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Traditions: Old and New Ways to Celebrate Christmas

Enjoy family traditions or come up with activities that can become traditions to draw your family closer together during the Christmas season

Christmas is a wonderful time to grow closer to family and friends. One way to do this is through enjoying family activities and traditions together.  A tradition is anything that your family does each year. They might be passed down from ancestors or made up on the spur of the moment. Regardless, these activities are meant to help people of all ages enjoy each other and the season.

Toddler-Friendly Tree

My husband and I put unbreakable ornaments on the tree when our kids were toddlers. We wanted the tree to be a symbol of the peace of Christ, so we made sure our interactions with the toddlers were peaceful. We didn’t block off the tree or scold our children to leave it alone. When my daughter pulled off the little stuffed-bear ornaments multiple times, I smiled and put them back up again.

© 2020 by Amber Bulk

Christmas Stargazing

We took advantage of the darkness one December evening and went outside with our children—ages 4, 14 and 16—for star viewing. My oldest shared his telescope with his siblings, who took turns searching for the brightest star. We named it the Christmas Star, took turns admiring its beauty and talked about the star at Jesus’ birth. It was a peaceful Christmas moment as we huddled near one another, looking up in quiet awe.

© 2020 by Carrie Nelson

An Unfinished Present

One year I learned that even a Christmas gone awry is still a time for celebration. That year I tried to paint sets of peg dolls for my children for Christmas. Even though I worked into the wee hours night after night, I finished only eight of the 20 that I had planned to make. I thought the kids would be disappointed, but they had a more exciting time watching me paint the remaining dolls. Remembering that experience has helped take the pressure off of having the “perfect” Christmas experience.

© 2020 by Cassi Griesbach

Traditions That Fit Your Family

I’ve always loved our Christmas traditions, but in the past, instead of using them as a framework for celebration, I used them to measure the value of Christmas — how “perfect” our family’s holiday looked to others. I realized that our traditions were for our benefit, not others. Ideally, they should build up family members, focus on what Jesus did or model His love. So I took an inventory of our Christmas traditions to decide which ones to keep. As I did, I asked myself the following three questions:

  • Is the tradition Christ-centered? Traditions can help emphasize the meaning of Christmas year after year, beginning with young children and continuing as they grow. After all, what works for young children (a “Happy Birthday, Jesus” party) can be tweaked and used for older children (a “Happy Birthday, Jesus” cake).
  • Is the tradition fostering relationship? A good tradition will draw my children into deeper relationships with other family members. If children fight or complain all through an activity, or by the end of it we feel like saying, “Merry stinking Christmas,” then that tradition isn’t meeting the needs of our family.
  • Is the tradition building cherished memories? The joy of a tradition can leave an imprint of God’s love in the memory of a child. Traditions focused on family become precious memories that our children can carry with them into adulthood.

© 2017 by Catherine Grace

Over-the-Top Presents

My husband and I give our Christmas presents in different ways each year. One year, we didn’t put them under the tree until the night before. Another, we used a coded number system on the gift tags. But then one Christmas we stopped because we thought our children were getting too old for these games.

That Christmas morning, I awoke to find our presents duct-taped to the walls and ceiling. Our son chose to continue our let’s-have-fun-with-the-presents tradition and worked on it in the middle of the night. His younger sisters thought it was hilarious.

by Danielle Pitzer; © 2017 Focus on the Family

Neighborhood Nativity

I love sharing a favorite Christmas tradition from my childhood with my own children — a neighborhood Nativity play. Each year we invite the neighborhood kids to join us in dressing as Bible characters from the story of Christ’s birth: angels, animals, shepherds and kings. The oldest child narrates. Our annual production takes place in the front yard with an inflatable Nativity scene as the backdrop. After the play, we celebrate with a birthday cake for Jesus and a brunch with all the kids’ families. I treasure sharing the Gospel with our children and neighbors.

© 2014 by Jennifer Cook

Symbols of Christmas

Sally Lloyd-Jones, author of The Jesus Storybook Bible, encourages parents to allow their children to help decorate for the celebration of Christ’s birth.

“I love to involve children in the excitement of Jesus’ coming,” Sally says. “God’s people waited for Him, and in Advent we’re waiting, too. We’re getting ready for Him; we’re preparing our homes and our hearts for Him.”

Consider relating biblical symbolism and stories to items you use while decorating the tree. As you string the lights, you might remind your kids that Jesus is the Light of the World. The star on the top of the tree represents the star that led the wise men to where Jesus was born. Here are a few additional insights to share while decorating together:

  • Christmas tree – Evergreens don’t lose their greenery. These trees can be symbolic of something that doesn’t end and compared to eternal life.
  • Angel ornaments – God sent His choir of angels to proclaim the Good News to the shepherds.
  • Gifts – The greatest gift of all is Jesus Christ. God sent His only Son to pay the price for our sins.

© 2009 by Focus on the Family; written by Andrea Gutierrez

The Stocking Tradition

As I stitched an angel design on a Christmas stocking for our newborn daughter, she slept peacefully in the bassinet. I wondered, “Would this stocking, filled with toys and goodies, diminish the meaning of Christmas?”

I prayed for guidance. My husband and I wanted to instill faith in our five children. We did not want our children to get caught up in material things. I grabbed my Bible, flipped the pages and started reading about Elizabeth and Zechariah. I read where Elizabeth’s unborn baby leapt in her womb as she greeted Mary, pregnant with Jesus, and my own heart leapt with an idea.

If I wanted God’s Holy Spirit to fill us, why not compare the filled stockings to how God fills our lives with good gifts? Months later, as Christmas approached, we prepared for a new tradition.

During Advent, we read about Elizabeth’s joy at the upcoming birth of Jesus. We shared with our children how we wanted them to be filled with joy and that we had a new surprise in store for that year.

On Christmas Day, holding our stockings filled with fruits and treasures, we gathered around the tree. We asked everyone to share how the surprises we had carefully chosen reminded them of God’s love and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Becky held up a watch and said, “Look, my watch tells time. God loves me all the time!”

James pulled a toy car out of his stocking and said, “God goes with me in our car.”

Sometimes we puzzled over how an item could help us think of God — especially when each child received the same gift. I remember laughing after the fourth banana was pulled from a stocking. Our creativity was definitely stretched on those! Yet the moments of laughter and sharing helped us keep God in our celebration.

Over the years, we kept the tradition, and as the children grew, the comments changed, adding more depth. Last Christmas we received a gift in return. Our daughter Darlene’s fiancée joined in our Christmas stocking tradition. Darlene exclaimed, “I can hardly wait until we have children and celebrate this custom with our own family.”

© 2004 by Karen H. Whiting

Updating Our Traditions

My kids enjoyed our family’s Christmas traditions when they were younger, but as they reached their late tween years, these traditions no longer seemed quite as fun to them. My husband and I decided that it was time for a change because we wanted our children to enjoy celebrating Christ’s birth. We adjusted our traditions so our kids could take more responsibility and play a larger role in them.

New Christmas ornaments. Instead of buying ornaments for each child, I gave my kids a budget and let them purchase their own ornaments. Sometimes my kids spent weeks hunting for the perfect ornament that represented something from the past year.

Christmas cards and letters. Instead of picking one family photo for our Christmas card, I had my kids choose a few favorite photos from the past year. They also wrote their own section for the family letter. (All with parental veto power, of course.)

Christmas tree. Instead of an exclusive family trip to the Christmas tree lot, we let our kids invite friends to traipse along to choose our tree. Afterward, we hosted a decorating party that included hot chocolate and treats.

Gifts for the needy. Instead of choosing a Christmas service project for the family, my husband and I allowed our children to pick someone or an organization to bless, such as Samaritan’s Purse or The Salvation Army. They earned money doing odd jobs or recycling to pay for their personal project.

I knew that these traditions would need to be readjusted again as my kids grew older, but these small changes demonstrated that I recognized their growing maturity.

© 2015 by Marian Fritzemeier

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Welcome to the 40-Day Sugar Fast, a fast that begins with us giving Jesus our sugar and ends with Jesus giving us himself–the only thing that can ever truly satisfy our soul’s deep hunger. On this 40-day journey you’ll learn how to stop fixating on food and other things you use to fill the voids in life and instead fix your eyes on Christ. Anyone who runs to sugar for comfort or a reward, who eats mindlessly or out of boredom, who feels physically and spiritually lethargic, or who struggles with self-control will discover here not only freedom from their cravings but an entirely new appetite for the good things God has for us.

Understanding the Root of Your Child's Misbehavior - Part 1

Often, children act out because they are used to getting attention through bad behavior. Dr. Kevin Leman offers advice to help parents transform their child’s behavior. He discusses the benefits of allowing your kids to learn from real-life consequences and describes the importance of understanding your child’s temperament based on his birth order.

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman is an internationally known family psychologist and an award-winning, New York Times best-selling author. He is also a popular public speaker and media personality who has made countless guest appearances on numerous radio and TV programs. Dr. Leman has written more than 50 books including The Birth Order BookHave a New Kid by Friday and Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours.

Bundle of Why Your Kids Misbehave

Why Your Kids Misbehave and What to Do about It

Tantrums. Talking back. Throwing toys or food. Meltdowns. Slamming doors. Kids know just how to push your buttons. You’ve tried all sorts of methods, but nothing seems to work. In this book, Dr. Kevin Leman reveals exactly why kids misbehave and how you can turn that behavior around with practical, no-nonsense strategies that really work . . . and are a long-term win for both of you.

Understanding the Root of Your Child's Misbehavior - Part 2

Often, children act out because they are used to getting attention through bad behavior. Dr. Kevin Leman offers advice to help parents transform their child’s behavior. He discusses the benefits of allowing your kids to learn from real-life consequences and describes the importance of understanding your child’s temperament based on his birth order.

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman is an internationally known family psychologist and an award-winning, New York Times best-selling author. He is also a popular public speaker and media personality who has made countless guest appearances on numerous radio and TV programs. Dr. Leman has written more than 50 books including The Birth Order BookHave a New Kid by Friday and Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours.

Bundle of Why Your Kids Misbehave

Why Your Kids Misbehave and What to Do about It

Tantrums. Talking back. Throwing toys or food. Meltdowns. Slamming doors. Kids know just how to push your buttons. You’ve tried all sorts of methods, but nothing seems to work. In this book, Dr. Kevin Leman reveals exactly why kids misbehave and how you can turn that behavior around with practical, no-nonsense strategies that really work . . . and are a long-term win for both of you.

Loving Your Spouse Through the Seasons of Marriage - Part 2

Debra Fileta has identified the four seasons of marriage that correspond with our natural seasons – spring (new life and new love), summer (things get hot!), fall (showing our true colors), and winter (long days ahead). In this interview, she will help couples better understand the four seasons of healthy relationships, what to expect during each one, and how to carefully navigate them for a stronger marriage.

Author Debra Fileta in the Focus on the Family broadcast studio

Debra Fileta

Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor specializing in relationship and marital issues. She is also a public speaker and the author of multiple books, including Married SexChoosing Marriage: Why It Has to Start With We > Me, Love in Every Season, and Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are, How You’re Doing, and Why It Matters. Debra’s popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, and her Love + Relationships podcast reach millions of people each year offering guidance on topics including love, sex, and marriage.

Love in Every Season: Understanding the Four Stages of a Healthy Relationship

Every relationship goes through four life-changing seasons: Spring. Summer. Fall. Winter. Each season plays an important role in taking your relationship to the next level. And depending on how you navigate each season, your relationship will either flourish and grow, or it will slowly die. Whether you’re single, dating, engaged or married, join licensed professional counselor and relationship expert, Debra Fileta as she takes you on an eye-opening psychological and spiritual journey through the four seasons that she has observed in every healthy relationship.

Reconciling Faith and Science in a Medical Crisis

Dr. Lee Warren is a neurosurgeon who has faced many heavy challenges in his life – from serving in the Iraq War to removing deadly brain tumors to experiencing the loss of a teenage son. He’ll share about his difficult quest to find answers to some of life’s toughest questions, while holding onto his faith in God and the sure hope of heaven

Headshot of Focus on the Family broadcast guest Dr. W. Lee Warren

Dr. Lee Warren

W. Lee Warren, M.D., is a brain surgeon , inventor, Iraq War veteran, and author of I’ve Seen the End of You: A Neurosurgeon’s Look at Faith, Doubt, and the Things We Think We Know, winner of the Christian Book Award®. His previous book, No Place to Hide, was included on the 2015 U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff’s Recommended Reading List. Dr. Warren has appeared on The 700 Club and the CBS Evening News, and his writings have been featured in Guideposts magazine. His Dr. Lee Warren Podcast, which is heard in more than 60 countries, helps listeners use the power of neuroscience, faith, and common sense to change their lives.

Cover image of Dr. Lee Warren's book "I've Seen the End of You"

I've Seen the End of You: A Neurosurgeon's Look at Faith, Doubt, and the Things We Think We Know

This gripping inspirational memoir grapples with the tension between faith and science—and between death and hope—as a seasoned neurosurgeon faces insurmountable odds and grief both in the office and at home.

Praying Scripture Over Your Child’s Life - Part 1

Jodie Berndt loves to pray for her children. She’s been doing that for the past thirty years. Now she helps other parents to talk to God, asking for the salvation of their kids, and for wisdom, self-discipline, purpose, a future and much more. She offers fun and practical encouragement that moms and dads can put to work immediately in their daily lives as they prepare their children for a life in Christ.

Headshot of Focus on the Family broadcast guest Jodie Berndt

Jodie Berndt

Jodie Berndt is a public speaker, a Bible teacher, and the the author of 10 books. Find out more about Jodie and get some free resources (including printable prayer cards and calendars) at her website, jodieberndt.com.

Cover image of Jodie Berndt's book "Praying the Scriptures for Your Children"

Praying the Scriptures Over Your Children

You will discover how using the Bible to shape your desires and requests opens the door to God’s provision—and frees us from things like worry and fear in our parenting! This expanded edition of the bestseller features updated content on issues like technology and identity, and comes with new material designed to invite children into the family prayer circle. Purchase now and receive 10% off your product.

Mothers and Sons: Being a Godly Influence - Part 1

Rhonda Stoppe describes her early motherhood challenges of raising a son, which was intimidating to her. She found help through group of older women mentors. She urges moms to see their role as ministry in shaping sons to be good and godly men. Rhonda outlines several practical suggestions to moms about spiritual training, how to communicate with boys, and supporting the father-son relationship as a wife.

Headshot of Rhonda Stoppe

Rhonda Stoppe

Drawing upon 35 years of experience as a mentor, pastor’s wife, and homeschool mom, Rhonda Stoppe offers encouragement and guidance to women as an author and public speaker. She is popularly known as the “No Regrets Woman,” as she is especially passionate about helping women live life without regrets. Rhonda’s books include Moms Raising Sons to Be MenReal Life Romance, and The Marriage Mentor, which she co-authored with her husband, Steve.

Cover image of Rhonda Stoppe's book "Moms Raising Sons to be Men"

Moms Raising Sons to Be Men

Mothers of boys have the special calling to shape future men of God. Popular speaker Rhonda Stoppe, mom to two sons, knows this opportunity is a challenge, a joy, and probably the most important work of a woman’s life. Drawing from years of experience, this inspirational resource will revive the faithfulness and fortitude a woman needs to partner with God as they shape the character and heart of a future godly man.

Identifying Triggers in Your Marriage Part 1

They were both convinced they had married the wrong person. From almost the very beginning of their marriage, Amber and Guy Lia experienced various tensions and personality clashes related to house cleaning, backseat driving, workaholism, and intimacy. In this two-day Focus on the Family broadcast, Amber and Guy discuss how they bravely faced the triggers head-on, and committed to working on their own relationships with Jesus. As you listen to the Lia’s story, you’ll feel hope that you, too, can see real marriage transformation!

Headshot of Guy and Amber Lia

Mr. and Mrs. Guy and Amber Lia and Mrs. Jean Daly

Amber Lia is a work-at-home mom, blogger, public speaker, and co-author of two best-selling books. Her husband, Guy, is a former TV, feature film, and VFX development and production executive who has worked on popular TV shows and films. Guy and Amber own Storehouse Media Group, a faith- and family-friendly TV and film production company based in Los Angeles,

Cover image of the book "Marriage Triggers" by Guy and Amber Lia

Marriage Triggers: How You and Your Spouse Can Exchange Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses

A husband-wife team offers practical advice for married couples to end the cycle of reactionary arguments by examining the most common issues that trigger disagreements and apply God’s Word to radically transform relationships.

What to Do When You're Not Okay - Part 1

Life can be pretty stressful. Between work, relationships, and other obligations, the pressure builds, and we lose sight of who we are. Counselor Debra Fileta helps you better understand your emotions, assess your mental, physical, and spiritual health, and intentionally pursue a path to wellbeing. In dealing with anxiety, depression, and panic attacks, Debra understands the importance of self-examination as well as the benefits of seeking professional help. She offers biblically-based advice, tools, and encouragement to help you get on a path toward healing and wholeness.

Author Debra Fileta in the Focus on the Family broadcast studio

Mrs. Debra Fileta

Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor specializing in relationship and marital issues. She is also a public speaker and the author of multiple books, including Married SexChoosing Marriage: Why It Has to Start With We > Me, Love in Every Season, and Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are, How You’re Doing, and Why It Matters. Debra’s popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, and her Love + Relationships podcast reach millions of people each year offering guidance on topics including love, sex, and marriage. Debra resides in Pennsylvania with her husband, John, and their four children.

Are You Really Okay?

Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are

In Are You Really OK? author and licensed counselor Debra Fileta challenges you to get real with who you are and how you’re doing spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically so you can recognize where you need growth and healing.

Navigating a Toxic Culture with Your Daughter - Part 1

As a pediatrician, Dr. Meg Meeker has seen thousands of girls come through her office through the years. They struggle with eating issues, sexual identity, social media…and many other challenges in this toxic culture. Dr. Meeker will encourage parents to invest love and time in their daughters and develop their character to give them the best opportunity for a bright future, all rooted in a spiritual foundation. The discussion also includes healthy feminism vs. toxic feminism

Mrs. Meg Meeker

Dr. Meg Meeker is a pediatrician who is widely recognized as one of the country’s leading authorities on parenting, teens and children’s health. With appearances on numerous nationally syndicated radio and TV programs, her popularity as a an expert on key issues confronting families has created a strong following across America. Her work with countless families over the years served as the inspiration behind her best-selling books which include Strong Fathers, Strong DaughtersStrong Mothers, Strong Sons and The Ten Habits of Happy Mothers

Cover image of Dr. Meg Meeker's book "Raising a Strong Daughter in a Toxic Culture"

Raising a Strong Daughter in a Toxic Culture: 11 Steps to Keep Her Happy, Healthy, and Safe

Meg Meeker has been a pediatrician for more than thirty years, is a mother and a grandmother, and has seen it all. She knows what makes for strong, happy, healthy young women–and what puts our daughters at risk. Combining that experience with her famous common sense, she explains the eleven steps that will help your daughter–whether she’s a toddler or a troubled teen–to achieve her full human potential.

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Newest Release - Episode 1: The Truth About Life!

In this episode, we will tackle tough questions like, “When does life begin?” and “What does the Bible
say about Life?” You’ll discover and understand the stages of pre-born life and that babies are more than
just a clump of cells!

Yes, I Promise to Pray for the Pre-born and Their Moms!

Will you pray for the pre-born and moms that are facing unexpected pregnancies? We will send you a 7-day prayer guide that will help guide you along this journey with us!! You can even choose to receive this great resource by text!

Thank you for committing to pray for the pre-born!

Sign up below for your free seven-day prayer guide. This daily guide will help give direction to your prayers for the pro-life movement. We will be praying with you! 

Focus on the Family

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