5 Fun Holiday Traditions for the Family

I love the holiday season, and it’s hard to deny that I’m the one in the family who demands that we stick to tradition. This year, I’m looking forward to several of our long-standing traditions, as well as a few newer fun holiday traditions.

Holiday traditions for families | Christmas traditions for toddlers, preschoolers and young children

Advent Calendar


The Advent Calendar is a new tradition for us this year. My mom gave Emme an adorable Advent calendar, and we started opening the doors on Monday. Behind each door is an ornament to decorate Emme’s own tiny tree. I love this, and Emme seems to be into it. However, with a two year old, the following conversation was required on days one and two: You can only open one today… only one… only one… hang the ornament… only one… you can open the next one tomorrow… oh look shiny thing over here! On day three, she seemed to “get it,” and we didn’t have quite the negotiation over opening more than one door.

Breakfast with Santa

breakfast with Sant

In 2012, we celebrated our first Christmas with baby Emery. Excited to make some new holiday memories with our little one (who had no idea what was going on), we took her to Breakfast with Santa at the Brookfield Zoo. We went again last year, and we made it an official tradition by signing up to go again this year. The actual photo with Santa did not go well last year. We’ll see how that goes this year.

Simbang Gabi

Simbang Gabi is Filipino for “night mass,” and in the Philippines is a series of daily Catholic masses during the nine days leading up to Christmas Eve. In the Chicago area, various Catholic churches participate in a traveling Simbang Gabi mass, and the church around the corner from our house holds the mass on the third Saturday of December. My husband’s family is Filipino and for six years (and despite the fact that we’re not particularly religious), we’ve been attending this celebration. It’s always followed by a big Filipino dinner, which is a highlight of the holiday season for me.

Christmas Eve Dinner

My family has always gone out to dinner on Christmas Eve. It’s a tradition my mom started, and for years, we went to an Italian restaurant in Columbus, Ohio. Now that we spend Christmas in Chicago, we’ve tried a few different restaurants, but this year we’re heading back to The Chew Chew in Riverside for the second time. Maybe that will become the tradition? Time will tell.

Christmas Day

We always have brunch on Christmas Day (this year my sister is hosting), and for several years now, it’s tradition to make this Baked French Toast recipe, which literally has corn syrup in it. I’m not a sweet breakfast person, but this is so worth it once a year. We’ve also decided to start a new tradition this year–an informal Christmas dinner. In the past, we’ve done a more formal Christmas dinner, but after brunch then celebrating with my husband’s side of the family with a big lunch, we’ve decided that we’re going to do soup and sandwiches or something similarly simple for dinner with my sister, her family, my mom, and her husband. I think a holiday movie might also be in order.

Do you have fun holiday traditions? Are you making any new ones this year?

16 thoughts on “5 Fun Holiday Traditions for the Family

  1. I didn’t realise your husband was Filo! Very cool. Half of my high school was Filipino, 🙂 I was always a bit grateful around this time of year my family was Irish Catholic, not Filipino Catholic. The midnight mass tradition seemed to slip away for my generation, but all my school friends had to do midnight church. Hope you guys have a fantastic Christmas this year. 🙂

    • His mom’s side of the family is, and it’s our largest side of the family and the one he is closest to. And, as someone whose family doesn’t have any ties to a culture other than “American,” I love that Emme will be able to experience and identify with these traditions.

    • She is! I think this is the first year that she really understands that this is a special time of year. That makes all of this more fun. We’re not just doing it for ourselves anymore 😉

    • Thanks for stopping by Carly. We are terrible about doing the tree together as a family. I usually end up doing it by myself after she’s gone to bed. Maybe when she’s a bit older.

  2. Very nice and heartwarming post. I can so identify with that “Only one.. only one!” Brings back such memories on when mine were so little, and when my grandson was that little. Precious memories to be stored forever in our hearts.

    • Thanks for stopping by Kim! Toddlers really are hilarious. We’re on day 4 today, and I only had to say it once. Progress, right?

  3. One of our holiday traditions I’m looking forward to is having Chinese takeout on Christmas Eve. Kind of weird, but it really hits the spot after the kids are in bed and we can celebrate that we survived several crazy weeks of holiday madness!

    • That’s awesome Laura! It’s often the simplest traditions that end up being the ones we look forward to most. And who doesn’t love Chinese takeout?

    • A lot of my coworkers with older children are doing the calendars with candy. While I am not a no-sugar-ever kind of mom, it’s not something I give her on a daily basis. No crazy toddlers before bedtime 😉

  4. lovely traditions for the holidays! for years growing up, we always went to Midnight Mass and I really enjoyed it. My boyfriend is Christian, not Catholic, though so not sure how we would do that haha

    • Clearly ;). I’m so excited to meet another blogger in the area! Also, I think I get most excited by Breakfast with Santa at the zoo. They do such a nice job with their events.

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