Christmas Traditions with Kids
By Miriam English
Well Christmas seems to be sprinting towards us again this year at an alarming rate. I know that it’s really hard in the end of year craziness to ensure that Jesus is the focus. Especially in a world dripping with advertising, and beautifully decorated shopping centres.
Over the years, our family has deliberately adopted some traditions in an attempt to help our kids understand what we are actually celebrating. I would love to share some of them with you!
The old countdown to Christmas Day with a bit of a twist! We have done this with varying intensities, and in various ways. The idea being that in the period leading up to Christmas, you open up a box/envelope/old sock etc which has a short Bible reference for reading, a treat and sometimes an activity that connects to the Christmas story.
I love the advent plans on the blog Musings in Adelaide. There are two to choose from; one that follows the story of Jesus’ birth and another that follows the overarching story of the Bible from Genesis to Jesus. The latter being be more suited to older kids I think.
Matthias Media also offer another good advent calendar plan that is especially designed for preschool aged kids.
I particularly like this because it is short and manageable. It starts on Dec 15, ends on January 1, and works through the main elements of the story of Jesus’ birth. There is only an activity/reading every few days (rather than every day), so you can space it out amongst the Christmas Carol services, end of year concerts and work parties.
If you’re brave you could check out Pinterest for all kinds of creative ways to present your advent calendar – but don’t say I didn’t warn you, there is an ocean of ideas out there!
Over time, I’ve collected some Christmas related books which I re-wrap every year and bring out for the month of December. Every night we plan to unwrap and read one. Many of them are just different pictorial versions of the Christmas story which is great for reinforcing the story with young kids. As our kids have grown older, I’ve started to introduce a few others that get them thinking more broadly about Christmas, and what we’re celebrating. Some of our favourites are:
A humerous look at the first night of Christmas and what all the fuss is about. I love this because it is actually really funny, and debunks the myth of the ‘perfect’ first Christmas night. Great for toddlers and preschoolers.
A look at how God’s promises are fulfilled in Jesus, focusing on the the new, rescuing and forever aspects of His Kingship. Fun to read, and visually exciting with not many words per page. And at the back, for further exploration, there is a list of Bible references that link to the promises in the Old Testament.
The true account of Nicholas of Myra. Again, beautifully illustrated, and engaging. Really helpful in explaining the origin of Santa Claus in a way that’s honest and easy to understand but keeps a gospel focus on Christmas. A few more words per page, so I would guess that preschool aged kids and up would get the most out of it. There are also some really helpful notes at the back.
Explains how Christmas is part of God’s big plan to put things right in our messed up world. Lots of text on a page, but with lovely illustrations. Good for reading aloud from preschool and up, or for independent readers.
A short chapter book about how a Christmas pageant comes together with some unlikely characters, a good reminder that the Gospel is for all people who are undeserving of God’s amazing grace. Great to read aloud to early readers, and fine for competent readers to read on their own.
An extract from the Action Bible that focuses on the Christmas Story. Great for older kids, especially those who enjoy graphic novels.
Birthday Cake with candles
This is something really simple (and maybe slightly tacky?), but at some point on Christmas Day, we try to have a birthday ‘cake’ with candles. It’s a tradition that started when our oldest was two, who at the time, associated birthdays with cakes, candles and parties, so we decided to have a cake for Jesus’ birthday . This worked better than we thought, and has become a bit of a tradition for us now. To this day, our kids still call Christmas, ‘Jesus’ birthday’. The last few years, we have just put candles on our gingerbread house and I think one year we might have even used a Christmas pudding!
In a perfect world, all these things would work brilliantly all the time! But our world is far from perfect. We have often struggled with end of year weariness, busyness, sickness, disinterest, accommodating extended families’ traditions and more. Some days our kids just seem interested in the advent treats. One year our advent calendar was finished in …..ahem…. late January. And our kids will let you know that last year, some of the books remained wrapped because we just ran out of time to get through them all.
My prayer is that even in the struggle, our kids will know and love the Jesus, whose birthday we celebrate every year. And I’m so thankful to God, that their salvation is dependant on Him, and Him alone!