30 New Christmas traditions for separated families

Christmas traditions

Christmas traditions are a really important of part of the festivities for many families. So, if your family has recently separated and you are navigating your first Christmas as single parent, you may be feeling a little lost. Yet, rather than see it as a time of loss, why not spin it around? Instead, use your new-style Christmas to create wonderful new traditions that will set the scene for many happy Christmas’s to come?

Not only do traditions give us something to look forward to, but they make us feel safe and connected. All of which is super important for separated families.

Traditions can be created simply for the fun factor (and why not?) or they can be based on religion, values or anything which is important to you.

Further reading: The upside of being a single mum at Christmas.

30 New Christmas traditions for separated families

1. Have a Christmas movie marathon

One thing this world is not short of is cheesy Christmas movies. Whether they're new releases or traditional favourites you watch every year, there is bound to be a few that your family love to watch together.

Choose a special time, such as Christmas Eve or Boxing Day morning to cuddle up and shares the joys of Christmas without lifting a finger.

Don't forget the yummy Christmas snacks!

Note: As a separated family sharing Christmas with another parent, you might need to change 'when' you do this each year. But that's ok. Us single mums are super flexible.

2. Read a special holiday book with the kids

Do you and your little ones have a favourite Christmas book? If not, now is the time to pick one.

We have a few that we pull out with the Christmas tree each year and read over and over at bedtimes on the lead up to Christmas Day.

Don't laugh when I tell you my girls are now teenagers and still look wistfully through 'The Night Before Christmas' when I dig it out. They will never forgive me for telling you.

3. Volunteer at the local soup kitchen or homeless shelter

Volunteering is a great way to help others during the festive season, but did you know that volunteering is also great for your mental health?

It's the perfect new tradition to teach your children values and lessons around Christmas. Most importantly that not everyone is as lucky as they are ... even if their mum and dad are separated.

Look online for ways to volunteer in your local area during the Christmas holidays.

4. Bake holiday cookies/desserts together

No Christmas is complete without a few festive cooking sessions.

My suggestion is to pick super easy Christmas recipes, nothing too complicated or messy!

And remember, they don't need to be Pinterest worthy. As long as they taste good and you have a laugh making them, you've found yourself a brilliant new Christmas tradition.

4. Buy a real Christmas tree

Nothing screams 'Christmas traditions' than the mission to buy a real tree for your home.

Wandering around the trees of all shapes and sizes, smelling the pine, and arguing over which is the perfect one for your living room. Yep, that's what Christmas is all about.

So, if you've never had a real tree before, now is the time to create a brand new Christmas tradition.

Look online, find your nearest dealer, grab the kids and off you go.

6. Walk to see Christmas lights on local houses

Simple, fun and completely free!

Having lived in the same area for ten years, I know which streets near us go all out with the outdoor Christmas decs. It's like they're having a competition with their neighbours for the 'most flamboyantly decorated house in the street'.

I'm not complaining though. We spend a good hour wandering these festively-lit streets, oohing-and-arring at the twinkly lights and wondering how they managed to get a 12-foot blow-up Santa on the roof.

If you have just moved following your separation, this is a great way to discover the neighbourhood too.

7. Make Christmas gift baskets for the needy

You might find your kids school or playgroup have already nabbed this Christmas tradition and they don't want to do it at home.

If not, most charity shops are welcoming of anything around Christmas but they particularly love a well-thought-out Christmas gift basket.

Again, don't miss the opportunity to chat to your kids about the world around us at Christmas. Yes, they might feel upset that mum and dad are not together this Christmas but some families will struggle to put food on the table, let alone buy one another gifts.

8. Go to a pantomime or Christmas show

I'm a sucker for a Christmas show. Especially a pantomime.

Whether it's a big city feature or a school performance, book yourself and your kiddies tickets for some kind of live Christmas event as part of your new Christmas tradition list.

You could go all-out: Dress up and (if money allows) grab some Christmassy food before or after the show. Hot chocolate in the cooler climes or ice creams/snow cones if it's hot where you live.

9. Do something nice for the neighbours

Have your neighbours been there for you this last year?

Mine are always on hand to help. This past year alone, they've:

  • Looked after both my daughters when they've forgotten their keys (four times)
  • Fed the cats while we've been away (three times)
  • Helped me with jobs around the house (I have lost count of how many times!)

Use Christmas as a time to show how much you appreciate your neighbours support.

I keep it simple and buy my long-suffering neighbours a bottle of Chandon every year. We head around as a family on Christmas morning, wish them Merry Christmas and then go our own ways.

10. Surprise your friends with carolling!

Can you imagine! Does anyone actually do carolling anymore?

Well, I love a good sing-song.

Practice with your kids and head around to friends and family to sing to your heart's content at their front door.

If nothing else, it'll give them a good laugh ... and yes, you've created another Christmas tradition.

Ideas for Christmas as a single parent family (cont.)

11. Put a gift under the Kmart Wishing Tree

Wanna know another Christmas tradition as a separated family that teaches about giving? Try dropping a gift under the Kmart Wishing Tree. 

It's a great way to remind our kids (and ourselves) that sometimes the best gifts are the ones we give.

Last year, my nieces and I decided to drop a gift at Kmart. Their eyes sparkled brighter than any Christmas light when they realised their toys would bring another child joy.

It's a lesson in love we can do every year they're with me! They can even do it with their dad if they want to!

12. Make a holiday playlist

Whether you're jamming to "Jingle Bells" or grooving to "Santa Baby", music is the heartbeat of any celebration. Let your kids pick some tunes, and voilà, you've got your unique family holiday playlist.

Dancing in the living room? Totally mandatory.

Trust me, nothing beats those impromptu dance sessions! My daughters' obsession with “All I want for Christmas is you” meant we played it on repeat. The result? Our very own Mariah Carey dance.

Try it – your youngsters will love it!

13. Go to a tree-lighting event

Lights, camera, Christmas!

You can wrap up in your cosiest scarves (cold season peeps only) and head out to see the big switch-on.

The combined oohs and aahs? Priceless. Bonus points if you bring along some homemade hot cocoa!

The first time we watched a tree light up post-separation, there was this beautiful moment of awe. Holding my daughters' hands in mine, I realised the magic of Christmas was right there with us.

14. Go skating, ice skating or rollerskating

Whether it's gliding on ice or rolling on four wheels, it's a splendid way to bond. And if your skating skills are a tad rusty, no worries! Your kiddos will have a blast helping you out.

Our first skating adventure was full of hilarious slips, slides, and endless laughter. I might've spent more time on the floor than on my feet, but hearing my daughters' giggles was totally worth it.

Going ice skating isn't simply one of the Christmas traditions you can celebrate as a separated family. It can also be a ritual you can do with your little ones on every special occasion (or whenever you feel like it!).

15. Write letters to Santa

"Dear Santa, all I want for Christmas is five minutes of peace (and maybe some wine)." That sounds right, mums?

But in all seriousness, writing letters to Santa is a heartwarming tradition, especially for children in separated families. It will put them at ease as they often worry that Santa won't know where they are on Christmas Day.

One year, as we penned our wishes, my youngest daughter wrote, "For mummy to smile a lot." It was a heart-melting moment, reminding me of the simple joys.

This year, I'm secretly hoping Santa gets my memo for a spa day!

16. Make DIY Christmas gifts

Ah, the magic of homemade Christmas gifts. From salt dough ornaments to hand-painted mugs, who doesn't love some crafty fun?

And hey, if things go a little off-course and you end up covered in glitter, just keep in mind - you’re not messy, you're festive!

Remember, every imperfection was a perfect memory in the making.

17. Go to church

Now this is one of the Christmas traditions that we never take for granted even as a separated family.

Going to church (not just on Christmas) is a great way to teach our kids to be thankful for the blessings and for each other. Let us teach them to be grateful for even the smallest things.

I'm incredibly lucky that my daughters understand our situation and continue to be good girls despite their father's absence. And for that, I'll be forever grateful.

18. Dress up in hilarious Christmas outfits

Enough with the serious talk!

Want a memorable Yuletide party with your kiddos? Dressing up in hilarious Christmas outfits works every time!

You don't have to buy new ones if you need to watch what you spend. You can put together your very own silly costume for a more personal touch!

I'm sure your little ones will be more than willing to help with such a fun DIY project.

19. Get family photos done by a professional photographer

One of my absolute favourite holiday traditions is capturing the essence of the season with a photoshoot.

You can do the shoot in a studio or at home. You can use the aforementioned hilarious outfits and take pictures while wearing them.

If your kids get a bit shy, you can play some jolly Christmas tunes to break the ice.

These snapshots in time are treasured keepsakes that will remind us that family is forever, no matter the distance.

Professional photographers are quite busy during the holidays, though, so make sure to book them ahead of time.

20. Make a Countdown to Christmas chain

Now this holiday tradition will definitely bring so much anticipation and excitement.

As soon as December hits, create a countdown-to-Christmas chain.

Each day, tear off a link, getting you one step closer to the big day. And as Christmas day approaches, your kids' enthusiasm will surely double!

This simple Christmas tradition is a tangible representation of shared excitement, especially for your little ones, who can't wait for Santa to arrive.

Christmas traditions for separated families (cont.)

21. Decorate the house and yard in a new way

Tradition has its charm. But every year, we spice things up a bit when it comes to decorating the house and the yard.

It could be a different colour scheme, homemade ornaments, or a new outdoor display.

This year, I'm planning to swap out our usual twinkly white lights for a rainbow of colours. I can't wait to see my daughters' faces once they see the result!

Change keeps things fresh and helps us embrace the holiday spirit in unique, unexpected, and thoroughly delightful ways.

22. Make Christmas coupons for the family

Homemade Christmas coupons are more than just pieces of paper; they will be the gift that keeps on giving, making your post-Christmas days just as special.

You can craft personalised coupons for things like cozy movie nights, breakfast in bed, or a day at the park. Or you can use printable Christmas coupons that you can easily customize through your phone or laptop.

These thoughtful tokens will remind us that the best presents aren't found under the tree, but in the moments we share.

23. Have an ugly Christmas sweater contest

Who doesn't love a good laugh during the holiday season?

A couple of years back, we threw caution (and fashion sense) to the winter wind and declared an "Ugly Christmas Sweater Day" at home.

Now it's an annual Christmas tradition where we compete to see who can find or create the most hilariously awful sweater.

If you want to try it, you can scour thrift shops for cheap but silly ensembles.

24. Play fun Christmas games or board games

Games are a great way to bond during the holidays.

To complete the vibe, turn your living room into a festive game zone.

Make sure you have a variety of festive games, from Christmas charades to holiday-themed board games.

Start with Monopoly, Jenga, or Scrabble. You can also ask your kids what they want. You can even prepare a prize for the winner to keep your kiddos' competitive juices running!

25. Have a Secret Santa gift exchange

To bring a dash of mystery and fun, we introduced a Secret Santa twist at home. It was just the three of us, so not so secret, but boy, was it fun!

The rules were simple: a modest budget and a whole lot of creativity. No wrapping paper is required.

Year after year, we continue the spirit of giving with this gift exchange, even if we can't be together physically.

We make sure to send our gifts with love, creating an air of mystery and excitement as we await the big reveal. It's a wonderful way to surprise each other and show that we're thinking of one another, no matter the miles that separate us.

26. Watch the sunrise on Christmas Day

This Christmas Day, I want to try something different with my kids.

Wrapped in cozy blankets, with warm mugs of cocoa, we'll sit on our porch and witness the sun come up.

I'm sure that watching the sunrise on Christmas morning will bring a sense of peace and calm to our day.

It's not just about witnessing the first light. It's about taking a moment of reflection and gratitude before the excitement of gift-giving and festivities begins.

27. Make special food for Santa and his helpers

Even though my daughters are growing up, we still leave out a plate of cookies and a glass of milk for Santa, along with some carrots for his reindeer. It's a Christmas tradition that keeps the magic of Christmas alive for us even as a separated family.

Instead of the usual milk and cookies, you can give Santa and his reindeer a gourmet treat. You can prepare baked mini carrot muffins and whip up a special spiced cocoa just for Santa.

28. Have a Christmas treasure hunt

Who says you need a map for buried treasure?

With little clues hidden in Christmas socks, behind baubles, and even tucked inside the fridge, your home can turn into an adventurous treasure trail!

For the prizes, you can award a homemade Christmas ornament or a day of choosing all your activities. The gleam in your little pirate's eyes will shine brighter than any treasure chest full of gold!

29. Make and decorate a gingerbread house

Gingerbread houses are a must in our household. Whenever it's my turn to spend the holidays with my daughters, we spend an afternoon baking and decorating our own delicious creations.

It's a hands-on tradition that allows us to be creative, embrace our inner architects, and indulge in some sweet treats. These edible abodes are more than just sugary structures; they're edible masterpieces that bring us together.

30. Give to charity

Lastly, amidst all the festive fun, we always make it a point to give back during the holiday season.

I want my daughters to remember the true spirit of the season – giving.

On some Christmases, we would sort through toys and clothes and pack up gently used items to donate. Additionally, we set aside a portion of our holiday budget to contribute to a local charity.

Whether it's volunteering at a local shelter, donating to a food drive, or sponsoring a family in need, teaching my children the importance of kindness and generosity is a tradition I hold dear.

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Sally Love

About the author

Sally Love is a pseudo single mum author who has been writing about single motherhood, separation and divorce for 8+ years. She has been a single mother for 10+ years and has two daughters, one of whom she co-parents and the other she solo parents. Sally has experienced all aspects of single motherhood from legal, financial, parenting, dating, travel as a single parent, re-partnering and re-building a career. She is an integral part of the Beanstalk community chatting and helping single mothers across the globe, as well as sharing her expertise, experiences and genuine reviews with major national newspapers and appearing on nation-wide television shows.

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