christmas traditions


Christmas is one of the most important celebrations for Christians and every year billions of people around the world celebrate in their own unique ways, creating their own unique Christmas traditions. While many people celebrate Christmas on December 25th, it can be celebrated at different times or for longer periods of time depending on where you live in the world. Over 160 countries celebrate the holiday in some form. While some traditions are religious in nature, such as attending church, others are less formal in nature and might include decorating Christmas trees, watching themed movies, or baking cookies for loved ones. We have assembled a list of 10 of the most popular holiday traditions. See how many your family participates in and also gain inspiration on some new traditions you may want to start! We also have a fun list of 12 Christmas traditions around the world that you may or may not be aware of that you can use as ideas on how to celebrate Christmas in a new way with your family.



Watch a Christmas Movie

One uniquely American tradition during the holidays is watching specific movies and TV shows that put us in the holiday spirit. There are a number of favorites that range from old movies to cartoons. What better way to celebrate the holidays than with timeless classics such as “It’s A Wonderful Life,” “Miracle on 34th St.”, or “The Christmas Story?” Don’t forget those cartoons that will forever be a part of the holidays, such as “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” and “Frosty The Snowman.” While some of those older movies and cartoons may not be as popular for the younger generation, you can always find more recent family favorites that bring a smile to your face, such as “Home Alone,” “Elf,” “ or “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.”

As most of us have some time off during this time of the year, there are also a number of blockbuster movies that will be released during the holidays. Kick back, relax, and enjoy these great movies and shows during the holidays.

Top-Performing Christmas Movies Based on Ticket Sales (source: BoxOfficeMojo)


Christmas Movie

Gross Worldwide Ticket Sales


The Grinch



Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas!



A Christmas Carol



The Polar Express






The Holiday



The Santa Clause



The Nutcracker and the Four Realms



The Santa Clause 2



Four Christmases



Set Up a Christmas Tree

Once you have had your fill of binge-watching holiday movies, you may want to participate in one of the oldest Christmas traditions, which dates back to the 15th century. That is, of course, selecting and decorating a Christmas tree. Each year, 30-35 million real Christmas trees are sold in the United States alone. Whether you go and cut down your own tree, buy one, or use an artificial tree, decorating a tree is one of the first signs that the Christmas holiday season is upon us.

If you do plan to venture out and find a real tree, finding the perfect one may take some time. You may want to consider things such as the scent, how sturdy the branches are in order to hold all of the ornaments, whether it drops a lot of needles, the price, color, shape, height, and so on. While there are a lot of variables to consider, you will know when you find the perfect one for your home.

Once you do finally get the tree into your home, the decorating fun begins. Adorn your tree with lights, tinsel, garlands, ornaments, and a number of other trinkets that suit your family theme and taste. Many families hang a special ornament each year that holds a special significance to them. Start a family Christmas tradition of adding one special ornament each year to your tree. Minted offers unique ornament holiday cards in case you wanted to create special ornaments to send out to loved ones this year.


String Home & Yard Decorations

Holiday decorating is not limited to just the tree. Decorate your home with Christmas light displays and be the envy of your neighborhood. Some displays even coordinate the lights to turn off and on in unison with popular Christmas songs. Families often travel from miles around to search for the most beautiful light displays.

While you are decorating your home, don’t forget to hang stockings for each of your family members, even that special pet. Remember, you don’t have to have a fireplace to hang stockings. You can hang them from the staircase railing, from garland, on a bookcase, the footboard or headboard of your bed, your TV stand, and so many other places. Be creative! You may also want to read through our post on Christmas mantle decoration ideas.


Hang the Mistletoe

The tradition of hanging a strand of mistletoe in the house goes back to the 2nd or 3rd century. Mistletoe was said to have powers that bring good luck to a home by getting rid of evil spirits. More commonly, it was also used as a sign of love and friendship. This is where the custom of kissing under the Mistletoe originates. If you’re curious about where you can purchase mistletoe nearby, consider Home Depot, Lowes, your local hardware store, the garden section of Walmart or Kmart, or the pop-up Christmas tree sales tent.


Host or Join Christmas Dinner

Of the many Christmas traditions celebrated around the world, the most common thread is the celebration of a shared meal. Create memories and reflect on the year by joining friends and family together to enjoy a delicious meal. If the idea of interacting with a larger group this holiday season has you feeling uneasy, look to just host a special meal with your immediate household.

As you might imagine, there are countless food choices that people enjoy throughout the world during Christmas, however, there are some main staples that are a part of many Christmas meals. Some classics include roast turkey, ham or chicken, potatoes, stuffing, and of course you cannot forget the gravy.

Not everyone shares the same seasons and climate. In some parts of the world, there could be hotter temperatures during Christmas, which would result in serving colder or lighter dishes. Serving roasted meats cold or enjoying seafood recipes may be more common in warmer climates.


Bake Christmas Cookies and Decorate Gingerbread Houses

While we all love a good meal, the actual process of baking together is often a family tradition in itself. Making cookies, baking pies, or building gingerbread houses falls in line with the holiday spirit that it is better to give than receive. Don’t forget to set a few cookies aside (with a glass of milk) for when Santa pays a visit. Some popular Christmas snacks include:

  • Sugar cookies with intricate decorations
  • Gingerbread men
  • Yule log
  • Pumpkin Pie
  • Puppy chow/reindeer chow (Chex Mix treat)

Exchange Gifts

Gift giving is one of the most beloved traditions of Christmas (especially for children) and it goes back to when the Three Wise Men offered gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to baby Jesus in the manger. Gifts are usually placed under the Christmas tree or within stockings, but the timing and place could vary depending on where you live in the world. For example, in some European countries (Netherlands, Germany, Czechia), some presents are opened as early as December 5th, right before St. Nicholas’ Day on December 6th. In America, we have created a few unique ways to exchange gifts in large group settings, such as

  • Secret Santa - In work environments or clubs, one popular tradition of exchanging presents is through “Secret Santa.” This is when each person in a group is randomly assigned another’s name in the group, and is responsible for getting them a gift without them knowing their “Santa’s” identity. Be sure to check out our list of Minted-inspired Secret Santa gift ideas for this year!
  • White Elephant - A fun twist on the “Secret Santa” tradition is known as “White Elephant”. In this tradition, all gifts are placed in a central location. Numbers are drawn for when each participant will choose a gift. Recipients have the option to take a previously opened gift from another person or test their luck by selecting an unwrapped gift. The “White Elephant” concept provides a more fun and interactive environment for a gift exchange.
Secret Santa Party Invitation

Send Secret Santa Party online invitations for free through Minted.

  • Christmas Story Pass-Around - In this gift exchange game, everyone starts with the present they brought. A common Christmas poem or story is read aloud and after certain breaks in the text, all gifts are passed to the left, right, or across the table. Presents are continually swapped until the story is complete.

The tradition of giving gifts to others is centered around showing how much we appreciate others and value the role they play in our lives. As you go about your holiday shopping, remember Christmas is a time to think about others and the joy of giving rather than receiving. Need some help finding the perfect personalized gift for your friends and family this year? Browse Minted’s Holiday Gift Guide for our top picks this 2021 season.

Tree Lot Wrapping Paper

Tree lot wrapping paper designed by Joyce Pinheiro.

Shop Minted Wrapping Paper

Send Christmas Cards

Exchanging greeting cards has become a huge tradition during the holidays. It is a great way to communicate with friends and family and express that you are thinking of them. This year has been a very unusual one, with many of us not venturing too far from home, which means it has likely been a while since some of your more distant friends and family have seen your face. The annual holiday card greeting will be appreciated that much more this December. Did you know that in the United States alone, more than two billion Christmas cards are sent annually?

When it comes time to selecting Christmas cards for your loved ones, consider our wide range of beautiful and unique designs that capture the celebration of the holiday. Minted’s exclusive Christmas cards are designed by a global community of independent artists which guarantees that you will always find a unique and stylish design. There are a number of customization options available through Minted to add a more personal touch to your holiday greeting. Impress your friends and family with beautiful designs, premium quality, and experienced craftsmanship. Learn about what unique design trends we are seeing in 2021.

Decorated Christmas tree

Gilded Lines designed by Lauren Chism


Hide An Elf on The Shelf

The Elf on a Shelf phenomenon became a family Christmas tradition close to 15 years ago. It is derived from a children’s story about Santa’s elves watching over children and reporting back to Santa about the good and bad activities of the children observed that day.

The tradition has become extremely popular amongst adults and kids, as the Elf hides in a new spot every morning around the house and the kids try to find it. The elves are said to have magical powers derived from being adopted and loved by a child. However, the kids must follow one simple rule and that is to not touch the elf or the elves may lose their magic. If touched, the elves cannot report the children’s Christmas wishes back to Santa.


Listen to Christmas Songs & Go Caroling

Music plays a large role in many Christmas traditions around the world. We listen to holiday favorites with family and friends and have our playlist of favorite songs, such as “O Holy Night,” “Let It Snow,” “Jingle Bells,” and many others.

One Christmas tradition that has been passed down from many generations is caroling, in which a group of people shows up at homes to serenade inhabitants with holiday music. Some grade schools and high schools have even adopted the practice by encouraging certain groups of students to travel from classroom to classroom singing. This tradition or caroling dates back to the 19th century and is still practiced in many countries to this day. Due to social distancing concerns in 2021, the tradition of caroling may sadly take a year off this year.


There are some truly unique and somewhat strange traditions that are practiced in different places around the globe. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic this year, it is possible that many of these traditions may not occur in 2021. Or, they may be re-imagined through a socially distanced lense. Either way, we wanted to share details about these unique traditions as we bet they will return in full force for future Christmas celebrations. Here is a sampling of just a few…


Shop German Christmas Markets

Countless German cities like Berlin, Munich, Nuremberg, and Duesseldorf host impressive Christkindlmarkts, or Christmas Markets, where locals and tourists can shop hand-made souvenirs and seasonal-themed edible treats like lebkuchen and pfeffernüsse. Some of these outdoor markets and villages have been re-created each year dating back 500 years. If you do find yourself at a German Christmas market this year, be sure to observe any social distance advisories and mask-wearing protocols.


Ugly Christmas Sweater Parties

This theme has become fairly popular over the last few years. Outfits our parents and grandparents wore during the holidays (considered fashionable at the time) are now the butt of the joke at these gatherings and have become a funny family pastime. The tradition of wearing over-the-top holiday sweaters will most likely stay strong and continue to bring people together for some laughs. To maintain social distancing, consider hosting an ugly Christmas sweater virtual party! In line with dressing up, be sure to check out our list of Christmas outfit ideas for the perfect family holiday card.


Attempt a Polar Bear Plunge

How would you like to take a nice swim in freezing cold water on Christmas morning? This may not be for you but hundreds of people in Brighton, England schedule a Christmas day dip every year with just a swimsuit and their Santa hat. This tradition is not exclusive to Brighton but also practiced in London’s Serpentine Lake, Sandycove, Dublin, and plenty of other cold bodies of water around the world. The thought of jumping in frigid Irish waters on Christmas morning is not for everyone!


Feast on KFC

While Christmas is not viewed as a huge celebration in Japan, a fairly new tradition has emerged in which families enjoy a feast of Kentucky Fried Chicken on Christmas day.


Hide the Brooms

One of Norway’s Christmas Eve traditions that dates back centuries is the act of hiding all the brooms in the house. This act deprives the witches and evil spirits of finding something to ride on.


Roller Skate Down City Streets

Before Venezuelans in Caracas head home to enjoy their Christmas day feast of tamales, hundreds head to church on roller skates. Roads all across the city are closed to cars so people can partake in this unique annual tradition and skate to church in safety.

Christmas traditions around the world

Step Back in Time at a Dickens Fair

Numerous cities throughout the U.S. and Europe host a Dickens Fair tradition each holiday season. San Francisco has been hosting one annually since 1970. Unfortunately, San Francisco’s event is canceled this year, but stay tuned for 2021! Attendees will feel as though they have time-traveled back in time to a Victorian London setting where old-timey vernacular is used, vintage clothing is adorned, and bangers and mash are served at every other food stall.


Build Giant Lanterns

On the Saturday before Christmas Eve, eleven villages in the city of San Fernando in the Philippines create giant lanterns in an annual competition. Known as The Giant Lantern Festival, this competition attracts people from all over the country to view this spectacle. The lanterns started off as small and simple creations, but over the years the lanterns have become more elaborate and much larger, reaching close to 20 feet. The lanterns are shaped in kaleidoscope patterns and are illuminated with electric bulbs.


Attend the Krampus Parade

One of the scarier traditions around the holidays takes place in Austria. While St. Nicholas rewards nice little boys and girls with presents, his evil accomplice, Krampus, is said to capture the naughty children and take them away in a sack. Krampus is described to be a half-man, half-goat and young men dress up in costume to frighten kids during the Krampus Parade, which has grown in popularity across Europe.


View the Yule Goat

In Sweden, they construct a giant straw goat, known as The Yule Goat, which is over 42 feet high, 23 feet wide, and weighs over 3 tons. Every year, the goat is built in the same spot. If you are not able to view the Yule Goat in person, you can watch a live stream from the first Sunday of Advent until after it is taken down at the beginning of the New Year. More recently, vandals have been setting the Yule Goats on fire, which is easy prey given that it is made from straw.


Ice Skate in Downtown New York

The Rink at Rockefeller Center has to be one of the most iconic outdoor ice skating venues in the world. The seasonal rink opens around the end of October each year but starts to really lure in skaters once the Rockefeller Center Tree is lit in early December. Call ahead to learn what special socially distanced guidelines may be in place.


Eat Fried Caterpillars

If roast turkey or ham does not seem appetizing for Christmas dinner, then how about fried caterpillars? This delicacy can be enjoyed in South Africa at Christmas. The Pine Tree Emperor Moth - also known as the Christmas caterpillar - is covered in different colors and is said to give a little extra luck in the New Year to all those who eat it.

No matter what Christmas traditions you practice during the holiday season, it is always a fun time of the year to share special moments celebrating with family and friends. Happy Holidays!