What's Your Christmas Eve Tradition?

Updated on December 27, 2016
S.E. asks from New York, NY
17 answers

Everyone has them, so what's your Christmas Eve tradition?

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answers from San Francisco on

Trying to stay awake to fill stockings after the kids FINALLY fall asleep.
#iwishsantawasreal (and the tooth fairy too)

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

My hubby and I go to a house party every Christmas eve. I see a couple of ladies that I only see once a year so I look forward to seeing how everyone is doing, what their kids are up to, etc. Tomorrow we'll have the extended family over for dinner so it will be a busy day

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answers from Boston on

I agree that not everyone has them, in part because not everyone celebrates Christmas at all. In fact, I'm guessing that the majority of responses you'll get are from people who aren't actually observing traditions - those with traditions are busy doing them and not on Mamapedia tonight. I hope you get some good input in a few days though!

As Jews, we traditionally pick out our Christmas Day movie at the theater with friends and family, and make a reservation for Chinese food afterwards! This year, though, it's the first night of Hanukkah as well - that doesn't happen very often.

As for me personally, I'm occupied with Christmas, oddly enough. There's an amazing organization called the Interfaith Hospitality Network which mobilizes volunteers from various faith communities throughout the year to aid homeless families. Churches, synagogues, mosques and other houses of worship take turns hosting families, which means the families move every 2-3 weeks from one church (etc.) to the next. The synagogues always sign up for December and early January when Christian churches are overwhelmed with their holidays. In my community, the organization was fortunate to be able to buy a house, so the families can live in one place without moving (and with showers and private bedrooms vs. converted classrooms or partitioned auditoriums), and the volunteers rotate through the one location. So, for several weeks, one synagogue will arrange for meals and supermarket gifts cards to buy groceries, diapers, toilet paper and so on, and we take shifts to socialize with families, help kids with homework, dispense medications, chaperone overnight, and so on. So I'm actually spending Christmas Eve watching several families who are struggling even though they have jobs, as they try to wrap donated gifts, read Christmas stories, and wrangle their kids into bed. I refereed two little tiffs among kids of different families who desperately wanted to play with one toy the a family opened early! Typical kid stuff, made more poignant by the fact that they have no homes and all the kids are connecting with each other. It's so hard for the parents to create a sense of normalcy when nothing about this is normal. One dad saw a present with his name on it and mused, "I wonder if it contains an apartment. That's what I really need..."

The whole situation makes me so grateful for what I have (a home, food, heat, job) and so appreciative of the work of the committees that make this shelter function smoothly, getting us all here to help and guiding us on providing support without smothering, and a listening ear to some of the most exhausted people I've seen.

It motivates me to try to find new ways to take that "Christmas spirit" and "light of Hanukkah" and apply it throughout the year, especially in the dark, cold days of New England winters. There just has to be a solution to homelessness - I just don't know what it is.

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answers from Seattle on

Usually we go to my nephew's house and celebrate Christmas with them tonight (Mexican family, Christmas eve is the NIGHT!). Then once we get home and get the kids to bed my husband and I will get the gifts out and set them out. Then we have some *adult* time.
BUT...this year I am working (I am working right now, in fact.) So...not exactly sure how it's going to go when I get home at midnight.

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answers from Anchorage on

Growing up we used to have chill and cornbread at my grandmothers and play card games. Now-a-days we do things a little differently with our own kids since their grandmother lives too far away and because we no longer really celebrate Christmas, but rather do the 5 days of Yuletide. On the Solstice we cut evergreen branches to make our Yuletide wreath and we enjoy a nice family meal and open a present. We then do a present a day for 5 days ending with traditional secular aspect of Christmas on the 25th such as Santa, stockings, and a feast. Christmas eve is just the 4th day of our celebration and is usually marked by opening a small present and making ginger bread houses if we have not yet done them on an early day of the celebration.

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answers from Norfolk on

We watch a Christmas movie - which can be any of the following:
White Christmas
Miracle on 34th (Natalie Wood version)
A Christmas Carol (Alastair Sim version)
The Santa Clause (any of them but especially the first one)
It's a Wonderful Life

We also like to take a drive out before bedtime (sometimes in our pajamas) to see neighborhood light displays while sipping hot chocolate or warm cider.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

Typically we (I) finish wrapping gifts. Then we go to midnight mass and come home and go to bed. I,of course, don't go right to bed, b/c I still have stockings to fill and hidden gifts to pull out and put under the tree. And any last minute clean-up of wrapping paper/scissors/tape, to put away, or prep for breakfast in the morning. We have Christmas music on while wrapping, or a Christmas movie (we have watched The Polar Express several years, but this year they put on A Christmas Story...). Husband doesn't always get to be home with us, but this year he was, so he manned the music while I wrapped.

The stockings are always filled after everyone else is in bed. Including the dog's. ;)

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answers from Boston on

Not everyone has a tradition.

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answers from Tampa on

We usually go to a movie during the day...this year it was Star Wars. We bake cookies for Santa. We always go out for dinner and then drive around looking at lights afterwards. When we get home, we open up stockings. We put out cookies/milk for Santa and carrots for the reindeer. Then we go upstairs and the kids read Christmas books to us. After the kids are in bed, we turn on the tv and have a few glasses of wine together.

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answers from Honolulu on

We have always placed the wrapped gifts under the tree or in the living room on Christmas eve, as late as possible.

Prior to that date, there are no gifts in sight. Instead, we surround the tree with books. Books, books, books.

Since our kids were babies, we collected Christmas books (one a year or so) and put them out. We have baby-safe board books, Golden Books, picture books, story and chapter books, religious books, classic books, funny books, you name it, as long as there's a Christmas and/or holiday theme. From a safe book about Baby's First Christmas to The Polar Express, the books are brought out every year. We encouraged the kids to spend all the time up until Christmas exploring the books, reading to each other, reading to us, laying quietly with a good book. That way, the kids could enjoy the tree or enjoy being in the family room or living room without fear of them peeking at gifts.

We still have every book and even though our kids are grown, they still love seeing those books come out of the Christmas box where we store them from January until after Thanksgiving.


answers from Springfield on

we go to moms for dinner and gifts.. then its off to home and bed so "santa" can show up for the kids. all our gift purchases that are not "santa" stuff is already under the tree. and santa adds his to the mix while the kids are sleeping



answers from Portland on

We used to do a huge extended family Christmas Eve party, but in recent years have switched to our own tradition. Kids eat whatever fun food they want (wings, etc.), husband and I have seafood chowder in bread bowls (my friend and I make it ahead of time, that's our friend tradition). Christmas music, board games (this year it was Risk). Sometimes friends stop by as kids watch movie. When kids go to bed, it's crazy for an hour or so getting things ready. Crash - then up super early. This morning, fire alarm went off (someone burned toast). That got everyone up!


answers from Los Angeles on

Dinner, church, a couple of friends drop by, put out cookies for Santa and carrots for the reindeer, and put out all the gifts and stocking stuffers after kids go to bed.



answers from Pittsburgh on

Dinner at home, church, drive around and see everyone's decorations, leave cookies for Santa and go to bed.



answers from Miami on

My sister's boyfriend and my sister go to his parents' house before returning to mom's for dinner. They bring leftovers from his family's home. They eat lechon (roasted pork), rice and beans, and yuca, but try to eat sparingly so they can eat mom's food too. Around 9 p.m., we all meet up at mom's for dinner. She makes a large turkey, salad, a sweet potato and marshmallow casserole, and we will sample chocolates, truffles, pies, and any other sweet thing that we bring, either from the store, or from the workplace, as a gift from a co-worker, boss, etc. We also have polvorones (Spanish shortbread) and panillets, also a dessert from Spain, where I grew up and we lived for many years. My sister will order them online, or a friend of hers from school back in Spain will order them for her.

We stay up late watching holiday specials on PBS (this year they had Jordan Smith and Celtic Thunder), then we also tune in to holiday specials from Spain and listen to the concerts. Sometimes, we just stay up late watching movies. In the meantime, any last minute gift purchases will be wrapped by mom, or put in a gift bag, and added to the tree, which is already full of gifts by then. Recently, I have started sleeping over at mom's house with the kiddo, so we don't have to waste time driving back home or to mom's the next day, so we avoid traffic, drunk drivers, etc.

We sleep in, have breakfast as a family on the 25th (that means me, kiddo, mom, sister, and sister's boyfriend), then in the afternoon sometime we will open the Christmas gifts. We watch movies (this year, we saw Star Wars: Rogue One and Home Alone), and then have the turkey leftovers for dinner. That is pretty much our routine, with the only change being in the dessert selection and the choice of movies, and TV holiday specials.



answers from Los Angeles on

Christmas Eve dinner. Also, we allow our kids to pick one gift from under the tree to open.


answers from New York on

We open 1 gift and it's ALWAYS Christmas Pj's!
Everyone knows & it's still everyone's fave!
<The adult job of staying up to fill the homemade family tradition stockings & set up for the morning>

Growing up we did cousin get together at Grandparents house & had dinner & cousin puzzle races (dump tons of wooden puzzles into a giant pile in the center stack empty puzzle boards upside down & race to see who can finish the most) & then the giant ruthless family game of spoons! We are competitive play on the floor type people, apparently! :)
Sweet question, thank you for asking it!

~My BIL & his family live about an hour away this year & the nephew is only 4 so we had dinner & exchanged cousin gifts on Christmas Eve & are doing our own Christmas.

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