Christmas Eve Traditions: 18 Things To Do On Christmas Eve

Putting the star on the tree, listening to Christmas music, making cookies, and playing games are all fun things to do on Christmas Eve.

If you’re searching for things to do on Christmas Eve in 2024, you’ve come to the right place! This post is chock full of fun and festive activities that will help make this your best Christmas Eve ever.

While it’s hard to top the fun and excitement of the big day, Christmas Eve has always been one of my very favorite days of the year. (Why save all the fun for Christmas morning?) There are few things I love more than having all of our kids and their significant others together at our house, whether we’re enjoying food, games, activities, or each other’s company!

Whether it’s your first Christmas as a young couple or you’re getting together with your adult kids (like us!), the best Christmas Eve traditions can help you make lasting memories with your family that will last a lifetime. And it can be helpful to get some outside inspiration, too — you never know what Christmas Eve ideas you might be inspired by, and what might become a new favorite tradition!

So go ahead and check out 18 of the most fun, creative, service-oriented, treat-filled, family-friendly, rockin’ Christmas Eve ideas ever! These ideas are sure to fill kids and adults alike with Christmas spirit and get everyone ready for a lovely holiday.

Be sure to check below for tips on putting together a Christmas Eve box!

18 Things To Do On Christmas Eve

Baking (or eating!) cookies is a fun thing to do on Christmas Eve.

1. Bake Christmas Cookies

Would it really be Christmas without homemade cookies? Imagine Santa’s disappointment upon arriving at your house and discovering that not a single Christmas cookie is waiting for him by the tree — and after he came all that way!

Not only will it help keep your household on Santa’s Nice List, but baking cookies is also a great opportunity to spend time in the kitchen with family and friends. It’s quality time plus delicious homemade treats — a great Christmas Eve idea if I’ve ever heard one!

Sour Cream Cookies

Everyone has their own preferred recipe for Christmas cookies, and ours is my mom’s famous Sour Cream Cookies. These sizable cookies are soft, tender, and covered in a generous layer of homemade icing. I often bake large batches of them to give as gifts to neighbors and coworkers, and every time I do, people ask me for the recipe!

But since we’re such good friends, you don’t even have to ask! Get the recipe for Sour Cream Cookies.

Sugar Cookie Creations

Not much of a baker? Never fear! Baking Christmas cookies doesn’t have to involve measuring flour or rolling out dough. Just stock up on a few tubes of refrigerated sugar cookie dough — sugar cookie dough is endlessly versatile, and there are all sorts of treats and recipes that you can make with it! 

If you’ll have little ones over, you can minimize potential messes by having them decorate sugar cookies with cookie decorations before you bake them.

Non-Cookie Treats

Not a huge fan of cookies? No judgment here — there are plenty of non-cookie treats you can make with your family on Christmas Eve. Some of the most addictive Christmas treats are super simple to make!

2. Leave A Surprise For Santa

Once you’ve baked your cookies, be sure to set out a plate of cookies for Santa! In addition to leaving him cookies and the requisite glass of milk, we used to set out treats for Santa’s reindeer when I was a girl, whether baby carrots, oats, or a couple of apples. Nothing was more thrilling than seeing crumbs where there had been cookies and milk the night before!

And your surprise for Santa doesn’t have to be limited to food and drinks. You could also spend time writing letters to Santa and leave them under the tree for him to find, and reading “Twas The Night Before Christmas” is a wonderful way to get them ready for a visit from the jolly old elf!

Minute to win it games are a blast to play on Christmas Eve.
These minute-to-win-it games are hilarious!

3. Play A Game

Playing a fun game together on Christmas Eve is almost sure to make the holidays even more memorable. And in my experience, the sillier the game, the more memorable it will be! Here are some Christmas Eve ideas that could very well become new family favorites.

Christmas Party Games

Christmas party games are great for parties and family gatherings alike, and they’re sure to add some festive fun to your Christmas Eve. Pick a couple of games to play with your friends and family this year, and you’re sure to make some memories that will last a lifetime.

Minute To Win It Games

If you’re looking for games that are simple to both set up and to play, “minute to win it” games are perfect for that! Silliness is pretty much guaranteed with these fast-and-furious games, and there are plenty for kids, adults, or a mix of both!

Outdoor Games

If you live in a part of the country that enjoys mild weather this time of year, why not arrange a game of flag football or badminton? If you’re hosting, get a few outdoor games that everyone can play, like corn hole, croquet, or wiffle ball.

The Flour Game

My family has been playing the “Flour Game” for three generations, and for good reason! It’s fun, super easy, doesn’t require a lot of supplies, and everyone in the family can play!

In this game, players take turns using a butter knife to cut through a precariously packed pile of flour with one lifesaver candy perched on top. The person who makes the packed flour collapse has to fish the lifesaver back out of the flour… using only their mouth!

Get detailed rules for the Flour Game and see hilarious photos of the game in action!

4. Open A Family Gift

It’s common for the kids (or even Mom and Dad!) to get a little antsy on Christmas Eve in anticipation of opening presents in the morning. One way to deal with the impatience is to set aside a gift that you can unwrap together on Christmas Eve, preferably one the whole family can enjoy together!

Some families call it a “reindeer gift,” because Santa’s reindeer leave the gift behind when they drop by to scope out the house before the big man pays his visit. Your reindeer gift could be a Christmas movie, a new board game, or sets of matching Christmas pajamas!

Making a Christmas punch is one of our favorite things to do on Christmas eve.
Eggnog punch is my absolute favorite!

5. Make Punch

Make it a Christmas Eve tradition to whip up a big batch of festive punch! It isn’t a party without a bowl of punch, and what is Christmas Eve if not a day-long pre-holiday party?

Whether you’re interested in a creamy treat like Eggnog Punch, a warm cup of wassail, or a bubbly sparkling cider, you’ll find all three of these festive holiday punch recipes here.

6. Go On A Drive

As long as the weather outside isn’t too frightful, one of my favorite Christmas Eve ideas is to pack up the family and go on a drive. Even if you stay in your own neighborhood, it’s always fun to see your neighbor’s brightly lit holiday displays! You could even make a special ribbon for the best display and hang it on the winner’s door.

Watching a Christmas movie like Elf is one of our favorite things to do on Christmas Eve.
It doesn’t get much better than this!

7. Watch A Movie

Watching Christmas movies together is a great way to spend your Christmas Eve. Watching Elf is one of our most cherished Christmas Eve traditions, and we’ve done it every year without fail for nearly 20 years now!

But there are plenty of other Christmas movies to choose from if you’d like something a little more classic or nostalgic, like White Christmas, A Muppet Christmas Carol, or A Charlie Brown Christmas. Or you could even go with a movie that’s a little less traditional but still Christmas-centric, like Home Alone or Love, Actually.

If you don’t want to commit to watching the same movie next year, you could set up a rotating schedule of Christmas movies. Or you could play a game where the winner gets to pick the movie! There’s no wrong way to watch a Christmas movie on Christmas Eve — as long as it involves junk food and cozy blankets, of course.

8. Order Takeout

With your Christmas Day dinner just hours away, there’s no need to overexert yourself or make a mess of the kitchen when you can get takeout instead! It’s actually a tradition in many families to order Chinese takeout on the night before Christmas each year, since they’re often among the few restaurants that are open for dinner that night.

Order a little bit of everything and serve it up buffet style so that everyone can help themselves. And since it’s Christmas Eve, it’s also a great opportunity to spread some holiday cheer by leaving a very generous tip!

Why not celebrate your heritage on Christmas Eve?
Love my little Christmas gnomes!

9. Celebrate Your Heritage

Cultures around the world have their own unique traditions associated with Christmas and other winter holidays. You can honor and celebrate your own heritage by incorporating some of those unique Christmas traditions and ideas into your own celebrations.

My husband Dave comes from a long line of Norwegians while I have Swedish ancestry, so we’ve incorporated some Scandinavian Christmas traditions into our own festivities. I love my traditional straw star that sits atop our Christmas tree, and my ever-growing collection of Christmas gnomes. We always make a large batch of lefse (Norwegian potato flatbread) on Christmas Eve too!

If you have Italian heritage, you could try your hand at homemade panettone, or if you have English or Scottish ancestors, you could open Christmas crackers together. No matter what ideas you come up with, it’s sure to make your ancestors proud and make your Christmas Eve traditions extra special.

10. Observe Religious Customs

While you don’t have to be a Christian to participate in Christmas traditions, it is a Christian holiday! If you are celebrating the birth of Christ, there are plenty of easy Christmas Eve ideas that will help to remember the reason for the season.

You could hold a family prayer, read the Christmas story from the Bible (at our house, it just wouldn’t be Christmastime without a reading of Luke 2), put up a nativity scene, attend church services, or sing a hymn or Christmas song. I can’t resist requesting a family performance of “Silent Night” every year, even though I tear up every time!

Making a crockpot full of the creamiest hot chocolate ever is a delicious thing to do on Christmas Eve.
The creamiest, dreamiest hot chocolate ever!

11. Sip Hot Chocolate

Here’s a tasty Christmas Eve idea that is perfect for the occasion: whip up a big batch of hot chocolate! Crockpot hot chocolate is super easy to make, and you can keep it warm all evening so everyone can have seconds (or thirds!)

Take your hot chocolate experience to the next level by setting up a hot chocolate bar. Set out small bowls of mini marshmallows, whipped cream, sprinkles, caramel sauce, and peppermint sticks so that everyone can feel free to customize their mugs however they want.

12. Read A Book

Gather the family together for a reading of your favorite Christmas stories (or several, if they’re short!) Take turns reading a page each, or pick a narrator and have others act out the scenes!

Need some Christmas book recommendations? Check out Mission’s list of “The 30 Best Christmas Books of All Time”.

Here's a handy thing to do before Christmas Eve -- make a Christmas Eve box!
The Excedrin must be for me! :-)

13. Make A Christmas Eve Box

With a little bit of planning and forethought, you can put together a DIY “Christmas Eve box” that’s packed with everything you might need for your Christmas Eve festivities. Fill the box with Christmas movies, your favorite snacks, some holiday games or activities, a few stocking stuffer-type presents, a toy or two, and whatever else you think you might want!

Not only is it fun to make a Christmas Eve Box for your own family, but they make great gifts for other families or friends too! You could even drop one off to someone on Christmas Eve as a special surprise.

Learn more about putting together your own Christmas Eve Box.

14. Make DIY Christmas Tree Ornaments

You don’t have to be crafty to make Christmas Tree ornaments — you can use a kit from a craft store, cut tree shapes out of felt, or just purchase some plain ornaments and bedazzle them with glitter, sequins, beads, lace, ribbon — you get the idea! Let everyone go wild, then have a contest afterward and award prizes for the prettiest, gaudiest, and most festive ornaments.

Here's a great Christmas Eve idea: Ding Dong Ditch your neighbors with a gift of homemade cookies!
My kids LOVE the Christmas version of Ding Dong Ditch!

15. Ding Dong Ditch

Ding Dong Ditch is no longer just a way for kids to prank unsuspecting neighbors. It’s a fun way to deliver a gift or a plate of homemade treats to friends and neighbors on Christmas Eve. Just set your offering at their doorstep, ring the doorbell, and run!

16. Check Up On Santa

While you’re relaxing together on Christmas Eve, Santa is hard at work putting holiday gifts under the Christmas tree for families all over the world! Mom and dad can help the little ones check in on his progress throughout the evening via the Official NORAD Tracks Santa site or the Google Santa Tracker, which also features Christmas-themed games and activities for kids.

Before, during, and after the Christmas Eve festivities we love listening to Christmas music.
Christmas music always puts me in a merry mood!

17. Listen To Christmas Music

No matter what Christmas Eve ideas you choose to spend your time on, it’s sure to be even more festive with Christmas music playing in the background. Get my free curated playlist of some of my all-time favorite Christmas songs—all you have to do is press play!

18. Celebrate Christmas On Christmas Eve!

When your kids are married, they often have two families who want them over for Christmas, and they’ll have their own Christmas morning festivities once they have kids of their own. If it’s easier for everyone involved, why not have a special family dinner and exchange gifts on Christmas Eve instead?

The kids will love it because they’ll get to open presents two days in a row, and the adults will be actually be able to relax — plus, everybody gets two Christmas dinners! After dinner, go for a walk around the neighborhood to see the lights with the kids, then come back and open presents, grab some dessert, and play a game or two.

What are some of your favorite Christmas Eve traditions?

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Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee

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  • We have our traditional Christmas Eve party It’s just me and my small little family, but we celebrate with a Christmas punch of course and some appetizers. This year I’m making cupcakes and I’m going to decorate them with some cute cupcakes wrappers I found off of Amazon. We also have a tradition for the day before Christmas Eve we call Christmas Eve Eve lol…..we go out and look at the Christmas lights our city park sets up every year, and we get some fast food.

  • Fun ideas. We usually have a family program on Christmas Eve. We have quite a few musical ones in our family. We used to go for a drive around our area on Christmas Eve. We do actually take one. Just not on Christmas Eve anymore . It’s too complicated now because my siblings and families who live in the area are usually at our house .

  • My family ever since a Chinese restaurant that they love opened in our town- they love to go there on Christmas Eve. I usually have to work on Christmas Eve and I’m just not crazy about the Restaurant version. So they usually leave me money to get something on my way home from work. I love learning about other Cultures traditions. My moms father dads family is actually Full Swedish. However, back in the late 1880s when his parents came they didn’t really pass any traditions on. My moms mother’s side is mostly English , with Danish and German from both sides. Several years back she was trying to remember how my long gone Grandma made her English Toffee. It’s a very old recipe . So my mom and my Aunt ( her sister ) compared notes. It’s just been fun doing recipes like this for part of our treats. Also my Sisters -husband has some Italian ancestry and his mother has passed down
    a lot of wonderful treats.

  • Restaurants and food service workers could really use our help in 2020-21. My husband and I started in food service many years ago. We remember working every holiday for years. After we moved on with our careers, we vowed to never make a purchase of any kind on major holidays, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas, so that others could spend the day with their families. Those sentiments aren’t shared by everyone and our boycott of businesses probably don’t make any difference in the big scheme of things. That’s just our way of spending the holidays.

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