10 Beautiful Christmas Traditions to Start

Make Christmas magical together as a family. Here are 10 beautiful Christmas traditions to start this year.

10 beautiful Christmas traditions to start

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Growing up in a Catholic family, I loved going to midnight mass. It was the one time of year I was allowed to stay up late. The church was lit with flickering beeswax candles and bright red poinsettias were scattered over the alter. The choir filled the nave of the church with beautiful Christmas hymns. It was such a magical, spiritual experience. Traditions like this are so special. They create memories for us to look back on and think of fondly. They can also connect us at a time where busyness can overshadow the true meaning of Christmas.

There are lots of traditions you can start like taking holiday photos together. Perhaps you take them in front of the tree in the same positions so you can watch everyone change and grow throughout the years. Here are 10 beautiful Christmas traditions you can start right now.

10 Beautiful Christmas Traditions to Start

Light An Advent Wreath

In the Catholic Church as well as the Luthern Church, Advent wreaths are used to celebrate the four weeks in the liturgical calendar leading to Christmas. The wreath, also contains 4 candles. Traditionally, three purple and one pink. Sometimes there is white candle in the center. Some protestant wreaths, particularly in Europe use red candles. The candles symbolize the light of God coming into the world. Each week one candle is lit and is accompanied by prayers, scripture reading or Christmas devotional. Each week, an additional candle is lit until Christmas arrives and they are all lit. In the Catholic Church, this is typically done during the celebration of the mass, but it is also very common to have an advent wreath at home.

You don’t need to be of a certain denomination to use it. The wreath is about taking a moment of solemnity to remember the reason for Christmas – Christ and his coming into the world for us. If you’re looking for an Advent Wreath, I recommend these below.

10 Beautiful Christmas Traditions to Start
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Celebrate With an Advent Calendar

In our family, we celebrate the holidays by using an Advent calendar. An advent calendar counts down the days of Advent (4 weeks) before Christmas. Normally, each day on the calendar has a door, window or pocket to be opened one per day as you count down. Traditionally, a chocolate, trinket, or small toy is placed as a gift for whomever opens the door.

In my family, we don’t put gifts in it. Instead, we put memory-making activities on slips of paper. Every day, we remove the slip of paper and read that evening’s activity. Some are simple, like making hot chocolate together, watching a Christmas movie, or reading Twas The Night Before Christmas. Other are more time-intensive like building a gingerbread house or doing a Christmas craft as a family. To read my full list of activities see my post, The Ultimate Christmas Bucket List.

I can’t begin to tell you how special this has become to our family. With all the crazy rushing of Christmas, this helps us take some time as a family every evening and make Christmas magical for each other. Here are some of my favorite Amazon Advent Calendars.

Watch the Polar Express In Pajamas

One thing we do with our kids every year is watch The Polar Express. True to the story, we wait until it’s bedtime and once the kids are in their pajamas we surprise them with the movie. We serve hot chocolate at the same time they are serving it aboard the train to the kids. I even give my kids a golden ticket and a bell. It makes for a very special, magical evening. It’s something my husband and I really love doing for our kids.

Read the Nativity Story in Luke

One easy, beautiful tradition you can start is by simply reading the Gospel as a family. With all the focus on gifts, Santa, and holiday parties, the true reason for Christmas – Christ – can be easily swept under the rug. Taking time out as a family to read the living word of God helps to instill a focus on Christ. The most descriptive version of the nativity story can be found in Luke Chapter 2:1-20. We like to read it on Christmas Eve fireside.

family at Christmas

Ornament Exchange

When I married my husband, I learned his parents had kept a beautiful tradition going for forty years. Every year, the two exchanged ornaments. It had almost developed into a playful competition that the kids, now grown, still enjoyed witnessing. So when my husband and I got married, we agreed to continue that tradition. It’s actually quite special. It’s fun to hunt for that perfect ornament and it’s a lovely gift to look forward to on Christmas morning.

The exchange doesn’t have to be between mom and dad. It can be between anyone. Kids and parents. Siblings. Grandparents. Use your imagination. It doesn’t have to be bought either. One thing our family does as a tradition is make ornaments every year as a part of our advent calendar. My husband and I also collect them from everywhere we travel. One of our trees in our home is an eclectic mix of our collected ornaments over the years. We often gaze upon them and recall all those special trips and moments when we got them.

Help the Less Fortunate

Christmas is a time for giving alms, that is, filling a material need for someone who is less fortunate than us. As Christians, we are called to acts of charity towards our fellow brothers and sisters and Christmas seems to inspire a giving attitude.

Our family does several things at Christmas time. First, we give to the bell ringers of Salvation Army. You can find them outside departments stores. This is especially meaningful to me. You see, when my mom was a child they were very poor and she was the recipient of the used, donated toys from Salvation Army at Christmastime. Second, we fill shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child through Samaritans Purse. For some children, it is the first gift they’ve ever received. Moreover, it is an opportunity to introduce the love of Christ around the world as the program continues to minister to the children through a discipleship program.

Lastly we find local charities to help. We donate food to our local food pantry. In addition, we donate goods to our two main homeless shelters SAMMinistries and Haven for Hope. If you have children, get them involved. Instill in them a spirit for helping others. Christmas time is a great opportunity to spread the love of Christ with acts of kindness.

Make a Hot Chocolate Bar

Hot Chocolate is a staple of winter. I love making hot chocolate. More importantly, I love turning it into a fun event for my family and friends. For about seven years, I’ve been making a hot chocolate bar. Fill a slow cooker with hot chocolate so everyone can serve themselves. Then offer loads of toppings, syrups, and flavors. Kids love loading their cups with marshmallows and candies.

I make it fun for adults too. I love to include adult liqueurs like Frangelico, Bailey’s, Kahlua, Amaretto, etc. It’s actually quite fun to see adults get excited over it and every year people ask me about it. I set up the bar at the beginning of the season and it stays up all December. Then I keep the dry toppings in mason jars. I screw them up when they aren’t in use and open them up when gets come and make a hot crockpot of hot chocolate.

Read my post How to Make a Hot Chocolate Bar for the exact instructions on how to make one! By the way, I have the very best hot chocolate recipe you’ll ever have! You’ll never use another one after you try it.

Hot chocolate bar

Get Your Craft On

When it’s cold outside, indoor activities like crafting can be a fun way to spend time together. As I mentioned earlier, one thing we do is make an ornament every year. I also send out homemade Christmas cards to all our friends and family. It’s like my personal gift to each and everyone of them.

In fact, in my first marriage, my in-laws had a very special idea. One year, instead of buying gifts, we made gifts. This was one of the most special Christmases I’d ever had. It was amazing to see what everyone came up with. My ex-husband found some copper pipes left over from a house repair and put together a gorgeous copper wind chime. I broke down some old chipped dishes into pieces and created a mosaic trivet for my mother-in-law. Everyone came up with different ideas. I can’t even describe how taking the commercialism out of presents affected us. There was something so magical about that Christmas!

There are lots of things you can make and you can turn it into a family affair. Last year we made some DIY Christmas swags. It’s super easy! Even if it’s a total Pinterest fail, the memory of how awful it was will become one of those funny family stories. It’s all about making memories. Here are some things you can try:

  • Handmade Christmas cards
  • Homemade gifts
  • Make Ornaments
  • Gift Tags
  • Paint nutcrackers
  • Christmas sign
  • Make a Wreath or Garland
  • Hand stamped wrapping paper
  • Festive Decor

Look At Christmas Lights

This may not be a new one for you, but I’m including it because I think it is underestimated at times. Since we’ve been married, my husband and I have made this an annual tradition. Neighborhoods are fun to explore, but we enjoy a local commercial light display even more. We go to Santa’s Ranch, which is drive-thru property full of more than 1.5 million lights.

We bring lots of warm, cozy blankets and hot chocolate in a thermos, Christmas cookies, and sweets. Then pile in the car with Holiday tunes on the car radio. We always ask friends or family to come with us. It’s such a fun way to spend a frosty evening!

Additionally, some places to a live nativity. If you’ve never been to one, it’s impressive! These are often done by churches. They use sets, live people and animals to recreate scenes from the nativity story in the Bible. Normally you either walk or drive through the scenes. It’s so beautiful! Simple pleasures spent together are often the memories we cherish.

Christmas Eve Boxes

If you haven’t heard of Christmas Eve boxes, I’m excited to tell you. Christmas Eve boxes are curated boxes you give to family members in anticipation of Christmas. Think of them almost like gift baskets filled with everything they need for Christmas Eve night.

Some people only prepare them for the kiddos while others treat the adults to the fun-filled Christmas box too! Because, we’re all kids at heart, right? Traditionally, the boxes include pajamas, snacks, a Christmas book, and or a movie.

You don’t have to necessarily put them in boxes. I know someone who stuffs stockings with all the goodies. You can find my full tutorial on how to make Christmas Eve boxes here. I have lots of ideas on what to fill them with.

Make Christmas Magical

I hope you’ve enjoyed these 10 Beautiful Christmas Traditions to Start. Be sure to PIN this post for later and share it on social media to inspire others. Also, before you go be sure to subscribe to my blog for FREE printables, giveaways and other fun goodies. Have a Merry Christmas!

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The Reconnect Challenge

Holiday blues got you down? You aren’t the only one. I’m launching the reconnect challenge, a 30-day commitment that will not only help others but fill your heart as well.

the reconnect challenge

No matter what your religion, the holidays seem to inspire love, warmth, and gratitude to people everywhere. But for some people, the holidays are also combined with feelings of loneliness, isolation and even stress. The holiday blues are real and more than ever in this commercialized, digital world, we need the human connection. (Cue Charlie Brown Christmas special)

Feelings of loneliness can creep in during the holidays and there are a lot of reasons for it. Many people live far away from family. For others, the holidays call to mind all the people who have passed away. The holidays can become quite sad when you’ve lost a loved one. Holidays are forever changed without them.

Loneliness sets in when we feel disconnected from people. This is why you hear people say they can feel lonely in a crowd. It’s not always about being around people, it’s that there is little or no intimacy. People can feel lonely because they may feel no one truly cares about them or listens to them.

For some people, it isn’t so much sadness as stress. There are lots of pressures around the holidays. Seeing difficult or toxic family members, gift-giving, lack of money and lack of time are always stressors. For some, it is work bogging them down. Long hours and increased workloads can zap the joy right out of the season.

The Reconnect Challenge

That’s why I’m starting the reconnect challenge and I’d love for you to join me. I’m going to commit to reach out to one person for the next thirty days. I’m excited to see what it does for others as well as for me. What people need most is love, compassion, and kindness and I want to spread buckets of that over the holidays. It’s going to be hard with the hectic schedules of the holidays, but that’s precisely why I think people get disconnected. We get so busy, we lose touch of what really matters – relationships.

the reconnect challenge
Courtesy of Pexels

The Rules

  1. Create a list of thirty people (friends, acquaintances, co-workers, fellow churchgoers, neighbors, or relatives)
  2. You can arrange a physical meetup, write a letter, Facetime, or make a phone call. Refrain from texting, which doesn’t lend itself well to intimacy.
  3. You may reach them via direct message on social media if you have no other way of contacting them. But commit to asking for a phone number to stay in touch in the future.

Other Tips

Your list can include people you’ve lost touch with or perhaps people that you’ve seen several times, but never really taken the opportunity to know. Maybe there is an old co-worker on

I included letter writing as a way to connect because I think it bears special weight today. People don’t write letters anymore. Because instant messaging, texting and social media is so easily and readily available there is something special about knowing that someone took the time to write you, buy a postage stamp and walk it to the mailbox. Plus it is so nice to receive something thoughtful in the mail instead of just a stack of bills.

You can even get creative with your letter. If you can keep your letter short and instead tuck some treats in your letter like a tea bag, a bible verse, seeds, poems, crossword puzzle, stickers or even a self-addressed stamped envelope so they can write you back. Even a simple postcard to let someone know you are thinking of them is a great way to reach out.

friends
Courtesy of Pexels

How to Instantly Connect With Someone

  • Show genuine interest
  • Ask questions
  • Remember names
  • Make them feel important (valued)
  • Listen (and don’t interrupt)
  • Learn from them
  • Show compassion and empathy
  • Refrain from judgement

My advice is to be intentional about this commitment. In other words, make a list of the names of people. Write their phone numbers beside them and mark them off as you go through the month. Make it a priority.

A Ripple Effect

I’m so excited you’ve decided to join me on this journey. I would love to hear how this 30-day reconnect challenge has affected you! Please share this post with others and let’s get a movement started!

50 Acts of Kindness for the Holidays

50 Acts of Kindness for the Holidays you can do by yourself or as a family to bring the magic of Christmas to the hearts of others.

50 Acts of Kindness for the Holidays
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I try to do acts of kindness throughout the year, but during the holidays I’m especially mindful to do them. As my kids get older, it’s a tradition I love to do with them. I want to instill the habit of doing good in the world.

As a Christian, I believe we are supposed to be a light in a dark world. We should be an ambassador for Christ, showing his love through acts of love, kindness, and mercy. Even if you aren’t a Christian, you can’t deny the affect that kindness has on the world. Whatever the motivation, the holidays seem inspire random acts of kindness.

Choosing What Not To Do

Save Your Judgement

Now before I list some of the things my family does, I want to preface it. Kindness doesn’t have to cost anything. Kindness is as simple as paying someone a compliment or holding the door open for someone. Maybe it is returning someone’s cart or giving someone your place in a long line. Sometimes kindness isn’t what you do, but what you choose NOT to do.

For instance, the next time you see something you disagree with on Facebook, choose to extend mercy by scrolling by instead of hammering someone with your opinion. In fact, one of the places in most desperate need of kindness is social media. Everyone is so quick to judge and condemn others. The world doesn’t need your opinion about everything. Instead, commit to being a peacemaker and withhold your sanctimony. After all, you and me are incredibly flawed. Choose to be kind instead of being “right.”

Forgiveness

Just recently, I’ve seen some horrible acts of unkindness. In one instance, a man at a craft store couldn’t tell where the line started and accidentally cut in front of someone. The woman he cut off, went up the counter and started slamming her fist and screaming at him. The man apologized and explained, but she was unmoved by his apology and continued yelling inches away from his face. The man left broken and shamed.

Another time, I saw an older man come into a parking lot and nearly clipped someone. He parked beside me. The woman he cut off, parked her car directly in front of his, blocking him from getting off and entering the store. She then proceeded to get out of her car and yelled obscenities at him through the window. It was an accident and it’s not like he crashed into her. It was a near miss, but she was determined to draw blood for it.

Things aren’t going to go our way sometimes and when that happens we have a choice. We can respond with kindness or viciousness. Over the years, I’ve learned most people don’t intentionally set off to ruin our day. They’re busy, distracted, or simply make a mistake. Give someone the benefit of the doubt. One way to spread kindness is simply by extending someone forgiveness. Show someone undeserved love. It’s that kind of mercy that inspires others to be kind. It has a ripple effect.

50 Acts of Kindness for the Holidays

  1. Leave a basket of treats to thank mail carriers
  2. Let someone cut in front of you in line at a store
  3. Organize a group to sing carols at a nursing home / retirement community
  4. Offer to babysit a friend’s kids so they can get a date night out
  5. Bring a crossing guard or traffic directing police officer coffee or hot chocolate
  6. Donate canned food to a food drive
  7. Give a stranger a gift card
  8. Donate a toy towards a toy drive like Toys for Tots
  9. Put up Christmas lights for an elderly neighbor
  10. Make a Christmas care package for a far away friend or relative
  11. Let someone know you’re thinking about them with a holiday card.
  12. Give to a charity
  13. Donate pet food at a local pet shelter
  14. Donate blood or plasma (it saves lives)
  15. Volunteer at a shelter
  16. Surprise someone with scratch off lottery ticket
  17. Donate blankets or coats to a shelter
  18. Volunteer at a food bank
  19. Return shopping carts in parking lots during the busy shopping season
  20. Tape coins to a vending machine and treat someone to a snack
  21. Help an elderly person with yard work
  22. Donate change for bell ringers
  23. Give a server a generous tip
  24. Walk a neighbor’s dog
  25. Pay off a school lunch debt
  26. Host a book drive for Operation Paperback
  27. Donate used toys to a battered women’s shelter or orphanage
  28. Pet sit for a family who is out of town for the holidays
  29. Say a prayer for someone
  30. Hide a dollar in the toy section of a dollar store
  31. Drop off treats to a fire or police station
  32. Volunteer at church
  33. Donate your wedding gown to a baby who has died
  34. Gift diapers to a family with an infant
  35. Pay for a strangers meal or coffee
  36. Give someone your parking space
  37. Invite someone with no family to spend Christmas with you
  38. Let someone go ahead of you in traffic
  39. Send a thank you note to a soldier
  40. Hand out gloves and mittens to the homeless
  41. Pay for someone behind you at the drive through window
  42. Babysit for a single mom
  43. Take a homebound or elderly person to church
  44. When you disagree with someone on social media, choose to stay kind instead
  45. Bring in your neighbor’s trash bins
  46. Call an old friend
  47. Do something unexpected for your spouse
  48. Bring in goodies for your co-workers
  49. Pick up trash
  50. Give up your seat

Being kind is fun and it makes you feel good. I hope you enjoy doing 50 Acts of Kindness for the Holidays. PIN this post for later and share on your Facebook wall to get others involved.

Take a look at some of my other Christmas activities in The Ultimate Christmas Bucket List. I hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday season!