Sunday, December 2, 2012

12 Days of Christmas Gift Ideas for Families

One of our family's favorite Christmas traditions is surprising a friend or neighbor with  12-days of Christmas fun!   We've been doing it now for several years and my kids won't let us go through a Christmas season anymore without it.  When a friend recently mentioned wanting to start the tradition in her family and not really knowing where to begin, I thought I would compile some of the things we've learned over the last few years and share it with all of you. 

Choosing your recipient.   We take this step pretty seriously and have each member of the family give their input a couple of weeks beforehand.  We then pray about the names and decide who will be the recipient.  We don't  choose who we think is the neediest, but usually someone who is new or we feel could use a little pick-me-up or TLC.   After a family has been chosen, we try to do a little reconnaissance to make sure they're going to be in town through Christmas Eve.   This could also be fun to do for your own family. 

 Planning. After we decide who we're going to surprise, we sit down in a family meeting and plan each day's gifts out , marking it on the calendar what we're going to do.  It's helpful if the parents have done a little pre-planning and have some ideas to suggest, as well as having a budget in mind.  After you've decided what you want to do, I highly recommend purchasing everything in advance, so that you're not stuck at 7:00pm on some crazy night right before Christmas with nothing to give.   

Notes.  We usually write silly little poems to go with each night, but it isn't necessary at all.  Each delivery could simply have a note that reads, "On the seventh night of Christmas, the elf brought to you seven...."  or you could print off these cute printable tags that I found.

Packaging:  We package everything up in cheap gift bags or inexpensive baskets (from the dollar store), but you could wrap everything up in wrapping paper too. 

Delivery.  After all that prep work is when it's time for the real fun to begin!  We usually begin delivering on December 13, so that we'll finish up on Christmas Eve.  Our kids really enjoy leaving the gift on the doorstep, ringing the doorbell, and running to our car which I've parked just out of sight.  But you could also do blocked phone calls (by dialing *67 before the phone number) with the message that their package has been delivered.  My kids enjoy the running too much and would throw a fit if we ever tried that though!   We do try to vary the times of our deliveries, to minimize the chance of being caught, but my older kids have gotten brazen and will sometimes hide in the bushes to watch them open the door. 

Finishing up.  To reveal yourself or not?   We usually opt not to, because that's our personality, but it's up to the individual family whether you want them to  know who you are or not. 

It never fails to be a great experience for our family and we love imagining their excitement and anticipation each night for our deliveries.

So what do you give each night? 

I've compiled two versions of ideas...a deluxe version and a more economical version.  Both lists would be best suited for families with children.  You could mix and match between the two lists or add in any of your own ideas.  One thing to keep in mind, is that the lists are very flexible and you could move items around depending on how many people they have in their family or how many of a certain item you can easily find. 

Deluxe Version  Approximate Cost:  ~$125

1-a fun Christmas movie (perhaps this one this one, or this family favorite)
2-children's Christmas picture books (board books are cheaper--we like  this one  or   this one )
3-things for dinner (a soup mix, bread, and a bottle of sparkling cider)
4-different kinds of flavored hot chocolate mix + marshmallows
5-blossomed poinsettia plant  (this is an easy one to move around to a different day)
6-pairs of fuzzy socks (or these ones) for however many people they have in their family--check the dollar store
7- a goody plate with 7 different treats
8-sheets of Christmas Stickers
9-Christmas Cookie Cutters (+ a roll of sugar cookie dough + frosting + sprinkles)
10-Christmas ornaments (I like this set:  10-piece Olive Wood Nativity Ornament Set)
11-oranges + Christmas Orange story  (printed from here or  this gorgeous book version)
12-candy canes + the beautiful children's book, The Legend of the Candy Cane: The Inspirational Story of Our Favorite Christmas Candy  (the board book is cheaper)

Less Expensive Version  Approximate cost:  ~$50

1-chocolate orange (to share) + printed Christmas Orange story
2-Christmas coloring books (and a box of crayons) (this one and  this one are cute)
3-things for dinner (a soup mix, bread, and a bottle of sparkling cider)
4- packets of flavored hot chocolate mix + marshmallows
5-blossomed poinsettia plant
6- Christmas cookie cutters + sugar cookie dough + frosting
7-homemade ornaments (or inexpensive 7-piece Nativity set from the Dollar Store)
8-Candy bar note with 8 different candy bars (use hot glue or clear packing tape to attach to a cardboard or poster board)  See this post or this post or this post for some fun ideas for writing the note
9-muffins for a yummy breakfast (along with 9 funny Christmas jokes to tell at breakfast)
10-oranges (with a reminder about Christmas orange story from 1st day)
11-a goody plate with 11 treats
12-a cd you've burned with your 12 favorite Christmas songs


Here are some other items you could also use:

*Christmas/New Year party in a box (party poppers, Martinelli's,photo booth props ,light-up necklaces, noisemakers, etc)

*Chocolate Oranges

Holiday Stampers

*   Christmas Fun Mad Libs

Nativity Stained  Glass Coloring Book

Handmade Felt Nativity


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corporate christmas gift ideas said...

With Christmas around the corner, it’s time to start gearing up for some Christmas shopping! And here some best ideas.

Heather said...

Hi I'm Heather! Please email me when you get a chance, I have a question about your blog! LifesABanquet1(at)

Bekah said...

Thank you so much for this! My family is starting this tradition this year and I've been searching for ideas- these are perfect!

catania said...

another idea that we have done - we purchase a nativity set and give them one piece every night. You don't usually find a 12 piece set, so we will buy one that is 7-8 pieces, then do other treats or gift cards, puzzles, etc on the other nights. Fun!

Molly said...

Wow! A few of my friends and I did this for a family a few years ago and it was a BLAST!! I've been looking for gift ideas to share this idea on my blog! I'll have to link this post to mine when I complete it! Great ideas!

Cheery said...

We've been doing this for almost 30 years now and have never been caught. Don't get me wrong, there have been some very close calls... flood lights were installed in a driveway, a trip wire tied to some tin cans, neighbours trying to stay up late to catch "Santa's Elves" in the act, people who usually kept normal hours suddenly becoming night owls... We've recruited friends and neighbours who are in on the secret to deliver some of the gifts, and one actually stopped to speak to that year's recipient. We didn't know it when we chose her house, but she had lost her husband a few months earlier and was feeling very down. She told our friend that the 12 Days had brought back her spirit of Christmas and restored her faith in the kindness of strangers.

We have a letter that we deliver along with one of the gifts to explain how and why we started this tradition with a neighbour who needed a boost to his Spirit of Christmas. If you send an e-mail to we'd be happy to send it to you.

Anonymous said...

The 12 Days of Christmas actually *start* with the 25th and run all the way to "Three Kings' Day"/Epiphany. You could be the secret little gift givers all twelve days and then reveal yourselves on Epiphany; it would fit in perfectly with teaching kids about Epiphany and is a fun way to conclude the nightly excursions.

Love the idea of giving gifts to neighbors/friends during the Christmas days. We only have a 2 y.o. at the moment so maybe in the next couple years we'll start something like this!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing. My husband I were looking for family traditions to do our children at Christmas. And this is perfect. This is how we are teaching our children about giving. Again thanks so much!!! God bless your family this holiday season!!

jessica said...

Thanks for the idea's!

White Lace and Promises said...

I'm glad to be your newest follower. I googled looking for Christmas ideas for the 12 days of Christmas and found your blog. I'm so excited about the ideas I have now for the grand loves of mine. Thanks for sharing. I hope you'll visit me too.

Anna Oman said...

Just found this post and LOVE IT! We have been doing the 12 days for 12 years now, but both of us grew up doing it with our families, and we love it. We usually do our favorite Christmas stories on the last day with some flashlights- but other than that I am always looking for new ideas.
Thank you!

Brendan Murphy said...

Hi, love your whole point here - sharing the message and the idea of Christmas Gift Hampers!

carol said...

Thanks so much for the suggestions. I have done this for years, but have run out of fresh ideas. I ordered three of the Christmas books on Amazon from your suggestions. I can't wait to start.

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