It’s the most wonderful time of the year with the kids jingle belling and everyone telling you to be of good cheer its the most wonderful time of the year! (Andy Williams 1963).
This time of year, perhaps more than any other, seems to be full of tradition, which may be why it is known as the most wonderful time of the year. Christmas traditions bring a sense of peace and comfort as we remember times gone by and the joy they brought. They connect us to home and family and plead with us to slow down and savor the moment before it becomes another memory of Christmas past. Traditions help to build strong families and give us a place to belong. One of my very favorite things about the season is to learn how others celebrate Jesus’ birth and to see the excitement shared.
Today, I thought I would share some of our family traditions. We are a young family and with that being said, are still in the process of creating lasting traditions. Some of these I pulled from what Lance and I did growing up and others are new to us.
Families come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, what works for my family may not work in your home and that is okay. My purpose in writing this post is not so much to give you a formula for how to celebrate Christmas; instead it is on my heart to share in hopes that perhaps there are things you can pick up along the way that would bless your family. Please feel free to share your favorite traditions in the comment section.
Gifts Gifts are one of my top love languages. I love to be able to find the perfect present for that special someone in my life and receiving a well thought out gift brings me immense joy! There is also a side of me that gets overwhelmed with material items. From the start of having children Lance and I have always (for every gift giving occasion) followed something to wear, something to read, something they want and something they need. This covers a lot of ground and encourages us to be good stewards of both our money and our children’s mindsets. We live in a culture that teaches us to always want more, bigger and better even from a young age.
We talk very openly even with our boys being only 6 and 3 about how there are children in this world (even in their own city) who do not receive gifts at all and how we need to be thankful for all the Lord has blessed us with and find ways to bless others out of the abundance He has given.
Birthday Cake This is a tradition I took directly from my aunt. Each year for Christmas breakfast we make a cake and sing happy birthday to Jesus. I love how simple this tradition is and how it reinforces the meaning of Christmas at the start of the day. We personally make a banana cake and use cream cheese frosting but of course the options are endless.
Luke 2 One of my most cherished memories of my Grandfather is of him reading us the Christmas story out of the storybook Bible my mom and her siblings grew up reading. Each Christmas between the opening of our stockings and the rest of our gifts, Lance reads Luke chapter 2. Again, this has been a beautiful way of centering our hearts on the true meaning of Christmas.
Christmas lights tour Each Christmas season we bundle up in Christmas pajamas, grab a warm drink and drive around town looking at the lights. If you are local, our favorites are the neighborhood off of Central that does themes from Rudolph, the boys enjoy the dentists office around Shiloh that sets up music to their light show and this year Zach has loved a big inflatable Mickey dressed as Santa we have close to our neighborhood.
Saint Nicholas Day We do not participate in Santa traditions. Lance and I simply felt a conviction on our heart not to do so, even after having grown up with Santa. Instead, we talk about who the character is modeled after, the real Saint Nicholas. We fill the boys’ shoes with goodies and talk about how we can bless others. We have a book I read to them about Saint Nicholas and we usually do some sort of special breakfast.
Paper Chain Every year since Matthew was four we have been making paper chains to count down Christmas. This is something I remember doing in school as a child and was something I wanted to make sure my children has the chance to do. It’s old fashioned and simple but at the same time fun and sweet. This year, for a fun twist, I am having Matthew do an act of kindness each day before he gets to tear a link of the chain off. I will probably wait to make a second chain for Zach until next year.
Chocolate Advent Calendars I pick up two chocolate Advent calendars from Walgreens every year and each night the boys get to find the number (date) we are on and get a fun Christmas shaped piece of chocolate. This is something that’s super simple but fun for them.
Decorating gingerbread houses Actually, by gingerbread houses I mean my husband who always claims he is not creative going on to build a church out of graham crackers and a barn from pretzel rods. He can no longer get off the hook when it comes to our annual gingerbread house building. I probably should call them ‘graham cracker houses’ as that is what we have always used (same as I used growing up). The boys have fun watching them come together and snacking on the candy as mommy and daddy try to encourage them to put it on their house rather than their mouths. It’s a good thing my boys don’t like sugar much. 😉
Christmas books and Songs Nightly all throughout the year our bedtime routine includes reading a handful of books and singing songs. During the Christmas season it has been fun to read our favorite Christmas books and sing carols together. Some of our very favorite books include: The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg, any by Jan Brett, God Gave Us Christmas by Lisa Tawn Bergren, The Little Christmas Elf by Nikki Shannon Smith, The Animals’ Christmas Eve by Gale Wiersum, The Poky Little Puppy’s First Christmas by Justine Korman and Merry Christmas Little Pookie by Sandra Boynton.
Nativity Another tradition that is focused on Jesus is our Nativity being center focus in our home. Now that they are older, the boys enjoy unwrapping the characters and placing them in the stable. Our creche is actually the very one I grew up with which is special.
Advent breakfasts This is something we just started last year (though we have always celebrated advent together) and look forward to continuing on down through the years. We set our five candles on the table each Sunday morning of advent and as we light them we talk about their meaning (faith, love, joy, peace) over a special breakfast.
For now this is very basic as the boys are still young. For instance as we lit the candle for love this last week we talked about things that make us feel most loved and how we can share that love with others.
Seasonal recipes The final tradition I will share is our family recipes. We have a handful of things we only make during the Christmas season such as saffron buns, bonbon cookies, toffee bars, cheese ball, etc. These are recipes that have been around for longer than I have. They add fun and deliciousness to the season. Something I learned from Sally Clarkson is to teach our children the Bible verse “taste and see that the Lord is good” through the foods we eat as a family. God has blessed us with food and I think sharing Psalm 34:8 in such a way makes God become more personal to us.
I hope that this post has been insightful for you and perhaps given you an idea of something simple you can add to your celebration this Christmas season. I would love to hear what your family does to make Christmas special!
A quick note about the Elf – If you have young children you know exactly what I am talking about. There is a fairly new tradition that floats around Social Media every year. A tradition that if you participate you go all in, and if you don’t you may have been made to feel guilty simply because your family does not have an Elf of the Shelf. This is a reminder to all of you young mommas that there is no room for condemnation or guilt simply because you do not have a little elf moving around your home making messes. If your family enjoys this, great! If not, find something else to do. It’s as simple as that.
There is no reason to feel guilty over any tradition that does not work for your family. Remember the Christmas season is about Jesus first and foremost and how we celebrate His birth should reflect what works for our family and the season of life we are in.
Happy December Friends!