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9 Christmas Traditions The Whole Family Can Enjoy

Building Christmas experiences with your loved ones leads to treasured memories and new family traditions. To spread a little holiday cheer, we’ve pulled together a few of our favorite ways to celebrate the season with our friends and family. Our ideas run from fun and entertaining to cozy and warm. Adopt one, two, or a few into your own family’s Christmas traditions, and build memories that will carry through all year long!

1. Night Before Christmas Train

Ride aboard the Night Before Christmas Train for an exciting holiday experience building anticipation to the big day! Riders young and old will have a magical time aboard our historic steam train, listening to the classic poem The Night Before Christmas as they ride the train in their cozy pajamas. You and your family can enjoy milk and cookies while basking in the warmth of the potbelly stoves. Top off the evening with storybook readings of other holiday classics in our North Pole alcove, and enjoy a ride aboard the Candy Cane Trolley, our self-propelled motor car.

2. Christmas Lights Car Cruise

Pile everyone into your car and set out to enjoy the Christmas lights displayed in your neighborhood. Bring along a thermos of hot chocolate, a stash of candy canes, and a playlist of your favorite holiday tunes to create a multi-sensory night out.

3. Christmas Eve Services

Many treasured memories are built around attending Christmas Eve services as a family. In Lancaster County, PA, there are a lot of options to choose from. Christmas candlelight vigils, live nativities, Christmas pageants, and Christmas communion are just some of the services locals can attend.

4. Advent Calendars

Advent calendars build anticipation for the coming of Christmas on a daily basis. A typical Advent calendar will include paper doors that open to reveal an image, a Bible verse, or a piece of chocolate, marking the days leading to Christmas. Non-traditional Advent calendars are also available, and they can hide many types of treats including expensive jewelry, beer, and legos, to name a few.

5. Neighborhood Caroling

Ready to spread Christmas cheer by singing loud so everyone can hear? Bundle up and head out to your neighbors’ doorsteps to sing Christmas carols. Pro tip: make sure everyone has a copy of the lyrics. While you don’t need to harmonize like a well-practiced choir, you might feel funny if everyone forgets the words mid-verse!

If you’d rather enjoy someone else’s singing, look for opportunities to enjoy carolers at other popular Christmas locations. Did we mention we have carolers singing during the Christmas train experiences at the Strasburg Rail Road?

6. Christmas Eve Present Peek

Families sometimes treat Christmas Eve as the kickoff to the Christmas tradition of giving and receiving presents, allowing family members to open one present before going to bed. Sometimes this tradition means each person can choose any gift under the tree to open. Other times, families already know what gift will be opened Christmas Eve: snuggly new Christmas pajamas!

7. Christmas Cookie Bake-Off

Perhaps one of the most classic holiday traditions is baking Christmas cookies. Gather your friends and family and make a day of it. Hold competitions for the best-baked batch, or simply enjoy the company of fellow bakers. If everyone pitches in to bake their favorite Christmas recipes, everyone can leave your house with dozens of desserts ready for their Christmas feasts. Don’t forget to make a few extra to leave out for Santa on Christmas Eve!

8. Neighborhood Luminaries

Add to the magic of Christmas Eve by organizing neighborhood luminaries. This Christmas tradition involves placing white paper bags along your property, lining the bags with sand, and lighting small long-lasting votives in the sand so the entire neighborhood’s streets are lit with a warm Christmas glow. Some say the luminaries light churchgoers on their way to Christmas Eve services. Others say it’s to guide Santa to their neighborhoods. In either case, it’s a beautiful Christmas Eve tradition to enjoy with your family.

9. Pick Your Christmas Tree

The tradition of picking up a Christmas tree varies significantly from family to family. Some pick out a tree before Thanksgiving, while others wait until Christmas Eve. Some prefer Douglas trees, while others prefer Frasier Fir. One thing we can all agree on, however, is that picking out a tree is an exciting event signaling the coming of Christmas Day. At Strasburg Rail Road, we offer families the chance to pick out a pre-cut Christmas tree as part of our Christmas Tree Train experience. The Christmas Tree Train gives families a chance to try something new with an old favorite tradition while enjoying the magic of a steam train during the holidays.

The anticipation of Christmas can bring families together like nothing else. Build the anticipation along with cherished memories by trying out some of our favorite Christmas Eve traditions. If you’ve decided to include the Night Before Christmas Train as part of your Christmas traditions, consider pre-purchasing your tickets. Seating is limited.