4 Free (or Almost Free) December Traditions for Your Family

family holiday traditions
photo by StefaNikolic from Getty Images Signature

I think what makes December such a special month isn’t just that holidays are coming up at the end of the month, it’s that we set aside time for family traditions. Here are a few of our favorites that are free (or almost free). 

Looking at Christmas Lights

This is one of the traditions my teenage boys still want to do each year. We get in our jammies, grab some snacks, and drive around the areas that have great displays in our neighborhood. (Not sure where to go? Check out our list of locations!) 

Some other ways to make this fun include a scavenger hunt that you could create yourself or find on Pinterest. Depending on the ages of the children, you could have them look for a snowman, candy cane, inflatable superhero, house with window displays, etc. 

Book Flood (Jólabókaflóð)

This is a tradition I started when my oldest son was in 5th grade. I read about an Icelandic tradition where they read books and eat chocolate on Christmas Eve. We aren’t able to do this on December 24, but we try to find another day when we read some of our favorite books while totally escaping from reality. It’s typically my boys and I doing this over a few hours on a Sunday afternoon.

We try to include all of the cozy things you can–blankets, candles, books, treats, fireplace, pjs, etc. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to go through your house and find a few cozy things/books. I think the intention is the most important thing: spending time with family and slowing down for a bit. 


Baking is a part of many family traditions for generations! I like to make cookie dough early in the season and freeze it. You could even pre-make sugar cookies and freeze them to decorate later. I keep it simple for sugar cookies. I have the dough made, the kids roll it out, use cookie cutters, and then I bake them. Once they’re baked, we decorate them with simple white frosting and whatever sprinkles we have in the house.

You could make this even easier by buying premade dough and frosting. Our favorite pre-made dough is Do-Biz sugar cookie dough. It’s made by a local Iowa company and is available at local grocery stores. It’s really tastes like “homemade” cookies! 

Spiritual/Faith-Based Activities

We really look forward to our Sunday evening advent time at home. We have a set plan where we read a Bible verse, eat cookies, light candles, and play the piano. Whatever your faith, having an intentional family time set aside during December can help make some very special memories. It reminds us to slow down and connect with each other during this busy season! 

What are your favorite family holiday traditions? 


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