Christmas: 15+ Meaningful Holiday Family Traditions

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This holiday traditions post has been compensated by Hallmark and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #HallmarkHolidays #HallmarkTradiciones

15 Meaninful Family Holiday Traditions

Much more than gifts and material things, I want to pass down meaningful traditions to my children during the holidays. I want them to remember the smells, tastes and feelings of Christmas. It’s a great time to teach them about their heritage and the traditions of their origin. I also want them to remember that the holidays are about making memories with family and reconnecting with extended family that we might not get to see very often. Hallmark makes it easy for us to do just that at the holidays and throughout the year with their assortment of cards. Here are my favorite family traditions that might help you create your own. 

1. Christmas Lights: At least a couple times a week in December, we pile into the car with hot cocoa in hand and drive around the neighborhood looking at Christmas lights. We have our favorite houses that go all out that we can’t miss. See if your HOA or community has a map of homes participating in a Christmas lights contest, those homes are usually the best! 

2. Christmas Cards: We love receiving and sending out Christmas cards every year! Hallmark always has the best Christmas cards, especially for my grandparents who are bilingual and appreciate cards in Spanish! Head to Hallmark and let your child pick out a meaningful card for their grandparents and other family members. They always have the most perfect hand-designed cards, whether I’m looking for something funny or a little more heartfelt. You can search for your favorite cards on

HallmarkCard2 copy Feliz Navidad Hallmark Card web

3. Luminarias: I love going home to New Mexico for the holidays because almost every house in certain neighborhoods are covered with luminarias. Luminarias are paper bags filled with sand and illuminated with a candle. They don’t sound very glamorous, but they are the most beautiful sight! Make luminarias with your children and learn about a New Mexican tradition. 

4. Gingerbread Houses: When I was in high school, I made an award winning (seriously, it was in a statewide competition) gingerbread house and gingerbread house decorating is something I look forward to doing with my kids every year. This year we will be having a little gingerbread house playdate. Whether you bake a house from scratch or grab a kit, this is something fun for the entire family to do together! 

5. Holiday Baking: Holiday baking for my family means sweet empanadas and apricot pastelitos. They just taste like Christmas to me! If your family doesn’t already have traditional recipes, create your own baking traditions that can be handed down to future generations. You can start a recipe book for your children! 

Apricot Pastelitos Pies 2 web

6. ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas: Our traditional bedtime story on Christmas Eve is always ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas. This is another new tradition that I started for my kids. I love being able to recreate my childhood memories for my children, but also start new traditions that they might decide to do with their own families in the future. Another fun book tradition is wrapping 24 books and opening 1 book a night leading up to Christmas. 

7. Pay It Forward: I try to pick a few kid-friendly ways to pay it forward every holiday season. Last year we baked cookies for our local firehouse and this year we have decided to decorate Hallmark holiday cards and deliver them to a local nursing home, where many of the residents will be alone for the holidays. Head to Hallmark and grab a few cards to do the same with your children!

8. Special Ornament: Every year we head to the Hallmark store to pick out one special ornament for our Christmas tree. The ornament usually represents a special memory for that year. This year, we picked the Hop On Pop ornament. That book not only gets read quite a bit in our house, but our kids call my husband “Pop” and bedtime looks just like the ornament lol! 

Hallmark Hop On Pop Ornament copy

9. Christmas Pajamas: The night before Christmas, my children are allowed to open just one gift and that gift is always their Christmas jammies. I have hung on to all of their old Christmas pajamas and I plan on making a quilt out of them when they are older. This is a fun tradition to start with your kids and bonus point for it being a practical gift that they can wear well past Christmas. Yes, my kids totally rock snowman jammies yearlong! 

10. Elf On The Shelf: This is a new tradition for my family. If you don’t know what this elf business is all about, it’s an elf doll that gets moved around every night after flying to the North Pole to report good and bad behavior to Santa. We use our elf just for fun and not necessarily to keep behavior in check, but the kids look forward to finding him every morning. You can get the Elf On The Shelf at! 

11. Polar Express: We started a new tradition a few years ago that has quickly become one of our favorites. Right after Thanksgiving we take a ride to the “North Pole” with a local train company. They reenact the Polar Express story, and the last stop is the North Pole, where they can meet Santa. Check to see if your city has anything like this, it’s so worth it to see their eyes light up!

Polar Express 2 copy Polar Express 1 copy

12. Cookie Decorating: Decorating sugar cookies with globs of icing and sprinkles is something I always looked forward to as a child and my parents still carry on this tradition for my children. It’s so fun to see memories being passed down to the next generation. A little cookie decorating hack of mine is to buy ready made sugar cookies and pre-made frosting in the tubes. So easy and the kids are still having fun with minimal effort! 

13. Four Gifts Rule: We try to stick to the 4 gift rule for our kids. The 4 gifts rule means getting them something they want, something they need, something to read and something to wear. I found the cutest personalized FROZEN book at for Amelia’s “something to read” this year. This is a great way to tone down the gifts and focus on the reason for the season, whatever that may mean for your individual family.

Hallmark Book2 copy

14. Advent Calendar: We’ve tried a few different advent calendars, but our go to is always the classic paper chain to countdown to Christmas. I remember making a paper chain when I was a child and it’s fun to see my son get so excited over ripping off a link every morning. Grab some red and green construction paper, cut it into slits and link them together like a chain with glue. Such a fun way to countdown to Christmas and it also makes for festive decor!

15. Traditional Food: Traditional food in my house means posole, tamales and rellenos. It just isn’t Christmas without a bowl of my grandma’s posole, which is a hominy and pork type of stew. Make it a point to jot down those special recipes so this tradition can live on.

16. Photos with Santa: My mom made gently coerced me into taking a photo with Santa Clause for 17 years (until I moved away for college) and displays all of those photos on her mantel. You better believe that I’ll be torturing doing the same with my kids. For now, they love it! It might take some bribery in the later years. Check with local photographers, many offer Santa mini sessions that are much more intimate and cost just as much as mall photos. Many businesses also offer photo opts with Santa free of charge! 


HallmarkCard3 copyWant to win an assortment of 5 Hallmark Holiday & Everyday Cards and a $25 Hallmark Gift Card? Enter below! Giveaway ends 12/18! Find a greeting card for everyone at or participating stores. find the perfect holiday (or every day) cards for your loved ones. What is your favorite holiday tradition? Comments submitted may be displayed on other websites owned by the sponsoring brand. 


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  This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Hallmark. The opinions and text are all mine.


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Hi, I'm Vanessa!

Welcome to See Vanessa Craft! I’m Vanessa, an MSSW and mom of two in Arizona, and I’m happy you’re here to get inspired with me. It’s my mission in life to spread creativity through crafts, recipes, travel and more in order to live a life well lived.