How to Start Your Own 12 Days of Christmas Tradition

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One of my fondest memories of Christmas as a child was the “12 Days of Christmas.” This was a little gift giving project that my dad did for my mother and I each year and always made the days leading up to Christmas even more exciting for me!  In this post I want to give you some 12 days of christmas ideas to help you create your own family tradition.

Each of the 12 days before Christmas my dad left a little gift wrapped in a little Christmas sack out on the kitchen table for my mother and I before he went off to work at 5 AM.  Each day I would awake to find a small gift from my father waiting for me on the table.

It was usually small simple things like a doll from the dollar store or a piece of candy, but I loved that tradition each and every year.  Now I do the same tradition for my husband and preschooler.

Here’s how to get started!

12 Days of Christmas Ideas

1. Decide who want to give the gifts to.

You can do the 12 days of Christmas tradition with anyone you want.  You can do this with friends, family, parents, kids, teachers, co-workers and spouses.

You’ll want to decide who all you are shopping for so that you can then go shopping.

2. Find special gifts for each person you plan to give the 12 days of gifts to!

Take some time to go to few stores to find small gifts for each or the 12 days for each of the people on your list.

Here is my list of the best places to get small gifts for the 12 days of christmas project:

  • Dollar Tree
  • Target Dollar Stop
  • Mighty Dollar
  • Target’s Holiday Stocking Stuffer Section
  • Craft Stores
  • Tractor Supply
  • Harbor Freight Tools
  • If you want a mega list of ideas for kids and adults check out my post: 12 Days of Christmas Gifts For Everyone in the Family

3. Buy or Make Your 12 Days of Christmas Gift Bags & Tags-

Depending on how much time I have, I either make the bags or I grab some of the bags from my local drug store.

Paper Christmas Bags

One you have all your gifts purchased, you can now go hunting for bags, boxes and tags to label them.  It’s a good idea to buy these after you buy the gifts so you know what size gift bags you need based on the items that you purchased.

Option 1: Buy the gift bags.

You can get these bags and tags from places like Dollar Tree, Walgreens and CVS drug stores.

Here are some really cute options I found on Amazon.

Prextex Santa Clause Suit Medium Gift Bags Christmas Gift Bags – 12 Piece Pack -These are kind of ADORABLE! 

Coobey 24 Pieces Christmas Paper Bags Kraft Gift Bag Grocery Party Bags Craft Paper Bags Flat Bottom Treat Paper Bags Party Favor, 6 Designs – These a little simpler designs. These are going to be more like colored lunch sacks similar to the brown ones I use in this post!

24 Christmas Kraft Gift Bags with Assorted Christmas Prints for Kraft Holiday Paper Gift Bags, Christmas Goody Bags, Xmas Gift Bags, Classrooms and Party Favors by Joiedomi

Supla 150 Pcs Kraft Paper Paper Cut Gift Tags Hollow Christmas Tree Design and 3 styles Twines Perfect for Arts and Crafts, Wedding Christmas Day Thanksgiving and Holiday These are a nice assortment that have space for writing the day on the tag.

Kraft Tags for Gift Wrapping and Labeling (Xmas on White Kraft 25 PCS) – You can write the day on these tags with a pen/marker.

Option 2: Make your gift bags & tags

Materials Needed:
  • Brown, White, or Red Paper Lunch Sacks ( you can also get some some super festive holiday themed gift bags from our local drug store or Big Box store for about $0.25 each).
  • Festive Christmas Ribbon
  • Day 1-12 Printable Gift Tags
  • Whole Punch
  • Here are free printable red tags you can cut and use on your gifts.

12 Days of Christmas Tags

12 Days of Christmas Gift Tags

12 Days of Christmas Ideas for making bags

Step 1: Place items in the bag.

Step 2: Using a whole punch, punch two holes laterally.

Gift Bag with two holes punched
Two Holes Punched in Gift Bag

Step 3: Thread ribbon in through bottom hole.

Thread String Through Bottom Hole
Thread String Through Bottom Hole

Step 4: Punch whole in the numbered “Day Tag” and slide it onto string so that the number is facing you.

Slide Number On String so that the number faces you.
Slide number on string so that the number faces you.

Step 5: Thread ribbon through top hole in the bag.

Thread ribbon through the top hole.
Thread ribbon through the top hole.

Step 6: Tie two strings together on the back of the bag to form a cut little bow.

Tie a Bow in the Back of Bag

4. Load the 12 Days of Christmas gift bags with your gifts.

I usually collect all my items in a dark rubbermaid bin in my closet.  Then when I’m ready to load the bags I can hide out in my room to load my bags.

I start by laying everything out on my bed and organizing the items into piles according to who they are for, insuring that I have at least 12 items for each person.

5. Mark the 12 Days of Christmas bags with labels or tags.

Once I load the item in the bag, I mark it with a day.  I usually start out with my smaller, simple gifts on the first days and save my “best gifts” for last.  That way I don’t set the bar to high for my kids on day one with an really cool toy and then give them candy on day two.

That’s just how I think through it though.  You create your 12 Days of Christmas bags the way you want them.

Display them around or near your tree or decorations.

6. Put the 12 Days of Christmas bags out each of the 12 days leading up to Christmas.

My parents always put them out first thing in the morning.  I typically saved them for when my kids got home from school or my husband got off of work.

Timing and placement is totally up to you!

Unique 12 Days of Christmas Ideas

1. Give it Away- Decide that you will give away something to 12 different strangers or charities.

2. Activity Based- Fill your gift bags with one family activity for each of the 12 days.  It could be a favorite family DVD with popcorn, craft supplies or a paper with instructions to go see Christmas lights in a local neighborhood.

3. Scripture Verses, Encouragement or Quotes- Fill your spouses bag with encouraging scripture verses, inspiring quotes, or notes with reasons why you love them and appreciate them.

4. Acts of Kindness- If your spouse likes a massage or foot rub you could make a small coupon and put that into the bag.  Simply fill each day with some kind of coupon for your spouse to use.  Maybe take a task off their hands that they hate such as taking out trash or doing the dishes.

How my family 12 Days of Christmas tradition works:

I have continued this tradition with my own family and it started the first year my husband and I were married.

  • Each day before my husband leaves for work I put out a small gift for him to open since he is my “true” love.
  • The store bought gifts usually consist of his favorite candies in single portions or small things for his workshop like WD-40, sharpies and things that need to be replaced annually.
  • The first few years I tried to make 1 gift on the first day, 2 on the second, 3 on the third and so on but that got difficult and made it more of a chore than a delight to do the project.
  • Some years they aren’t even gifts but love notes I’ve written to him or other creative non-consumer based gifts.

This year I am beginning it with my own son.  Except ironically much of his toys/books will be from the Thrift Store.  Over the last few months I have collected 12 small things (Most of them board books, some are new bath toys and snacks that he loves).  I will put these out each morning for him to open and enjoy.

The point isn’t to add more clutter to my life but to simply infuse the day’s leading up to Christmas with greater anticipation and joy.  As I said, they don’t have to be physical gifts, so here are some extra ideas should you decide you’d like to make this your own tradition as well.

As I said before the 12 days of Christmas idea is about giving more than just on Christmas day and it can be fun family routine without costing you a dime.  It just depends on you, your family, your creativity and sometimes your budget.

I hope you found these 12 Days of Christmas ideas helpful as you plan your gifts for this year!

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