Quirky Christmas Traditions

[Guest blogger today – Anne – from Unique Gifter]

Sometimes there are events that really stick out in your mind, years and years later, even though they were pretty inconsequential at the time. I’m about to share one of those things for me, which I perhaps remember because it was traumatic to my young mind?

It was at a Christmas party for the local professional designation group for my Mom. There was a gift exchange, of the white elephant/completely unknown variety and this guy received a nipple shaped coffee mug. Yes, a coffee mug that was basically a gigantic breast. Now that you have that awesome image firmly planted in your heads, let me tell you the part that stuck with me the most. He said,

“I bet I could wrap this up, in the same paper, and give it again next year”

That, my friends, is the part I want you to remember. I propose that you find some sort of cheap ridiculous or silly item and make it your standard gift for every gift exchange you participate in. Alternatively, every time you get a questionable, or downright crappy, white elephant gift, simply put it away to regift next year.  Save your money and inflict it on someone else!  Everyone should jump at the chance to own a Gourmet Fat Magnet, right? A Christmas tradition is born!

Not all of your Christmas family traditions need to involve a garish contribution to some poor soul, however.  They can be actions, stories, food, gifts or whatever your imagination dreams up. Your partner serving up breakfast every year while wearing a stocking as a hat doesn’t cost anything at all, but quickly becomes a tradition.

Christmas Eve Dinner

This is quite a tradition in my household. My spouse’s family has a lobster dinner every year on the 24th.  My family has been known to have a feast of perogies and Ukrainian sausage.  Once upon a time, one of my professors said that growing up in Japan as a kid, they had spaghetti for dinner every Christmas Day, because it was such a departure from the normal for them.

Repeated Gifts

A fairly common Christmas tradition is to give new pajamas on Christmas Eve. Just because you don’t have any kids, doesn’t mean you have to skip out on getting your significant other some nice PJs, or maybe new underwear!

Several years ago, there was a commercial on TV about going into a store and the only choice being black socks. I don’t remember what they were trying to sell, other than the part where their service was customized to you. My Dad thought getting some black socks for Christmas would be a great idea and likely wasn’t the only one; I’m sure a lot of sock companies thanked whoever made that commercial! I have purchased my spouse new socks every Christmas since then.

A new board game is another awesome “repeated,” and cheap, gift that you can make into a tradition. Plus, it will give you something fun to do that afternoon.

Food and Drink

My parents always make a wreath shaped cinnamon bun thing during the holidays, often for breakfast on Christmas Day. My spouse’s family always has champagne and orange juice (and baileys and coffee!). You could do something as straightforward as making fresh squeezed orange juice and make that your tradition, or maybe make a crock pot of apple cider that smells up the house overnight!

Stories and Ceremonies

Make up a ridiculous ceremony for crowning the tree that you repeat each year (free!), or read the Christmas story every Christmas Eve (free!). Wake up your spouse and open your stockings in bed with some hot chocolate.

There’s something about Christmas traditions that make us feel like we are loved and a part of something. They don’t have to be expensive, long, or complicated either, just something that you and yours do that ingrains itself in how you celebrate, and becomes your very own quirky Christmas tradition.


A friend of mine will be hosting her fourth fancy dress Christmas Eve party this year. We live in a town with a lot of ex-pats who are a long way from home and several end up working on December 25th, so this big party is one that we can all attend. Other friends are having a big Christmas feast in December for folks who will be spending the holidays with just their friends in their own town.

This year, my spouse made me brandy apple cider while we decorated the tree… so far, I’m voting for that to become a little tradition for us!

What are some fun ways you celebrate Christmas on the cheap?

Anne spends a lot of time writing about gift ideas, cheap and otherwise, over at UniqueGifter.com.  This time of year has been devoted to coming up with a gigantic list of over 500 Stocking Stuffers for Adults. You should click on over.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We pass around a tin can of dehydrated water in our household that we think is funny ;) It’s always best when it’s wrapped up in a crazy different shape too, as to not give away what it is!

Photo cred: soundfromwayout / tweaked by Anne

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  1. Mark Ross December 19, 2013 at 8:04 AM

    We really don’t like to spend too much during Christmas. Our family would just go to the Church and give thanks to God, and eat the food that my mom prepared for us.

    1. Anne @ Unique Gifter December 19, 2013 at 11:18 AM

      That sounds delightful – money is definitely not what the season’s all about.

  2. Holly@ClubThrifty December 19, 2013 at 8:24 AM

    My family has this little ceramic duck that we pass around. At each holiday/birthday, someone gives it to another person. Sometimes we even put clothes on it or fake earrings. I have it now and my sister is getting it again for Christmas. It’s just something that makes us laugh.

    1. J. Money December 19, 2013 at 9:31 AM

      Hahahahaa that’s awesome.

    2. Anne @ Unique Gifter December 19, 2013 at 11:21 AM

      That. Is. Amazing. I absolutely love it, that’s exactly the kind of thing that makes a family tradition that’s awesome!!

  3. Amanda @ Passionately Simple Life December 19, 2013 at 8:26 AM

    Christmas to us is about enjoy family and friends. So we will spend time drinking hot chocolate and playing board games while listening to Christmas music. Super cheap and fun!

    1. Anne @ Unique Gifter December 19, 2013 at 11:22 AM

      Board games are so awesome at bringing everyone together!

  4. Brian@ Debt Discipline December 19, 2013 at 8:37 AM

    During the week between Christmas and New Years we host a pot luck party with family and friends. Always a great time!

    1. Anne @ Unique Gifter December 19, 2013 at 11:26 AM

      Awesome. I went to a potluck just last night and had such an amazing time!

  5. a terrible husband... December 19, 2013 at 9:03 AM

    The most interesting Christmas tradition we have is the annual Yankee swap – the one where you can steal other peoples’ gifts. There are some divorces in our extended family but once a year everyone gets together. It gets pretty interesting when exes steal gifts from each other…

    1. J. Money December 19, 2013 at 9:44 AM

      Oh how I wish I could be a part of that ;)

    2. Anne @ Unique Gifter December 19, 2013 at 11:28 AM

      Haha, I bet that gets rather interesting indeed!

  6. Dave @ The New York Budget December 19, 2013 at 9:27 AM

    Cool article!

    Christmas morning always meant homemade fried rice – my mother is an excellent cook, so this is not your bad Chinese takeout variety! It also meant a Christmas pastry – inside the pastry were hidden items – if you snagged the piece with the almond, you had good luck for the year – if you snagged the one with the dime, you would be prosperous in the new year (the dime was added later because my older sister ALWAYS got the almond, which didn’t please 6-year-old me.

    1. J. Money December 19, 2013 at 9:45 AM

      Fun!! If I ever come to visit make sure to put a gold coin in one, okay?

      1. Dave @ The New York Budget December 19, 2013 at 9:51 AM

        Absolutely – and if you don’t get a piece with any, I’ll just tell you that you got the piece with the Bitcoin.

        1. J. Money December 20, 2013 at 10:25 AM

          I’ll gladly take that these days!!

    2. Anne @ Unique Gifter December 19, 2013 at 11:29 AM

      That’s such a neat tradition! Did you at least get the dime a few times?

      1. Dave @ The New York Budget December 19, 2013 at 11:35 AM

        Yup – my mom “helped’ me choose which piece to take a few times, but I was happy.

        Dumb and happy (pretty much sums up my current state as well)

  7. J. Money December 19, 2013 at 9:37 AM

    Someone just emailed me with this:

    “We have a Christmas Eve Dinner and the dessert is a Birthday Cake…with a candle and we sing Happy Birthday to Jesus.”

    Haha… how cool is that?? :)

  8. Brittany December 19, 2013 at 9:46 AM

    Much like the previous poster, my MIL will bake a chocolate cake in honor of Jesus’ birthday, as well!

  9. Dave @ The New York Budget December 19, 2013 at 10:02 AM

    My girlfriend’s family also has a good one. Years ago, a cousin came across a photo of the 65-year-old uncle and his wife. It was a shoulders-and-up photo, but it was clear that the two were both naked. The cousin had it framed and every holiday it is re-gifted, or positioned on the toilet to stare at you, etc. Very strange family tradition, but one that endures.

    1. Anne @ Unique Gifter December 19, 2013 at 11:33 AM

      Wow, that is both terrible and absolutely awesome at the same time!

    2. J. Money December 20, 2013 at 10:26 AM

      Hahahhaa good one :)

  10. Slackerjo December 19, 2013 at 10:46 AM

    My sister in law enjoys the annual tradition of watching the annoyed look on my face as I open a gift from my brother in law. He lives overseas so he’s not actually there to see the perplexed look in my face. He is the worst gift giver ever. Sadly it’s not because he’s trying to be ironic or funny or silly, it’s just because he has no common sense when it comes to gifts.

    To be fair, he gives EVERYBODY terrible gifts. I keep trying to encourage him to buy a goat from a charity but knowing him he will actually buy me a goat and expect me to keep it in my one bedroom apartment.

  11. This Life On Purpose December 19, 2013 at 10:49 AM

    Some great ideas here, I’ll have to try the slow cooker apple cider this year :) Mmmmmm

    1. Anne @ Unique Gifter December 19, 2013 at 11:35 AM

      Easy and delicious.. the smell when you wake up is divine!

  12. Broke Millennial December 19, 2013 at 12:10 PM

    Baileys and coffee, FTW! Love that! We do coffee cake on Christmas morning. My favorite Christmas tradition is putting baby Jesus in the nativity on Christmas morning and singing happy birthday before we carry on. My little sister and I have been doing this since we were babies and I like my parent’s attempt to give the child versions of us some perspective about the reason for the season.

    We also were really into elves. It’s a long story, but in my family elves bring a small (we’re talking like a sparkly scrunchie small) Christmas present for your stock at some point before Christmas. As a little kid it was exciting every morning to wake up and check the stocking to see if Snowball the elf dropped by!

    1. Anne @ Unique Gifter December 19, 2013 at 1:32 PM

      I love that elf tradition! It’s substantially less creepy than this elf on a shelf phenomenon!
      That’s great that you’ve got traditions going all the way back to when you were kids, that you still carry on :-)

      1. J. Money December 23, 2013 at 3:04 PM

        Love it!! I want a little elf for Christmas! :)

  13. John S @ Frugal Rules December 19, 2013 at 1:02 PM

    You can never go wrong with a little Bailey’s and coffee! We haven’t started anything unique or crazy yet as our kids are so young, but we’re always on the lookout for them. When I was growing up we’d always do some sort of potluck kind of party that was always fun. One thing we got to experience was seeing what my younger brother could use to turn on the Christmas lights without burning the house down. For several years, it would be a remote controlled car that he somehow wired to also turn on the lights and run the car at the same time.

    1. Anne @ Unique Gifter December 19, 2013 at 1:37 PM

      Did your brother turn into an engineer, or a millwright? That’s pretty awesome that he did stuff like that!

  14. Jacquie December 19, 2013 at 2:38 PM

    Perogies and cabbage rolls Christmas eve!!! We do that too!! It’s really nice especially because almost everyone has a different turkey dinner to go to Christmas Day, so we’re getting good variety. Perogies trump turkey anyways, though :)

    1. Anne @ Unique Gifter December 19, 2013 at 5:46 PM

      Yes, they absolutely do!! Glad to hear we’re not the only ones!

  15. Micro December 19, 2013 at 6:04 PM

    I like the idea of regifting the crummy white elephant gift. It means it will be put to better use than just sitting in some idle space in your house. It also means you don’t have to feel bummed if you don’t get to trade it for something better after the exchange is over with.

    1. Anne @ Unique Gifter December 20, 2013 at 6:54 PM

      I’m actually going to a regifting-only exchange soon…! I hope that they have a box in the corner for stuff to go to the thrift store!

  16. Christine @ ThePursuitofGreen December 19, 2013 at 8:07 PM

    My family tradition used to be everyone waiting for me to break out the Christmas tree and decorate it. No one else would initiate it…and some years they would just watch me go round and round. This year I got married though and things are changing! Will have to start some new Christmas traditions.

    1. Anne @ Unique Gifter December 20, 2013 at 6:55 PM

      Haha, will they have a Christmas tree at all then??!
      You have a clean slate to make up all the Christmas traditions you want now!