I love family traditions, especially around the holidays. There’s nothing better than family and friends coming together to exchange laughter and love. In recent years, my favorite part has been watching my children grow with anticipation at what’s to come. Each year, excitement builds as they count down the days until we partake in our traditions. From one year to the next, memories are etched into their hearts, making each season merry and bright.
Why Family Traditions are Important
In my house, if we do something they enjoy once, my kids like to claim it as tradition. Haha. But the truth is, family traditions invite us to build deeper roots as a family. We connect with one another over shared experiences. We swap stories of years past and honor relatives who’ve participated in the same traditions generations before us. In the process, we strengthen the bond between family members. A greater sense of belonging is established in the hearts of our family as we celebrate traditions.
As mentioned earlier, traditions are a big deal in my house. We partake in Cookie Day at Grandma’s house, where my mom is surrounded by her eleven grandchildren with icing, sprinkles, and cookies covering the table. My family and I enjoy searching for brightly-lit houses with hot cocoa in hand. We love attending the Christmas Eve Candlelight Service at our church. We return home to play games and open one gift before settling in for the night. On Christmas morning, we gather around a nativity set to read the story of Jesus’ birth from Luke 2 and take Communion with our kids before opening gifts.
Some of these traditions began in my childhood. Others have been established by my husband and I along the way. And we continue to add to our list each year!
Creating special Christmas traditions with your family can be fun and easy. Today, I’d like to share six out-of-the-box family traditions you can begin this holiday season. Perhaps, you will find a new and unique tradition that resonates with your family.
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A few years ago, my sisters and I decided to host an Elf Party based on one of our favorite Christmas movies Elf featuring Will Ferrell.
We gather at my sister’s house for a delicious dinner stacked with pancakes and a toppings bar. What do we include on the toppings bar? The elves’ four main food groups, of course. Candy, Candy Canes, Candy Corn, and Syrup.
After we fill our bellies, we take our little elves outside for a movie on the lawn. We bundle up with blankets and hot cocoa as we watch Elf under the starry sky. We have so much fun at our Elf Party each year. It’s a must-do on the Christmas calendar each year.
A Christmas Progressive Dinner
Julie Brown of Dogwood and Dandelions describes how her family participates in a progressive dinner every Christmas Day. What a fun idea! This family jumps from house-to-house to share food and gifts with family and friends. They enjoy showcasing their holiday decor, but even more so, they relish time spent with the ones they cherish.
Julie says it best, “At the end of the day, a Progressive Dinner is not about the fanciest food, or the nicest china, or the best decorated house. It is about enjoying the company of those we love, while creating memories with our family and friends.”
Julie provides tips on how to begin a Progressive Dinner tradition with your own family on her blog.
12 Days of Christmas
Julie also shares how she began her 12 Days of Christmas tradition with her children a few years ago. One year, she and her husband surprised their kids with twelve cards that they opened on separate days leading up to Christmas. Each card contained a special activity for the family to do together. Most of these options were low-cost or free. Julie and her family enjoyed these planned activities so much that they have repeated the 12 Days of Christmas every year since.
Julie describes that first year when it all began. “We were determined to stop spending so much money on Christmas and instead, start building memories. We decided to surprise our children and do a “12 Days of Christmas” with activities that would help us spend more time together as a family. Most of these ideas are relatively simple to implement and most make for budget friendly Christmas activities as well.”
Her children look forward to this tradition every year. You can learn more about it on Julie’s blog.
Advent with The Jesse Tree
Lisa Yvonne of Graceful Abandon and her family countdown the days to December every year. From youngest to oldest, they enjoy celebrating Advent with The Jesse Tree. Starting on December 1st and ending on the 25th, Lisa describes how her family loves to hit the pause button every day as they gather around candles in their pajamas and read from The Jesse Tree devotional book. The Jesse Tree is a meaningful way to incorporate a Christ-centered tradition on a daily basis leading up to Christmas.
Lisa explains, “By the time it comes to celebrate Jesus’ birthday, the children have remembered the garden, the flood, the ram in the thicket that took Isaac’s place, a young boy anointed king, and so many other significant events that lead to a manger in Bethlehem. And while using a Jesse Tree for Advent is a fun and cherished family Christmas tradition, it’s also so much more.”
Lisa shares the significance of this tradition in her article: The Ultimate Guide to a Jesse Tree Advent Tradition Your Family Will Love.
I’m excited to begin the Jesse Tree tradition with my family this year. We will be using Ann Voskamp’s book The Wonder of the Greatest Gift: An Interactive Family Celebration of Advent. As you open this book, a beautiful white tree pops open. The book contains 25 doors with an enclosed ornament to be opened on the assigned day. Each ornament represents the daily Bible story and is hung on the tree as a sweet reminder of God’s truths as we work our way to Christ’s birth on the 25th. We will begin this tradition on December 1st. It’s not too late to begin this tradition with your family. Simply click on the picture below to get started.
Lisa Appelo of True & Faithful began the Days of Joy Project with her seven children during a time of mourning. Earlier that same year, Lisa’s husband had passed away unexpectedly. She and her children were desperate to find joy in their first Christmas without him. That’s when they went on a mission to find ways to bring joy to others. As a result, they experienced hope in the midst of their pain. As you can imagine, this project became a game changer in their lives.
Lisa describes, “…our goal was to find a way to bless someone else each day. Somehow we knew enough to realize that by God’s design, a huge key to finding joy for ourselves again was to serve others…throughout the month, we purposely looked for ways to bring joy to others.”
Lisa and her children began by leaving a cooler of sodas, a plate of chocolate chip cookies, and a special note for the trash collectors. They also wrapped gifts for Toys for Tots and donated coats to homeless shelters.
These examples are just a few ways that Lisa’s family has blessed others during their Days of Joy Project each December. It’s a beautiful reminder that we are put on this earth to be a blessing to others and to share God’s love in practical ways. In doing so, we find inexpressible joy even in hardship.
A New Family Ornament Each Year
Lucia of Learning to Live Light suggests adding a special ornament to your Christmas tree each year. This ornament can be homemade or store-bought. She recommends having your ornament represent something special to commemorate the current year.
Lucia states, “Your tree will be filled with heirlooms in the years to come and your kids can use them on their own family trees in the future.” What a great idea! I wish I had started this tradition years ago. I will be adding Christmas ornaments to my list as we visit different vacation spots going forward.
Lucia shares this suggestion and nine others in her article: 10 Unforgettable Holiday Family Traditions.
Another Year of Traditions
As you embrace the holiday season, what traditions will your family celebrate together? I would love to hear about them. Are you adding any new ones this year? Feel free to share in the comments below. Whatever you do, remember to treasure special moments with your family. Share those cherished traditions and pause long enough to reset your heart on what matters most. I pray you will have a blessed Christmas season with your family.