Quick note before we start – this Christmas Eve to do list is not a guilt list of things you should do. I’m publishing a Christmas Eve checklist solely as a reminder of things you already meant to do but might forget. It’s not meant to be a list of what a “good” mom does.
If it was, I probably wouldn’t be the one writing it…
Why Do I Need a Christmas Eve Checklist?
In my house, Christmas Eve does not equal anyone snug in their beds (at least not before midnight) and there’s no kerchief for Mamma.
Although I’ll admit I do change into my comfy flannel Santa pants immediately after Christmas Eve dinner.
And although some dads might already be in their caps (and possibly half in the bag), my own husband doesn’t escape the Christmas Eve whirlwind.
December 24th in our house is usually kind of an all-hands-on deck situation.
But we host Christmas Eve dinner so, happily, my home is usually already Christmas clean.
Just don’t drop by unannounced on the 23rd.
Tensions are high, that’s all I’m sayin’…
And thanks to a mother-in-law who can’t rest with even one dirty dish in the house, the kitchen is usually borderline sparkly by about 8:00 p.m. ~ Thanks, Memaw!
Even so, there’s a pretty lengthy To Do list to tackle before Christmas morning rolls around.
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Christmas Eve Checklist To the Rescue!
To lower my stress, I keep (a wine glass within reach and) a Christmas Eve checklist in my planner.
My memory does NOT cut it especially under stress.
Maybe my Christmas Eve checklist printable will help some of your stress, too.
Also the wine.
I tweaked my own Christmas Eve checklist somewhat for those of you in different circumstances.
Even though my family doesn’t travel during the holidays (thank the Good Lord), and our big holiday dinner’s over and done with before Santa even starts his transatlantic flight, I know that’s not true for all of you.
For those of you who travel or cook on Christmas Day, I’ve added some stuff to my checklist for your more intense Christmas Day ahead.
For a free printable .pdf of three different versions of my Christmas Eve checklist, click here or on the graphic below.
Christmas Eve Holiday Tradition Checklist
Let’s start with traditions.
Christmas Eve holiday traditions are crucially important but also somehow easy to forget in the last minute gift-wrapping-kids-won’t-go-to-bed-so-I-can-fill-the-freaking-stockings-crap-how-did-I-manage-to-run-out-of-cinnamon rush.
In addition to hauling out this checklist on December 24th, I’d also suggest setting an alarm for some of these. Otherwise, it’s too easy to forget that annual photo of your kids rolling their eyes in front of the tree.
Here’s a list of some other possible traditions in your house that you might not remember until you wake up at 2 a.m. freaking out because you forgot to read The Night Before Christmas to your kids:
- Add the tree topper.
We do this on Christmas Eve so it’s on the checklist and an alarm is set. it’s way too easy to forget in the bustle of cleaning up after dinner and my oldest son leaving for other parties.
- Drive around checking out your neighbors’ Christmas light displays
- Read a special story
- Look through old Christmas photos
- Special tuck-in rituals
- Flip the advent calendar
- Sprinkle glittery reindeer dust outside (yes, my youngest is now 20, but how else would Rudolph find us, am I right?)
- Set out milk and cookies (we also do carrots – Rudolph be hungry by the time he gets to Pennsylvania)
- Make sure Santa remembers to drink the milk and eat the cookies
- Take the aforementioned family photo
- Hand out special PJs for the bleary-eyed early morning photos (not as much eye-rolling when they’re half-asleep). I dodged this tradition since my kids hate pajamas.
- Let the kids open a Christmas Eve gift. Actually, this probably doesn’t even need to go on the list – trust me, your kids will remind you.
- Remind Santa to leave a note to each kid. Yet another tradition in our house that was started impulsively without thought of future consequences.
- Check NORAD for Santa’s progress.
- Move that creepy elf one last time. Luckily he didn’t exist when my kids were young, saving me from yet another bad impulse decision.
- Check the mailbox for last minute requests to Santa.
Luckily I found the one from my oldest asking for “tiny Chiclets and a little gift under my bedroom tree” one year.
I put it on the list to check on each year, and, sure enough, found another one years later from son #2 asking for a “special gift for the cat.”
My kids do not make Santa’s life easy.
- And, of course, observe any religious traditions important to your family.
Whether you bake a birthday cake for Jesus or go to a midnight mass, hopefully this Christmas Eve checklist will help you remember to factor these into your very busy evening.
Do you have any other Christmas Eve traditions you need to remember? Print out the checklist and scribble them in…
Prep the Loot – Last Minute Gift To Dos
Maybe your Christmas is less commercial than ours, but you probably still need to deal with last-minute gift tasks.
So here are some Christmas Eve to do list reminders when it comes to gifts:
- Assemble anything that needs to be ready for the onslaught of the gift-grubbing hordes
- Finish wrapping
- Check to make sure you know where all the gifts are
- Lay out any gifts not already under the tree
- Fill the stockings
- Load the car with gifts you’ll be opening elsewhere
Christmas Eve Food Prep Checklist
Even if you’re not hosting a Christmas Day dinner, you probably still have some food prep to do.
Maybe for a special holiday breakfast or for the green bean casserole you’re bringing to your in-laws’.
- Start this checklist of food prep tasks from your Christmas Eve to do list early in the day while stores are still open for last minute grocery runs.
- Check basic, everyday supplies.
Now I check all the regular staples in addition to holiday ingredients.
- Check every single ingredient you’ll need for dinner before stores close on Christmas Eve.
- Lay out every single thing you’ll need for breakfast including foil, utensils and cookware.
Better to realize now that you used your only 9×13 pan for ooey gooey bars instead of at 7:00 a.m. when you need to get your world famous scalloped potatoes into the oven to take to Aunt Mae’s.
- If you’re cooking dinner tomorrow, make up a quick time schedule of when to put what in the oven. And jot down a complete menu list so you don’t forget to bring the deviled eggs up from the downstairs fridge
- If you do a big breakfast, pre-assemble any casseroles or cinnamon roll ingredients.
I also put out a note on my counter to remind me to soften our cinnamon roll butter and cream cheese first thing in the morning.
Christmas Eve To Dos Around the House/Miscellaneous
I know you’re exhausted, but here’s a little checklist to remind you of the bare necessities to do before bed on Christmas Eve to make sure the state of your house doesn’t start your morning off on the wrong foot.
- Straighten up the areas you’ll be exchanging in, even if the season’s been so crazy the rest of your house is wrecked.
- If you have any time or energy, make sure your kitchen is clean enough to greet you in the morning with Christmas cheer instead of a Grinchy, crusty mess.
As a gift to yourself.
Don’t forget regular everyday stuff so your morning doesn’t start with you being grouchy because you forgot to set the coffeemaker, lay out your morning meds, put in your mouth guard, or because you’re out of diapers
- Charge the camera and phones
- Consider making a Christmas morning bag so you’re not rummaging around your house for batteries or a screwdriver to de-package toys.
I usually make up one that has batteries, a big bright envelope for gift cards (to keep them from getting tossed by accident), a sharpie, screwdrivers, and a box cutter.
This harkens back to the days when my house was pretty bad. The thought of a guest rummaging around in the kitchen for a tiny screwdriver gave me heart palpitations.
- Search for hidden cameras.
Yes, this is a thing in my house. This task made it onto the list after I discovered one of my kids trying to capture Santa with his iPod.
If You’re Traveling on Christmas Day
We’re lucky enough not to travel on Christmas morning.
But if you’re traveling, here’s a mini Christmas Eve checklist of things to do to make your trip a little smoother in the morning.
- Load the car with gifts
- Check the address you’re traveling to.
Make sure you know how to get there and how long it will take, and then set an alarm a few minutes ahead to remind you to get out the door
- Put a note in your car to remember the sweet potatoes in the fridge (and any gifts you couldn’t put in the car the night before)
- If you’ll need to do some last minute gift-wrapping when you arrive, throw in a bag with tape, paper, and scissors.
- Put your luggage in the car tonight, if possible. Even if it’s a day trip, put the diaper bag or day trip bag in on Christmas Eve so you don’t forget any essentials that could make or break your day.
- Pack some snacks and a pee cup if you’re going a long distance. It’s possible nothing will be open for pit stops.
Yeah, a pee cup might be gross, but not as gross as pee in your car. So…
- Lay out your outfit and makeup.
With all the running around on Christmas morning, you don’t want to forget to cover your eye bags before you leave the house.
You just know Cousin Lucy is gonna post family pics online and she ALWAYS remembers her own makeup
- Fill up the car with gas ahead of time.
If You’re Hosting on Christmas Day
If everyone’s traveling to YOUR house tomorrow, there’s a few things you can do to make life a little easier on Christmas morning, in addition to all the stuff above.
- Do a final cleaning check, especially where the guests might be:
- Hide any junk you don’t have time to put away
- Check the bathrooms
- Empty the trashcans
- Unload and reload the dishwasher and run it, even if it’s not full
- Clean the cat boxes
- Check for kid grossness anywhere
- Wipe down the counters
- Sweep/vacuum the main areas, even if you have to do it around a mess.
If you have time tomorrow you can do some more, but this way you’re covered if there’s a morning emergency or someone arrives early.
- Clear snow from any walkways
- Lay out gift wrapping supplies – tape, scissors, and gift bags.
Then if any guests show up with a last minute gift-wrapping emergency (heh-hem, my sister!), they don’t need to dig through the embarrassingly stuffed closet you tossed everything into.
I learned this one the hard way
I Won’t Insult You by Adding “Relax” as a To Do
I’m tempted to put “relax and enjoy the holiday” as a definite Christmas Eve to do but whenever my husband tells me to relax while getting ready for a big event, I just want to punch him in the face.
So I won’t.
But hopefully giving a little forethought to all of this stuff will help lower your stress anyway.
I think that covers it.
Again, this Christmas Eve checklist wasn’t meant to guilt you with any “should” dos. It’s meant to jog your memory for anything you forgot.
Or remind you to check for some things that you may be out of and won’t be able to buy after the stores close.
And do try to relax a little.
Sorry, I’ll go punch my own self in the face now…
Don’t Forget to Download the Christmas Eve Checklist!
PS Don’t forget to grab your free Christmas Eve checklist. Just click on the image below.