Christmas is a great time to gather, reflect, look forward, and make amazing memories with your family. If your family is like mine, it can get a little, well, stale, I guess, to do the same thing over and over. What we decided to do with our family is experiment with some unique Christmas ideas. The crazy thing about Christmas is that kids don’t really remember what they got for Christmas, but they do remember the experiences we created that Christmas.
Read on to discover a few fun, meaningful ideas for Christmas traditions you can start with your family this year.
BIRTHDAY PARTY FOR JESUS
One year we went all-out for a birthday party for Jesus: cake, candles, hats. We made Jesus the center of the holiday. Our kids were a little younger (three to five years old). Birthday parties are fun, and putting the focus on Jesus really made the point stick. Christmas is about celebrating the birth of our Savior— not Santa, not Rudolph, but Jesus. You can also get an Advent calendar and build up the excitement to the birthday party. The Advent calendar helps build anticipation for the day.
CHRISTMAS CARDS TO SOLDIERS
We did this last year. We talked about how a lot of mommies and daddies weren’t able to spend Christmas with their families because of their commitment to serve our country. Sometimes we can take for granted that we get to see our families on Christmas when many don’t. A simple note that says, “Thank you for serving,” “Thinking of you,” or “You are loved” can go a long way. This is also a great way to teach kids respect— respect for our country and respect for our fellow citizens.
GO SEE A MOVIE
I wish I could say Christmas was this magical time when all our kids played well with each other and didn’t fight, but, well… we decided that we’d head to the theater on Christmas Day and break up the environment. What was great about this is that it was exciting (going to the theater is always exciting for us) and gave the kids some time out of the house. When we got home, it was almost like Christmas morning again. They were excited to play with their gifts and to play with each other.
LOOK BACK AND LOOK FORWARD
Christmas is a great time to talk about all the good, the bad, and the ugly moments of that year. One idea is to go through your Facebook feed and look at all the fun times you had together. Christmas is also a great time to look forward. I’m a big fan of setting goals with your family. Think about the new year. What are some activities you want to do together? What are some skills you or your kids want to acquire (learning to ride a bike, writing a book, taking a vacation together)? I wrote a book called Creating a Family Brand. It has a step-by-step guide to doing this with your family. You can download it for free at http://parentingacademy.com/familybrand .
MAKE A JERUSALEM MEAL
One way to travel back in time is to make the meals that Joseph and Mary may have eaten at the time of Jesus’ birth. When I was in Israel this year we ate a lot of fresh vegetables, hummus, falafel, pita bread, schnitzel, shawarma, tahini, and baklava. You can Google some of these recipes and make them together with your kids.
HANDMADE GIFTS FOR NURSING HOMES
Roughly 60 percent of nursing home residents do not have regular visitors. That fact blows my mind. What a great opportunity to reach out to those who need love. Make some simple handmade crafts (find ideas on Pinterest) and go door-to-door at a nursing home and make someone’s day. We did this with our kids and passed out roses on Valentine’s Day. To see everyone’s faces light up was priceless. By the end we felt like celebrities. Folks were coming out of their rooms and following us around. Be sure to ask the residents questions. “Where did you grow up?” “What did you do for a living?” Be ready to listen. Making someone else’s day will make your day.
THE HISTORY OF CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS
Why do we do the things we do on Christmas? Pick one tradition each year and trace its history. What’s nice about this is that there are movies, books, and YouTube videos that help explain the history of certain traditions. Why do we have candy canes? Where does Santa come from? Why do we put baby Jesus in a barn? Why do we put a tree in the house and cover it in lights? There is a great book from Ace Collins called Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas. Pick one tradition each year and trace its beginning. The goal with these traditions is to help families value experiences over gifts. I’ve tried to list traditions that kids can participate in. We’d love for you to share some of your family traditions with us on social media using the hashtag #homefrontmag.