What family traditions do you have for the holidays? Are all of these traditions working for your family or is it time to try something new?
Three weeks ago I shared about keeping holidays memorable in the best kind of way - by planning ahead what you want to look like and keeping those plans realistic for your life. When we were dealing with two month old twins plus three other kids under age six you can bet your buttons I was not making an elaborate spread of food. That year for Christmas dinner we ate drip beef sandwiches and french fries. Delicious, not a meal we eat all the time so it felt special, and super easy for busy and tired parents.
Every family has their own traditions when it comes to the holidays. I know lots that give new pajamas on Christmas Eve - we do this! I grew up believing in Santa Claus but we don’t do Santa in our house. We drive around eating cookies and drinking cocoa while looking at Christmas lights on Christmas Eve. We read the Christmas story in Luke 2 each year on Christmas morning before opening gifts to remind us of the best gift we will ever receive. Some families love to decorate gingerbread houses, drive around to look at lights, or act out the nativity story. There are so many out there!
Traditions are a great way to keep the Christmas season memorable - as long as they are working for your family! The great part of being a parent is deciding what traditions you want to keep or ditch for your own family.
As the kids have gotten older I’ve started asking them what they would like to do during the holiday season. Communicating is one of the tips I shared for keeping your holiday memorable. Talk to the members of your family and find out what they would love to do and what they are okay skipping each year. This is your chance to create fun new family traditions and perhaps take a break from the traditions that aren’t working right now.
I’ve got a list of ten family traditions for your Christmas season but please, PLEASE don’t try to do them all this year. Again, we want to love our actual Christmas, not go crazy because we are trying to do everything under the sun. Pick one or two that work for your family as it actually is. Don’t try to bring three toddlers to a nursing home for quiet reading time. At least I sure couldn’t have brought three toddlers to a nursing home for quiet reading time - they are NOT quiet! Try one or two this year and then come back again next year and swap or add in a new tradition. Do what works for your family and what will help all of you love your actual Christmas.
10 family traditions for this holiday season
St Nicholas Day
St Nicholas Day is celebrated in the US on December 6th. On the night of the 5th children put their shoes near the door for St Nicholas to leave a small gift inside. The real St Nicholas was known for leaving secret gifts in shoes, usually coins. He is the basis for the modern day Santa Claus. We try to find gifts that are around $5, usually a small LEGO set or other fun toy that we know the kids have had their eyes on.
Shepherd on the Search
This little guy is told to stay behind when all the grown shepherds travel to meet the newborn Savior but he sets out on his own to see the Messiah. I’m really excited to add him into our Christmas season this year along with the corresponding devotional.
Advent is the name for the four weeks leading up to Christmas. Traditionally, a candle is lit at the beginning of each week and represents a different attribute of the Christmas season on which to focus: hope, love, joy, and peace. As a family you could find a variety of ways to bring advent practices into your own traditions. In Loving My Actual Christmas, Alexandra Kuykendall puts these weekly themes into action to create a Christmas season that doesn't leave her frazzled and wanting to run away.
Games by the tree
Bust out the cards or the board games and play by the light of the Christmas tree. Obviously this is best done if you have loads of lights on your tree so if it’s a little dim you could bring in some other calm lights rather than the harsher lights we live with every day.
Cards for nursing homes or soldiers
Contact a local nursing home and find out how to drop off Christmas cards for residents - try to make a card for every person at a home, what a blessing!
Soldiers’ Angels is currently accepting pledges of stockings for soldiers that are deployed overseas. Sign up to become a Holiday Community Partner now and pledge the number of stockings you plan to fill. Applications close on November 1st so don’t wait!
Baking cookies and other treats is one of the highlights of the Christmas season for me. I spend time in the months leading up to the holidays planning out what I want to make along with all the ingredients I will need. Occasionally I need to drop treats off my list because the ingredients needed don't fit in the budget or I already have way too many others to bake.
Instead of being bummed that I don't have as large of a variety of treats I can organize a cookie exchange with friends! Each person makes X dozen of one type of cookie - the number of dozens will depend on the number of people in your exchange - then you gather together and each person goes home with one dozen from each person participating. Super fun! A great tip is to have a sign up for the cookies so everyone doesn't bring spritz or peanut butter blossoms. The point is to end up with a good variety of different cookies.
Christmas Eve PJs
My parents did new pjs for my siblings and me every year and I know lots of others grew up with this tradition or have started it with their own children. I spend the year scoping out deals for pjs for our kids. Sometimes I try to get matching pjs, some years it’s holiday pjs, and other years it’s favorite characters. Even Micah and I get in on the fun!
Setting up the tree becomes extra special when you unpack the ornaments and remember how old each child was when they received different ornaments. You could go with an ornament for each child or one special family ornament each year. When your kids grow up you can pack their ornaments up and pass them on for their own homes!
There are dozens of different kinds of countdown calendars available so it’s up to you and your family for what you choose to do! We have a felt calendar and I put a small piece of paper in each day for a fun activity. You could get a LEGO advent calendar if you’ve got a LEGO fan in your house, pick a reusable decorative calendar and stick a small candy or trinket in each slot, or use a board that allows you to countdown like this one from DaySpring.
Read the Christmas Story
Every year on Christmas morning before we open presents and get carried away with the chaos we pause to read Luke 2:1-23. We read to remember why we celebrate and the best gift we could ever receive. Some years we listen to the audio version and last year we found a video from YouVersion and it helped capture the kids’ attention a little more.
No matter what traditions your family does or doesn’t do the key is to do what you love and what helps you stay focused and together this Christmas season. Fill your homes with hope, love, peace, and joy as you welcome God into your homes and hearts.