15 Old Fashioned Christmas Traditions to Recapture the Magic

Are you tired of how over-commercialized the holiday season has become? Do you want to go back to a more simple, traditional Christmas? Then keep reading to find some great old fashioned Christmas tips to bring back the magic of a simpler Christmas.   

old fashioned Christmas traditions

Christmas was such a magical and special time when I was growing up. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, my family would check the TV guide to see when the Christmas specials were coming on. We would watch all of them together – Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, The Grinch, and A Charlie Brown Christmas.

On Christmas Eve, we would visit my mom’s parents for dinner and gifts. After spending a few hours with them we would rush home to open the presents under our tree and stuff ourselves with candy and cookies.

Christmas morning, we would get up really early, see what Santa brought, then have breakfast. After breakfast, we would all get dressed in a new outfit that we received the night before, and then we would spend the rest of the day with my dad’s parents and family. Sometimes we would go back to my mom’s parents that afternoon to see what they got for Christmas.

I miss those wonderful memories. We kids were always so excited to open our presents and see what Santa brought. It was almost impossible to go to sleep!

Christmas was so much simpler back then. We didn’t have all the fancy tech stuff and the internet to tell us what the hottest new toy was. We had to wait for the Sears catalog to come out or for the toy commercials to come on.

There is nothing more meaningful to me than spending an old fashioned Christmas with my family. I don’t need fancy things or millions of lights – I just need time together. If you’re missing those simpler times, too, then read through these old fashioned Christmas traditions and start enjoying the holiday season again.

Old Fashioned Christmas Traditions

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1. Cut down a real Christmas tree as a family.

Cut down your own Christmas tree

One of my favorite Christmas memories as an adult with my own family was visiting a local Christmas tree farm and cutting down our own tree. It was freezing cold and snowing, but we had the best time finding and cutting down our own tree. While the owner of the farm and my husband loaded the tree onto our vehicle, the wife opened the barn for me and the kids. We warmed up by the heater drinking hot chocolate. To me, that was the perfect Christmas.

2. Make decorating a special event.

Make decorating a special event
image via Google

Turn on some Christmas music, put out some cookies and hot chocolate, and decorate the entire house together as a family. Don’t forget to decorate the Christmas tree, too! Let the youngest member of the family put the star on the top of the tree.

3. Create your own decorations.

Make your own decorations

Making your own ornaments and decorations is such a fun way to bring back those old fashioned Christmas days. Use items you already have around the house instead of rushing out to buy a bunch of stuff. Gather pine cones and evergreen branches from your own backyard to make a wreath. Pop some popcorn and string together to make garland. Make cinnamon applesauce ornaments. Use fabric scraps to create easy decorations for your tree and home.

Here are some of my handmade old fashioned ornaments:

4. Send out Christmas cards.

Old Fashioned Christmas tip #4 - Send out Christmas Cards
image via Google

Wouldn’t you much rather find a beautiful hand-written card in your mailbox than another bill? Take the time to write little notes in Christmas cards to let others know you are thinking of them during the holidays. Add a personal note about how you and your family are doing, too. Let each member of the family sign the card themselves and add a note if they wish.

Other options are to send old-fashioned Christmas postcards, or make your own cards.

5. Make the same recipes every Christmas.

Bake the same recipes every year

Every year since my kids were little, we have made sugar cookies and decorated them. It’s so much fun to see how little kids decorate their cookies. I don’t even mind the sprinkles-covered floor! We still do this even though my daughter is a teenager. I’ll probably still do it when she’s 40!

Making the same special recipe each year keeps the old fashioned Christmas tradition alive. One of our favorites is cake mix fudge crinkle cookies.

6. Watch an old fashioned Christmas movie.

Watch an old fashioned Christmas movie
image via Google

Make some homemade hot cocoa and grab your favorite blanket and PJs. Then snuggle up for your favorite Christmas movie. Choose the movie that says “Christmas” in your home, save it for one night and make it a special event every year.

One of my favorite Christmas movies is “A Christmas Carol“. And of course, I can’t forget “A Christmas Story“!

7. Drive around to see the lights.

Drive around to see the lights

When I was growing up, my family would pick a night and drive around to look at all the lights. It was so much fun to see how others had decorated their homes.

Make it a special night and drive around neighborhoods to view the Christmas lights and decorations. Don’t forget to play Christmas music on the radio! And wear your coziest PJs, too.

8. Bake cookies for Santa.

Bake cookies for Santa

Every year we bake cookies for Santa. He always gets the biggest cookies. (Poor Santa!) We put them on a plate and set out his favorite mug filled with milk.

9. Go to a Christmas parade.

Go to a parade

With the exception of a few years, I have seen our town’s Christmas parade every year since I was a little girl. This year it has been canceled because of Covid, but we can watch past parades on TV. Going to the Christmas parade and grabbing candy that was thrown from the floats was always so much fun! If you’re able to visit your town’s parade, then go and enjoy it!

10. Sing Christmas carols.

sing old fashioned Christmas carols
image via Google

Singing Christmas carols is such an old and cozy holiday tradition. To make your Christmas an old fashioned Christmas this year, stand by the lit Christmas tree and sing Christmas carols.

11. Decorate gingerbread houses.

make gingerbread houses

Make a gingerbread house from scratch or buy one already made from the store. Grab a bunch of old fashioned Christmas candies and a tub of icing and let the kids decorate the house however they wish.

12. Hang mistletoe.

hand mistletoe
image via Google

Kissing under the mistletoe is a really old tradition that dates all the way back to the 1700s. I can remember walking through the woods with my family when I was a child to shoot mistletoe out of the tree.

Hang your own mistletoe over the doorway and smooch away. (Just make sure it’s consensual and you’re not smooching the UPS guys!)

13. Hang candy canes on the Christmas tree.

hang candy canes on the tree
image via Google

When I was little, my Granny hung candy canes on her Christmas tree. My cousin and I would always eat them and by Christmas morning there would be no more candy canes on the tree.

Hanging candy canes from the tree is an old fashioned Christmas tradition that started in the 1800s. Back then it was common to hang sweets and baked goods from the tree.

14. Make paper snowflakes.

make paper snowflakes
image via Pinterest

When I was in elementary school, we would make paper snowflakes every year to decorate our classroom. Then we would get to bring them home before we went on Christmas break and hang them up in our homes. I looked forward to making paper snowflakes every year!

Grab some printer paper and scissors and cut out different shapes to make your own paper snowflakes. Then hang them up all over your house and in your windows.

15. Watch Christmas specials.

watch old fashioned Christmas specials
image via Google

Find out when your favorite Christmas specials are coming on TV and don’t miss them. If you don’t have a way to watch the old shows, buy the DVDs and watch them every year. This is my favorite thing to do before Christmas!

What old fashioned Christmas tradition would you add to this list? What does your family’s Christmas tradition look like?

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15 Old Fashioned Christmas Traditions

Thank you for sharing!
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72 thoughts on “15 Old Fashioned Christmas Traditions to Recapture the Magic”

  1. Great suggestions! My kids and I have kept so many of the same simple traditions over the years. I also remember how they would wait for the Sears Christmas catalog to arrive and the decorations to go up – indoors and out. Wonderful memories!

  2. The only traditions for Christmas were the family lunch or dinner and the Christmas tree…as living overseas now we still keep the lunch but with closes friends instead of family and the tree not every year though…but we still have good time ☺️?

  3. These are all such great ideas and we do some of them. When I was a kid we used to spend our Christmases in North Carolina with my mom’s family. We spent about a week there and came back after New Years so my dad could go back to work. Mom’s family has all passed away now but I have some of the best memories from those days – mainly about my Aunt Dianne who later came to live with us. We lost her four days after Christmas 2017 and that is sad, but there are so many happy memories from our days with her that we mainly laugh when we talk about her.

    Thanks for bringing up some good memories for me. I’m crying but mainly from tears of joy.

    1. It sounds like you have some wonderful childhood Christmas memories. I’m sorry about your aunt, but I’m glad you have those special memories of your time with her.

      Sorry to make you cry! We just keep the tears going this time of year. 😀

  4. With your advice, which is surely very useful, it brings me nostalgia for those Christmases as a family. My three children live in other countries and due to the pandemic they cannot come. So only the good memories remain.

  5. This was such a beautiful post, my friend! I share your love of an old fashioned Christmas as I have so many of the same wonderful memories growing up. I tried to pass those on to my daughter, and I’m proud to say she’s doing the same with my grandson. You came up with an amazing list of ideas, and thank you for sharing!

  6. This is such a fun list and reminds me of the things they do in Hallmark Christmas movies. Some we are good at, like sending Christmas cards. Some we have never done, like making a gingerbread house. Thank you for sharing these ideas. I will be sure to add some to our Christmas ?

    1. Thank you! We have great memories of making gingerbread houses because most of the time they turn into huge fails that crack us up. 😀 I hope you get to do some of these! 🙂

  7. This is such a sweet post, and really meaningful especially this year when a lot of families will be separated. Trimming the tree for us every year is a very special family tradition, and of course I have to watch at least a few Christmas movies every season! A Christmas Story, for sure, but I also LOVE National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation because it’s just flat-out funny!

  8. I love this list. It made me feel nostalgic about my childhood and there was a flash of an old Christmas tree scent… the mix of burning lights, plus the smell of the shiny ornaments hanging by it… it was so vivid.

  9. They all sound like lovely ideas, we always go tree shopping with my mum’s best friend, I think that’s the only long standing tradition we have. Decorating the tree always felt like a huge event when I was little.

  10. I enjoy an old fashioned Christmas, so much fun! And so many of the things you mention here we used to do as a family each year. Your post brought back many fond memories. I still enjoy watching a lot of the Christmas specials which I have on DVD now, and playing Christmas carols too. I don’t do much decorating anymore since it’s just Muffin and I. Hope you have a very merry Christmas Michelle! Oh, I still bake my special Christmas cookies too!???

    1. I’m so glad this brought back so many wonderful memories for you! I bet Muffin would love the decorations hanging from the tree. 😀 I bet your Christmas cookies are delicious! I hope you have a wonderful Christmas!! And thank you!

  11. Oh, I loved to make paper snowflakes when I was young. Many of the other traditions like mistle toe or parades didn’t happen in Germany. And my parents decorated the tree. In Germany you get the presents on the evening of the 24th. In my family the dining room where the tree stood was locked. We went to church and when we came home my dad went in lit the candles and then they rang a little bell. That meant Santa has been here and we could go and see what we got. The room was dark and we just saw the lit tree. That was so magical. Wishing you and your family a wonderful Christmas despite everything ?‍♀️?

    1. I love your Christmas tradition! What fun memories! I can imagine the excitement while waiting for the bell to ring. Thank you for sharing! I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas!

  12. We do quite a few of these!! Great suggestions especially for those who need some ideas!!!
    My daughter and I did end up making some of your cute round wooden bead snowman ornaments! They turned out cute and I had old flannel to cut and use for their scarves! Very sweet!!

  13. Love it, all of it! Sounds so much like my childhood Christmas! We did all of these! Makes me miss my family so far away. But like the song says – I’ll be home for Christmas if only in my dreams! Thanks for walk down Nostalgia Lane, Michelle!

  14. I am obviously very late to this post, but I still absolutely love it, my friend! How was your Christmas? I pray that despite all the chaos in the world today – there was total peace and endless blessings in your home, shared with your precious family! ♥ By the way, I absolutely loved reading about your memories as a kid. They really warmed my heart!

    Those cookies for Santa look pretty darn delicious, Michelle! 😀 I’d deliver presents to your house any day for those, ha ha! Each of these traditional memories you mentioned are special to my heart as well. It really is the simple stuff in life that can bring the most joy and loving memories. When life becomes overwhelming – it serves us well to remember that going back to the basics is very healing.

    Sending my love to you today & always! I hope each of you are well! I’ve missed you! ?

    1. No worries! 🙂 Our Christmas was nice – we even got a little bit of snow! I hope yours was nice as well!

      I agree that the simple things bring us the most joy and the best memories. I think when you don’t plan anything huge is when the best times just show up out of nowhere.

      I’ve missed you, too!! I hope you’re doing well! Sending hugs your way!

  15. I missed this one at Christmas (what a shame!) Yes, I too miss those simple old Christmases (though here in the UK many of our traditions are different. A personal one I’d add is close to Christmas when my kids were small we’d go as a family to sing carols at an old folks home or homeless shelter. They later told me this was the best bit of all.

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