“Joy to the world, the Lord is come!” It’s that time of year again! Time for manger scenes lights, baking and Christmas carols. For my family, it’s also time for some family Christmas traditions!
When I was very young my family had traditions surrounding Santa and his reindeer, opening gifts in a certain order, and particular foods eaten for the holiday. Then, as I grew up, things changed. My parents divorced, and we split holidays between two different homes. We stopped seeing extended family at Christmas time. As the years continued December became a depressing time as several family members passed away during that month. Most of the family traditions I had grown up with fell by the wayside. My husband could tell a similar story of doing the Santa thing, a divorce, and things changing as he grew up.
Once I had my own children, however, this time of year became lively again, and we went in search of new traditions to call our own! We’ve also picked back up some of the ones from my childhood, as well as my husband’s. His Dad likes to decorate the front yard with lots of lights and things for Christmas every year, and my husband does now too. In my home we opened gifts under the tree from smallest to largest, (building the excitement I suppose), and then finished with our stockings last. We do that with our children now too.
Notes on What We Celebrate
My family does not participate in the Santa Christmas traditions. There is a lot of debate around this and other Christian vs. secular Christmas and pagan celebrations and so on, so I do quickly want to address some of that.
We don’t do Santa for several reasons.
- We want to teach our children that we give gifts, and they receive them, not based on behavior but out of love. The same reason that Jesus came to earth as a baby and ultimately died on the cross for us. He gave us this gift out of love, not because our behavior earned it.
- My husband works hard for the money he uses to buy the gifts, with the blessing of a job the Lord provided. I think he and God should get the credit.
- I always promised myself I would not lie to my kids. As far as I can remember, I haven’t. I’m not going to lie about there being Santa or the Easter Bunny or Tooth Fairy, etc. And before the question comes up, if they ask me a question I don’t want to answer, I tell them either I will explain it when they are older, or it’s nothing they need to know right now, or another similar response.
- Christmas traditions focusing on Santa tend to take the place of God. The story is that he can see you when you sleep and he knows when you are awake. That would actually be creepy for a human to do… And God is the only one who is always there and always knows what you’re doing. I remember in my home growing up too, it might be mentioned that we celebrate Jesus’ birthday for Christmas and we’d sing Silent Night, but the focus was all on being good to get what we want from Santa.
- There seems to be this acknowledgement that whatever a child asks Santa for must be under the tree on Christmas morning. That puts a lot of pressure on the parents to purchase items they cant afford or watch their child weep thinking Santa doesn’t care about them. There can be a social class issue too. When Santa brings one child the newest video game system, and another only gets some dollar store modeling clay, there are hurt feelings and I don’t want any of that for my family.
My children do know the story of Santa Claus. They know the original legend of the man that Santa as we know him now was based on, and they know that now he is just pretend.
I mentioned a couple other points above that I want to clarify too. For one, yes I know that Jesus was not actually born on December 25th. We celebrate on that day as an observance of His birth. Kind of like when my child’s birthday falls on, say, a Wednesday, we will chose another day for the celebration. Stockings are simply another way to present the presents (gotta love homographs, English is weird), sort of like a gift basket.
Christmas trees are a hot topic all on their own. Christians who are against them quote Jeremiah 10:3-4 which says, “For the customs of the peoples are futile; For one cuts a tree from the forest, The work of the hands of the workman, with the ax. They decorate it with silver and gold; They fasten it with nails and hammers So that it will not topple.” This does show that it was originally a Gentile custom. However, God doesn’t say here that it’s forbidden for His people to do it. In context He says that the Gentiles were worshiping the trees as idols, which was pointless because He is the one true God, and their idol is “worthless doctrine (verse 8).” He also says “Do not be afraid of them, for they cannot do evil, nor can they do any good.(Verse 5)”
My family does put up a fake Christmas tree every year. We don’t worship the tree. It’s a neutral object to decorate our home in celebration of the birth of the Christ. We decorate it with lights, because He is the light of the world, and ornaments that remind us of Him and of our loved ones.
I want to make sure to note here, that these are all our personal beliefs and ways we celebrate the season as a family. Each family is different. If you do Santa with your kids or don’t keep a Christmas tree, I’m not condemning you at all. I just wanted to explain what we do an why.
Our Family Traditions
**Please note, this post contains affiliate links, as well as links to other blogs. Read HERE for more information.**
Possibly my favorite of our Christmas traditions that I have done every year with my kids has been to make Christmas ornaments. Every year we do something new.
We’ve done salt dough:
Popsicle stick ornaments, photo ornaments, and more! This year I found these cute wood slice Christmas bauble shaped ornaments on Amazon! I’m going to let my kids paint them or draw on them with wood markers, whichever they’d like.
The Sparkle Box
Another one of our Christmas traditions is the sparkle box. The Sparkle Box is a book written by Jill Hardie about serving others at Christmas time. We read the book every year, and then we keep our own sparkle box as well! It’s a great way to live out our faith in celebration of the holiday.
I have never known a Christmas without sweet treats. About 6 years ago I found THIS RECIPE for cutout cookies, and now I use it every year! I love that you don’t have to chill the dough, and the cookies keep their shape really well! Once they are cool, my family all sits around the table together to decorate the stars, angels, mittens, and so on with colored frosting and lots of sprinkles!
Countdown to Christmas
We do a countdown to Christmas every year too. This is one of the Christmas traditions that I did with my family growing up. However, my family now does a different one each year. Partly because I just want to try all the things, and partly because we haven’t found one yet that works best for us. Once we did the “wrap 25 books then open and read one each day” countdown. Last year we did a countdown flip calendar with a Bible verse each day. This year might be the year, though, that we find “our countdown.” We’re doing a paper chain countdown! I created the paper strips and printed them, my older kids helped me put it together, and we have it hanging from the curtain tie-back by our tree. I’m excited to get started with it tomorrow! Here are a couple pictures of the chain in progress:
That free printable I mentioned in the title? It’s the paper strips and directions I created to make your own countdown paper chain! All you have to do is join my email list anytime through December, and the download will be sent right to your inbox! For those of you who already subscribe, the freebie will be sent out in the monthly newsletter for December! Just go to the subscribe box in the sidebar –> (or down after the comments on mobile) and enter your info. A welcome email will be sent to you with your free printable pdf copy! Please allow 24 hours for the email to go through. If you don’t receive it, please email me!
What are some of your family Christmas traditions? Are there other types of countdowns you’ve done? Share with us in the comments!