wordpress statistics

5 Fun Holiday Traditions That Don’t Involve Elf on the Shelf

For weeks now my social media feeds have been full of the antics of naughty and nice elves. My kids were getting older when the elf-mania started to blow up, so we chose to skip the holiday tradition. For nearly two decades we have managed to come up with plenty of holiday traditions that don’t involve elf on the shelf and I thought I would share some of our favorites.

Holiday Traditions that Don’t Involve Elf on the Shelf

holiday traditions that don't involve elf on the shelf

Christmas Lights: I think my kids would say, hands down, that their all-time favorite tradition is our annual Christmas lights excursion. Everyone bundles up and we head out for an evening that always puts us in a merry mood. One of our local parks has a walking trail and another has wagon rides. After we visit the parks we usually stop for hot chocolate and then drive around looking at residential displays. This is a great way to unwind after an afternoon of shopping, wrapping presents, or baking goodies!

holiday traditions that don't involve elf on the shelf

New Christmas Books: Every year my children get a new Christmas storybook. We keep them under the Christmas tree. I wish I could tell you we sit and read them every night still, like we did when they were younger, but when we do it’s like saying hello to an old friend. Our books are cherished, and even have their own box and are carefully stored with the decorations.

holiday traditions that don't involve elf on the shelf

New Pajamas: Since they were babies I have bought them each a new pair of jammies. I thought they had outgrown this, but they still look forward to it and were crushed when I suggested it was time to stop! It is the only present opened on Christmas Eve at our house, mainly so they won’t look ratty in our Christmas morning pictures!

holiday traditions that don't involve elf on the shelf

Feed Santa & the Reindeer: And of course, it wouldn’t be Christmas at our house if we didn’t feed Santa and the reindeer. We make our own reindeer food. Usually I mix oatmeal and colorful cookie sprinkles, but I have been known to throw in raisins or nuts, or whatever I have on hand. We toss out handfuls of the reindeer food all over the front lawn before bed on Christmas Eve. Thanks to the rabbits and birds, or maybe the magic of Christmas, it is always gone in the morning! We also leave goodies for Santa. I’m not sure how it started but we leave Pepsi and cheese, along with cookies. I think my oldest insisted many years ago and it stuck. I am sure one day her kids will leave cheese and Pepsi for Santa as well.

Travel: It’s never too late to start a new tradition. Typically we vacation in the summer or early fall, but the holidays are a wonderful time to take a quick trip. Last year we took the boys to Gaylord Opryland for the Dreamworks Christmassy Experience and it was such a great family bonding time. I honestly wish we had thought of doing a holiday getaway years ago! This year we are taking a long weekend trip to Branson, Missouri the day after Christmas, so watch for some of our adventures in a few weeks.

holiday traditions that don't involve elf on the shelf

What are some of your favorite holiday traditions that don’t involve elf on the shelf?

About Missy

Missy is a mom of 3 fantastic kids, wife, full-time RN, and grad student.


  1. 1

    Because we don’t live near family, we’ve made it a tradition to go see a movie in the theaters after Christmas Eve service at church. When our daughter was younger it was always the most recent animated flick, she’s and adult now and we still do this although we now choose other kinds of movies 🙂 I think this year we’ll go see Gods and Kings.

    • 2

      Going to a movie together is a great idea, I will have to remember that! The kids always have so much energy and get a little stir-crazy after the excitement of exchanging gifts and Santa!

  2. 3

    We skipped that whole elf on the shelf too. My daughter probably would have been of the age but my boys were older and I just wasn’t thrilled with it. I love your ideas.

  3. 5

    We make a big deal of decorating the tree, we also go check out lights in our area, and my son and I always go in to visit my parents (weather permitting) the day after Christmas. It’s a big deal for my son. 🙂

  4. 6

    I love the story book tradition you guys have. We love going to look at christmas lights.

  5. 7

    We usually decorate the tree and sing carols! We love doing it!

  6. 8

    We do Christmas Eve pajamas too! This was not something my own family did when I was growing up, but my neighbors did it, and I always thought it was so cute, so now I do it.

  7. 9

    We don’t do Elf on a Shelf but we do have some fun traditions! Like you we do new pajamas and books and we also do an advent calendar!

    • 10

      We do an advent calendar too, just the ones with chocolates in them. I always intended to purchase a nice “fill it up yourself” version and never got around to it. I love hearing everyone’s traditions!

  8. 11

    We do the Christmas jambes too! My kids are little so the Elf on the Shelf is a big hit around here still. I love creating all kinds of memories and traditions with my kids!

  9. 12

    Great traditions! We actually combine two of your traditions. On Christmas eve we all get new PJS, then we put them on and load into the van and drive around on a Christmas Light Excursion in our new PJs. It is really fun.

    • 13

      Now that sounds like a lot of fun! Unfortunately we travel on Christmas Eve, so we get home pretty late and don’t have time, but I am sure my kids would love that!

  10. 14

    We always go out to dinner to the same restaurant each year on Christmas Eve. It just happened by accident, now we plan for it!

  11. 16

    New pajamas are the best – and that remind me: I need to get pajamas for my kids – that would make the cutest pictures

  12. 17

    We love matching PJ and gift exchanges with the entire family on Christmas morning. I don’t think Elf on the Shelf is super popular offline. Most people that I know who aren’t bloggers don’t even know what it is. lol

  13. 18

    Any tradition that does NOT involve Elf on a Shelf is fine by me! We open one gift on Christmas Eve and then have pizza and a movie.

  14. 19

    We have had our Elf on a Shelf for four years now and I still regret the day I bought it. Although cute, it is rather annoying to hide each night. We enjoy watching as many Christmas movies together as possible and baking a ton of Christmas cookies!

  15. 20

    I like ALL of these ideas! I am a tradition person, I love doing fun or silly things and making traditions out of them…cute holiday pjs is a great idea, and story books too!

  16. 21

    I really enjoy giving my kids new jammies! I like books, but we don’t have space for more so I will do more experiences next year.

Speak Your Mind