The Big Ass List of Family Traditions, Christmas Edition

Christmas Family Traditions

Welcome back to the Big Ass List of Family Traditions. Today we have the big one. Thanksgiving and Halloween are well and good, but this is Christmas, the merriest damn holiday in all the land. Children frolic over snow laden fields. Lines to see Santa stretch through shopping mall corridors. Mariah Carey’s Christmas album plays on repeat over bluetooth speakers. Christmas cookies! By God, christmas cookies are in the oven as we speak! Soon to be packaged in decorative tins and delivered by your favorite grandma. Are there haystacks in that tin? You bet there are haystacks. Will you eat the whole lot then hide your shame under 4 layers of outerwear? You know you will. Christmas transforms the otherwise cold and miserable month of December into 31 straight days of holiday cheer. So follow me, and let’s run through the most festive list of family traditions yet.

25. Get an Advent Calendar

What’s the best way to spread holiday cheer across all of December? An Advent calendar, a calendar used to countdown the days until Christmas. Each day you open a door to reveal a little surprise. There are a few options:

a. The Secret Door Calendar

Open each door to reveal a festive picture.

Advent Calendar

b. The Stale Chocolate Calendar

Open each door to reveal a festive piece of stale chocolate.

Chocolate Advent

c. The Surprise Christmas Activity Calendar

I bought this Advent calendar against my better judgement and against my wife’s wishes. But I have an idea. Next year, when our daughter is one year older, I’m going to stuff it full of activities. Weekday activites will be something simple like ‘read The Polar Express’ or ‘watch The Grinch’. Weekend activities will be more involved like ‘decorate the tree’ or ‘build a snowman’. The girl is gonna love it. She better.


d. The Christmas Book Calendar

Wrap and number books, and read one each night.

Book Advent Calendar

24. Read Christmas Books

Here are Amazon’s 5 bestselling children’s Christmas books.

The Night Before Christmas

The Night Before Christmas

Christmas in the Manger

Christmas In a Manger

Little Blue Truck’s Christmas

Little Blue Truck

How the Grinch Stole Christmas!


The Polar Express

Polar Express Book

23. Watch a Movie

And the 5 bestselling movies.

A Christmas Story

A Christmas Story

The Original Christmas Classics Gift Set




The Polar Express


Christmas Vacation

Christmas vacation

22. Decorate

Not sure where to start? Here’s a beginner’s checklist:

a. Hang Lights Outside

Christmas Lights

b. Get a Tree


c. Hang Stockings


d. Hang Garland on the Banisters


e. Get a Wreath for the Front Door


21. Take a Pic With Santa

Wanna know what $23 and 90 mins in line gets you? 2 4x6s, 2 crying kids and one Santa who, try as he might, can’t hide the fact that he’d rather be anywhere else on earth. Look closely, and you’ll also notice the quality of this image is shit. This is because the digital download was an additional $10, so I had to scan the physical print like it’s 2005. You listen to me, you bastards: for $23 and my entire Saturday morning, I should be able to relive this nightmare in digital form if I so desire.

Photo with Santa

20. Write a Letter to Santa

So you wanna tell Santa what you want for Christmas, kid? Here’s a sheet of computer paper and a forever stamp. No, we’re not going to the mall.

19. Build a Snowman

18. Go Sledding

17. Have a Snowball Fight

16. Bake Christmas Cookies

Bake Cookies

15. Send Christmas Cards

Every year I want a North Pole themed Christmas card where we dress the girl as Santa and the dog as Rudolph and it turns out super awesome and everyone loves it. And every year my wife overrules me with some family collage where I unfailingly end up looking like a dope. Example 1a:

Christmas Card

14. See a Play


13. Look at Christmas Lights


12. Craft

Christmas crafts are the best crafts. Here are 3 you’ll remember from grade school:

11. Build a Gingerbread House


10. Drink Eggnog


9. Drink Hot Chocolate

Hot Cocoa

8. Drink a Drink


7. Donate Toys


6. Have a Fire


5. Listen to Christmas Music

Here’s a link to Mariah Carey’s Christmas Pandora, you know, just in case.

4. Wrap Presents


3. Exchange Gifts

Nobody wants a Santa-sized shopping list. So instead of burning 2 month’s salary on presents for your entire extended family, simplify shopping with a gift exchange. Here are some ideas:

Draw Names

  1. Write your Christmas list on a sheet of paper, and put your name on it.
  2. Put the lists in a hat.
  3. Draw a list, and buy for that person.
  4. Receive a gift from whoever drew your name.

Secret Santa

  1. Write your Christmas list on a sheet of paper, and put your name on it.
  2. Put the lists in a hat.
  3. Draw a list, and buy for that person. Keep it a secret.
  4. Receive a gift from whoever drew your name.


Full disclosure: I don’t know what this game is actually called. But I do know it’s fun. I played it last year and it created an atmosphere of competitiveness and greed usually absent from Christmas gatherings.

  1. Everyone brings a wrapped gift.
  2. Sit in a circle with the gifts in the middle.
  3. Select an order, youngest to oldest or whatever, and one person at a time, select a gift and open it.
  4. Once the gifts are open and everyones has one, set a timer for 10 minutes and take turns rolling a pair of dice.
  5. If you roll doubles, you can swap gifts with anyone you choose.
  6. When the timer is up, the gift you have is the gift you get.

White Elephant

  1. Everyone brings a wrapped gift.
  2. Sit in a circle with the gifts in the middle.
  3. Select an order.
  4. Whoever goes first unwraps a gift.
  5. Whoever goes next can either choose a gift from the pile or steal the unwrapped gift from the first person. If the gift is stolen, person 1 must unwrap a new gift.
  6. When subsequent players go, they can choose to unwrap a new gift or steal one from someone else.
    • A gift can only be stolen once during a turn. A new turn begins every time an additional gift is unwrapped.
    • The game ends once the last gift has been unwrapped.

2. Leave Cookies and Milk for Santa


1. Play Santa Clause

When I was a kid, our gifts from Santa were never wrapped. They were laid out, like each pile of presents was its own toy store window display. The year Santa brought the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sewer, the official headquarters for the Ninja Turtles action figures, that puppy arrived assembled, ready for me to play with as I piddled my PJs in a fit of uncontainable excitement. There is nothing like the raw, uncut joy of a child who believes some magic man just slid down the chimney and left a load of gifts. That type of happiness doesn’t exist in adulthood. But as a parent, playing Santa Clause might be the closest thing.

Merry Christmas, everyone!


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