12 Magical Christmas Eve Traditions

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The mountains are yearning.

Christmas Eve is my favorite day of the year. 

It’s one of the only days of the year when our whole family is together. Everyone from Pete’s side and almost everyone from my side is there and we enjoy dinner and these magical family Christmas Eve traditions. Please note, we do all of these each Christmas Eve, but not always in this order, so feel free to mix the order you do them too!

1. Norad Santa Tracker
Did you know that you can track Santa’s sleigh as he delivers presents to children all over the world using the Norad Santa Tracker? Yep, it is true! The kids get so excited seeing Santa’s sleigh get closer and closer to delivering to our home! If you want to get a jump start on the festivities, the Norad website actually goes live on December first each year!

2. Hot Chocolate Bar This favorite drink is a must in our house on Christmas Eve. We set up a hot chocolate bar and let the kids choose their toppings and mixins. Some of our favorites are marshmallows, nutmeg, peppermint sticks, and gingerbread cookies for dunking. 

3. Cookies for Santa Right before going to bed, let the little ones choose some cookies to put on a plate for Santa. They will love picking out the perfect cookies for the man in red. Don’t forget the glass of milk! On years when we have some extra time, we let the kids decorate these cookies. We set aside plain sugar cookies and decorations and let them get creative.

4. Reindeer Food Set out “glitter food” (oatmeal the kids mix with glitter) outside for the reindeer to nibble on. You can also have the little ones put some carrots inside by Santa’s cookies for him to take back up the chimney for the reindeer.

5. Cheerio Donuts for the Elves Of course, you can’t forget those special little helpers that make all that Santa does possible! Leave little cheerios with frosting and sprinkles on a tiny napkin or plate for Santa’s Elves to enjoy.

6. Read The Night before Christmas This classic Christmas story is so timeless. Make a special tradition by reading the same book every year. It will become a family keepsake that will hold many memories for years to come. Pete reads it to the girls right before they go to sleep. We also sip our custom created hot chocolate while he is reading for an extra special moment.

7. Proof of Santa After the children are in bed, take large boots and sprinkle flour and white glitter around the outside of the boots to make sparkling white Santa footprints leading from the tree to the fireplace. 

8. New Pajamas This fun tradition gives everyone a new set of pajamas to wear on Christmas Eve. You can have a lot of fun with this tradition. Choose matching pajamas for everyone or pick a silly theme such as camouflage, Disney, or footy pajamas for everyone, including mom and dad! Make sure to take a picture of everyone, every year in the same place to look back on this tradition!

9. A New Christmas Book For Everyone
Each year everyone gets a new book to read in bed as they fall asleep on Christmas Eve. Some years they are Christmas themed, and some years they aren’t. The most important thing is that it is a special book to help them nod off to sleep land before the big guy visits.

10. Unwrap One Gift 
Let everyone pick just one gift under the tree to open on Christmas Eve. This really helps the little ones who are VERY excited about opening presents and having a hard time waiting.

11. Thank you letter to Santa
Have the kids write a special thank you letter to Santa to leave next to the cookies. They may not know exactly what they will be getting from Santa, but they can thank him for all of his hard work and the magic he brings to Christmas. 

12. Christmas Lights
Tell everyone to make another cup of Hot Chocolate to-go and put on their new Christmas pajamas. Pile the whole family in the car, turn on the Christmas music and tour your town and enjoy all the magical, twinkling Christmas lights. 

What is your favorite Christmas Eve tradition?

Heather Reese
the authorHeather Reese
Heather Delaney Reese is the storyteller and photographer behind the lifestyle and family travel blog, It's a Lovely Life®! For the past decade, she has vacationed over 150 days a year with her family. She is a vegan, and loves being by the water, spending time with her children, husband, 2 Shih Tzus and Cat.


  • I love all these Christmas Eve traditions. My family opens one gift on Christmas Eve and it’s almost always new holiday pajamas. We love setting out cookies and milk for Santa.

  • We used to put out reindeer food, and also left some snacks for Santa. We also go to a place locally before Christmas Eve and drop off a letter to Santa where the Santa & Mrs Claus there actually hand write letters back to the kids after Christmas Season! It’s really fun. Our normal Christmas Eve, by far our favorite tradition, is Pizza n presents with my Dad and Step Mama!

  • Hot chocolate and new pajamas are somewhat of a tradition for us. I hadn’t thought of the others the cookies for Santa or reindeer food might be fun to try out.

  • Love the proof of Santa.

    We read a very old copy of Twas the Night Before Christmas that my parents read to me as a child. Kids get Christmas PJs, and we leave cookies for Santa.

    • I love that you can pass on the tradition started by your parents. It’s so sweet to read that story!

  • Christmas is so much special & we have some special traditions as well that we follow every year. Christmas Lights, Colorful Christmas Trees & Delicious Chocolates has been part of our tradition over the years.

  • I love this list! We have started with many of these even though my boys are just 3 and 1 but this momma here just gets so excited to have traditions! I love the idea of reindeer food – we will have to do that this year! My son really got a kick out of the Portable North Pole free Santa video. Thanks for sharing!

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