Great family traditions during the holidays can be as heartwarming as sitting in front of a crackling fireplace.
Traditions can be great tool to help bind your family together and keep your hearts connected to Christ.
Here’s a savory feast of ideas to keep Christ in the center of your holidays.
Family traditions can help you keep Christ central
“As we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ this season, let us also celebrate all that His birth symbolizes, especially the love.Bonnie L. Oscarson
Christmas can be wonderful, but it can also get hijacked by business, commercialism, and greed.
But you can choose whether your family will be overwhelmed by outside pressures or bask in the glow of the true Christmas spirit.
It won’t happen automatically, you will need to nurture the sweet glow that can come during the holiday season.
Here are some great ideas to create Christ centered Christmas traditions.
Christ centered Christmas traditions for your family
Giving in a Christlike way
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.John 3:16
Resist the impulse to pay for the gifts that your children give. Let them earn them, make them or match what they earn.
Make a big, happy deal about “Boxing day”, the day after Christmas. (Each family member scours their belongings for things they can give away.) Or your family could do this before Christmas to make room for the new things.
Instead of every family member giving to every other family member (which can lead to too much junk around the house and reduced gratitude), draw names or rotate who each person gives to each year.
Give “experience gifts” such as trips, lessons, promises to spend time with each other etc.
In the months before Christmas, let the kids take turns staying up a little later than the other kids to work with Mom and/or Dad to make homemade gifts. Kids love to stay up later, spend one-on-one time with parents, do crafts and do sweet things for family members. Win-win!
Ask each family member to give something to Jesus since it is His birthday after all. For example: give a promise to start doing something better, stop doing something wrong or give service to someone.
When placing a nativity scene, talk about the Wise men bringing gifts. This is an opportunity to talk about the joy of giving.
On Christmas Eve, in conjunction with a spiritual devotional about Christ’s birth, give a more spiritually oriented gift to each family member to be opened that evening. That way, this gift will take on more importance because it’s the only one to be opened before Christmas morning.
Receiving like Jesus
Have Santa leave a note in each Christmas stocking about the true meaning of Christmas.
Have someone be scribe on Christmas morning. They can write down what each person received and who gave it. This will help when it’s time to write thank you notes. (Or, each person could write down their gifts individually.)
Have a family “thank you note writing night” soon after Christmas.
Hide the gifts around the house and make gift opening time a scavenger hunt with scriptures, quotes or pictures about the true meaning of Christmas as the clues.
Instead of a mad, free for all Christmas morning, have one person open a gift at a time, express gratitude and clean up their mess before the next person opens a gift. (This reduces lost gifts, increases gratitude and love for each other and reduces the greedy feeling.)
After Christmas day, family members could start the tradition of asking people what they gave instead of what they got for Christmas this year.
Tell the true story of Jesus’ birth as a Christmas tradition
Have a family Christ centered Christmas devotional on Christmas Eve.
Collect one new illustrated book each year that tells about the true meaning of Christmas. Here is a great list of books to start from.
Or, use the same book that your family loves the best each year to tell the story.
Have the family act out the nativity.
Tell Christ-centered bedtime stories in December.
From the scriptures
- Talk about the prophecies of preceding Jesus’ coming in the Book of Mormon. For example:
- Celebrate the Sundays of Advent with these ideas.
- Read scriptures together recounting the birth of Christ each evening the week before Christmas. (For example: Matthew 1, Luke 1, Luke 2, Matthew 2, 3 Nephi 1, Isaiah 9:6, etc.)
Help them feel gratitude & remember their blessings
Take pictures of family time, happy moments and love being expressed during the season.
Look at the pictures you took in the past and talk about happy memories.
Mention to your family that we are celebrating Christ’s birth and remembering what He has done for us.
Have an evening of writing thank you notes for gifts received.
Say thank you to gift givers in person or by phone instead of writing notes.
On Thanksgiving day, tape a large piece of paper to a door for everyone to write (or draw) what they are grateful for. Keep adding to it as a family until Christmas Eve, then take it down and read what everyone wrote.
Create times of reflection. Turn off the lights and all sit and look at the sparkling Christmas tree or flickering fireplace. Talk in whispers about how you all feel about Christmas and Christ.
Drive the family around to look at the sparkling Christmas lights in your neighborhood. Crank up the carols and return home after for hot chocolate.
For more great ideas about encouraging gratitude in your kids read here.
Show them the joy of gathering & connecting with others
Invite people to join you who may be in need of a friend.
Have a family feast, but make sure to mention how grateful you are to have food and shelter.
Spend Christmas Eve with just your own family.
On Christmas day, call many, many people and wish them Merry Christmas.
Send Christmas cards that depict the birth or life of Christ, You can send them either physically or virtually.
Read the Christmas cards you receive at the dinner table and talk about how much you love your friends and family.
Have a “sleep around the tree” slumber party with your family.
Have a “make treats, listen to Christmas carols” night.
Bring Christmas treats to neighbors and friends.
Set a limit on how much each person can spend on gifts for the family.
Go to a thrift store as a family activity and buy awesome but inexpensive gifts for each other there.
Nurture the true spirit of Christmas in your home
For a wonderful week before Christmas, follow the ideas found in the truly inspired “A Christ-Centered Christmas Celebration by LDS Living”. In these short videos they give ideas about how to use a nativity set to teach 7 very special thoughts and activities. Highly recommended.
Memorize Christmas themed scriptures together.
Challenge older family members to read all of the accounts of the birth of Christ in the scriptures.
Show your family by example how to truly enjoy Christmas fully. See this fun post about How to enjoy Christmas like a child.
Print out this “Light the World” service calendar created especially for kids.
Use decorations purposefully
Choose decorations carefully. Find as many Christ centered Christmas decorations as you can and gradually weed out the things that dilute the Christ centered message of Christmas.
Decorate as a family.
Take time to talk about the symbolism behind Christmas decorations. Here is a great source if you are wondering what the symbolism is yourself. Here is a fun game to help your family learn more about the symbols of Christmas.
Have one indestructible nativity scene that can be played with freely by little hands. Take time to sit down and play with them and talk about the story that goes along with it.
When you put your family’s nativity scene up, talk about what each character contributes to the story of the Savior’s birth. There are many great lessons to be learned in the stories.
Do you have decorations that are family heirlooms or have special meaning? Did your kids make some of the ornaments? Talk about the stories behind the decorations as you decorate together.
Drive around and look at your neighbor’s lights and talk about how Christ is the “light of the world.” Crank up the carols and end with hot chocolate.
Have you seen the statue/painting of Santa kneeling to Jesus in the manger? Find a way to show your family one of these and talk about how Christ is the true center of Christmas. Santa isn’t bad, but he isn’t the real purpose of Christmas.
Make gingerbread houses and eat them on New Year’s Eve dipped in hot chocolate.
Start the Christ centered Christmas tradition of service
Print out and do the suggestions on the “Light the World” calendar.
Here is a child’s version of Light the World that I have created as a gift to you.
Have the week before Christmas be Secret Santa week. Each person does secret good deeds for other people in the family.
Give each family member a jingle bell to put in their pocket or wear around their neck to remind them to do nice things whenever they hear the bell.
Celebrate boxing day (December 26) by scouring the house together to find things to give away.
Give generously to organizations serving the underprivileged. Family members can earn money to contribute.
Ask people to donate to your favorite charity instead of giving you a gift.
Have a spare change jar available year round to save up as a family to give away at Christmas time. Then watch “Christmas Jars” together.
Visit someone who may be lonely.
Create memories with traditional food & feasts
Gather extended family for a Christmas celebration.
Gather just your own family for a special Christmas dinner.
Have a “Bethlehem Dinner”. Dress up New Testament style, create tents out of tables and blankets and serve New Testament type foods. More details here.
Bake a birthday cake for Jesus. Talk about the real purpose of Christmas.
Have a traditional home made treat that your family enjoys only at Christmas.
Donate to a food shelter.
Help serve a meal to underprivileged people.
Use advent calendars to maintain focus on the Savior
Use this scriptural advent calendar. You could combine this with placing one related ornament on the tree each night.
Here’s an advent calendar that focuses on character traits.
This calendar is about the names of Jesus.
How about 25 questions about the Christmas story in a jar to pull out each evening?
Talk about the different characters in the nativity story, one each night, with a lesson to learn from each one.
At the beginning of December, place an empty stable from your nativity scene on the dinner table and talk about making room for Jesus this month in your lives. Then mark out special family time on each of your calendars for the month.
Don’t forget Christ centered media & books
(I receive no commission for these recommendations)
- A Charlie Brown Christmas
- What’s in the Bible: Why Do They Call it Christmas (from the maker’s of Veggie Tales)
- The Nativity Story
- Jacob’s Gift
- The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey
- Christmas videos from churchofjesuschrist.org & comeuntochrist.org
- The Legend of the Candy Cane
- Tabernacle Choir specials and music
- Mr. Krueger’s Christmas
- A Gift to the World
- Christmas Carol
- It’s a wonderful life
- Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck
- A Christ-Centered Christmas Celebration by LDS Living
- Celebrating a Christ-Centered Christmas (Children’s Edition)
- The Scriptures
- Here are more than 70 more Christ centered children’s Christmas books
Maintain the true Christmas spirit with music (of course)
Caroling – especially Christ centered music
Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square Christmas music
The Tabernacle Choir also has a 24/7 music stream with such great music.
Christmas music in general
Does your family have favorite Christmas music? Make a playlist with their input.
Listen to Christmas music by candlelight at dinner.
Turn off the lights and listen to Christmas music while being mesmerized by the tree lights or flickering fire in the fireplace. I think snuggly sock would help too.
Enough of my ideas. What can you add to the list?
What traditions do you already have in your family? We’d love to hear about them.
Did you try some of the ideas above? How did it go?
Let us know down below in the comments section.
I genuinely hope that these ideas for a Christ centered Christmas traditions will bless your family.
Or maybe they will spark your own imagination to create entirely new ideas.
Either way, let us know.