We all do different things on Christmas Eve but the one thing is that feeling of being a family, and everyone’s excited and caught up in the Spirit of Christmas. Children thrive off positive family experiences, and it’s those that make Christmas for them, over and above whatever gifts they may get.
The good news is there’s no fixed way to make Christmas Eve magical, and however YOU decide to do it will make it just perfect! Everybody does their own version, picking and choosing bits that suit their families, and things that appeal to them the most.
In our family, we of course get all the latest news from THE workshop in the North Pole during December. Whatever you do, there’s a good chance that as Christmas Eve approaches, your kids are ready to burst
But in case you’d like some ideas …
Put The Christmas Tree Lights & Christmas Music On
The day immediately takes on that special magical Christmas feel. Moods run high and hopefully you’ll have a really strong sense of togetherness as a family.
Don’t forget to see where Father Christmas is using the Norad Santa Tracker.
Decorate the Breakfast Table!
Enlist the kids to help decorate the kitchen table before breakfast on Christmas Eve. It totally transforms it and really sets the scene for Christmas. You can then either leave it as it is, or change it for Christmas dinner on Christmas Day. The children might like to design and make some special menus for the main Christmas meal …
Christmas Eve Breakfast
For breakfast on Christmas Eve how about a ‘Requests Breakfast‘. It can be whatever you like! From just chocolate, to purple pancakes, porridge, eggs, smoked salmon, sausages, bagels, fruit salad, homemade fruit smoothies, bacon sandwiches… have a chat about it when you’re doing the shopping a couple of days before and decide altogether then.
You could always make them one of these as a surprise for breakfast too this year…melt the chocolate, roll the glass in it, let it cool off and cover it with sprinkles the night before, and just store it in the fridge overnight. All ready to whip out in the morning! You can buy candy cane straws really cheaply over the internet.
North Pole Breakfast
Christmas Surprise Gift Bag
Taking a Christmas surprise gift bag and putting it outside someone’s house is a wonderful thing to do. The true spirit of Christmas. Someone who will be on their own, or who would really really appreciate knowing that someone has thought of them. In our bag will be some Christmas crackers, a Christmas pudding, a tiny gift, a card making it absolutely clear that it’s for them, and anything else we think they might enjoy.
Finish off any pressie wrapping still to be done. There are so many Wrapping Ideas on Pinterest if you fancy a browse.
Christmas Baking, Crafts & Colouring Pages!
Our kids go with my husband to collect the turkey from the butcher. There’s usually a queue outside it and they give out hot chocolate and mulled wine, so everyone starts chatting and it makes it all really festive. I stay behind and prepare Nigella’s ham in Coca Cola, which is so simple and quick, yet smells and tastes incredible. It always makes me feel extra Christmassy because of the cloves.
While we’re on the topic of Christmas baking, one year we made some gingerbread men to go with our icing…
Friends and Cafe’s
Something I love love doing with the kids if and when there’s time, is to either go to a friend’s house for a Christmas drink, (or they come to us), or we go out to a cafe for a hot chocolate. Being out and about when the community festive spirits are high always injects a little bit more Christmas into the day.
Christmas Eve Lunch & Afternoon
Little bowls of treats I’ve hidden around the house (sprinkles, crushed candy-canes, jelly tots, grated chocolate, fresh berries etc) and send them off to hunt for them all so they can make themselves a Treasure Hunt Ice-Cream Sundae! Mainly because the sugar Nazi (me) turns a bit of a blind eye at Christmas time. This ‘activity’ can take them ages because once they’ve found all the decoration bits and bobs, they discuss at length how they want to build their sundaes in their glass. It’s like witnessing a board meeting.
In the afternoon, I put out bowls of nibbles (crisps, homemade popcorn, twiglets, nuts etc) and we all play board games together (ideas here) by the fire with the Christmas tree lights twinkling away. We usually roast chestnuts on the fire and then spend ages trying to get the shells off without burning our fingers! I have so many fond memories as a child doing this.
Other gorgeous ideas are to have a chocolate fondue with fruit, hang a new Christmas tree decoration, measure the whole family on a piece of wall behind a door every Christmas Eve and see how everyone’s growing, and take a family photograph in the same spot each year. Lots of families make a Gingerbread House on Christmas Eve too.
Having put some baked potatoes into the oven, we then head off to the Christingle service, where there’s a wall of children trying to get to the bowls of sweets, and a wall of adults trying to prevent them. In fact, this Christingle (below) is totally devoid of sweets because they were gobbled up before they made it on to the cocktail sticks… #definitelymychildren #possiblybyme
Christmas Lights & Ham
After church we walk home past as many houses with Christmas lights as possible, gazing blatantly into people’s windows to admire their Christmas trees. Once home, we all eat far too much amazing and totally falling apart ham, salad and baked potatoes (with pickle). Mince pies, meringues and / or a lemon drizzle cake for pudding.
Then we get VERY excited about Father Christmas coming, and have huge discussions about what we should leave out for him to eat and drink this year. According to this interview with an actual Christmas Elf, the reindeer are ‘SUPPOSED to eat hay, carrots, oats, honey and berries….but they also seem to eat dressing up clothes, Christmas trees, tinsel and wrapping paper….’ and ‘Father Christmas actually likes EVERYTHING. He also likes trying new things, but Mother Christmas says his tummy isn’t very good with extremely spicy things…’
When our eldest was very little, she really did not like the idea of Father Christmas visiting but was perfectly happy for the reindeer to pop in and drop things off…!
When my alarm on my phone goes off (usually mid-ham), we all rush outside the house to watch Santa flying over our house at the publicised time (actually NASA’s International Space Station), which always causes great excitement! I nearly got run over last year trying to spot him…
You can grow your own North Pole Garden – plant candy cane sweets in the garden, or in a little pot, which will magically grow into candy canes by Christmas morning! Kids love love treasure hunts, suspense and magical happenings!
Father Christmas & Reindeer Snacks
Once the evening falls, we all have to totally freeze like ice cubes in the garden while the kids have more ‘discussions’ about where exactly they should throw the oats (with glitter) and carrots in the garden for the reindeer. We’ve learnt to not let them break them the carrots up so we can just pop them back in with the rest of the carrots. They’re far too easily identifiable otherwise! Then we all come back in and set up a tray with a drink and a snack for Father Christmas. I always encourage the kids to put out Peppermint Bark and my husband always says Father Christmas would MUCH prefer these Spicy Nuts I make each year.
Make A Santa Landing Track
We don’t do this, but lots and lots of families make a Santa landing strip made using a trail of lights outside their house. What a magical idea! The kids would have so much fun designing the landing strip and watching all the candles being lit at bed time. I wonder what would happen if we set it all up on our road… would the cars respect important North Pole business I wonder ;).
Christmas Eve Candle-Lit Bath
When the kids head up for a bath or shower, they find the bathroom is lit by candle light! They all shriek and I have to say it does look amazing. Then they jump out and come into our room wrapped in warm towels, to find there’s been a magical and rather special delivery…
Magical Christmas Eve Delivery
As soon as the kids go into the bath or shower, I use the excuse of quickly changing into my pjs so I can get the magical Christmas Eve delivery sorted and then make sure I’m visible and around for the rest of the time. I hide the parcels in my wardrobe beforehand, so it’s ‘just there’ when I’m ready to get it out. So, the kids burst into our room to find a small pile of wrapped up pressies on our bed: a new pair of pyjamas and a book each, and a DVD for all of us. Lots of people have a special box or crate, a Christmas Eve Box containing all sorts of things…new pjs, books, DVD, ‘Snowman Soup’, snacks… you can put in it whatever is most magical for your family. Some families suddenly hear jingle bells and find theirs has been delivered
by a neighbour just outside their front door. If you’d like inspiration for Christmas Movies…I’ve been busy pinning Christmas Movies on Pinterest!
Then the kids climb into their new pjs, and we head back downstairs, stoke up the fire and watch the DVD all curled up together on the sofa with even more nibbles. It’s bliss, I love it. The flames flickering, the lights on the Christmas tree, a glass of wine, and me and my family all warm, cosy and snug together.
Top TIP: when the kids were very young, we’d start the process of movies much much earlier, so they thought they were having an excitingly late night, but actually they were going to bed at the same time. I don’t know about yours, but ours have always woken at the same time, regardless of what time they’ve gone to bed. Their moods are soooo much better with more sleep, so we just shifted the whole thing.
When the DVD’s finished, the kids lay out their Christmas Stockings under the Christmas tree. We used to have ours at the end of our beds when I was a child, but our eldest is such a light sleeper we decided to go for the under the Christmas tree option. I like it actually. It adds a new layer of suspense and anticipation for them. Plus they get to open them in front of the fire with the tree lights on…AND we aren’t finding endless bits of Christmas paper and tape in their beds forever more.
After much discussion about whether or not Father Christmas will get in a muddle with whose stocking is whose, they go to bed and we all curl up together to read the youngest’s new Christmas book as the bed time story. Then the older two read their new Christmas books for a while before lights out. You can always tantalise their excitement levels even more by jingling a jingle bell in the house somewhere 😉
When we think they’re asleep (aargh!), we pull the carrots in from the garden, eat the snack (ALWAYS leave crumbs), drink the drink, and fill their stockings (desperately hoping they don’t wake up and come down and catch us out). You can also use Dad’s wellies and sprinkle a bit of flour around them to leave footprints. Or you can buy stencils so you can leave actual boot marks. Just remember you ‘know nothing’. You can also leave chocolate covered raisins on the carpet for ‘reindeer poo’! I know, sorry, but kids love poo.
There’s actually a website called Capture The Magic, which quite simply proves that Father Christmas was in your home on Christmas Eve. You upload a picture of your fireplace, Christmas tree or somewhere else in your house where you think Santa may have been. Then you choose and superimpose one of their images of Father Christmas on to your image, and then download it and show it to them as a ‘webcam capture’.
Letter From Father Christmas
Don’t forget to put out your letter from Father Christmas (left blank for you to complete how you like!).
I also asked the lovely people in the Facebook Group ‘Christmas Traditions & Magic For Children’ what they get up to on Christmas Eve, and this is what they said…
‘I always cook a gammon ham on Christmas eve. Christmas Eve bag (similar to box but a sack I made few years ago), a DVD, new pjs, yummies of some sort. We always have a new board game for Xmas eve to all play together. It’s usually a new DVD if can find one! Might not be an Christmas film, maybe just a film we haven’t got! A new decoration for the tree, which has been bought through the year -this year we’ve got a Disney car’s one from our trip to Disney Paris in April! We also always have a stocking each, even the dog gets one!! Carrot for reindeer, mince pie for Santa and glass of sloe gin!
My mum started this tradition when I was little! She (Santa) always preferred sloe gin!!’
‘We go to the butchers to collect our meat then go to the christingle service at our village church, on our walk back look at all the pretty lights on people’s houses, look for Father Christmas fly over (national space shuttle) have a takeaway, sprinkle the reindeer dust in the garden, put carrots, mince pies and milk out. Then wait for Father Christmas sleigh bells ring (husband hiding outside ringing a bell) then excitedly go to bed and put stockings out. Love xmas eve!’
‘We eat turkey as my husband is very traditional, although we are eating out this year and it’s a carvery so I’ll be having beef! we always have gave smoked salmon and cucumber sandwiches for xmas tea.’
‘We do Xmas eve boxes kids have one each and then a family box with popcorn a Christmas dvd a board game or similar we decorate ginger bread men together for after dinner and put Santa mince pie and brandy/whiskey out ( to help with the cold all snuggle up in new pj’s from their boxes and watch the film. We also do the magic reindeer food sprinkled on the lawn.’
‘Christmas Eve Box In The Morning. Shannon Gets Into Her New PJ’s And We Watch Her New DVD Under The Quilt, On The Sofa. We Eat Cakes/Biscuits We Made The Day Before. We Sprinkle Reindeer Food And Grinch Dust Outside And Give The Cat Her Present. We Have A Big Chinese Banquet For Tea And Put Out A Carrot/Biscuit Or Mince Pie & A Hot Choc For Santa.Christmas Eve Is Actually My Favourite Day Because We Lock The Door And Its Just The 3 Of Us All Day.I Bought Some Paper Chains Packs Off EBay So Might Make Those On Christmas Eve Too This Year.’
‘We travel to grandma and grandpa’s farm. Daddy and the youngest stay at home and make Jamie Olivers rocky road christmas pudding while everyone else goes to the evening service. Back home for new pj’s and leaving out the stockings, Reindeer food and mince pie and drink for santa.’
‘We let them open a very small present that has been hanging on the tree since we decorated it.’
‘Oooh Christmas Eve is my most favourite!! Huge clean up, get everywhere all snug and cosy. Take the boys out for a walk or to see family and while we’re gone our Christmas elf leaves to help Santa and the Christmas Eve box is delivered
Usual bits, jammers, Christmas DVD and book and a puzzle or Lego to do…nothing too exciting, we want them to sleep
Put out the reindeer food and nibbles for Santa and then me n hubby settle down to watch a Crimbo film before Santa brings the pressies.’
‘We say good bye to our elf on Xmas eve outside the door & wait to get our Xmas eve box as a thank you for looking after him so well! DVD, pj’s, Xmas book, reindeer dust, key for Santa & a chocolate Santa & hot chocolate. We look for Santa flying over & leave treats out. When jakes in bed we set out the gifts all the same wrapping from Santa & only a few small things. Hubby & I open gifts to each other on Xmas eve night so that Xmas day is all about Jake ❤.’
‘As I child I remember watching cheesy tv with my brother all day & play monopoly all day munching on grapes as a treat & planning Xmas telly out from the radio times. My dad would get up extra early on Xmas day to do the milking so he’d be around to watch us open our gifts, the cooked breakfast as s treat, big Xmas dinner then the afternoon back to game playing & you enjoying. My mum would cook a monster buffet for dinner with special treats – happy memories.’
‘We are allowed to touch our elves on Christmas Eve so they all get a cuddle, we do the usual reindeer dust, put out the santa stop here signs, after lunch a little sleigh my Mum made when we were kids arrived filled with treats for the kids. We go to the crib service then watch the sleigh (international space station) fly over. We always have family over for a takeaway Christmas Eve, Leave mince pie etc, hang magic key and stockings. Final thing we always do is read The Night Before Christmas. father Christmas always leaves them a letter on the mince pie table. One year the kids found a bit of a reindeer antler outside on Christmas morning that had fallen off the roof. This year they might find a lost button from Father Christmas’ coat.’
‘We go on the Santa train every year. While we’re on the train the elves deliver the Christmas eve box. So when we get back we can get the Christmas dvd out and cuddle up on the sofa with the DVD and popcorn. We always cook nigella’s ham in coke (on slow for most of the afternoon) while we prep Christmas dinner. By the time the ham is cooked it falls off the bone and we have amazing gammon sandwiches. We read our Christmas book in the evening, get in our new pj’s and drink hot chocolate from our Christmas eve box. I think I prefer Christmas eve to Christmas day’.
‘Can I recommend Nigella Lawson’s way of cooking a turkey too, it’s fool proof and simply the best turkey you’ll ever have. .’
‘We track santa from the minute we’re up making sure all the children in the world get a visit. We make mince pies, and prepare the veg etc, watch Christmas tv/films, some Christmas crafts. We go out to watch santa fly over – this is when our Christmas Eve box is delivered. Christmas pj’s on and a hot chocolate. Put santa’s treats out and leave our elf under the tree ready for santa to pick him up. Glass of red wine for mummy and daddy with all our little twinkly lights on.
Santa leaves a little note to say thank you for his treats-he never eats his mince pie tidily ‘