The holiday season feels like it goes by so fast that it can be hard to savor the little moments. But Christmas Eve is one of those special days where time seems to slow down. When you (hopefully!) have every item on your Christmas preparation checklist ticked off, so you can make memories that you’ll cherish for years to come with friends and family. And where you can create holiday traditions that feel uniquely you.
Whether you like to take Christmas Eve as a chance to recharge so you can be full of holiday cheer on December 25th or if you like to get the celebration in full swing, we have some ideas for special ways you can spend the day. Keep reading to discover 18 fun things to do on Christmas Eve, and a few festive Christmas Eve dinner ideas.
No matter what you choose to do on Christmas Eve, remember that the day is all about gathering your family and friends under one roof to spend some quality time together. Each of the ideas below are all traditional ways to spend the day at home, so choose a few to keep things feeling festive from sunrise to sunset!
If you’re looking to keep things cozy and low-key on Christmas Eve, snuggling in with your family for a Christmas movie night is an excellent idea. Help things feel special by incorporating festive touches — think Christmas themed pillows and blankets, homemade popcorn and snacks, and plenty of twinkling Christmas lights.
If you plan to host family and friends at your home for Christmas Eve, give your party a festive and fun vibe by instructing everyone to wear their tackiest Christmas sweater. Far beyond making for great photo ops, you can also set up a DIY station where guests can add even more flair to their sweaters and host a competition for the best (or worst!) ugly Christmas sweater in attendance.
Even for adults, the anticipation of tearing into all of the gifts under the tree can almost be unbearable by the time Christmas Eve comes around. That’s why so many families enjoy the tradition of opening one special gift on Christmas Eve. You can do this however you like — let each family member pick the gift they want to open, open your stockings, or have everyone open a similar gift like matching pajamas. (You can check out our full guide to unique Christmas Gifts to get some additional ideas!)
For a silly twist on the tradition of opening gifts on Christmas Eve, host a white elephant gift exchange. Have all of the family and friends you plan to host for Christmas Eve bring one hilarious, random, or weird Christmas-themed gift to add to the pot. Then, assign everyone a number and take turns opening or stealing gifts. It’s a tradition that is sure to generate laughs — and maybe spark a Christmas rivalry or two.
For another low-key Christmas Eve activity, break out a puzzle for your family to work on together throughout the day. The puzzle could be Christmas themed (we love the idea of looking for vintage Christmas puzzles at thrift stores during the year), or could be a custom puzzle featuring this year’s Christmas photo.
There are no shortage of ways to get crafty on Christmas Eve! Here are a few of our favorite ideas:
The holiday season is a time to be grateful for all of the blessings that you have in your life — and one of the best ways to do that is to give back to your community. There are tons of ways to volunteer on Christmas Eve, but we especially love the idea of visiting a nursing home to spend time with residents who may not be able to spend the holiday surrounded by their loved ones.
Looking to switch things up this year? Or perhaps you want to find ways to make the holiday feel more like you? These unconventional ideas pack all of the festive cheer of more traditional Christmas Eve activities, but are unexpected ways to make memories with your nearest and dearest.
Play sommelier by hosting a blind taste test on Christmas Eve. This could work with either hot Chocolate or eggnog (or perhaps a mix of both to get guests of all ages involved) — start by having each guest bring a sample of their own recipe. Then, place them all into similar containers and dish out samples to everyone. The recipe that gets the most votes wins!
Stacked Greeting by Kristen Smith
For an unconventional twist on cozy Christmas Eve traditions, borrow from the Icelanders and host a Jólabókaflóð, or “book flood.” In this tradition, everyone gifts each other a new book, and then spends Christmas Eve cuddled up by the fire reading. It’s a great way to get some quiet time before the Santa-fueled chaos of Christmas morning, while still spending time with the ones you love most. For an extra festive touch, wrap your books up in something that will get reused — like a sweet Christmas tea towel.
Joy Frame by Lori Wemple
On the opposite end of the spectrum, use Christmas Eve to host a high-energy game night. You can put creative Christmas twists on classic party games like charades (where everyone has to act out holiday-related clues), or host a tournament of your favorite card game to play into your family’s competitive side. You can check out our roundup of fun Christmas Games for more ideas.
Rather not host a movie night at home? Use Christmas Eve as an opportunity to take the family out to the movies. Keep things feeling fun and festive by having the entire family wear their Christmas sweaters (or even their holiday PJs) to the theater and give everyone their favorite movie treat.
grosgrain by Julee London
If your family is all grown up, you know that Christmas can be one of the few times a year where everyone is under the same roof. Use this as an opportunity to get silly by cracking open old photo albums to recreate childhood photos from Christmases past. If you can, pick a few photos in advance so family members can try to recreate what they were wearing. It’s a hilarious way to capture moments that you’ll want to display as photo art all year round.
Sure, you can always go caroling on Christmas Eve, but if your family is not gifted in the vocal department, it may be more fun to host a Christmas karaoke night where everyone can let loose. Turn your living room into a stage by setting up a designated karaoke station in front of the tree, make sure the eggnog and cider is flowing freely, and get ready for your family’s worst renditions of their favorite Christmas songs.
Whether you’re in for a white Christmas or live in a climate where Christmas lights need to do the heavy lifting, getting outside on Christmas Eve is a must. Here are a few ideas for fun ways to stretch your legs and get your family moving.
If you’ve spent all of December delighting your children with Elf on a Shelf, kick things up a notch on Christmas Eve by recruiting your elves to host a Christmas-themed scavenger hunt in your neighborhood. You can get as elaborate as you want here or keep things more simple, but make sure to put plenty of Christmas landmarks on the list — think taking a picture with a blow-up santa, building a snowman, kissing under the mistletoe, and more.
Christmas can be a time of overindulgence, so get your family moving with a Christmas Eve walk. Keep things casual and festive by packing mugs of hot cocoa for everyone, and choose a route that will immerse you in a winter wonderland.
Take this classic Christmas Eve activity up a notch by doing some research and hunting down the neighborhoods with the best Christmas lights in your area (local fairgrounds may also set up lights for the season that you can drive through). Then, deck the halls (or walls) of your car with those Christmas crafts you made earlier that day and pile the whole family in for a festive drive.
Keep your Christmas Eve rooted in the traditions of the holiday by getting out of the house to attend a Christmas Eve service or midnight Mass in your area. This is a great way to connect with your family on a spiritual level, and can free up some extra time on Christmas Day for more festive fun.
Winter Monogram by Kelly Schmidt
For families that enjoy a good competition, divide everyone up into two teams for snowball capture the flag. The usual rules of capture the flag apply — just add on a Christmas twist by attaching the flag to the top of a snowman and allowing people to tag each other out by throwing snowballs!
There are endless possibilities when it comes to planning your Christmas Eve menu. The ideas below offer just a sampling of things you could do — ranging from very traditional to very low key. Our only tip? Get the whole family involved in whatever you choose to serve!
Together This Christmasby Maja Cunningham
Going the casual route for Christmas Eve? A towering plate of loaded nachos is a perfect compliment to your Christmas game night or karaoke party! Keep things feeling special by busting out all the stops for your nachos — think guacamole, juicy meat, and plenty of cheese.
Keep things rooted in religious Christmas traditions by fasting from meat on Christmas Eve with this Italian-inspired menu. Put your personal spin on the feast by choosing recipes that feature your favorite fishes — think seafood pasta, Asian-inspired dishes with fish sauce, shrimp appetizers, and delicious roasted salmon or cod.
For another Italian-inspired take on Christmas Eve dinner, get the whole family involved in making homemade pasta (bonus points if you break out coordinated aprons)! Making pasta is easier than you might think — most recipes feature a simple dough of eggs, flour, and olive oil — and is fun for all ages.
If you’ve been snacking all day, keep your Christmas Eve meal on the lighter side by skipping a traditional sit-down dinner. Instead, set up a table of all of your favorite finger foods and appetizers and let your family and friends graze all evening long. Some can’t miss items? Pigs in a blanket, charcuterie classics, spanakopita, bruschetta, and seven-layer dip.
Saving your culinary energy for Christmas Day? Opt for takeout on Christmas Eve! This is a great way to support local restaurants in your area, so splash out on all of your favorite dishes for a family-style meal. Don’t worry, the leftovers will make for perfect easy lunches and dinners for the down days between Christmas and New Years.