12 Days of Christmas Tradition

When my kids were little, we started a 12 days of Christmas tradition. I would map out on a calendar something we would do as a family on each of the twelve days, and post it on the refrigerator. It would be a combination of activities, small gifts, meals together. We’ve been doing this for 10+ years, and now that my kids are older (20, 18, 15) it’s fun to look back over the calendars and see what activities have made it on the list each year, which have been adapted and which have dropped off. A few things I’ve learned looking back:

  • My kids love the tradition of this, and what it means to our family. Nobody remembers if every activity went perfectly, or if we even executed every activity. Life happens, and if we rearranged days, did an alternate activity or even skipped sometimes – nobody remembers.
  • As the kids get older, I use the calendar to give myself a break. We’ve always had kids’ dinner choice with each kid getting a night. Now when it’s that kid’s night, the other two kids have to shop, prepare and clean up from the meal. So on three nights all I need to do is show up and eat!
  • This has been a great way to instill a desire to help others. Two of the activities that make the calendar every year are 1) baking cookies and taking them to our local firehouse on Christmas Eve. When the kids were little, the firemen would take the kids up in the trucks when we’d visit. They are too big for this now, but we still enjoy thanking our first responders for giving up their Christmas Eve to protect our community; 2) shopping for animal shelter ‘wish list’ items and taking them to the shelter. Who doesn’t love visiting animals? Shopping for items the shelter needs, and picking out some fun animal toys, is a family favorite.
  • It’s a way to remember family members we’ve lost. When my kids were little, one of our activities was to bring McDonald’s to my Grandma’s house and visit with her. GiGi is no longer with us, but inevitably, when we’re coming up with this year’s list and looking at year’s past we always talk about GiGi and her old house.

Other activities we’ve done include driving around looking at Christmas lights, a gift exchange (set a limit, everyone brings a wrapped gift, you pick a gift in order and can steal from someone else), game tournaments, dance parties, ice skating, visiting Santa at Bass Pro Shops.

If this is something you’d like to start with your family, I hope my ideas have given you a jump start to a tradition you’ll look back on fondly!


Jennifer Strilko

Jennifer is the Director of Operations at DI/LDM, keeping the train moving for several operational teams and helping them meet their goals. Jennifer believes that everything happens for a reason and that we don’t meet anyone by accident. She’s looking forward to meeting new people and widening her tribe through this blog project. In her spare time Jennifer enjoys DIY projects (upcycling curbside finds is her favorite past time). Her Mom Hustle includes being a dance and baseball mom, maneuvering teen drama, and preparing her kids for college. She lives in the western suburbs of Chicago with her husband, three teenagers and two dogs.