In the Kelehan house, we love to celebrate holidays, but Christmas is easily our family’s favorite. There is something undeniably different in the atmosphere in the weeks leading up to it. Anticipation and excitement build as the day of our Savior’s birth approaches, paired with a cozy warmth wrapped in the traditions we share with family and friends.
Our Christmas traditions are not only activities that draw us close to one another, but they are celebrations of the joy we share in remembering our Savior’s birth.
What follows are a few traditions that we love as a family. We hope they will encourage you to try something new and make special memories this holiday season.
Advent Daily Devotional
"All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16, ESV).
Because we know the absolute necessity of consuming God’s Word daily, a tradition we started when our oldest children were young and still have as a staple pre-Christmas tradition today is to purposely read God’s Word through daily Advent readings in December. We’ve used various versions of The Jesse Tree, which follows the line of Jesse’s family events leading to the birth of Jesus. Currently, we enjoy The Wonder of the Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp, which includes a tree and hanging ornaments. Our kids look forward to their turn to hang the ornament that corresponds with the day’s Scripture reading.
We’ve paired this activity and Scripture reading with a time when we are all together, typically at the dinner table. This special tradition can be done at any time of day, though, as it only requires about 5-10 minutes of time. It’s not only a tradition that brings us together in conversation but is invaluable in focusing our hearts and minds on the truest reason for celebration.
Christmas Lights Drive
"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it" (John 1:5, ESV).
We are drawn to light, especially in the darker days of winter, so it is not surprising that a favorite tradition is to take time to simply go look at lights. Now, there is nothing simple about these light displays; they each are works of art brilliantly shining against even the darkest night. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, we pick an evening to drive through local neighborhoods and cities that list their musical light shows. We are always game to take a detour if a neighborhood has a particularly incredible "wow factor" to draw us in. Some years, we go all out and even venture the 2.5-hour drive to Bentleyville in Duluth.
The light shows are not complete without bags of warm, buttery popcorn and thermoses of hot chocolate. As we sip, munch, look, and listen, we talk about our favorite displays. We sing along to the songs we know and share in candid conversations. We are all together for a time in one space, sharing a moment, sharing a memory of fun and family. While we know these lights will fade, they remind us of the Light of the World, whose brilliance outshines the noon-day sun.
Wrapped Christmas Books
Our family loves a good story, and with a wealth of books available to relay the stories and meaning of Christmas, it is natural that the tradition of daily opening and reading a wrapped Christmas book has become a staple December activity. We began with a few books the first year and, over the years, have added our favorite Christmas books to the collection.
The youngest children anticipate their turn to pick a book and tear off the wrapping paper in excitement to reveal which book was chosen. Often, an older sibling reads aloud while the rest of us curl up together on the couch or settle near the lights of the tree to listen to the stories that give a glimpse of the glorious first Christmas or simply make us laugh.
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10, NIV).
Serving others together to share the love of Jesus unites us in a common goal as a family. There is a deep joy in generously giving of time and resources that can only be learned through experience, so we have made serving together as a family a Christmas tradition. There are many opportunities to make serving a family tradition, such as packing Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes together, picking out gifts for families or individuals through Berean's Giving Tree, visiting a local Feed My Starving Children center, picking a gift from the World Vision Christmas catalog for a family in need, delivering baked goods to a neighbor, putting together care kits for the homeless, or visiting or caroling at an assisted living home.
As a family, we choose a few of these activities to do together each Christmas season, and we talk about why we do these things: Because of the greatest gift we’ve been given, we desire to bless others out of the abundant gift of life God’s given us. In addition to bonding our family more deeply, we’ve noticed that these activities lead to gratitude. It’s amazing to see how God works in our hearts to give of ourselves, and instead of feeling less, we are filled with gratefulness and joy to touch another person’s life, even in a small way.
Create Your Own Unique Family Traditions.
Whether carving out time to bake and decorate Christmas cookies, watch a favorite Christmas movie, attend a Christmas concert, see the Nutcracker Ballet, or create your own unique family traditions, planning ahead to set aside time for these special family activities is worth the effort to create lasting memories.
One unique family tradition we have adopted over the years that our kids look forward to every year is the “Christmas Pickle Hunt.” It takes little preparation, but a small gift or prize(s) should be planned ahead of time. The little green pickle ornament is hidden in the Christmas tree for the children to find. The rule is that the tree cannot be touched; this is an eyes-only game. Depending on the age of the kids, this game can last for hours or days. Once the pickle is found and its location is verified by the parent who placed it there, the finder is awarded a small prize. In our house, everyone is given a small gift once the pickle is found, which encourages cooperation. While this tradition isn’t attached to a biblical theme, the search generates shared time, a desire to work together, and memories that our family enjoys.
Which Activity Will Become Your Next Family Tradition?
This Christmas, try some family-friendly traditions that incorporate faith and bring your loved ones closer together. Whether you try one of the activities suggested above or discover a new one of your own, use them to stay centered on Jesus and what matters most. May you find joy in the process and create moments and memories to last a lifetime!
About the Author:
Jessica, along with her husband Mike, have called Berean home for about 16 years and are grateful to be raising their five children among this community of Christ followers. Jessica currently serves in children's and women's ministries at Berean, and when not busy driving her kids everywhere, loves spending time with friends and planning vacations.