Truly, in every sense of the word, it is the most wonderful time of the year. I love everything about the Christmas season. I love the shimmer of lights in the night sky as I look out my back window. I love the worship of our Lord playing in every store. I love the excitement, the colors, tastes, and smells of Christmas. Everything about this time of year makes my heart feel full. One of my very favorite things about the Christmas season are the fun and meaningful traditions our family enjoys. At Christmas, more than any other time of year, I cherish so many of our family’s traditions. I thought it would be fun to share some of them with you here today. Maybe some will create a new and memorable tradition in your own family. If so, send me a note, I’d love to hear about it!
Tradition #1: Christmas Lights Night
Hands down, this is one of our kids favorite Christmas traditions. In fact, one year my son said, “You know, I love Christmas Lights Night so much it’s almost tied with Christmas.” Now that’s love! Every year, in the weeks leading up to Christmas, my husband and I choose a night to surprise them. We put the kids to bed as usual, wait about 10 minutes until they’re settled and not expecting it, then we BLAST Christmas music into their rooms, and run in shouting, “Everybody up! It’s Christmas Lights Night!” The kids stay in their jammies and grab their blankets. I bring hot chocolate and a special snack, then we hop in the car to drive around listening to Christmas music and look at the beautiful lights in our neighborhood. It’s such a fun night, and truly has carved beautiful Christmas family memories for the kids. It’s one of those traditions you just know they’ll carrying on with their own families, and I LOVE that!
Tradition #2: Be the Hands and Feet of Jesus on Christmas Eve
Now, we don’t follow this tradition every year. I will tell you though that when we do, it’s the most powerful of Christmas Eve’s for us. Every couple of years on Christmas Eve instead of attending church service, we feed and bless the poor. We want to teach our kids that while it’s good to be excited for all the good gifts Christmas brings. And, that worship in a warm, beautiful church blesses God’s heart, but for many people that is not their reality. The experience we talk about most often, and I believe made the greatest impression on the kids, was a year that we drove through a restaurant and bought hamburgers and stocked up on twenty dollars bills, then headed downtown. We stopped at every homeless person we saw, handed them a hamburger and $20, and told them how Jesus loved them. It was powerful to be the hands and feet of Jesus on the Eve of His birth. This style of Christmas Eve celebration pushes us out of our comfort zone for sure, but it’s a poignant and meaningful tradition.
Tradition #3: List Making and Santa Visit
My kids are now 8 and 12, and they still enjoy this annual Christmas tradition. I print off Christmas lists for each kiddo, we grab a hot chocolate. Then we’re off to visit all their favorite stores. They make their wish lists with all the goodies they hope to find under the tree on Christmas morning, then we pay a visit to old St. Nick. This is my opportunity to capture the quintessential Santa’s lap photo of the kids, and they deliver him their wish lists (Parent tip! Remember to take a photo of the list BEFORE your kids give it to Santa! I made that mistake one year!).
Tradition #4: How Do We Keep Christ our Focus?
I for one, have always been comfortable with my kids getting really excited about Santa. We’ve always helped them understand that Santa simply works for Jesus because HE is truly the giver of all good gifts. Santa is simply the delivery boy. I also believe there’s a powerful lesson to be found in enjoying the magical excitement about Santa. It teaches kids how to love, and believe in something they cannot see. That is an important connection to their faith in Jesus Christ. That said, Jesus IS the reason for the season and if we’re not intentional about our focus, it is easy for the Christmas commotion and a “getting” mindset to take front seat to the central point of Christmas – our beloved Savior. To help us stay intentional, we begin December with family meeting where we ask, “What ideas do you have for keeping Christ our focus this year?” We write a list and all month long we work on the ideas everybody came up with. When the kids come up with the ideas it’s meaningful to them. I never want them to love Jesus because they’re forced to, but because they get to and choose to!
Tradition #5: Celebrate Advent!
The advent of the holiday season is something many people are familiar with, but I love making advent a really meaningful part of our Christmas tradition. The definition of advent is the arrival of something highly anticipated. Celebrating advent is such a wonderful way to build hopeful anticipation over the birth of our Savior. Using advent to really celebrate the story of Jesus’ life, birth, death, and resurrection is another powerful way to keep Christmas focused on Jesus. Every year, I buy my kids a new advent calendar. This year I found a darling one on Jane.com, that provides a cute daily craft (some of my other favorites can be found below). Each day, when they enjoy their advent celebration I also challenge them to take a moment to thank God for His son, and to imagine for a moment that all the Christmas hoopla was suddenly gone. No tree. No candy. No presents. No lights. Nothing but the birth of the Messiah. Can they purpose in their hearts to still feel all the same excitement over that alone? Can they thank God for the gifts, but believe in their hearts and declare with their mouths that God is Lord, and that’s the greatest gift of all. We also enjoy reading or listening to advent devotions as the days lead up to Christmas. This year, a dear friend blessed us with a beautiful new edition, you can find it here. What a wonderful way to celebrate the season!
Tradition #6: Annual Christmas Clean Out
This is one of MY favorites – the kids, not so much. I get so excited for our Annual Christmas Clean Out. We choose a day (it’s a full day!) and go for it. We literally tear apart each kid’s room, one at a time. I mean we take out everything! We empty out all their drawers and make a bag of too small clothes to donate. We take every toy off every shelf. We dump bins and boxes. I mean everything goes into a big pile in the middle of the room. Then, we begin to sort. We sort the items into, trash, keep and give piles. There are a couple of rules; one, in place of their new gifts, the kids must choose at least five toys (or items) that are in good condition to give to less fortunate kids. Two, anything that’s broken or has missing pieces automatically defaults to the trash pile. After we’ve sorted, we do a thorough wipe down and vacuum. Then it’s time to put things away in a nice, organized way. I always use organizing tools like bins, boxes, shelfs, etc. to help things stay tidy (a least for this day). After we’ve tackled both kids’ rooms as a team, we do the exact same thing it the playroom. To help make it more fun and manageable, I do build in treats. We get to enjoy pizza for lunch between bedrooms, and when they’re all done, I have a special treat waiting for them. Interestingly, though they balk and drag their heels to start, when it’s all said and done, they LOVE the way their clean, tidy rooms look and feel.