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Christmas eve traditions: Box ideas, baking & dinner

08 Dec 2023 • 10 min read

Festive films can make you believe that Christmas Eve is the most magical night of the year...

But things might not seem that way when you’re stuck on the motorway or stuffing the turkey (or even racing to get that last bit of Christmas Eve Shopping done).

Why not reignite the Christmas spirit by starting some traditions this year? They'll help bring everyone together as you work through the to-

Most popular Christmas Eve traditions

For many countries, Christmas Eve is just as important – or even more so – than the 25th.

In Spain, Nochebuena is the time to enjoy the biggest family meal of the year. In Poland, Wigilia celebrations begin when the first star appears in the sky.1,2 

And, if you have a large family, chances are you’ll share your time over a few days. So why not make use of that time?

We’ve gathered some traditions and Christmas Eve family ideas to keep everyone’s spirits high - even if you’re caught between entertaining and preparing.

Christmas Eve Traditions You Can Try 

  1. Host a game night
    Whether it’s a huge affair or a couple’s game of cards, there’s nothing like a games night to keep the atmosphere going on Christmas Eve.

    It’ll pass the time for any impatient kids - and hopefully, put adults in the mood to celebrate.

    Go traditional with charades and trivia or ask each guest to bring their most weird and wonderful board game. Pair with snacks and drinks and you’re in for a great night. The loser peels the sprouts! 

  2. Give a book
    This tradition is inspired by Iceland’s wonderful Jolabokaflod (“Yule book flood”). The tradition began there during World War Two, when paper was one of the few things not rationed. But, even today, it carries on.

    After the Reykjavik Book Fair in November, Icelandic people order books for their friends and family to open on Christmas Eve (the main gift-giving day).3

    Once the festivities are over, everyone curls up with a hot chocolate and reads their new books. We couldn’t think of a cosier way to spend the night!
  3. See a panto
    Panto has a whole host of traditions in itself – oh yes, it does! If you have time on Christmas Eve, book tickets to your local theatre and see Dames and Donkeys galore. Even the grumpiest family member will crack a smile.

  4. Choose some Christmas pyjamas
    We see you cringing – they don’t have to match your family if you don’t want to. But there’s surely no greater joy than snuggling down in brand-new pyjamas when Santa’s on his way.

  5. Start a movie marathon
    It’s a classic and for good reason! You don’t even need to own any good films or have a streaming service; you'll find Christmas films playing on TV all day.

    If you’re busy, see if you can multi-task a little. Strictly you shouldn’t peel carrots on the sofa in front of Love Actually – but, hey, it’s Christmas.

  6. Volunteer
    Christmas is a time for giving, whether that’s to your loved ones or strangers. It can also be one of the most difficult times of the year for those who don’t have the right support.

    See if you can volunteer to help someone out on Christmas Eve, whether that’s at a food bank, charity helpline, or hospital. If you can’t volunteer your time, your local food bank, shelter, or charity might appreciate a care package instead.

    This can be a great tradition to start around the festive season, but maybe you’ll find you have time to give all year round.

  7. Do a Secret Santa
    Big families can mean a big budget – so why not arrange a Secret Santa this year? Each person in the group is secretly assigned another person to buy a present for.

    This way, everyone receives a gift, and everyone only buys one.

  8. Head out for a walk (or a Santa Fun Run)
    Some people enjoy a traditional Christmas Day walk, but maybe you’d rather spend it getting dinner sorted or cosying up on the sofa.

    Christmas Eve is a great alternative, especially if it’s one of those cold, bright winter days. It’ll help you stay mindful before the big day and might tire the kids out enough to get them to bed on time. After something a little more jolly? See if there’s a festive Fun Run in your area.

Best Secret Santa gift ideas

We’ve gathered 20 of our best Secret Santa gifts, plus some extra ideas - all of which they’ll actual

Christmas Eve baking ideas

Baking could be a great way to whip up some treats for your guests while also keeping younger ones entertained. 

Here are three festive recipes for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day that you won’t mind the kids getting in on:
  1. Dairy-free mince pies
    A Christmas classic, mince pies are perfect for snacks, puddings and as a treat for Father Christmas. These delicious pies are easy to make, dairy-free and gluten-free.

  2. Mincemeat palmiers
    No worries if you fancy something different this year - these mincemeat palmiers offer just enough of a change from traditional mince pies to be unique and exciting. Kids will love making homemade mincemeat – just be sure to replace the brandy with orange juice. 

  3. Gingerbread cookies
    This vegan gingerbread recipe will go down a treat with everyone. Find your favourite cookie cutters and get decorating (even round ones are great for baubles and Christmas puddings).

    This recipe makes 30 adorable gingerbread men.

  4. Reindeer food
    Mix Rudolph’s favourite treats and leave them out for him this Christmas Eve. You might like to use:
    Rolled oats
    Dried fruits (but not raisins, sultanas, currants if you have a dog who might get hold of it)

    Sprinkle it outside or leave a bowl by the door before you go to bed. Even if the reindeer aren’t feeling peckish, the birds will still enjoy it.

Christmas Eve food traditions and dinner ideas 

  1. Whip up a fakeaway
    You might find yourself waiting for hours on Christmas Eve for a takeaway – so why not make your own instead?

    We’ve got a host of healthier recipes, no matter your favourite:

    - PizzaMeat-free pepperoni pizza
    - CurryChickpea, aubergine and squash curry
    - BurgersBlack bean burger with guacamole and chipotle mayo
    - Thai foodThai tofu laksa
    - JapaneseLow-calorie ramen
    - MexicanBlack bean and avocado tacos
  2. Make a glorious grazing platter of Christmas Eve snacks
    Perfect for two or twenty, a grazing platter combines all the joy of snacks with...more snacks.

    Munch away as you finish your Christmas movies or get the games night rolling.

    Arrange your favourite party foods on a board – bonus points for making it look beautiful. Your Christmas Eve snack platter could include: 
    - Cured meats 
    - Cheeses, like this baked feta 
    Vegan cheese spread 
    - Dried fruits like dates and cranberries 
    - Fresh fruit 
    Savoury crackers 
    Wasabi peas 
    - Dips, hummus, and pâté 
    - Pickles and chutneys 
    Flavoured oils or balsamic vinegar 
    Manuka honey Christmas bark
  3. Go all the way
    Spending your “Christmas Day” with someone on Christmas Eve instead? Put on a proper Christmas dinner complete with all the trimmings.

    And no worries if you’re cooking for a varied table; we have some delicious recipes for a veggie nut roastmaple roasted root vegvegan Christmas cake and a vegan Christmas pudding you can try.chrischrist

Christmas Eve box ideas

Christmas Eve boxes are becoming increasingly popular! In short, they’re a box of small gifts you give on the night of the 24th of December.

It might seem a little confusing when Christmas is only around the corner, but it’s a great way of including those who celebrate Christmas Eve and getting everyone in the festive mood.

It might help to settle little ones who are excited about the morning, too. If you’re looking for Christmas Eve box fillers, here’s some inspiration:

1. Self-care box

Pop in a candlebody lotion, or essential oil to give the person you love a relaxing Christmas Eve. You might even follow our tradition and include some new, cosy pyjamas for them.

2. Entertainment Box

If the Jolabokaflod piqued your interest, you might want to put together a Christmas Eve box that keeps a friend or family member entertained while they wait for midnight to roll around.

Neatly wrap your book and gift it with some hot chocolate mix. Or include a pack of cards or a small board game for a full night of fun.

3. Snack box

Two words: it’s Christmas. Perfectly paired with a movie marathon or as a treat after a long walk, anyone will love a Christmas Eve snack box to round off the day

The final say

Feeling a little more like fun? Don’t let Christmas Eve get swept up in the panic before the big day.

Try these traditions year after year and see how you and your loved ones change with them!



Amy Talbot


Regulatory Affairs Associate

Joined Holland & Barrett: August 2005

Amy originally started her career with Holland & Barrett in August 2005 with the Labelling Regulatory team for Vitamins, Minerals and Supplements. 

Amy moved over to support the Food Regulatory Team in October 2020 and was promoted to her role of Regulatory Affairs Associate (Food) in February 2021.

In her spare time, Amy likes to go to the gym, listen to a variety of podcasts, read and socialise with friends.

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