I decided to blog on holiday traditions after our MOPs group came up with a wonderful list of ideas to inspire anyone looking for some traditions to throw into their holiday fun. They are great ways to make memories and bless your family!
For anyone who is interested and missed Part 1, you can find it here. Part 1 focused on Thanksgiving traditions- now we are moving onto Christmas!
1) Ornament exchanges. If you do a Christmas tree, one memorable thing to do is to exchange ornaments each year. I grew up with my parents exchanging with each other and my brother and I exchanging. We typically did it Christmas Eve and an added benefit of this as little ones was that it always gave us one gift to open early. An added bonus of this idea is that when we were both older and starting our own families, we already had a wonderful collection of ornaments to decorate our first “grown-up” trees with!
2) Reading Luke’s account of the birth of Christ on Christmas Eve. There are tons of variations on this- some families tie this to setting out their nativity set (adding in a new figure as they get to that part of the story). Another option is to set up the nativity set on Christmas morning- have family members look at the nativity set on Christmas morning before eating or opening gifts as a parent reads Christmas story in Luke. However it is done, it is a great way to keep our focus on the reason we celebrate Christmas.
3) Making Jesus a birthday cake. We started doing this once we began having children, and it is one of my favorite traditions. It is a terrific, concrete, and enticing way to help children grasp the reason for Christmas!
4) Speaking of sweet things, one way to bless others is to make an abundance of Christmas cookies, fudge, etc and deliver to neighbors, various local ministries, local law enforcement, and friends. We like to make cinnamon rolls and share them with others.
5) Getting hot chocolate and riding around to look at Christmas lights. Or a twist on this…Living by the Light, where one evening, choose to do everything by candlelight. Talk about the verse 1 John 1:5 “God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all.” Talk about what life would be like without light, and what life would be like without the light of Christ. Then get in the car and go look at Christmas lights!
6) Another one we personally incorporate is giving three gifts per child, to symbolize the three gifts given to Christ by the Magi. Not only does this also relate directly to why we celebrate Christmas (even though the Magi didn’t visit Christ until he was a couple of years older), but it helps keep the craziness of commercialism down a bit! There are also variations on this idea (you could do something like a gift to wear, a gift to read, and a gift to play with; or one family does a play off the gold/frankincense/myrrh idea- gold is something to give that is valuable, so something that the child really wants, their heart’s desire; frankincense was a spice used in the temple during prayer and fasting, so this gift could draw the child closer to God- a Bible, a Noah’s ark toy, etc.- myrrh was a fluid used upon death that covered the whole body, so perhaps something like pajamas, a sweater, jeans, etc.). Another idea with gift-giving is to give gifts to various ministries in the name of a loved one- World Vision has a great catalog that explains how you can bless families living in poverty with a goat or cow to provide milk, or hens to lay eggs.
7) I can’t wait to start this one this year! 25 Names of Jesus for 25 days of ornaments- 1 to hang each day. The idea is that you either take ornaments and write 25 names that are used for Christ, ie Wonderful Counselor, Alpha and Omega, Rock of Ages, etc. You can make your own or use store-bought. I came across this idea at http://www.iammommahearmeroar.net/2011/11/christmas-kojo-designs.html and think it is fabulous!
8) Christmas movie traditions. This is a common one, as many people and/or families may choose to have certain movies they watch annually, like It’s a Wonderful Life, Elf, and so forth. 🙂
9) Another one I hope to start incorporating is that of Christmas Mail: sometime a few weeks before Christmas, family members write letters to each other and use stockings as mailboxes. Family members read their letters quietly at the same time on Christmas Eve. Obviously with really young ones this could be tricky, but pictures can be drawn or short letters can be dictated also.
10) For those that are fans of crafting or baking, one tradition that could be fun are incorporating parties with friends as you make handmade gifts. Bring potluck and enjoy time together while preparing gifts. Cookie swaps can fall into this category.
And as always, there are many ways to serve others with the love of Christ- mentioned above are giving gifts through groups like World Vision and making baked goods or items to serve to others. As in the Thanksgiving post, you can invite others to share a Christmas meal with you. You can visit nursing homes and pass out handmade cards or sing some Christmas songs. There is such wonderful joy in giving to others, especially to glorify the One who gave all for us. My family is trying to do a better job of remembering this and putting it into practice!
I’ll stop there to prevent this from becoming way too long! If you want more ideas, a great resource is this site, which has a list of 50 Christmas ideas (some from this site are in my list above): http://www.defrumpme.com/2011/11/50-things-to-do-at-christmas-25-days-of.html
And feel free to share any of your traditions in the comments below!