Christmas Eve Traditions

By | December 5, 2013

There’s something about the end of a year, and the beginning of a new one that makes me all ambitious and plan-happy. I begin to feel the restlessness in November–anticipation for the holidays, and an urgency to “figure out” the new year. All through Christmas I try to dwell on THIS year. Right NOW. But the new year waits around the corner with its fresh, clean slate and endless possibility!

I’ll FINALLY give up Diet Coke. I’m going to learn French! I’ll start my own business. Take up knitting.

I eat that stuff up.

Several years ago, my family started …Wait, no. We “borrowed” from a smarter family a new tradition that meshes the contemplative nature of Christmas Eve with the excitement of the new year. While we weren’t the ones to come up with it, I am so very glad we implemented it into our Christmas Eve traditions!

Here’s the scoop:

On Christmas Eve, after the parasites have been put to bed, the “grown ups” settle round with a glass of wine or cider and my mom hands each of us an envelope with our name on it. Inside those envelopes are our goals from the previous year. First we read those goals to ourselves, and then we write a new set for the next year. The goals are broken into three categories:

Personal, Physical, and Spiritual.

christmas eve tradition

The personal goal can be anything that is subjective to our own life. Obviously it looks different for each of us. One of us might have a goal to get accepted into college, or grad school–or apply for a new position. Another one of us might strive to learn a new skill. For the last two years I have wanted to get better at photography.

christmas eve activities

The physical goal is anything from losing weight, to running a half marathon, to having a natural labor and delivery. (I don’t know if that will be my goal for the year. Ouch.)

Last year, the hubs wrote down, “get a pneumonia vaccine” because we had spent Christmas Eve at urgent care all day–he had pneumonia. Our tradition actually reminded him and he got his vaccine two days ago! Turns out the vaccine gives you a dead arm for about a week.

christmas eve activity

The spiritual goal has to do with our relationship with Jesus. Some of us will strive to share our faith more, while others will want to work on their prayer life. No matter what the goal, it helps to have it written down.

After we formulate our new goals we go around the room and share the previous year’s. This is always a little challenging, because more often than not we have failed at most of the goals. Much hemming and hawing and shaking of the head.

But truly, I love this part because it’s a recap–an in-depth look at each person’s year. I am close to my family, but as I live five hours away from them there is a lot that I miss throughout the year.

As each sibling or parent becomes vulnerable by sharing their accomplishments and failures, we grow closer as a family. Then we each read our new goals and get to share what we are looking forward to in the new year.

My family is a really loud, rowdy, and goofy family. We aren’t the sort that sit around quietly. Half the time our living room looks like a scene in an SNL sketch. There is always at least one brother on a guitar (it can be up to four), munchkins hanging from stair bannisters, a group engaged in a loud discussion, another person quoting Disney movies, someone in the kitchen making cookies, a crying baby, two boys wrestling, oh, and something playing on TV. Whoops! Forgot about the YouTube clips running on a laptop–that is the other constant feature.

I love my family.

Anyways, something about this tradition calms us all down and gives us that much needed time for reflection. It allows us to be open and serious, for once. It’s a safe place.

Sealing that envelope for the next year is a promise to make a change. And that is the greatest thing about a new year. So if you’re looking for things to do on Christmas Eve, I highly recommend you consider this tradition.

Do you have any special traditions for Christmas Eve? Please share!


20 thoughts on “Christmas Eve Traditions

  1. Rhoda Jane

    Love this idea! My extended family usually eats really naughty, but super yummy food, laughs a lot, then we start singing. We start with silly Christmas songs (Rudolph, Frosty, etc.) and end with spiritual songs. Since my family is pretty musical the spiritual ones are usually very pretty to just sit and listen to. Then, my grandfather (a pastor for many years, now retired) reads Luke 2.

    1. hillary

      That sounds lovely! And yes, you should try it this year. Tweak it however you like!

  2. Debbie McCormick

    What an awesome idea. The only thing we do as a tradition with my family is playing Dirty Santa. It is a time to be vicious and uncaring and only looking out for ourselves. We really need to be sweeter – I mean, it’s Christmas! My family is loud and crazy too. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    1. hillary

      We did that last year too! It was so much fun. We always draw names and changed it up last year. I actually enjoyed the game more than getting a nice gift. We had such great laughs from that and then it was so cool to wind down with the goals ????

  3. Karee Alexander

    Great ideas! We have done something similar and it’s such an inspiring time. Man, I miss you guys! ???? I love you!

  4. Kim

    I am sure we are related now! Loud, rowdy, goofy, family with at least one brother on guitar (I have 4 brothers, 2 play guitar.), kids racing through the house, whoops of joy and laughter coming from the living room and kitchen… The older cousins, including my two girls, joke about how intimidating it is to bring a boyfriend or girlfriend to one of our holiday gatherings just from the sheer size and volume alone. At the end of the day, though, we love one another dearly, and I can’t imagine it any other way.

  5. kerri

    Wowzers! I love this idea for New Years! In fact, we will be in Colorado for a family ski trip on New Year’s Eve. So stealing this. ???? Cheers!

    1. hillary

      Glad you liked it ???? It really is a cool thing to do. I’m excited to incorporate my kiddos when they get a little older. It’ll be sweet to see where they start and where they end up.

  6. Candotche

    I can’t wait till Christmas. I love our family! Ps. Can we get these printed up? The way you designed these are awesome and beautiful!!! I think they’d be perfect!

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  8. Chris Carter

    What a great tradition!! It’s so neat to hear about your family and how close you are! Maybe my little family will try something like this… ????

    1. hillary

      Well, we certainly aren’t perfect, but I love them so much. We’ve been through quite a bit and it feels like a constant work in progress. This is definitely something that helps us stay close!

  9. Emma

    After we go to the Christmas Eve service at church, we always come back home and sprinkle our reindeer food outside-which is just little bags of uncooked oatmeal and purple glitter, we get them when we pick out our tree-and we set out water for Rudolph, which gets red food coloring in it late at night. Then, we all get to open one present which is always new pajamas. Then sometimes, we’ll watch Frosty or Rudolph and then go to bed, but it seems like the longest night of the year!

    1. hillary

      That is so precious! I love all those traditions. I might need to steal the reindeer food ????

  10. Margo Hayes

    Great description of our time – and I can put faces to each of the nameless family members you described so well; i.e. “brother on a guitar…”. Can’t wait to be together again with everyone:)

  11. Natalie

    Love this idea! thanks for sharing! My family doesn’t do anything like that but they usually have a fun movie night after they set up luminarias around the lake by our house and then walk around and sing carols. We missed it last year because we were up in OH with my DH’s family and again we’ll miss it this year because we’ll be here but at my FIL’s. Sucks but at least we won’t have to leave my families for Christmas Day celebrations!


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