Ever since I was a little girl, my dreams have been filled with family Christmas traditions.
No matter what time of year it was, we were always counting down the days to some holiday or event. It wasn’t because we expected something grand either. We waited expectantly because we relished the memory of what was special.
Have you ever noticed that sometimes we get so busy trying to make a memory, we forget the necessary ingredients? Commercialism has made this super easy for us and Pinterest has taken over our idea of “celebration.” But the truth is, I don’t recall elaborate gifts, fancy meals or Pinterest-perfect activities. What I recall has always been in the simple life.
Take, for example, pancakes.
Every Saturday morning growing up we had pancakes. It wasn’t fancy. There were no chocolate chips or whipped cream topping. They were not served by a waitress. In fact, most of the time we were limited to 2 pancakes to keep the cost down. But…we didn’t notice any of that.
What we noticed was how Mama behaved while waiting to flip the pancakes. There is just something about your mama breakdancing in her nightgown and slippers on the kitchen floor that makes a memory. Not just any memory…it’s a memory that my sister and I treasure and recount often.
When I think about being a parent, I think this kind of memory is what I want for my kids. I don’t want them to care about the missing chocolate chips or the fact that we rarely eat out. I want them to live in the moment of whatever circumstance they are handed. That’s what my mama did.
And that’s what family Christmas traditions should be about, too.
Who cares about nicely wrapped packages, expensive gifts, or elaborate meals? I can promise you that your kids don’t. They care about memories. They care about the moment. So instead of focusing on all the things that get our holidays stressed out, why not focus on making sweet memories through family Christmas traditions the kids will talk about with their grandkids?
5 Simple Family Christmas Traditions
1. Spread the Love with RACK
Christmas countdowns are all the rage and yes, I love them too. Why not create a countdown that is OTHERS focused instead? Our favorite family Christmas tradition is RACK (Random Acts of Christmas Kindness). The idea is simple – each day in December we look for a simple way to do something nice for someone else. We try to think of the places we already intend to be so we don’t add to the schedule.
We’ve put candy canes on cars at the grocery store. We’ve attached money to the front of the vending machine in the hospital while there for our regular MRI. We’ve even bought lunch for the car behind us in the drive-thru.
I hope you’ll join us with this family Christmas tradition. It’s an incredibly fun way to give back and make memories all at the same time. My kids still laugh about the time when we almost got caught running away from a friend’s house because they came home early…right as we tried to RACK them with a special treat on the front porch.
2. Have a Gingerbread Nativity party
Another favorite and unique tradition we have is an annual gingerbread nativity party. Instead of making gingerbread houses, we make gingerbread nativity scenes. We invite a handful of friends, ask them to bring over a few bags of their favorite candy, and the creation fun begins.
All you need is a box of graham crackers, icing, bags of candy, and extras like shredded coconut and fruit roll-ups. We took a trip to the store and dreamed up all the fun things we could use. It’s incredible how creative kids are with things like this!
And yes, both of these gingerbread nativity scenes were made by children without me giving any ideas at all. At the time, they were ages 9 and 11!
Now don’t panic with the mention of the word “party.” It’s not as crazy as it sounds. Some years we’ve simply had a few friends over and played some background music. Other years we’ve gone all out with nativity related activities. Both just as much fun!
- Play nativity music in the background. (Create a playlist of songs with manger or stable in the title.)
- Have the kids act out the story of the nativity using some extra fabric for headdresses and any other props they can find. (It’s super fun to let older kids get creative with this.)
- Read a children’s book about the nativity. You’ll find a great list of Christmas books for kids here.
- Set up a kid-friendly nativity set and act out the story.
- Play “Find the Star.” Simply have someone hide a star ornament and let the kids race to find it.
- Play “Pass the Star.” Simply use a star ornament as the “hot potato” and pass it around while playing music.
- If you don’t want to make the gingerbread nativity, do a craft of a star or baby Jesus. (Lots of simple ideas on Pinterest.)
3. Go on a Christmas Lights Scavenger Hunt
Every year we jump in the car and drive around to see the Christmas lights. It’s a tradition to do it in our jammies, complete with cuddly blankets and hot chocolate in those fun “coffee cups” with lids. We put in our favorite Christmas CD and it’s an absolutely free memory.
One thing we started doing was a Christmas lights scavenger hunt as we enjoyed the lights. It’s an added element of fun that my kids absolutely adore!
Check out the post for full details on how we do it, extra games to play, and of course, a free printable Christmas lights scavenger hunt!
4. Eat Cake For Breakfast (One of our Favorite Family Christmas Traditions!)
One treasured family Christmas tradition in our family is making a birthday cake for Jesus. This is one tradition we NEVER miss, no matter what. However, it has looked very different from year to year. When the kids were little we would bake a small 6-inch cake (since the dessert table is already overflowing this time of year) and decorate it on Christmas Eve.
Christmas morning always begins with singing “Happy Birthday” and eating cake. When else can you eat cake for breakfast? Now that my kids are teens I can testify they still LOVE that they get to eat cake for breakfast, even though the specifics of the tradition have varied from year to year.
On occasion, we’ve been out of town. During those years, we bought donuts and made a giant pile of donuts into a cake shape. One year, my youngest was diagnosed with a brain tumor in November, so we spent a lot of time in the hospital and chemo clinics during the holidays. Making a cake wasn’t our top priority, but the tradition still lived on in the form of sugar cookies. This one exactly sums up the beauty of a family Christmas tradition!
After we eat cake, we take turns reading the Christmas story from Luke 2. I love how this focuses the day on Jesus instead of presents. Yes, we eventually get to those, but Jesus is always the MOST important thing!
As the kids have gotten older, I have cherished the opportunity to watch them grow and take responsibility for things like helping to bake the cake and read the Scripture. It’s so beautiful when they own the family Christmas traditions!
5. Celebrate Advent
Growing up Protestant, Advent wasn’t really a season we knew much about. However, in recent years it’s gained popularity both with Christians in general and with our family. The celebration of Advent is a fantastic way to keep a Christ-centered Christmas because in following the Advent journey we learn more about who Christ really is.
Candy and trinkets are fun, but this year be sure you stuff your Advent calendar with this Printable Advent Calendar for kids. It’s a fantastic bite-sized reading plan the whole family will love. You can also make it a countdown chain of Scripture to make sure your family Christmas tradition is centered right where you really want it to be!
Share your ideas
What other Christmas traditions does your family enjoy? I’d love to hear! Share in the comments below.