There’s no doubt that Christmas Eve is one of the most exciting nights of the year for most children. The magic, the anticipation, the wonder — it all makes for the perfect evening.
To make Christmas Eve that much more special — and perhaps distract the kiddos from Santa’s impending visit — try creating some new traditions to add to the list of things the family looks forward to every year.
Here are some great places to start.
1. Christmas Eve pickle
This tradition is one that will tickle everyone. It’s German in origin, though no one seems to be exactly sure how it started. Basically the pickle-shaped ornament is the last one that goes on the tree on Christmas Eve, and it’s hidden deep in the branches. Whichever kid finds it first in the morning gets an extra gift from Santa.
2. Peppermint pig
Believing that pigs were good luck, the Victorians started this tradition. To make it your own, order a peppermint pig, then smash it after dinner. Share the candy around the table, and it’s good luck for the rest of the year.
3. Pajama elves
Christmas is a great time for cozy new pajamas, especially because the elves can deliver them on Christmas Eve. There’s even a book, The Pajama Elves by Hayden Edwards, that tells the tale of elves bringing magic pajamas that you can incorporate as well.
Gather a group, and go singing through your neighborhood, at a local nursing home or at a hospital. You will spread holiday cheer and tire out little ones who are amped up on sugar cookies and dreams.
More: 33 Hilarious ways to pose your Elf on the Shelf
With all the hustle and bustle and preparation for the big day, sometimes ordering takeout or pizza from a favorite restaurant is a great way to take a little break and just enjoy some good food. Turn on your favorite holiday movie, and snuggle up.
6. Christmas key
Don’t have a chimney? No worries, just leave Santa a magic Christmas key. Hang it outside on Christmas Eve, and she’s sure to have no problem at all getting in and leaving gifts.
7. Reindeer food
While cookies and milk are good for Santa, don’t forget his trusty sleigh mates. Sprinkling this mix of oats, birdseed and sparkly sugar crystals will dazzle your kids and make the birds happy in the morning too.
8. Track Santa
The NORAD Santa Tracker lets kids (and adults) track the Big Guy via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other means. Volunteers answer calls and emails from around the world to keep everyone informed just where in the world Santa is on the big night.
Before you go, check out our slideshow below.
Originally published November 2015. Updated December 2016.