Finding fun and meaningful Christmas activities for teenagers can be a challenge. The ideas below will help teens (or even tweens) spend quality time with family and friends and also look for ways to give back. The Christmas magic might look a little different these days, but it’s still alive!
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As moms, we jump right into Christmas time with only a hot minute of breathing room after Thanksgiving and Black Friday.
We’re suddenly inundated with:
- Emails from family members asking for gift ideas
- 385 event requests ranging from school concerts to neighborhood gatherings to family get-togethers
- Realization that we’re not done shopping and we have little to go on with responses to “What’s on your Christmas list this year?” falling anywhere between a shrug and an offhanded reference to cash
- A house that grows filthier day by busy day as we stare down dates when we’re planning to host family or friends
I’ve tried to be better about planning ahead in recent years (there are 5 things I do early now that make my holiday much less stressful). Christmas should be a season of joy and magic, and I want that for myself and my kids even though they’re not little kids anymore.
I refuse to be friends with winter, but I love the Christmas season (my birthday is the day after Christmas, so do I even have a choice?). Honestly, I think I enjoy the anticipation and the small, special moments leading up to Christmas day more than I even enjoy the day itself.
With older children, Christmas traditions might need to shift. This list of fun Christmas activities for teenagers can help build some meaningful Christmas traditions that keep priorities in place and spirits bright throughout the holidays.
I get that life’s not always as idyllic as that might sound. Just check out my post on How to Raise Grateful Kids in a Season of Selfishness to see my daughter throwing a major hissy fit at the store because she wanted something while we were shopping for others.
There are lots of different Christmas activities that have become traditions in my family and Kristie’s family. They’re a meaningful part of our Christmas season because they help us spend time together, give back to others, remember why we should be grateful and focus on the meaning of Christmas (oh, and have fun!).
Want gift ideas for your tweens or teens? We guarantee our lists have new ideas your kids will LOVE!
Christmas Activities for Teenagers
1. Do a Holiday Scavenger Hunt
Teens love a good scavenger hunt, and there are several ways to incorporate this fun activity into your holiday planning.
We created a Christmas Gratitude Photo Scavenger Hunt (download ours for free). We talk about gratitude a lot, because we feel like it’s one of the best gifts we can give our kids. Gratitude contributes to physical, emotional and mental health – for us, and for our kids.
You can dig into this more if you’d like with our Top 10 Ways to Be a More Grateful Family.
The blog Life With Heidi offers another downloadable holiday selfie scavenger hunt that challenges teens to get a selfie with a nutcracker or a selfie making a snow angel.
2. Host a Holiday Party
Nothing screams Christmas activities for teenagers like a PARTY! There are some really fun ways to host a simple, no-stress holiday party for teens.
- A sock exchange
- A gift card exchange (see our list of the 50 best gift card ideas for teens)
- A white elephant exchange
- Christmas karaoke
- Cookie baking
- Holiday trivia
- Modify some of our birthday party ideas
3. Have an Indoor Snowball Fight
Kristie did this with her family last year and had a blast. It can be a family fight or a fight among friends. You choose. Get your indoor snowball fight supplies on Amazon. Easy-peasy and so much fun!
4. Do a Daily Advent Calendar
Carving out consistent daily family time for anything takes some planning and effort – and a little flexibility if you’re a busy family. But stick with me here..
At the risk of sounding like a lunatic, I’ll go ahead and share that we have several daily Advent rituals in my house in December. My husband and I both work, and we have three very involved kids (aka it’s crazy town around here most of the time). So here’s how we make it work.
We have a wooden Advent calendar my husband gifted to me years ago. I fill it with candy and little strips of paper with daily Advent calendar activities. The kids rotate opening the doors, reading the note and handing out candy.
The highlight of the calendar isn’t the candy (ok, some days the kids might think the highlight is the candy). I also add a note in the box for most days with something small we’ll do that day to celebrate the season.
As I create my list of daily advent notes, I pull from several strategic categories, and one focuses on giving rather than getting. The notes might say:
- Deliver Christmas treats to neighbors/friends
- Go give money to the bell-ringer at the grocery store
These notes don’t always generate the most initial excitement, but they 100% create the longest lasting impact. Years later, the Advent item that still comes up the most with my kids is going out for peppermint milkshakes and paying for the car behind us in the drive-thru.
“You lucked out, Mom! They only ordered a coffee. What if they had ordered dinner for 20? Are we gonna do that again this year? Won’t it be fun to see what they order. What if it’s a huge dinner?”
For our family, the Advent calendar has been a powerful way to show the power of giving back, gratitude and family fun.
I compiled a free, printable list of Advent calendar activities with my past favorites and new things I want to try.
You can shop Etsy to find Advent calendars from small businesses. We love our beautiful wooden calendar with doors, but others have drawers or little bags that add decoration to your walls or mantle.
We also have Lego advent calendars from previous years that we re-use every year. Legos are a fun throw-back for teens, and new calendars come out every year if you have a teen who loves franchises like Harry Potter, Star Wars or Marvel.
The point is that this entire ritual takes approximately 60 seconds every morning, but it’s the first thing on my kids’ mind when they come down the stairs.
I also broke down and bought my daughter a fidget Advent calendar. She’s 8 and a huge source of Christmas spirit in our house when the tween and teen boys get grumpy. She can convince anyone to join in the Christmas fun.
5. Decorate the Christmas Tree
Make this into a family evening. Growing up, the entire family looked forward to the night we decorated the Christmas tree. My mom would take appetizer and dessert requests in advance. The kitchen table would be a spread of these favorites – a special family dinner.
We would put on Christmas music and grab bites as we unwrapped and hung ornaments. It was fun to pull out the ornaments with the whole family together and remember memories from past trips and holidays. That tradition is among my siblings’ favorite Christmas memories.
6. Watch Christmas Movies
Christmas activities for teenagers have to include some movies. And there are SO many good Christmas movies. Teens love re-watching childhood favorites like Rudolph, Christmas Story or Elf. They’re also old enough to watch Christmas classics that weren’t appropriate when they were younger (National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and The Ref ??)
7. Play Board Games
Playing board games can be a great way to spend quality time as a family over the holidays. We always play Rudolph Operation at least once every holiday season even though it’s kind of a “little kid” game.
Our list of the best board games for teenagers has everything from strategy games to cooperative games to hilarious party games. Holiday break also can be a great time to play games that are more time-consuming.
8. Make Gingerbread Houses
Use a kit or make them from scratch. With a few supplies, teens can make a pretty spectacular (or spectacularly disastrous) gingerbread house.
Do a YouTube search for tutorials on certain designs for inspiration. Or pull up this Gingerbread Showdown from the New York Times Cooking channel on YouTube and watch as you create.
9. Go Look at Christmas Lights in your PJs
This has been a holiday tradition in our family for years, and it didn’t end when kids began hitting the teenage years. You’re never too old to drive around in PJs with a mug of hot chocolate and Christmas carols on the radio.
Some years we’ll see who can spot the most bizarre decorations or the most unique light displays. Or we’ll set points for seeing certain things and see who can rack up the best score (10 points for a manger scene, 5 points for anything with a penguin, 5 points for anything from Home Alone).
10. Create Some New Edible Traditions
Pull out family recipes or create a new holiday recipe board on Pinterest. Then get cooking. You might discover a new holiday must-have for your family.
11. Organize a Holiday Drive
This can be something simple all the way to something elaborate. We found a local nonprofit whose mission we wanted to support. For us, it was a local drop-in center that supports teens experiencing homeless. I called and asked what they needed most and they said: hoodies.
We spread the word and collected hoodies throughout the holiday season. Then we went shopping for hoodies with our teens. At our hoodie drop-off event, we welcomed lots of families who brought kids to drop off hoodies.
Our kids were definitely impacted when we dropped off hundreds of donated hoodies to a very appreciative nonprofit.
Lots of local food pantries and other nonprofits have needs your family could help meet.
12. Buy Gifts For People in Need
There are ways locally for you to buy Christmas gifts for people in need. Our adult Sunday School “adopts” several local families with teenage kids and sets up an online signup where the families in our class can volunteer to buy different items.
We involve our kids in choosing and buying the gifts. Usually our class wraps gifts together on a Sunday morning when we all bring our kids to class with us to help out.
Check with local schools, nonprofits or a food pantry to find ways to do this in your community. Many schools do blessing bags or a version of this for families who need some extra help for the holidays. They are looking for people to contribute items or time to getting them ready.
Operation Christmas Child is another way to help others over the holiday, no matter where you live. You can request boxes to fill on your own or donate $25 per box and “fill” your box virtually on their website.
Many nonprofits and other organizations need extra hands over the holiday season. Groups that collect food, clothes and coats need help organizing and distributing. Nursing home residents appreciate extra visits.
Finding places to volunteer can be a barrier, so use our list of 117 ideas for volunteering as a family if you need a place to start. Gather a small group of teens and go do some good.
14. Keep Up (or Create New) Christmas Eve Traditions
Christmas Eve traditions like attending a candlelight church service, opening one gift each or breaking out new PJs don’t have to end when kids hit the teen years.
It can also be a time to intentionally look at fun new traditions. Going out to eat somewhere special or getting Chinese takeout. Hosting friends for a Christmas Eve open house since kids don’t go to bed as early anymore. Taking a drive to look at Christmas lights.
15. Go See a Christmas Performance
Check local listings for holiday performances. Your community or local theater may be putting on holiday performances that are great quality and affordable.
There are also Christmas plays, concerts and holiday events like The Nutcracker, Manheim Steamroller or Cirque Christmas that might be running in your area. Shows are great Christmas activities for teenagers who enjoy the arts.
16. Read Christmas Books
There are some really great family Advent books and holiday books aimed at older kids.
Our family read the Ann Voskamp book Unwrapping the Greatest Gift each year. Each day’s reading is just a page or two, and there are still times we miss and have to combine a couple days into one.
Kristie’s family uses The Advent Book, created by Jack & Kathy Stockman. She says it’s a beautifully-illustrated book with 25 doors that open to reveal segments of the Christmas story. Her family has been reading it together since her boys were babies, and they memorized the Christmas story at an early age because they read it so often.
I also try to add at least one book to our collection of Christmas books each year.
My kids still pull out old childhood favorites like:
We added these to our collection as the kids got older:
17. Leave Unexpected Notes
We created downloadable holiday lunchbox note cards with teens and tweens in mind because all the ones we found seemed too childish for our kids. Many of the notes focus on gratitude, and you can print, cut and tuck them in lunchboxes, books, planners or coat pockets.
18. Go Shopping
Include teens in shopping for siblings, parents, teachers or others. I try to take each of my kids out for a special shopping trip each December. It’s an excuse to spend time together and they really enjoy Christmas morning even more when they are part of choosing or paying for their own gifts.
We have a list of 53 fun gifts for dads who want nothing if you’re shopping together for the dads in your family.
Going shopping is also a good way to listen for what gift cards or gifts teens would like as gifts.
19. Build or Make Holiday Things (Like Gifts)
This will vary a lot depending how crafty your teen is and what they like to do. But if you’re looking for good Christmas activities for teenagers, I’ve seen some pretty amazing homemade gifts: blankets, custom artwork, woodworking.
Etsy has lots of options to inspiration or kits if teens want to make gifts for family or friends.
You can also ask teens who enjoy graphic design to create mugs or calendars and order them online.
Teens who like to build or make things can also make holiday Christmas decorations or do projects like this Lego Elf House.
20. Decorate Cookies
Make your own cookies or buy the pre-cut and cookies from sugar cookies from GFS and focus all of your energy on creating masterpieces. Some of the best Christmas activities for teenagers are things like decorating cookies that become annual traditions.
21. Prep Christmas Cards
I like to use my family as a Christmas card assembly line. We can get them stuffed, stamped and addressed pretty quickly when we work together.
22. Find a Christmas Tree
We’ve cut down our own tree several times, but we usually head down to the local nursery to pick out a pre-cut tree as a family. Sometimes they’ll have carriage rides or cider and hot chocolate there. If not, we might grab some on the way home.
23. Wrap Gifts Together
This is a fun activity for older kids that stay up later in the evenings. Clear a table (or set up a card table), pop in a Christmas movie and wrap and watch together.
24. Go Sledding
Christmas break is a great time to hit the sledding hills because kids have weekdays off school and a break from sports and other activities.
25. Do Family Devotions
You can also read one of the 24 chapters of Luke in the Bible each day and finish up just in time for Christmas. Luke’s version of the Christmas story is the most widely used. It’s the one Linus recites in A Charlie Brown Christmas.
I grew up in the Methodist church, where we lit candles the four Sundays leading up to Christmas: three purples and a pink. The candles traditionally represent hope, faith, joy and peace and are usually placed in a wreath of evergreens to symbolize everlasting life. My husband gave me a wooden advent “wreath” several years ago to use as a centerpiece on our table, and lighting those candles weekly reminds us that Christmas truly gives us the gift of hope, faith, joy and peace.
26. Go Ice Skating
Indoor skating rinks usually open up additional public skate times over the holidays when kids have days off school. Some areas open outdoor skating rinks or even iceless skating rinks around the holidays.
27. Do a Bad Santa Gift Exchange
This can be fun to do as a family, among friends or even at an extended family gathering. Draw names out of a hat and set a $5 limit. Instruct everyone to pick out the worst or tackiest gift possible and wrap it up (badly) for a fun addition to Christmas festivities.
28. Play Fun Christmas Games
We love Christmas activities for teenagers that keep them laughing, and these games will do the trick.
29. Run a Holiday Race
Look for local races that benefit a good cause in your area. You can even dress up as an elf or Santa if you want to get really festive.
30. Go to a Candlelight Christmas Eve Service
Service times will vary and some churches will require reservations just due to space constraints, so check out schedules and make any needed reservations early. This service is one of my favorite parts of the holiday – a moment of peaceful reflection.
31. Have a Hot Chocolate Bar
Make your own hot chocolate as a special twist (this homemade hot chocolate recipe from Real Mom Nutrition looks delish). Then grab some fun extras like whipped cream, marshmallows, chocolate chips, candy canes, chocolate or caramel to drizzle on top, sprinkles or cinnamon.
32. Host a Family Friend/Cousin Holiday Sleepover
Stock up on holiday snacks, grab some Christmas movies and invite friends or cousins over for a holiday sleepover. There’s just something fun about falling asleep to the light of the Christmas tree.
We hope this list of Christmas activities for teenagers gives you a ton of ideas! Comment below if you have other ideas we can add to the list.