Simple Holiday Traditions (Some of Our Favorites)

Happy weekend and welcome to the Saturday Spotlight!  As we approach Christmas, I’ve been thinking about some of our favorite holiday traditions. Even though most of them are quite simple, our family has come to expect them year after year.  I’m sure you and your family have a bunch as well.  So today, I’m sharing some of our simple holiday traditions along with ideas for new traditions that might be fun to start! (Updated for 2023)

*For your convenience, please note that this post may contain affiliate links.  If you make a purchase after clicking my links below, I will receive a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

Ideas for Simple Holiday Traditions: 

Hopefully some of our family favorites will inspire you!

Christmas tree decorations - simple holiday traditions

Simple Holiday Traditions – Family Recipes:

We all have them, and our families look forward to them…

Whether it’s Thanksgiving or Christmas, our family comes to expect certain recipes.  One of them is Aunt Lillian’s “Famous” Cornbread.

corn bread on plate - simple holiday traditions

It’s not a holiday unless someone makes this one!  And it’s not Thanksgiving unless we are hosting!!  Besides 2020, I think we’ve hosted for about 22 years straight…definitely a tradition for us!

Simple Holiday Traditions – Baking Christmas Cookies:

If you’re family is like ours, you love baking Christmas cookies! 

One year, we even tried those cute Reindeer Cookies that we kept seeing all over Pinterest!

peanut butter reindeer cookies with chocolate covered pretzel antlers - special holiday traditions

For years, I attended various cooking exchange parties in our neighborhood.  Each time, I remember coming home with a huge container of cookies that my boys would tear into.  That’s one tradition we need to get back to again!

Simple Holiday Traditions – Gingerbread House Day:

Each year we look forward to decorating gingerbread houses…

When my boys were little, my mom would invite them over for a day of decorating gingerbread houses.  Sure, the boys probably ate more than they decorated…but they all had a blast!

gingerbread house - simple holiday traditions

If you love gingerbread houses, see if there is a gingerbread competition/display in your area.  We’ve attended the Peddler’s Village Gingerbread Display a few times and the entries are just amazing!  Many years ago, I shared some photos from one of our visits, if you’d like a peek!  It’s an old blog post so don’t say I didn’t warn you!  Haha

A Favorite Holiday Tradition – Christmas Tree Shopping Day:

Each year, it’s a holiday tradition for our family to go Christmas tree shopping together. 

Basically, we head to a tree lot, agonize over the perfect Christmas tree, lug it home, set it up in the living room…and then decorate!  Usually, we play traditional Christmas music and sometimes we sip hot chocolate while decorating the tree.

Though that doesn’t sound too exciting, it’s a tradition that we’ve taken part in every single year.  I’ll admit, it was much more fun when the boys were young and Christmas was very magical.  Still, it’s a family tradition and though they might complain a little now, I think they enjoy the simple family time!

christmas trees on lot - simple holiday traditions

Usually, I’d take pictures of the boys standing next to the tree with chose.

Last year, our Christmas tree day was a little different… Since my older son is away at college, my younger son still wanted to partake in our tradition.  So, we facetimed my older son for the picture!  Even from far away, I think he was happy to be included in our tradition!

Tree shopping day - facetime family photo

Of course, I like to reminisce about when they were little and our  tree shopping day was more exciting for them!

A newer Christmas tradition…an artificial tree..

Besides, buying a “real” Christmas tree, I’ve started a tradition of decorating one or two artificial trees in our home.  Last year, I added a tree to our dining room.

Christmas tree with red and blue ornaments - simple holiday traditions

To coordinate with our navy blue walls, I decorated that tree with red and blue.  This year, I’ll be doing a variation of that with some classic blue and white decorations.

Buying Special Christmas Ornaments:

This seems to be a popular tradition with many people…

In addition to choosing our Christmas tree together, we buy each other a new ornament every year.  To make it special, we try to find something that is meaningful such as a memory from a trip, a particular sport, etc.  Did anyone else buy this ornament in 2020?…

2020 Christmas ornament - simple holiday traditions

Ugh, some years are not worth revisiting!  Maybe we’ll hide this ornament in the back of the tree from now on…

A Tradition of Driving Around to See Christmas Lights:

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, seeing all the pretty lights could put anyone in a holiday mood…

Even though my kids are teens now, I think they still enjoy this simple holiday tradition…or at least pretend to for my sake!

outdoor christmas tree lights - simple holiday traditions

Christmas Traditions That Don’t Go As Planned:

Of course, we have some family holiday traditions that I’m not too thrilled about…

For instance, every single year on the weekend after Thanksgiving, I ask my husband to put up the outdoor lights.  And every single year, he insists that we “never put them out that early”…so he waits.  Then suddenly, the weather turns bitterly cold.  It becomes a ‘holiday tradition’ that he ends up dragging all the lights out there on the coldest, most blustery day! 

Ironically, this year my husband decided to put up the lights on his own!  Honestly, I don’t know what got into him!

Porch ring camera view - man setting up outdoor lights

Yes, I had to share a shot captured on our Ring camera!  Next year, I’ll show him that he really did set up the lights at the end of November!

Simple Holiday Traditions on the Blog:

Each year, I participate in a Christmas Home Tour…

If you want to see what we’re sharing this year, the 2023 starts Monday over at Simply 2 Moms.  Each day, a group of us will be sharing our decorated homes.  Be sure to come back Tuesday to see my tour!

Christmas front porch with greenery and red decorations - Home Tours 2023

In the meantime, here are a couple of my tours from previous years:

More Simple Holiday Traditions to Try:

Besides our favorites, here are some more traditions you might want to start…

  • Rather than exchange gifts with extended family, start a secret Santa tradition.
  • Go ice skating at an outdoor skating rink.
  • Deliver food to a food bank.
  • Gather up a group of friends and sing Christmas carols around your neighborhood.
  • Watch a Christmas movie marathon.


Shopping Ideas with Holiday Traditions in Mind:

Even though this Christmas traditions book was written for kids, I think any age would enjoy it!


In keeping with the Christmas traditions theme, here is another book which explains the stories behind the Christmas traditions…


This year, start an advent tradition…and who wouldn’t love this adorable house advent calendar?!!

If you haven’t started collecting Christmas china yet, these Christmas dishes are a classic choice!

And for even more simple holiday traditions, here are some finds from around the internet:

Hopefully, some of these ideas will inspire you to start some new holiday traditions with your family!

What are your favorite simple holiday traditions?

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  1. We have almost all those same traditions! Though as my boys get older they are less inclined to participate in some of them.

    1. Aren’t traditions special? Yeah, I guess as kids get older it’s not as exciting for them…though someday they will all appreciate it!

  2. I’m smiling as you write about how your boys are at that age where they ‘pretend’ to not be interested in some Christmas activites. Just wait until they are older …you will be happily surprised how much they enjoy the traditions! We would spend Christmas Eve with my stepsons. I made a special dish that my younger son called “Christmas Casserole”. Afterwards we would drive to a nearby neighborhood that put out illuminarios every year. We would get out and walk for blocks enjoying the illuminarios and the beautifully decorated homes. The sidewalks were crowded with big groups of families, strollers and dogs. Looking into the windows of the houses we walked past, we would sometimes see those families enjoying a festive Christmas Eve. My other favorite tradition is driving around looking at decorated houses. I could do it every single night!! Thank you for this post !!

    1. Yes, those boys of mine…I’m sure they’ll come around! What nice memories you shared! And I agree with you – I could look at decorated houses every night too. Thanks for sharing and have a Happy Thanksgiving and holiday season!

  3. Traditions are so important for kids to grow up with! We have a Hanukkah tradition of hiding the present each night (my parents did this with us). Yes, when my son was a teenager, he pretended to be annoyed to have to look for them, but last year, I didn’t do it, thinking my college senior wouldn’t mind. Wouldn’t you know it, he was disappointed! So, I’ll be hiding them again this year. Don’t you worry – your boys may complain a little now, but they will always appreciate them, and no doubt continue them some day with their own families!
    Thank you so much for including my NYC holiday tour in your list!

  4. Love your traditions Shelley. Kristine is right. When your boys get older they will remind you of traditions that you might have thought of skipping some year! We had a lot of grumbling through the teenage years but no more. Those traditions are so important to them and I know they will be carried on with the next generation. Thanks so much for sharing. Have a great week!

    1. Thanks Denise! I guess I’ll just have to deal with the teenage complaining for a bit… Glad to hear you made it through! Enjoy your week!

  5. These are some of our family traditions as well. Thanks for sharing on Happiness is Homemade at We’d love to have you share on Traffic Jam Weekend as well if you get the chance. It runs from Thursdays at 5pm CST thru Sundays.
    Merry Christmas!
    Niki ~ Life as a LEO Wife

  6. What fun traditions. We do gingerbread houses as well, and it’s so fun. And, yes, worth mentioning that not all traditions or events go the way you plan. ha That’s life. 🙂 Visiting from Wonderful Wednesday.

    1. Thanks! Yes, gingerbread houses are so much fun! I think my boys still enjoying doing them! Thanks for stopping by!

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