I love Christmas. Every year I tell the kids that I’m not going to put up the tree. But I always end up putting it up. I love the decorations, the weather, the smells, the traditions–all of it.
Over the past three years, Christmas traditions have become even more important to me as our family has grown closer together. Traditions build memories. Traditions bring people together. Traditions place meaning around events.
Do you have family Christmas traditions? If so, I’d love to hear about them. Here are 10 simple traditions that are easy to incorporate and have been hugely meaningful to the Duffer crew.
1. Use Keychains as ornaments: This one I put on Facebook a couple of days ago. Instead of purchasing t-shirts and other souvenirs when you visit places and go on vacation, purchase a keychain. Nearly everywhere has cheap keychains for sale. Collect these and use them for ornaments. It’s so much fun to pull out your bag of keychains and hang them on the tree, remembering all the fantastic places you’ve been. We have keychains from all over the world.
2. Celebrate Advent: This may take a bit more planning, but it is so worth it. Purchase an Advent wreath or make one yourself. To see a short, two minute video on how to make an Advent wreath, click HERE. We do our Advent devotions on the four Sunday nights before Christmas, and then one special one on Christmas eve. Your devotions should be tailored to the age of your children, and should always include scripture. DesiringGod.org has a book of daily advent readings. While they are daily, they would give you ideas for your weekly meeting with your family. We use this time to discuss different topics that relate to Christmas (like hope and joy), plus we focus on part of the Christmas story. We also spend time in prayer, together. It’s a very intimate time, in the dark with only the light of the candle illuminating the room. It’s amazing how much the kids talk and open up in this atmosphere.
3. Keep a time capsule on your tree for each year: Another very easy ornament idea that creates memories. Take a clear ball ornament. Write down on a piece of small paper 2 or 3 events from the year. Roll it up and slip it into the ornament. Once inside it should unroll. Write the year on the ornament with a paint pen. If you do this every year, you’ll have a record of major family events and memories for each year.
4. Participate in “Operation Christmas Child”: Samaritan’s Purse is a ministry organization, and one of their biggest projects each year is “Operation Christmas Child”. Everyone is encouraged to fill a shoebox with small gifts for either a boy or girl. These boxes get shipped to children around the world, many who have never had a gift before in their lives. I’ve seen the impact of this when I was in Kenya. Let your children do the shopping with their own money. I have my boys work together to do a “boy” box and my girls to do a “girl” box. I want them to realize the joy in giving, and that the world is so much bigger than them.
5. Cane a Yard: We started this with some friends a few years ago and have come to love doing it. We purchase $1.00 plastic candy canes from Walmart–the large kind used for decorating. We then choose a friend’s house and wait until it is dark. After dark, we pile in the van and drive to the friend’s home. Stealthily we sneak into their yard and put the canes everywhere, leaving a sign on the porch that they have been “caned” and telling them to “pass it on”. It’s just a silly, fun thing that makes great and hysterical memories.
6. Use an Advent Calendar: An Advent calendar is a calendar to “count down the days” till Christmas day. We actually have two….one from Hawaii where each day we pull out a different Hawaiian “ornament” to decorate a Christmas tree and a vintage calendar that has a small mouse that we move from pocket to pocket until Christmas day. You can buy Advent calendars many different places (I’ve even seen Lego and My Littlest Pet Shop calendars with small toys for each day) or you can make your own. Here’s a website with lots of great make-your-own Advent Calendars.
7. Pick a favorite Christmas Movie and declare it PJ’s and Movie night: Easy as pie—just pick out your favorite cheesy movie, make popcorn, Christmas cookies and other treats, and pile everyone into the living room to watch the movie. Elf is a great choice for older kids, younger kids would enjoy The Polar Express.
8. Read the real Christmas story: We sometimes do this on Christmas eve, and other times we do this on Christmas day. But don’t let your Christmas holiday go by without reading the story from scripture to your family. Luke 2:1-20 is a great passage to read. Be creative–let your children take turns reading if they can. Discuss the story–how did the shepherds feel? Where was Jesus born? Let your children see how important this story is to you.
9. Go Caroling: Your kids may say they hate this, but it’s a great way to make memories. And chances are, they don’t really hate it. 🙂 Choose senior adults that can’t get out much or visit a nursing home. Sing carols your kids are familiar with so they don’t feel embarrassed. You only need to sing one or two songs at each place. Afterwords, go someplace fun for a treat, like a frozen yogurt or donut place.
10. Relax and enjoy each other: Yes, I know this isn’t a “tradition”. But I think we need to make it one. When we focus so intently on gifts and materialism, consumerism and the stress of the season, our children can sense it and will tend to stay away from us. But when we make the focus on spending time together and making memories together, your family will find themselves closer than ever during the Christmas season. I’ve seen this happen with my crew. Cherish these moments. Cherish your family. Cherish Christ during this season of celebrating His birth.