5 min read

Five of the best family-focused Christmas traditions

If you’ve ever spent Christmas with another family, you’ll know that no two households do it quite the same way. Differences aside, there are a few core traditions that make Christmas, Christmas.

A young couple stand in front of a Christmas tree. The man is standing behind the woman with his hands over her eyes. She is smiling and holding a present.

The anticipation

Even without the constant chime of Jingle Bells haunting you through the supermarket aisles from September 15th onwards, there’s a lot of build up to the big day.

Writing Christmas cards, baking mince pies, stocking up on your favourite tipple, carol singing, decorating the tree, putting the presents under it, hanging up stockings… the list goes on.

As Christmas draws nearer, the excitement is infectious, especially if you have little (or big) kids around.

It’s rare that everyone has the same thing to look forward to, so Christmas can be a brilliant way of bringing everyone closer together to share their special memories of years past.

Gift giving

These days, Christmas seems inextricably linked to giving gifts. But it might surprise you to learn that it’s actually a relatively recent phenomenon.

Before the 1880’s, it was more common for gifts to be given on New Year’s Day. In the Victorian era, this tradition shifted to Christmas.

Giving presents is a great way to bring a smile to the faces of the people you care about, but try not to let it take precedence over relaxing and having fun with the family. One survey found that 68% of people admit to spending most of their time in the Christmas period researching, shopping, and wrapping gifts1.

Eating until you pop

Sharing a special meal has a unique ability to bind people together, across all time periods and cultures. It’s about more than nutrition, food is central to most celebratory rituals.

And Christmas is no different. Whether you’re one of the 76% of families planning on serving up the traditional roast turkey2 or you’re breaking the mould and opting for an Indian takeaway, food plays an important part in the day. In fact, 50% of people say that December 25th is focussed around food3.

If you’re feeling the guilt from over-indulgence, just image what it must have been like in the 13th Century when the medieval occasion ran for 12 days, with lavish feasts every day!4

Getting families together

Christmas offers a great excuse to get everyone together where busy schedules and hectic routines otherwise don’t allow. If you’ve ever whiled away the hours singing cheesy Christmas tunes on a stationary motorway, you’ll be painfully aware that Christmas is one of those times when everyone is on the move. In 2015, the AA estimated that around 6.7 million journeys of 20 miles or more were made on Christmas Day5.

And that’s no wonder, according to Relate, 90% of people would like to spend Christmas with immediate family6. And over half of people surveyed thought that including extended family members was a priority.

Playing games

Games have been a key part of Christmas traditions for centuries. In the 1800s, long before Monopoly and Articulate, people commonly played a game called Hot Cockles7.

These are the rules:

One player sits down. Another player is blindfolded, and then kneels with their head in the lap of the person sitting down. The kneeler places an open hand on his/her back, with palms facing up.

The other players have to take it in turns to strike the palm, and the kneeler must guess who has struck the blow. Gulp!

We think we’ll stick to Pictionary, thanks, but give it a go if you’re feeling brave!! Games are a brilliant way to get everyone together, and a pleasant distraction from yet more food!

However you’re spending the day this year, and whichever traditions you wish to keep, or new ones you want to invent, we hope you have a wonderful time with your family and friends.

Note: Whilst we take care to ensure Talking Finance content is accurate at the time of publication, individual circumstances can differ so please don’t rely on it when making financial decisions.


1 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/11294410/Christmas-traditions-dying-out-because-we-are-too-busy.html

2 http://www.britishturkey.co.uk/facts-and-figures/christmas-stats-and-traditions.html

3 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/11294410/Christmas-traditions-dying-out-because-we-are-too-busy.html

4 http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/0/20587258

5 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-34983909

6 https://www.relate.org.uk/blog/2015/11/27/how-decide-whose-family-spend-christmas

7 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/topics/christmas/3918310/Book-from-1801-outlines-Christmas-family-games-such-as-Hot-Cockles.html