‘Tis the season! At least 65% of the U.S. population is comprised of Christians. Most of them, at this time, are preparing for the 2021 Christmas celebration, just ahead. In fact, millions of people throughout the world are doing the same. It’s no secret that, in recent decades, mainstream media and marketing strategists have succeeded in commercializing Christmas. In an ironic twist, some manufacturers have capitalized on products that encourage less materialism and more spiritual focus. You can purchase magnets, t-shirts and other attire that says “Jesus is the Reason for the Season.” Many parents are growing weary of all the hustle and bustle and searching for ways to simplify their Christmas traditions.
Children are naturally amiable. In most cases, they’re easily entertained, although I think that’s become an arguable point as time goes on and kids are more “plugged in.” For the most part, however, I believe the average child (even a teenager) delights in family customs during the holidays. It doesn’t have to be “Christmas in Bora Bora” at a 5-star hotel. In fact, you don’t even have to leave your general location. If you want to slow down, simplify and spend time focusing Jesus and family and other worthwhile themes this Christmas, this post contains 5 easy-to-implement Christmas traditions for you to enjoy!
Advent Christmas traditions aren’t just for Catholics anymore
Among the 65% of Christians in the United States, approximately 22% of them are Catholic in denomination. Many Catholic families celebrate a liturgical season known as “Advent” in the four weeks preceding Christmas Day. A central focus of this custom is the Advent wreath, which is typically made of greens and four candles — three purple, one pink. Each candle (and therefore, each week) represents a particular spiritual focus. A new candle is lit each Sunday, until all four candles are lit.
The first week is the week of “hope.” The second is the week of “peace.” Both of these candles are purple. The third week, you light the pink candle — for the week of “joy” because it signifies that there is only one more week of waiting to follow until the Advent journey is complete! The fourth week is when you light the final purple candle. It is the week of “love.”
As each new week’s candle is lit, the previous weeks’ candles are also lit. In other words, by the fourth week, all four candles are to be lighted. As part of your Christmas traditions surrounding an Advent wreath, you and your family can take turns reading aloud from the Luke’s gospel in the Scriptures. It is the only book of the Bible that tells the story of Jesus’s birth and childhood. Reading a little of the story each night while sitting around the warm glow of candlelight is a nice way to pause and focus on “the reason for the season” in the weeks leading up to Christmas Day.
Make cookies, cocoa and movies part of your Christmas traditions
Yes, you can bake cookies or drink hot cocoa or watch movies any time. If you set aside a specific day and add a few special touches, this family activity can become part of your cherished Christmas traditions! Early in the day, you can have some Christmas music going in the background to set a festive mood. Gather everyone together to bake several types of cookies or favorite holiday treats. It’s always fun if at least one kind of cookie requires decorating with icing.
Later in the day or at night, if you prefer. (I suggest “day” because there’s something out of the ordinary and fun about letting the kids stay home from school and Mom and Dad taking off work.) make some hot cocoa to go with the cookies you made and snuggle up to watch a few Christmas movies. Try to choose movies you haven’t seen before, including some classics, such as “It’s a Wonderful Life,” or “Miracle on 34th Street.”
To really make your cookie/cocoa/movie day memorable, let everyone stay in pajamas the whole day. If you can get some special Christmas pajamas, that’s even better, but everyone’s “favorite pj’s” works just as well.
Drive around to see Christmas light displays
Even as my children got older, they still loved to pack into our van to drive around surrounding communities to see Christmas light displays. In our house, this was yet another occasion that called for pajamas! There’s something silly and fun and festive about going for a car ride in pajamas! If your kids are like mine, they’ll take it to the next level and bring blankets and pillows along for the ride, as well! Check ahead to see if there are any “super displays” in your area. Various municipal groups or groups raising funds through donations for a particular cause often put on massive displays at local parks that visitors can drive through to enjoy.
When you return home after your Christmas light drive, have a special snack or treat together, play some games, read a Christmas story aloud. or watch some more Christmas movies for fun!
Explore Christmas around the world
It’s interesting and fun to learn about Christmas traditions from other countries and eras. You can get some books from the library ahead of time or use your computer. Let each family member choose a time in history, an ethnicity or country to explore. You can add to this tradition by making a craft or specialty food that you learn about. If you really want to make a day of it, you can make something from every country or era you choose!
Make it an old fashioned family Christmas, at least for one day
Spend some time as a family making old fashioned decorations, treats or gifts this Christmas season. Ideas might include the following: pomander balls, strings of popcorn and cranberries, or Victorian-style “cracker” toys that are filled with sweets and little gifts. Perhaps your kids would enjoy making hand-made Christmas cards to send to a local nursing home or overseas, to our military service members who are deployed and away from their families this Christmas. Have you ever roasted chestnuts over an open fire? This is an old-fashioned Christmas custom your family is likely to enjoy!
In the words of Tiny Tim
“God bless us, every one!” says young Tim as a blessing over the Christmas feast in the final scenes of “A Christmas Carol.” Tiny Tim’s message symbolized a change of heart in old Scrooge. Many of us have felt our hearts harden a little, our minds grow weary and our thoughts become cluttered and stressed during a year of politically-induced chaos and strife. Now is as good a time as any to focus on the true spirit of Christmas. Our children, especially, deserve innocence, simplicity and Christmas traditions they will fondly recall when they are grown and on their own.
The five Christmas traditions shared in this post do not cost a lot of money and only require a few basic preparations. God Himself came to earth in the form of an innocent, helpless infant. He came to show us how to live and how to love. Jesus chose a mother and father to be His holy family. This family spent time together. They prayed together and played together and worked alongside each other. The Family of Nazareth shared life with members of their community. This included festive occasions such as weddings and religious customs.
Gather your family together this season. Let everyone slow down. Share laughter and simple joys together as you prepare your minds and hearts for the great celebration of the Nativity. Choose Christmas traditions that help you focus on “Emmanuel,” which means, “God with us!”