When to Open Christmas Presents

Today we’re going to be considering that age-old holiday ponderance: When should you open Christmas presents?

As simple a question as it may seem (“Christmas morning, duh”), it can be important to find out the answer for a variety of reasons.

When DO People Open Christmas Presents?

Maybe you’re wondering when to open Christmas presents because you are curious about how other people do it.

Or maybe you have a new roommate, or you’ll be spending Christmas with friends or your new in-laws. Perhaps you are from another country, and this Christmas away from home will be a bit different than what you’re used to.

It may even be the case that you’re a new follower of Christ, and are excited to celebrate his birthday for the very first time!

Best time to open Christmas presents

Or maybe your family has always done gifts at Christmastime one way, and now that you’re grown up (and maybe even have a family of your own) you’re thinking of new ways to do things.

When to Open Christmas Presents

You may be questioning:

  • Is one particular day or time more appropriate than another? (Christmas Eve vs. Christmas morning/Christmas night)
  • Should Christmas stockings be opened before, after, or at the same time as other gifts?
  • If your family enjoys the tradition of Santa Claus, must he always bring his gifts on Christmas Eve?
  • When should you give Christmas gifts?

Let’s consider these questions and more.

What time do you open Christmas presents?

Before we go any further, we need to emphasize three very important factors that play into every aspect of opening gifts on Christmas:

  1. There is absolutely NO rule about when it’s best to open Christmas presents. Sorry!
  2. Family tradition is an important aspect to consider when deciding when to open gifts. That said, you can always create new traditions with your own family if you want to.
  3. The most important thing is to remember why we give one another gifts at Christmas: Jesus, who was the greatest Gift of all. This is a lesson for children especially. With that in the forefront, it really doesn’t matter when we do it.

Related: Christmas Planning 101: How to Win the Holidays

Should you open presents on Christmas Eve or day?

The answer to this question all boils down to “how we’ve always done things.” AKA family tradition.

So, let me ask you: How has your family always done it? When did you open gifts with your fam as a kid?

Then ask yourself, is there anything about that that you would like to change with your own family? Why?

For example, in Germany families mostly open gifts on Christmas Eve, after dinner, because tradition.

In Canada and other commonwealth countries, many families wait until Boxing Day (the day after Christmas) to open theirs. Because, yup, tradition.

Some cultures will open gifts on December 6th, St. Nicholas Day (in honor of Saint Nick, the original Santa Claus).

Still others stay up on Christmas Eve, waiting for the strike of midnight on Christmas Day to dash under the tree.

In the U.S., families still primarily open most, if not all, presents on Christmas morning (see “What about gifts from Santa?” below).

Some families also allow the children to open one gift on Christmas Eve, as a fun taste of what they can expect the following morning.

Related: Meaningful Christmas Traditions to Start With Your Family

Do you open Christmas presents at midnight?

Let me put it this way: You can if you want!

Presents under the Christmas tree

In many families, this is how Christmas is done right. Depending on the family’s religious beliefs, it may have to do with when Christmas Mass is celebrated.

When should you give Christmas gifts?

Receiving and opening Christmas presents is one thing. Giving them is another. What is the appropriate time to give a Christmas gift to a loved one?

The easiest way to answer this question is to consider when you will last see the person to whom you want to give a gift before Christmas. Are they going out of town for the holidays? Give them their gift before they leave. Is your office having a Christmas party? Give your colleagues their gifts then, because you may not see them until the new year.

Will you be spending all of Christmas Eve and day with the person you got a gift for? Then consider their own traditions and go with that. It’s okay to ask them their thoughts on the matter if you’re not sure.

Generally speaking, the entire month of December (and the closer you inch toward December 25th) is a perfectly acceptable time to give Christmas gifts in most folks’ books.

What about you? Here’s What to Put on *Your* Christmas List

When to open Christmas stockings?

Again, when you open Christmas stockings is entirely up to you and your family.

Since many children believe that Santa Claus brings gifts on Christmas Eve, it makes sense to open stockings on Christmas morning, along with other presents.

From a personal perspective, this is how my family has always done it. But growing up I had a friend whose fam opened stockings on Christmas Eve, and presents under the tree on Christmas morning. I thought it was strange but they didn’t, and that’s all that mattered.

You do you, boo.

Related: The Surprising Origin of the Christmas Stocking Tradition

What about gifts from Santa?

We’ve mentioned Santa a bit already. And c’mon: because there’s that tradition of Santa sliding down the chimney and leaving gifts under the tree and/or in stockings, it makes sense to open those gifts on Christmas morning.

When is it best to open gifts from Santa?

But for your children and the family traditions you want to create, you can do literally anything you want to in regards to Santa Claus. You can decide that he will show up, for your family, on the morning of Christmas Eve if you want to. Or he can leave gifts on Christmas night, for the kids to open on Boxing Day.

Related: Meaningful Christmas Gifts for Kids

You don’t have to celebrate Santa at all if you don’t want to! Long story short, the childhood belief in Santa leaving presents for all the good kids is a tradition started back by the real good ol’ Saint Nick (read more about him here).

If you want your family to focus primarily on the gift of Jesus rather than on the gifts brought by Santa Claus, it is perfectly acceptable to leave the big man in red out of the equation entirely.

Related: Christmas Planning Checklist

Christmas Morning Traditions

Like we’ve said, it’s okay to create new traditions. After all, old traditions themselves were once new activities.

But there are still many timeless Christmas traditions – specifically Christmas morning traditions – that are especially nostalgic for families.

Here are a few examples/ideas:

  • Take turns opening gifts. This lets the morning go on for a while, heightens the anticipation, allows everyone to see what everyone else got, and teaches kids patience (pfft yeah, right).
  • Let everyone dive in and open presents all at once. Basically the opposite of the previous tradition.
  • Christmas morning ham/brunch. Everything tastes extra delicious on December 25th.
  • Christmas morning carols. There’s nothing like the sound of old holiday records playing in the background when opening gifts.
  • Reading of the Christmas story in the Bible. My family does this before we open presents.
  • Reading a letter left by Santa.
  • Watching an old classic Christmas movie, drinking cocoa in your holiday PJs.
  • Running over to the neighbors’ house to give them their gifts/Christmas card.
  • Celebrating Christ’s birthday at church.
  • Calling up/texting family and friends to wish them a Merry Christmas.

When does your family open Christmas gifts? Have you always done it that way, or have you changed things up a bit over the years? Let us know in a comment below.

When Should We Open Christmas Presents?
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Aubrey Bauer

Aubrey is a lifelong writer who has blogged professionally since 2012. With additional education and career history in funeral service, she started her online writing business, Eulogies by Aubrey, in 2019.

She has written not only for gift and funeral-related...

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