Evaluating Christmas Traditions for a More Meaningful Christmas


traditions more meaning christmas

There is a lot of talk this time of year about the true meaning of Christmas.  The fact that we are even having these conversations must mean that there are plenty of people feeling less than satisfied with their Christmas experience.  After all of the hustle and bustle, the deals and steals, the parties, performances and presents we are left feeling like we missed something.  Despite all of the holiday fun, somehow we’ve missed the mark.

When I was growing up, I really didn’t understand the amazing gift that Jesus was.  I didn’t quite grasp the depth of the meaning of His life {actually this still eludes me in large part}.  Christmas was a joyous occasion in our home for sure.  There were a lot of traditions, special foods, and happy family memories.  However, looking back, although we did go to church and had nativities and other Christ-centered decorations, music and activities, my focus was on candy, Santa and what would be under the tree on Christmas morning.

My parents were faithful but somehow the true meaning of Christmas got lost in the shuffle. I am in no way suggesting to forgo exchanging gifts, decorating trees and all things Christmas.  Rather I am suggesting to find a balance this Christmas season, evaluating our traditions in light of our family values and goals.

Jesus came to redeem the lost and we, too, can redeem Christmas traditions for good.  With some careful consideration, we can discern whether our traditions are truly pointing our families to the real meaning of Christmas. My parents made sure that our Christmas was Christ-centered, and though it may have been lost on me in large part as a kid, when I grew and matured, those deeper meanings became clear.  What we do now as parents will affect our kids – maybe not overnight, in an instant – but in time.

Evaluating Christmas Traditions

Tradition is awesome.  I have passed on memorable family traditions to my kids and despite the passage of time, they are still enjoyed.  How can we evaluate our current family traditions to make sure that they are pointing our families towards the values that are important to us?  How can we celebrate traditions that add to the real meaning of Christmas rather than for tradition sake alone? Some traditions are rooted in Christianity, others are rooted in paganism but redeemable, and still others are rooted in paganism and not redeemable.

This is a highly personal endeavor, the results of which will be unique to each family.  In our home, if the practice can bring honor to the Lord, we will consider it as part of our celebrations.  As long as your decision is made with this in mind, it is my humble belief that your decision is pleasing to the Lord.

Romans 14:5-7  says, “One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it as to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks. For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.”

Traditions to Make Christmas More Meaningful

Decorate with nativity sets.  Having nativity sets in our home has been a great way to keep our kids’ focus on the meaning of Christmas.

Serve others as a family.  Serving, whether in the local homeless shelter or serving tea to your elderly neighbor, helps keep the focus off of ourselves and on others.

Deliver baked treats with a scripture.  Baking is not particularly Christian nor does it have much to do with the birth of Christ, but sharing them with others with a Christmas greeting or song certainly is.

Use an advent calendar, wreath or stories.  There are many great advent resources available that can help you and your family focus on the real meaning of Christmas each day.

Simplifying gift-giving.  Consider giving a family gift, 3 smaller gifts reminiscent of the wise mens’ gifts, or making gifts to give if you find the focus in your home is too heavily on receiving gifts rather than giving.

Find community events.  Our town has a Walk Thru Bethlehem Town that is not only great fun, but gives everyone a great sense of what it would have been like during the time of Christ.  Churches also often have Christmas plays or musical performances that are beautiful and worshipful.

Watch Christmas movies together.  After a long day of shopping, cooking, wrapping or other busyness, get cozy with the family and watch an inspirational Christmas movie.  We have watched The  Nativity Story, a very realistic look at the lives of Joseph and Mary,  the past few years and had some great conversations afterwards.

Let kids plan a birthday party for Jesus.  This may seem simplistic because – it is!  It will help younger kids to understand the basics about Christmas; it is Jesus’ birthday and Jesus is awesome!

Christmas crafts.  Lacking ideas?  No one in the age of Pinterest can honestly use that excuse any more!  Seriously, there are crafts even for craft-impaired people like me!   Our picks for this year?  Create a paper chain with 25 verses with the names of Jesus.  We may even go crazy and make our own Christmas cards.

Donate to an honest charity.  Charities that we have donated to are:  Operation Christmas Child, Samaritan’s Purse and the Heifer Project.

Attend a Christmas Eve service.  If your church offers this type of service and your kids are old enough, this can be a beautiful time to pause between the busyness of the preparations and the enjoyment of following day.

Read the Christmas story.   There are a million Christmas books out there.  The best one yet was written by God Himself.  On christmas Eve or Christmas morning before presents, take time to read the story of the birth of Jesus or have the family act it out.

Lighting the Christmas tree and singing Christmas carols.  You don’t have to perform at church or go caroling to enjoy the simple pleasures of Christmas centered songs of joy.

The Jesse Tree.  This is by far one of my favorite Christmas traditions, and one that adds a tremendous amount of meaning to our Christmas celebrations.  A Jesse Tree devotional is one that walks you through a daily verse about the coming Savior – from Genesis to the birth of Christ.  To see God’s plan of redemption, why we need it and how He orchestrated it all in the days and weeks before celebrating Christmas will change the way you and your family celebrate Christmas forever.

Studying prophecies of the Messiah.  Older kids can do a study of the prophecies of the Messiah and their fulfillment in Jesus.  Similar to the Jesse Tree and very powerful.

Sending Christmas cards.  Taking the time to connect with old friends or family that lives out of town (or country) is a big part of our Christmas.  Pray over each card as it is written.

How about you?  How do you focus your Christmas traditions on what really matters?


Marianne Sunderland

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