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