I’m a little crazy about Christmas. I start listening to Christmas music in July or August and then stop in about February:)! Personally I think that traditions in general are SO important for families, but Christmas traditions are paramount because we are celebrating the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ!
Though I am from the United States, we do not do Santa at our house. My husband is from Africa and did not have the Santa Claus tradition growing up, and that helped us to make the decision of not holding that tradition in our own home.
At first I was worried, would I be “depriving” my children? The tie-breaker for me was when I was pregnant with my first child and was contemplating our first Christmas with him. I thought back through my child-hood and thought of all my favorite traditions of Christmas. A striking thought came to my mind…..there was not one that stood out to me that focused on Christ! Yes, my Christmases were wonderful and memorable and lovely, my parents worked so hard to make them that way. I do remember them teaching us “The reason for the Season” but I wasn’t focused on the whole reason we were celebrating, I was focused on myself.
Now, omitting the big fat man from center-stage doesn’t guarantee or children will grow up with any different sentiments than I did, but we’re hoping it’s a start. Also, I don’t like the lies, white lies are still lies to me (yup, no Tooth Fairy or Easter Bunny either).
We also have committed to only one gift per child. So far, we’ve done pretty good with this one. A couple years we’ve had one small gift to tide the kids over til they got their “real” gift (yes, sometimes living internationally has shipping downfalls). It’s SO hard to stick to this at times, and loving extended family definitely don’t follow the same guidelines 🙂 but the idea is to limit materialism.
So enough of the soap box, we are far from where we’d like to be but from the things we’ve tried and experimented with over the years these are our favorite traditions thus far (meaning, we’ve done them three years or more):
1. Christmas Tree Decorating-
I used to think this was a given, like every family in the world did this…haha! I know, small town girl. Now that I’ve “been around the block” a few times I treasure this tradition even more because of its symbolism. We pick out (or set up, depending on “real” tree availability ) the tree and decorate it together. We strive to use only the “traditional” Christmas colors of red, green, silver and gold. Then I read about the symbols that Christmas decorations hold. Sometimes I read the complete story of “Teach the Children”, (with less Santa emphasis) or sometimes we just discuss the symbols.
2. Christmas Cookie Party-
This has evolved over the years to the kids inviting their best buds (and their families) over for some sugar-cookie decorating. We bake several dozen sugar-cookies (trying for 6 for each kid) and make up several different colors of frosting and have sprinkles always (and sometimes nuts, raisens, chocolate chips, etc., depending on what’s available). Then we ask everyone to bring toppings to decorate with if they wish. Since for the majority of my children’s lives, we have generally lived around people that don’t bake (or own an oven most likely) I think it makes it even more fun because the invites really love the novelty! We’ve also done this as a pizza party (with smaller groups) and potlucks (with bigger ones). This is also great because our “Christmas Party” and “Family/Friend Gift-Giving” is done all in one event. We also try to always make enough cookies to give to friends, neighbors and those that we think just might need a bit of cheer.
This one is not to the level I would like it yet. We’ve done Caroling, anonymous treats and gifts, yard clean-ups, household chores for others and the like. We have found it’s tricky to do some projects with small children and be sane and safe. We really hope to amplify this tradition as time goes on. Ideas would be greatly appreciated:)
4. Christmas Devotionals-
Another evolving one, for the past few years we’ve been using thisbook as our main source for devotional inspiration. I really love it because it’s so simple and Christ-centered and gives inspirations rather than a script for the holiday. We strive to do one, focused devotional a week, starting in December, with a “project”/activity to go with it, usually self-reflective or service oriented.
5. Christmas Breakfast-
This is a tradition that traveled over from my child-hood. Instead of a big Christmas feast (though we usually do have something special and out-of-the ordinary for dinner), we do a big brunch. The fixings vary according to the ingredients available but every year but one we’ve had our Orange Rolls (recipe coming soon)!
6. The Biblical Christmas Story-
We may read excerpts as part of our devotionals but on Christmas Eve we try to read the entire Christmas story from the Bible (we prefer the Luke version in the King James Bible). Last year we had enough members in our family and a new baby, so we acted out the story. Though our shepherd (then 2 yrs old) kept getting distracted, we still had a memorable experience that I hope will become tradition!
7. Birthday Party for Jesus-
On Christmas Eve we have a “special”(meaning out of the ordinary) dinner and then have a small birthday party for Jesus. We make a white cake with white frosting to represent the purity of Christ. We also have a small wrapped gift box that we put in our “gift to Jesus”. This is a small paper, with which is written a commitment to one aspect of our life we will strive to change or improve upon, to become more Christ-like, before the next Christmas. This is one tradition my kids ask about every year.
8. Homemade Gifts-
Depending on materials available (and Mom’s availability and patience ) we’ve done anywhere from making EVERYONE homemade Christmas gifts, to just concentrating on Grandparents. We’ve done many salt-clay creations, ornaments, games, bookmarks, picture frames, dolls, lamps, nativities, change dish, etc. What I love about this tradition is that the kids really start thinking about how to give of themselves in a way that someone will really treasure.
So, those are our favorites! We hope to keep refining them so we can make each year more meaningful. I would LOVE to hear about your favorite traditions, share with us how you celebrate this marvelous season!