Today is the first day of Advent, and I’m getting giddy just thinking about Christmas. Christmas has always been my favorite holiday and I’m excited to see it through the eyes of my toddler this year. I love preparing for Christmas well in advance so I can enjoy the days leading up to Jesus’ birthday with peace and expectation, instead of last minute shopping. I have done the holiday scramble enough times to know it’s not my preferred way to spend the holidays, when at all possible.
Today I thought I would share our Christmas traditions with you. I have put a lot of thought into how we celebrate Christmas as a family in an effort to keep the focus on Jesus and why we are celebrating the season. I also want to cherish the time we have as a family this time of year. These traditions are a blend of my childhood traditions and some we started on Dominic’s first Christmas:
NEW ANNUAL ORNAMENT
Growing up my grandma gave each grandchild a new Christmas ornament every year. Each ornament from my grandparents is a reflection of their love and brings back so many memories as I hang them on my tree. My grandma also loved to find unusual ornaments, which makes the collection she picked out fun and random. I love Christmas trees that are filled with an assortment of ornaments collected over time and not all matching and color coordinated. I plan to continue this ornament tradition with our children. I most likely will pick out a random ornament because that’s the tradition I grew up with, but you could also assign a particular character (ie. Snowmen, Santa) or a color to each child. And if the thought of picking out an ornament for each child overwhelms you, you could also pick out a new family ornament each year. One fun idea for a family ornament is to pick out something that will remind you of something significant that happened that year, for example a dog ornament if you got a dog or a Hawaiian ornament to remind you of a family vacation. The ornament possibilities are endless!
MOVING “THE BOYS”
We have a Fontanini nativity set which I love because it’s plastic so it’s safe for children, but the pieces look so realistic. It was a special first Christmas gift from my parents when we were newlyweds, as this is the brand of nativity set I grew up with. The Fontanini sets are a bit pricey, but they are investment piece and a nativity set your family is sure to love for a lifetime. The set we have is similar to this one. When my mom was growing up the wise men (or “the boys” as my Grandpa fondly called them) were a special part of their Christmas tradition. The week before Christmas the boys would slowly start moving closer and closer to Jesus (thanks to my Grandpa moving them at night) and when everyone woke up on Christmas morning they always arrived at the manger.
THE STAR FROM AFAR
This year I purchased The Star from Afar set, which is a fun game for little ones that points to Jesus. Each day of advent you move the star somewhere in your house and encourage your child to find the star, which will of course eventually lead them to Jesus on Christmas day. There is also a nativity set, book, and Scripture cards to go along with the game. We bought the entire set and have been very impressed with the quality. I also love that a mom started this company and that it’s supporting a small business.
Dominic has this sweet advent calendar which was a gift from a dear friend and is a fun hands on advent calendar for little ones. I love that it is a visual reminder of how close we are getting to Christmas.
For Christmas presents, we have decided that each year our children will receive four gifts from mom and dad: something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read. Our hope is that there aren’t big expectations or let downs surrounding gifts since they will receive the same number of gifts each year. It also forces us to be very thoughtful and intentional about each gift we purchase.
ADOPTING A FAMILY
Growing up we would always adopt a family or a child to sponsor for Christmas and this is a tradition we would like to continue with our children. The church we currently attend puts together gift boxes for incarcerated youth and then delivers them to the prison on Christmas. No matter how you choose to give back during the holidays, it’s fun to get your children involved in the shopping and giving process. Older children could also contribute some of their own money towards the gift being given. Growing up I found that this was a very humbling and educational process in understanding how blessed we were to have presents under our tree and what a joy it was to help others experience joy during the holiday season.
Stockings are another one of my favorite traditions from childhood. Each year our stockings were filled with inexpensive items such as gum, socks, hair ties, lipgloss, toys, and candy. On Christmas morning, my sister and I were allowed to look through our stockings before waking our parents up and we had so much fun looking through them together. My parents always had similar items in each of our stockings, but often a different color or style.
BIRTHDAY CAKE FOR JESUS
While our children are young, I plan to make a birthday cake for Jesus with their help baking and decorating. Then on Christmas we will sing happy birthday to Jesus and eat the cake. I am hoping this will be a fun and hands on way for them to understand and connect that we celebrate Christmas because it is the day Jesus was born.
I hope this list of Christmas traditions was helpful and may even give you some ideas to try with your own family! Also, as we begin the holiday season, please remember that the holidays are a time to remember that you can’t do it all, that done over perfect is where it’s at, and that focusing on one or two special traditions is better than stressing out about getting it all done. Please don’t get overwhelmed trying to make the holidays so fun for your family that it leaves you burnt out. The best gift you can give your children is a mama that is present and joyful. I pray you can release yourself from the pressure of being Martha Stewart (preaching to myself here) and make some sweet family memories this Christmas season.
Do you have any special Christmas traditions? I would love to hear them in a comment below!