decorating everything with far too much frosting. The day always ended with a kitchen full of flour and very tired kids who’d eaten way too much cookie dough.

I’m not huge into baking as an adult, but does it even feel like Christmas without warm cookies? I don’t think so! I bake a couple of batches of David and I’s favorite cookies each December.

Chloe LOVES helping in the kitchen these days so I planned a couple of our Saturday activities as baking days. She’s going to love it!

Related: Organize Your Christmas Cookie Baking Schedule (Free Printables)

emily and chloe baking cookies


I’ve always loved board games (probably the competitive Type 3 in me) and have received at least one new board game almost every year of my life I think. My parents would often give me games as gifts and now I’m married to someone who loves board games even more than me so we always add a new one to our collection.

Not only is it an annual tradition to get new games, but this is also the season when we tend to play the most board games as a couple. A little extra time off from work, more focus on quality family time and the cold Midwest winter always push us to spend more weekends playing board games for hours.


Gift Exchanges

Since I grew up with three siblings, I don’t remember getting gifts for each of them even when we were young. For as long as I can remember, we’ve always drawn names among the four of us and had a sibling Secret Santa. Even as adults with significant others in the mix, we still draw names and I love it! Last year we tried a DIY gift theme and this year’s theme is “Fill My Cup” and I’m curious to see how everyone interprets that one.

David and his sister often agree to not exchange gifts at all because otherwise they just end up buying each other gift cards. This year they decided that they’d exchange baked goods which I think is a fun way to share festive treats without the stress of figuring out what kind of gift your sister would want. It also gives us an excuse to do some holiday baking!

Favorite Movies

My all-time favorite Christmas movie is National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Our family watched that one a lot growing up and I always make sure to watch it at least once this time of year.

Beyond that one, I’ll typically find time to watch a few other favorites and several of the cheesy Hallmark movies. David isn’t huge into holiday movies so it’s usually something I enjoy doing by myself on a lazy Saturday or a few evenings after Chloe’s in bed. I’m excited to introduce Chloe to a few Christmas movies this year!

Candlelight Dinner

I remember having a fancy candlelight dinner at home on Christmas Eve several years as a teen. My mom would make a special meal and we’d sometimes use the fancy China. We always had dinner around the table as a family, but it was extra special when it was a little fancier than normal!

This is something I planned into our advent calendar to do as a family on Christmas Eve this year. I’ll pull out a tablecloth and set the table properly, light a few candles and make a nice meal. We did this for Thanksgiving this year since we ended up staying at home and it was a nice way to make the day feel out of the ordinary. Chloe thinks it’s cool to have candles and fancy things so it will be fun to do on Christmas Eve, too!

I’m sure I’m forgetting a bunch of traditions, but those are some of my favorites! I hope they’ll inspire you to start a new tradition this year or perhaps you’ll be reminded of a childhood tradition you could rekindle with your own family in 2020.


You’re invited to join my free “4 Ways In 4 Days To Get Organized For The Holidays” Challenge. It’s a great way to dive deeper and get some free printables to help you get organized for the holidays.

Looking for more Christmas ideas? Take a look at these blog posts:

Have a fantastic day!

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