For many, Christmas time is full of family traditions. Whether it be setting out cookies for Santa or watching a specific movie every Christmas morning, most families have something they enjoy doing together as they celebrate the birth of Jesus during the holiday season. Regardless of if you have 20 Christmas traditions or none, bringing a child home and celebrating your first Christmas together can be a wonderful time to start new traditions! Traditions create connectedness among family members, helping you to enjoy one of the greatest joys of the holiday season—being together!
5 Christmas Traditions for Your Family
1. Decorate Together
Instead of decorating the house alone, find a time everyone is available and make an evening (or even a whole day) out of decorating for the upcoming holiday! Decorating is something everyone can help with. If your children are elementary-aged, maybe they can be assigned to put up the plastic nativity scene. Or if you have teenagers, maybe they can help hang Christmas lights or wreaths outside. Regardless of the age of your child, there is something for everyone to do.
Even if your family doesn’t tend to put up many decorations, you can still make this experience enjoyable by playing Christmas music, making hot chocolate, and/or baking your favorite cookies. If this is your child’s first Christmas home, maybe this time it will include a special “early Christmas gift” of their family stocking—something that can be hung by the mantle with care and serve as a constant reminder to them that they belong in your family, not just this holiday season, but forever. Or maybe you want to incorporate a country-specific decoration to help celebrate your child’s heritage. No matter how you end up decorating, it will become special to your family, and that’s what matters most.
Holiday Tip: If your kids tend to fight on who gets to put the star on the top of the tree, create additional unique tasks for the other kids, including plugging in the Christmas tree to watch it light up, choosing the Christmas music to listen to while decorating, picking a Christmas movie to watch after decorating, etc.
2. Send Christmas Cards Together
Sending out Christmas cards can be a great way to update those close to you on what happened over the last year. Most Christmas cards include photos or a short update on your family, but the best part about Christmas cards is that they are unique for each family! These cards can also be a special momentum to hold on to year after year as you watch your family grow! You can keep them in a photo box, scrap book, or incorporate them into your future Christmas decorations to watch your kids grow up year after year.
Receiving Christmas cards and hanging them up somewhere for your child to see can also be a good Christmas tradition as it can help your children to recognize and learn the people who are dear to you, especially those who supported and helped you as you were bringing your child home.
Holiday Tip: Make a plan in advance. If you’re anything like most families, without a plan in place, Christmas cards can quickly be forgotten about. Ask yourself the following questions: “What photo will we use? When do I need to order them? When do they need to be addressed and dropped in the mail by?” Don’t feel like the pressure is all on you though, kids can help stuff cards into envelopes, put stamps on preaddressed cards, and seal envelopes. This too can be an activity you do together as a family!
3. Serve Together
Service is an important part of the holiday season for many families. Some serve with their church or a local nonprofit, others will create a project just for their family to do, like filling and distributing bags to the homeless. Regardless of what you choose to do, serving together can be an influential part of your child’s development—helping encourage characteristics like selflessness, humility, gratefulness, and compassion.
Holiday Tip: If you have never served as a family before, start by signing up for a project organized by your church or another local nonprofit. As you serve year after year, maybe, your kids will have some ideas of their own of the needs they see in your community and how your family could help meet one of those needs.
4. Do Something Special Together
Each family is unique, and each family member has different things that interest them. Regardless of what interests your kids have, find something special to do together. Here are three ideas to help get you started!
Read the Christmas Story Together: Whether you have young kids and are reading from a storybook Bible or your kids are older and reading the story themselves, reading the true Christmas story is a wonderful way to come together as a family and recenter your attention on the true meaning of Christmas. When you are confident your kids know the story well, you can try to recite the story instead of reading it. You can “popcorn” your answers to make sure people share only when they are comfortable and confident in their answers. Telling, or you could say teaching, the story instead of only reading it can help the details to develop into a long-term memory.
Look at Christmas Lights Together: Whether it be during the month of December or Christmas Eve night, looking at Christmas lights can be a magical experience for kids and adults alike. You can take a short drive in the neighborhood or visit a notable light display; regardless, this will likely be a memorable time for your family to share—talking, listening to Christmas music, maybe even popping popcorn to bring on the drive, turning the lights into a movie-like experience.
Bake Cookies Together: Whether it’s a family favorite made from scratch or classic sugar cookie dough bought from the store, kids are sure to enjoy this holiday tradition. If you are making sugar cookies, using cookie cutters can be a great way to get young kids involved! Or, if your kids are a bit older, decorating the cookies with icing, sprinkles, crushed candy cane, and more can help promote creativity! High schoolers may even enjoy the challenge of putting together and decorating gingerbread houses.
Holiday Tip: Don’t be scared of a little mess! Sometimes a little flour in the air and in your hair makes for just the right recipe for a family favorite memory. Remember, you can always clean up later. But, if you are looking for a tip to help keep things clean, decorating cookies on top of a baking sheet lined with wax paper can help catch the drooling icing and all those loose sprinkles.
5. Be Together This Christmas
Above all, do all you can to spend time together as a family this Christmas season. More than anything, kids care about connecting with you. Maybe you’re working extra to meet your end- of-year work deadlines. Maybe you’re taking on extra shifts to help cover Christmas expenses. Maybe you’re busy traveling to see extended family members. Whatever you have going on, try to make the most of the time you do get to spend together. As cheesy as the saying is, your presence is the greatest present!
Holiday Tip: According to the Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development, mindfulness is essential to connection. Mindfulness is the act of being present and aware in the moment. It is telling your child through your actions, “I am here for you.”
“I am not just in the house. I am here for you.”
“I am not just in the car. I am talking with you and listening to you.”
“I am not just sitting beside you. I am not on my cell phone.”
So, put your cell phone away, set aside time during the night to not check emails, set whatever boundaries you need to be there for your child during this special holiday season. Making an intentional effort to connect with them this holiday season will help show them that Christmas truly is a time of hope, peace, love, and joy!