This is the most wonderful time of the year, but it is also the busiest. Here is a list of the best Christmas Traditions for a Christ-centered holiday to help you simplify and refocus this season what really matters- Jesus! Let’s aim our little ones together this season- away from the mainstream Santa business and on to a lowly manger in Bethlehem.
So often our Christmas celebrations end with a stressed Mama, a maxed-out credit card, and children who are focused on everything but the true meaning of Christmas. Christmas is all about Jesus. It isn’t about the Christmas carols, evergreen trees, or even our family traditions. It’s all about the birth of Christ- the greatest gift ever given.
The sad truth is, though, as Christian parents, we feel like we are fighting an uphill battle to keep our kids focused on Jesus while the world screams Santa Claus and presents.
The season of Christmas should be focused entirely on Jesus Christ and the gift of salvation.
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How can we aim our children at Christ this Holiday season?
The unfortunate thing about Christmas is that if you don’t actively seek to make Jesus a part of the celebration, He will be overlooked. There are very few things in our culture that openly point to Jesus this time of year.
Christmas is everywhere. It’s printed on coffee mugs, t-shirts, and billboards. Christmas lights hang from a Christmas tree around nearly every corner. The Christmas holiday is full of fun traditions that completely forget the real reason we celebrate.
But here are 16 new traditions that help us celebrate a more simple, Christ-centered Christmas!
16 Christmas Traditions for a Christ-Centered Christmas
1. Have a Birthday Party
Oddly enough we don’t generally think of Christmas as a birthday party even though that is exactly what it is.
It is the day when we remember the birth of Jesus.
My sister’s family has a tradition where rather than starting Christmas morning with Christmas gifts and family time around the tree, they have a birthday party. A beautifully decorated red velvet birthday cake represents the blood that Jesus so lovingly shed for us. Balloons and streamers adorn their walls as they gather around to sing Happy Birthday and read the Christmas story.
It doesn’t have to be expensive or elegant, but taking time to remember what we are celebrating by throwing a small birthday party brings so much joy to our children. It takes the focus off of gifts and Santa and instead places it where it should be: on Jesus!
So make a simple birthday cake, blow up some balloons, and let’s celebrate our Savior this Christmas season.
2. Journey to Bethlehem
What must it have been like all those years ago to pack up and travel to Bethlehem?
Well while we can never truly know, we can play a little game to remind us of that first Christmas.
Load up a picnic basket with apples, honey, herbs, and unleavened bread (tortillas will work). If it is dinner time you may even want to add in some meat like roasted lamb. Have fun and get creative as you load up your donkey and head for Bethlehem.
And if the inn is full, don’t sweat it, I know of a little stable where we can rest and eat for the night!
3. Re-enact the First Christmas
My kids love putting on shows. Whether it is singing, reciting a verse, or creating a puppet show- they adore it. If your kids are the same, re-enacting the first Christmas may be a great way to refocus your family on the true meaning of the season!
If your kids are older they may want to take the lead on this one and plan out the entire show. Smaller kids may need your help planning it, but this is a great opportunity to teach them about the first Christmas as they recreate it for the family to enjoy.
4. Worship Together
This is such an amazing tradition because it requires no extra spending, no planning, and no mess!
Turn on some worship music and just be present together.
Let the Spirit of God move through your home. Let tears dim your eyes and don’t hide them from your family.
Your children should see their Mama worship.
They should see the soft spot you have in your heart for your Savior. Let them see it in you and someday they will hopefully desire it for themselves as well. Let worship be part of your family’s Christmas traditions.
5. Give this Christmas Away
Christmas is the season of giving, but we can easily get wrapped up in what we will be getting. Or even in the financial side of it for that matter!
Giving Christmas away may look like shoveling snow off a neighbor’s driveway or inviting an elderly woman at church over for dinner.
God gave His best for us, and we remember and share that love by giving our time to others. This is a great season to get your children involved and teach the whole family about the heart of giving while also reminding them that God’s gift was the greatest ever given.
6. Christmas Devotionals
Daily devotionals leading up the Christmas day help to put our hearts and minds in line with the reason for the season. Sometimes we get caught up in all the sideshows of Christmas- the lights, decorations, and Christmas movies. When Christmas day rolls around, we fight to put our hearts in the right posture, but deep down we feel like we are missing it.
A heart fixed on Jesus at Christmas time doesn’t start under the tree on Christmas morning. In fact, if we aren’t careful that will be the last thing on our minds amidst all the ribbon and crumpled paper.
Check out our FREE ebook: 12 Days of Christmas Devotional for Children for daily scripture reading, thoughtful commentary, guided questions, and activities for the whole family! Let’s aim together this holiday season!
7. Communion/Foot Washing
We generally associate this with Easter, but the truth is Christmas doesn’t exist without Easter. Without the cross and the resurrection of Jesus, this baby born in a stable is nothing more than a tale of what seems like misfortune. But when you realize that the baby in the manger is the Word of God who took on flesh and came to restore His creation back into fellowship with Him. Well then a humble manger scene becomes the greatest gift of grace this world has ever known.
So let’s celebrate this season by remembering the sacrifice this precious child would be. How He- the Creator of all became like His creation. He humbled Himself and served others by washing their feet.
He broke bread with them, a symbol of His body that would soon be broken for them. And He drank from the cup, a symbol of the blood He would shed for us, as He drank the cup of the Wrath of God.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
8. A Special Family Christmas Dinner
A few years ago I was talking with one of my Aunts about how her family celebrated Christmas night. We always do Christmas lunch with our extended family and we usually go to my mom’s that night and fill up on finger foods while all the cousins play. But my Aunt told me about how her family always makes a big dinner- something they generally wouldn’t have on an average night like a prime rib. They make a beautiful feast and eat by candlelight.
That sounded so amazing to me, that I had to adopt the tradition.
We don’t always get to do it on Christmas night or Christmas Eve, but we always make time for it somewhere in our celebration. There is something about gathering around the table with your family that just rolls up into praise for Jesus. Look around the table, your family all seated. No doubt there will be some spilled juice and a lot of “Don’t blow out or touch the candles!” But you will feel your heart swell with gratitude as soft worship music plays overhead and you glance around the table at your favorite people.
* As a side note this doesn’t have to be expensive. The best Christmases are the simple ones, Just try to change it up from a normal weeknight meal. If that means chicken nuggets and mac and cheese, then that is fine! For simplifying Christmas this year, check out our blog: How to have a simple Christmas!
9. Read the Christmas Story (Luke 2)
This one probably goes without being said, but if we aren’t mindful we will wind up reading The Night Before Christmas and forget to read about the nativity story. Simply gather your family around the tree, the fire, or the dinner table and read Luke 2. You may have to shorten it some for a toddler audience, but make sure to tell why this first Christmas was so important and why this is a special time of year.
So often our children can repeat the rhetoric, “Christmas is Jesus’s birthday,” but in their hearts their only real concern is presents. Our Christmas season can be focused on everything but Jesus, and we as Mamas have to actively put Christ at the center of our celebration. How often do we celebrate the birthday of Jesus and forget to invite Him to the party?
In the chaos of our culture and the sudden push that Christmas is actually one of the many pagan traditions, you may be wondering if you should even celebrate. That’s a good question, and ultimately we want a biblical answer! Check out out blog Should Christians Celebrate Christmas?
10. Decorate Your Home to Point to Jesus
I love decorating the house for Christmas. When I was a kid my mom transformed every surface of our home at Christmastime. My friends still ask me every year if my mom is putting up her giant tree with all the ornaments she has collected over the past forty years. It’s become a hallmark in my mind, but Christmas is not about the bright lights or holly.
When my husband and I put up our first tree, we had only a handful of ornaments to adorn it. Our kids made salt dough ornaments to decorate it and we hung a banner across the front that simply read, “Jesus.” It was more about covering up the holes in the tree, but as we sat back and looked at it in the dark winter night, we knew that this was how our tree would always be.
Don’t get caught up in the perfect pages of a magazine or an Instagram influencer online. Your home should reflect you and at Christmastime- it should reflect what we are celebrating- Jesus.
This can be easily done to bring our children back into remembrance of why we are celebrating. Just call the star on your tree the star of Bethlehem. Spray your windows with fake snow and let your children draw the manger scene with their fingers. Keep it simple, and keep it Christ-centered!
11. Gingerbread Nativity Scene
When I was a kid we used to go to my Aunt Sandra’s house every Christmas and make a gingerbread house with all our cousins. I have so many fond memories of chocolate chip reindeer poop on the roof and all the laughs we shared.
As a dye-free family, gingerbread cookies have been tricky the past couple of years. While I have a chocolate gingerbread recipe I swear by, decorating is usually just white icing. This year; however, we are stocked up on dye-free sprinkles and candy canes (I’ll leave a link in the Shop this Post section down below!) and I wanted to go all out!
What better way than with a gingerbread nativity scene?
Of course, you can make your own if you’re feeling extra crafty, but I’ll leave a link to a nativity scene in the “Shop this Post” section below!
12. Hot Cocoa and The Tale of the Candy Cane
What is Christmas without Hot Cocoa? Well, actually it is still Christmas, but I do like hot chocolate! My son loves to cut out snowflakes this time of year, so we usually take a family night to sip on some peppermint hot cocoa and cut out snowflakes together.
As I was planning some Christ-centered Christmas traditions this year and looking to refocus this one- I remembered something.
My Grandma used to have a blanket she kept tossed over the end of her couch at Christmastime. It had a poem, The Tale of the Candy Cane stitched onto it.
I would read it over and over. And to this day when I see a candy cane I think of this. Share this simple poem with your family as you enjoy hot chocolate on a cold winter night. Click here for a free printable of the poem!
13. A Christmas List for Others
If you do gifts this time of year, then you know how easy it is for them to steal the spotlight.
As soon as the holiday magazines start arriving in our mailbox in early November, my kids start talking endlessly about what they want. I love seeing my kids light up when they get something they want, but I hate that we reduce the greatest gift ever given down to a Lego set underneath an artificial tree. Christmas is not about the gifts that we get.
One of the best ways to take our children’s eyes off of themselves is to get them to focus on someone else.
Whether they make a card for their Grandma, shop for a sibling, or take a child’s Christmas list from an angel tree, help them to focus on someone else this season. It is truly more blessed to give than receive. Let’s make sure they know that.
14. The Donkey in the Living Room
I grabbed this at Lifeway a few years ago on a whim. Little did I know it would become one of our favorite Christmas festivities.
Each day the children get a new character- a donkey, Mary, Joseph, etc. There is a small poem to go along with each wooden character as they make their way to Bethlehem. On Christmas Eve the stage is all set, but someone is missing from the little stable. Christmas morning erupts with the cry of new life, and at last, a small baby in a manger paints a complete picture.
You can utilize the Donkey in the Living Room in any way you like. We have wrapped the characters before and let the kids open one each night. We have also done this kind of like Elf on the Shelf and cleverly hidden the characters around our home for the children to find. In our house, each child takes time about holding each little wooden character as the poem is read to cut down on arguing over who gets to hold it.
I’ll drop a link to the Donkey in the Living Room in the “shop this post” section down below!
15. Christmas for the Birds
I got this idea from Berenstain Bears’ book, but I think it has such a deep sentiment!
In the book, the Bear family hangs pinecones covered in peanut butter and birdseed on the trees outside for the squirrels and birds to enjoy at Christmas.
My kids loved this idea, and so did I!
But this is also a great time to share Matthew 6:25-34 with your little ones. God cares for the birds of the air and the flowers in the field. The birds don’t plant gardens and preserve their abundance for winter, and yet God provides for them. The flowers don’t sew their own clothes, but even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Use this time to show your children how much God loves and cares for them. He sent His son for them after all!
16. The Shepherd Short Film
This has become such a staple tradition in our home and it just might be one of my favorite traditions ever. This is a short film from the creators of The Chosen.
I realize there is some controversy within the Christian community over the show, and I am not here to comment on that. Watch this film alone first if you are unsure, it is only about 25 minutes. I personally think this film is thought-provoking, well-made, and powerful in its symbolism. Watch it here!
The Christmas season in our homes should look different than the ones on TV or recreated in the shop windows.
As Christians, Christmas should be entirely Christ-centered, and all of our traditions should be Christ-centered as well. If some part of your Christmas celebration is pulling you away from Jesus- throw it out. It is okay to not do gifts or a Christmas tree. Those things are fun, but they have nothing to do with the true meaning of Christmas.
Christmas has a purpose. It is a day when we remember the depths that love was willing to go to save His children. There is nothing greater than celebrating our God and all that He has done.
My friends, please if you do one thing this year, please just slow down and look up.
He did that for you. He humbled Himself and was born into a world that would reject Him. Through false accusations, mockery, and beatings, He would hold His tongue. He laid down His life, and He picked it back up again. All for you. Please don’t let a man in a red suit have the spotlight when Jesus laid down His life to save you.
Let’s refocus this Christmas on Him and adopt traditions that help our children focus on the true meaning of the season.