This post: 22 Christmas Traditions for Teens Who Need a Little Nudge to Get Into the Holiday Spirit / Post Updated October 2023
Written by: Marybeth Bock
With Santa and his reindeer out of the picture, you might be thinking the magic of Christmas is gone forever.
But don’t let your “too cool for traditions” teenager fool you. Just because they’re older doesn’t mean you can’t motivate them to dive into the holiday spirit by ushering in a few new traditions they might actually like. You know, Christmas traditions for teens that aren’t boring, lame, or too childish.
Plus, research shows that most teenagers wish they could spend more time with their families. Yep… your teen who sometimes spends far too much time behind a closed bedroom door, shooing you away when walk in to check in on them secretly wants to spend more time with you. They just might need a little nudge…
So, give them the nudge they need and spice things up a bit this year!
From traditions that will get them laughing to traditions that will instill the true meaning of the holidays, we rounded up a few teen-approved traditions to get your teen out of their bedroom, enthusiastic about the holiday season, and maybe even encourage them to put their phone down long enough to sing a few Christmas carols and watch a few classic holiday movies! (Since our teen’s friends are super important to them, we added a few ideas that include your teen’s besties!) Here are 22 new Christmas traditions for teens that aren’t boring or lame.
22 New Christmas Traditions for Teens Who Need a Little Nudge to Get Into the Holiday Spirit
Let Your Teen “Go Ham” with the Outside Decorations
You know “go ham”… a little crazy! Pass the holiday outside decor reins over to your teen(s) and let them decide how to decorate the house this year. You might want to brace yourself (or consider moving out temporarily). There’s no telling what your teen might do! Look out Grizwald family, here we come!
Do a “Drive-Thru Pay it Forward Day”
I love Christmas traditions for teens that put the meaning of Christmas (and giving) in our kids’ hearts. Once or twice during the holiday season, visit a busy fast-food restaurant or coffee drive-through and offer to pay for the person behind you. Don’t be surprised if it triggers a chain reaction – most people are so excited and touched they do the same for the car behind them! Another way to express gratitude is to give a small gift to the employee managing the drive-through window. Something small like a wrapped candy bar, a gift card, or a few homebaked cookies will show appreciation for all their hard work during the holiday season.
Host a “Classic” Holiday Movie/Game Board Night for Your Teen & Friends
Spring for a few pizzas, break out the old-fashioned board games (nope… our kids are never too old), and later, let them cozy up and pop in a classic holiday movie complete with hot cocoa and a few festive desserts for a fun night your teen will never forget.
Have a Hot Cocoa and S’Mores Night
Don’t have a fireplace? No problem! Wrap up in a few cozy blankets and make s’mores in the outside fire pit or buy an indoor s’more maker like this one on Amazon! It’s a fun and old-fashioned way to spend an evening with the kids.
Play Silly Holiday Games
One of the best ways to connect with our kids is to get them laughing! And, what better way is there than jumping into a few silly and fun holiday games? One of my favorites is the “Plastic Wrap Ball Game.” Never heard of it? Check out the full explanation and great gift item ideas HERE! (Be sure to include small gifts that you know your teen will enjoy, like cash, gift cards, make-up, and candy.) Looking for other silly holiday game ideas? Check out these ideas!
Whip Up a Few Festive Holiday Recipes
If you can’t imagine your teen jumping onboard this idea, think again! According to stageoflife.com, 80 percent of teenagers say they actually enjoy cooking and baking and another 59 percent admit to watching cooking shows on TV or the Internet. In other words, all your teen’s favorite recipes – whether it’s homemade pizza, spaghetti and meatballs, chocolate cupcakes, or Christmas sugar cookies – hold the key to bridging the gap with your kids in a fun, low-stress, creative environment – your kitchen! Don’t forget to crank up the holiday music. (Check out the Food Network’s Best Holiday Recipes HERE!)
Visit a Senior’s Home or Assisted Living Facility
So many senior citizens are alone for the holidays. What better way to brighten their holidays and instill the spirit of giving in your kids than by dropping by a senior’s home or assisted living facility. Have your teen go with the family or a few of their friends and keep seniors company for a few hours, teach them how to use their cell phone or computer, or play a game of cards with them. (Be sure to call beforehand to schedule a visit and adhere to any health and safety guidelines.)
Have a Family Gingerbread House Decorating Contest
Gingerbread house kits are so easy to find these days (don’t forget to take advantage of craft store coupons)! Spring for a few extra decorations so you can really deck out your gingerbread house. Ask a friend to be your contest judge or post pics on social media for your teens’ friends to vote and choose the winner.
Enjoy a Night of Holiday Lights
Offer to be the designated driver one night for your teen and a few friends and drive through neighborhoods with the most festive (and coolest) holiday lights. Be sure to bring hot cocoa, cookies, or a few snacks and crank up the Christmas music for a night that’s relaxed, fun, and memorable for your teen! (You can do this with just the family, too!)
Send Christmas Cards Overseas
Lift morale by sending cards or e-gifts to soldiers, sailors, and Air Force personnel who are stationed overseas this holiday season. Offer your house up as the place for your teens’ friends to gather and write cards or choose e-gifts together. Set up a hot cocoa or popcorn bar to keep the kids energized while they write, draw, and discuss. Check out organizations like Heartillery Group for instructions and guidelines for mailing, or the USO site for other gifting opportunities.
Host a Baking Day for Your Teen and Friends
Given the chance, teenagers love baking (yes, even guys, too!) – especially when it involves baking cookies, candy, or cupcakes and colorful sprinkles. Let your teen invite a small group of kids over for a day of holiday music, baking, and laughing in the kitchen.
Make Gift-Giving More Meaningful: Want, Need, Wear, Read
Let’s face it, sometimes buying for a teenager can be challenging. Either they want the expensive tech toys that add up to more than the cost of a Prius or they have absolutely no idea what they want so you’re left scrambling trying to figure out what to buy for them. Rather than guessing, put the ball in their court. Ask your teen to come up with four gifts. Something they want. Something they need. Something to wear. Something to read. It’s a great way to scale back on gifts (since teenagers can be expensive) and get them to expand their horizons.
Be a Child’s Holiday Angel
Throughout the holiday season, many churches, places of worship, and even some stores put up an “Angel Tree.” People interested in giving back, choose an angel off the tree that has a child’s (or family’s) name on it along with all the particulars including the child’s (or children’s) age, what size they wear, and sometimes a few items on their “wish list.” This year, why not let your teen choose an angel and give them a budget to purchase a few items? It’s a great way to put the focus on others and remind them how fortunate they really are. The Salvation Army will help you find one of their Angel Trees in your area.
Make a Family Christmas TikTok
Put your kids in charge! Whether you put on matching Christmas jammies and dance to Jingle Bell Rock as a family or videotape the family making the biggest and baddest snowman in town. Instead of having your teen scroll through funny TikTok videos, let them start thinking about how they can create a funny TikTok video. (Heads up parents, you’ll have to put your ego on the back burner for this one).
Take an Epic “On Purpose” Holiday Photo Fail
For years, we’ve been trying to get our kids to smile for the camera, look nice, and fix their hair for the family picture. Well… forget about all that and just snap a few “authentic” (okay, call it what it is, photo fails) of your family. Choose the most hilarious one and send it out as your holiday cards this year. Who cares what Aunt Judy thinks anyway, right!?
Plan a Family Winter Hooky Day
Life is busy – not only for us but also for our teenagers. Homework, studying, final exams, projects – not to mention extracurricular activities, internships, and jobs they might be juggling. Sometimes, the best way to connect with our teens over the busy holiday season is to simply slow down.
Get the family together, coordinate everyone’s schedule, and plan a family winter hooky day! Venture out for a day of sledding, ice skating, skiing, building a snowman in the backyard, or just hang out in your jammies all day and play board games and watch Christmas movies. Trust me on this one… your teen will love it.
Make or Bake Gifts Together
Whether you hit the local craft store with your teen and let them choose a couple of fun Christmas crafts they’d like to make or you put your aprons on and make sweet treats to give to family and friends, making gifts is always more special and meaningful because they’re made from the heart. Looking for ideas? Here are 27 Adorable DIY Christmas Gifts for Besties!
Skip Matching Jammies and Go For What They Love
When it comes to Christmas traditions for teens, sometimes you have to throw out old traditions and bring in the new! When my kids were young, I loved the idea of putting them all in matching jammies on Christmas Eve. Now that they’re older (and far more particular about what they wear), I put that tradition to rest and instead choose jammies I know each of my kids will love. One might like a silly holiday onesie while another loves leggings. and a comfy tee. They love it!
Get Off the Grid for a Weekend
Leave the house, the laundry, the errands, the homework, and the busy schedules at home. Turn off your cell phones and enjoy a much-needed weekend getaway in a cabin in the snowy woods or a crazy fun treehouse in the mountains. Even if it’s for one night, your teen will love the change of scenery and family time (Image: OutsideOnline)
Host a Holiday Teen Selfie Scavenger Hunt
Have your teen invite a group of friends and choose a location like your neighborhood, a local mall, or an area attraction. Create “teen teams” and text each team a list of things that they have to find and take a selfie with. It can be anything from a specific holiday landmark, a selfie with Santa (real or even something silly like an ornament), or a Christmas tree with lights. Get creative here! (Be sure to discuss safety and manners beforehand so that the activity is enjoyable for all of those involved.)
Create a Family Gratitude Board
You can go simple with just a poster board and colored pens or get fancy with all kinds of art supplies like tags, ribbons, mini-clothes pins, stickers, and colorful Post-Its. When life seems extra stressful, like it often does during the holidays, it helps to have daily, visual reminders of everything we’re grateful for.
Let Your Teen Decide
One thing I know for certain… teenagers are creative! Let your teen weigh in on a holiday tradition they’d like to start this year! Even if it’s a little goofy or wacky, jump on board. It’s not about the tradition, it’s about spending quality, fun time together as a family – that’s all that matters!
Here’s to making wonderful memories with your teen this holiday season!
About Marybeth Bock:
Marybeth Bock, MPH, is a Mom to two young adults and one delightful hound dog. She has logged time as a military spouse, childbirth educator, college instructor, and freelance writer. She lives in Arizona and thoroughly enjoys research and writing – as long as iced coffee is involved. Her work can be found on numerous websites and in two books. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.
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