7 Christmas Traditions You Can Start Now
by Cindi McMenamin
Does your family have much-anticipated Christmas traditions?
There’s something very special about traditions, especially when it comes to our children. Traditions comfort us in a constantly changing world. They remind us of the value of vintage and the lessons we can learn from the past. And children love them (and even crave them if they find their family doesn’t have many).
Since we live in a society that values the latest high-tech gadget and the newest or most expensive name-brand item, be a family that stands apart by valuing the special memories that happen when old traditions are honored and new traditions are started. Even if you have one or two that you‘ve practiced for years, try incorporating at least one new tradition this year. You might also consider letting each person in your family choose a new tradition to start each Christmas and assure them it will be passed on year-after-year.
Here are 7 ideas of Christmas traditions you can start this year.
- Make Christmas card placemats.
Several years ago I started feeling bad about throwing out beautiful Christmas cards my family received in the mail. But you can’t save everything. So, one year I asked my young daughter to pick out her favorite cards and we made a collage with the covers of the cards by gluing them onto a piece of cardstock and laminating them. They made lovely placemats the following year. And for years after.
With all of the photo cards you receive from family and friends, that’s a way to keep the memories alive and see how kids have grown through the years. If you have a large family, let each member select their favorite card and make one Christmas card collage placemat each year. Make sure to put the date on the front, or back, so you remember when the placemats were made and realize how long they’ve lasted.
- Frame your memories.
How often do you take out a picture album or scrapbook and look through it? Or, scroll through your Facebook or Instagram pictures from Christmases past? This year, take pictures at special holiday events, or just fun, candid shots around the dinner table or tree. Then do something with them.
Print your favorite one or two and put them in a nice Christmas-themed frame (that you purchase at a discounted price in the after-Christmas sales). These framed photos, brought out each year with the Christmas decorations, will keep your memories alive and be a reminder of precious Christmases past.
- Start a habit of heart reflection.
Things can get so busy at Christmas that we put our minds and hearts in cruise-control and don’t really talk to the One whose birthday is being celebrated. Don’t let this happen this year – for you or anyone else you love. Make a tradition of having “family reflection time” in the evenings over dinner, or around the tree before the presents are opened. Go around the room asking each person to share one thing they are thankful for this past year or this Christmas season. Then have each one say what they are looking forward to in the next year. Lead your family in a prayer summarizing your gratitude to God for all He’s done in your family’s life.
As you do this, you are not only making sure your heart is soft and grateful, but you are helping your children slow down and focus on the few things that matter in life, as well.
- Get into God’s Word.
What better time to get into the Scriptures than at Christmas when you are reminded not only of the gift of God’s Son – the Savior – but of His Word – our Sustenance. Try reading a Psalm a day to your family – aloud – for the 12 days leading up to Christmas. Or for the next 12 days. The important thing is you are slowing down, focusing on the reason for the season, and incorporating the Bible’s songbook (the Psalms) into your daily routine.
You can also read the Christmas story (Luke 2; Matthew 1:18-2:23) every day for 12 days or the next five days, (each time in a different translation) or until the end of December. The daily reading will slow you down, focus your heart, and start in you and your family a habit of reading God’s Word if you haven’t developed it already. Feel free to design your own reading plan, taking time to jot down any insights you gain and be sure to share them with someone else.
- Give of yourself.
I know you’ve heard this many times. I have, too. But sometimes I think we really don’t get it. And our kids don’t either. Giving of ourselves is what Christmas is all about. Yet, giving of ourselves is a lost art, partly because of the value our society places on personal spending and material items.
Begin this year to think of Christmas as a time to teach your kids to give of themselves. Model it to them first when you give your time, your talents, your service, your prayers. Don’t underestimate the power of giving someone hand-baked goods or coming over to help someone decorate, or just inviting them into your home for a meal. Give the gift of song and cheer by Christmas caroling with your family in your neighborhood the week of Christmas. Write a poem or song to a friend and frame it, draw or paint a picture and give it to someone. Those gifts mean so much because they came from within you.
God gave His only beloved Son so that we could be with Him forever. Jesus gave His life to that same end. What can you give each year as a personal sacrifice because of what God gave up for you? And how can you help your children adopt that tradition of giving of themselves, as well?
- Record your blessings.
Designate a cookie jar, a nice dish, or a ring that hangs on the wall and start recording on small slips of paper all that God has done for you and your family this next year. Jot down those amazing “coincidences,” the promotions, the situations in which you sensed God’s favor, or just the trips you were able to take, and memories you were able to make. Record the big blessings and especially the small ones.
As you take the lead on this, others may join in. (Or, like in my family, they tell me about the blessings, knowing I’m the one who jots it down, hole-punches it, and places it on our family’s “blessing ring.”) Read through all the little blessings on the slips of paper every Christmas Eve, on Christmas Day before opening presents, or on New Year’s Eve as a way of celebrating what God did in your family’s life the past year.
This will not only start a tradition of gratitude in your home and in your hearts, but it will make your family aware, all year long, of what God is doing in and around you.
- Spread the love.
Christmas can be the most difficult and depressing time of the year for many people. If they’ve lost someone and are especially reminded of it at Christmastime, or if their health has taken a downturn or if they are just alone, getting through the holidays can seem unbearable.
Consider adopting a neighbor, a widow from your church, a shut-in, or someone whom you know is having an especially hard time this Christmas. Explain to your family that this is your special gift to Jesus this year, to love this person in an extra special way. Include that person in your Christmas activities, invite them to your church’s Candlelight Christmas service, or leave a gift and some food on their doorstep, along with a note telling them they are loved.
Cindi McMenamin is a national speaker who helps women and couples strengthen their walk with God and have drama-free relationships. She is the author of 16 books, including the best-selling When Women Walk Alone (more than 130,000 copies sold), 12 Ways to Experience More with Your Husband, Ten Secrets to Becoming a Worry-Free Mom, and Drama Free. For more on her speaking ministry, books, or free articles to strengthen your soul, marriage, or parenting, see her website www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.