There are so many great Christmas Eve Traditions, from Christmas Eve dinner traditions to Christmas Eve family traditions, to opening gifts on Christmas Eve! Discover Christmas Eve traditions around the world and here in the United States.
There are only a few weeks left until Christmas! We’re getting so excited for Christmas this year!
The day after Thanksgiving my husband and Father-in-law put up the Christmas lights, and I love seeing them glow at night! We’ve already put our Christmas tree up and hung our stockings, too. I’m trying to get the majority of my shopping done before December even starts, and I’m almost there!
I love celebrating Christmas and reading the story of Jesus’s birth in Luke 2 in the Bible.
Every Christmas Eve when my parents lived here we would go out to dinner at a nice restaurant, and then sing Christmas Carols afterward. My husband usually brings out his guitar to accompany us, or my sister would play the piano.
Every year since I can remember, we have always read the Christmas story in the evening on Christmas Eve. Occasionally we would go also go look at lights if we had some extra time or take a walk around the neighborhood to admire our neighbor’s festive light displays.
Since I grew up in Austin, another really fun thing to do here is to go to the Austin Trail of Lights.
We didn’t make it every year, but we tried to go as much as we could! The Trail of Lights is located at beautiful Zilker Park and has light displays from businesses all over Austin.
Christmas Eve Traditions Around the World
I thought it would be fun to share a few very “different” Christmas Eve traditions that happen all over the world.
From Japan to Australia to Switzerland, Christmas Eve is celebrated in lots of different ways.
In Japan, Christmas is not seen as a particularly significant religious holiday but as a chance for families to spend time together as part of the year-end activities. A somewhat “quirky” new tradition for people living in Japan is to eat KFC fried chicken on Christmas Eve.
In the freezing cold land of Norway, a fun Christmas Eve tradition is to hide all household brooms on Christmas Eve. It was once believed that witches came out on Christmas Eve and stole the brooms to ride the skies, and people still keep up with the tradition.
Everyone loves Switzerland for their chocolate and their neutrality, right? In this beautiful country, good children receive oranges, apples, and nuts. Santa Claus is called Samichlaus in Switzerland, and he does not ride in a sleigh with reindeer pulling it, he rides on a donkey! On Dec. 6th, naughty children are supposedly carried away in Samichlaus’s big sack and told to clean up after his donkey. Fun fact: in Germany, St. Nicholas also travels by donkey. On Christmas Eve in Switzerland, the Christkind (Christ Child) comes, bringing the Christmas tree and gifts (NOT Santa!). Candies and sweet cakes are brightly wrapped and placed under the tree.
In Venezuela, people roller skate to church early on Christmas Eve morning. This has become such a big tradition that the government closes the streets until 8 am so that families can skate together in safety. Instead of your traditional turkey or ham dinner, in Venezuela, they eat tamales for Christmas Eve dinner. Sounds like fun to me!
Australia is somewhere exotic and fun I’ve always wanted to go. Aussies say that when Santa gets to Australia, he gives the reindeer a rest and uses kangaroos or ‘six white boomers’ (a popular Australian Christmas song!). He also changes into cooler clothes to match the high temperatures in Australia.
A typical Christmas dinner in Australia is cold, or its a barbecue with seafood such as prawns and lobsters along with the ‘traditional English’ food. On Christmas Eve, fish markets are often full of people lining up to buy their fresh seafood for Christmas day.
Christmas Eve Traditions for Families (in the US)
I asked some of my American friends and family what their favorite Christmas Eve traditions were, and I got some awesome responses! Most of my friends live in the U.S. and the majority live in Texas like me, so if you’re wondering why there are not a lot of “snow-related” traditions, that may be why!
Christmas Eve Family Traditions
“Go visit in-laws or grandparents then lights!!!”
“Have all the kids sleep in the same room together! Walking around the neighborhood looking at lights is always fun, watching the Grinch (original). The past few years we have gone out to eat and then gone back to Grandma’s house for our secret Santa gift exchange.”
“We would choose a needy family and deliver gifts and food anonymously. The boys always tried to be fast and sneaky so as not to be seen!”
“We drive around and look at Christmas lights, drink hot cocoa, wear matching jammies, sometimes we watch a Christmas movie.”
Christmas Eve Food Traditions
“We like to go out to breakfast as a family on Christmas Eve morning.” (or you could cook your own snowman breakfast)
“We have continued a tradition from my childhood – takeout pizza on Christmas eve so mom doesn’t have to cook. Best tradition ever.”
“Go out to dinner (Chinese) then go home, watch Christmas movies while eating all sorts of yummy desserts that we made earlier that day. We don’t open any gifts until Christmas morning.”
“Christmas Eve we would go out to dinner and then after the tab (bill) came we would leave a candy cane for our server. Hopefully, a small gesture that made their day for having to work Christmas Eve.”
“We smash our gingerbread houses. So much fun!”
“We have a formal Christmas Eve dinner in the dining room with the family.”
“We drink hot cocoa after going out to see the Christmas lights.”
“Put out reindeer food! Just put oats mixed with glitter in their yard (the glitter makes it easier to see from the sky).”
“We always leave out plate of cookies and a cup of milk for Santa Claus, though this year we’re leaving out vegetables because ‘Santa’ (aka my husband) isn’t eating sweets anymore. The kids think Santa shouldn’t have too many sweets either and he can share with his reindeer.”
“Every year we bake a birthday cake for Jesus and make sure to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to him.”
Christian Christmas Eve Traditions
“We try to go to church on Christmas Eve, even if some years it doesn’t happen.”
“Read original Christmas story from Luke 2.”
“We usually read the Christmas story in Luke and act it out as a family.” (If you want to do that, check out this post all about nativity costumes to make it an even cuter tradition.)
“Temple Lights…when we lived near a temple that did it.” (talking about LDS temples)
Christmas Eve Present Tradition & Christmas Eve Pajamas Tradition
“When we do our opening gifts on Christmas Eve tradition, we always open and then wear our new matching Christmas jammies.”
“We used to open one present on Christmas Eve after we would get home from church service(s), but now we give each other PJs to wear that night and the next day.”
“We like to walk around the neighborhood and look at lights and then have our kids open one gift which is Christmas PJs.”
“On Christmas Eve we get on our Christmas PJs and slippers.”
“We give the kids a Christmas Eve box filled with things like jammies, popcorn, a Christmas movie, coloring books, hot cocoa, and more. The catch is the kids have to earn by actively participating in the Advent season.”
Other Fun Christmas Eve Traditions
While friend didn’t share these, I found a few more too good not to share:
What are your favorite Christmas Eve traditions? What is something you wish you did or want to start doing with your family this year?
Check out some of our other great Christmas posts:
- 9 Fun Family Countdown to Christmas Ideas
- 5 Elf on the Shelf Alternatives
- 25 Days of Christmas Advent Calendar
- Unique Advent Calendars for Kids and Adults
- 40+ Nativity Advent Calendars
- 50+ Toy Advent Calendars
- Creative Advent Ornaments for an Advent Calendar
- 12 Days of Christmas Secret Santa Gift Ideas
Want More Parenting, Penny Pinching, and Simple Living Tips?
Subscribe and get my best advice delivered right to your inbox. As a thank you, you'll receive these three laundry room printables for FREE.