Creating Family Holiday Traditions

By Jessica Wolstenholm

The holidays are a perfect time to think about family traditions. Many traditions can be established around the holidays as families celebrate in ways that have been passed on for years.

It is important to establish traditions with your family, but traditions don’t have to be elaborate, involving lots of money or time.

Why are traditions so important?

    • Traditions provide a sense of family identity. When our kids talk about the traditions we have with their friends, they do it with a sense of pride in our family identity. Doing this one thing year after year is part of what characterizes our family and it gives the kids a sense of belonging to our family because they are part of the tradition.
    • Traditions give opportunities to share your beliefs. Traditions around Christmas can allow us to pass on to our kids what we believe about the birth of Christ in a concrete way. When we take the time to develop traditions that guide our family in remembering and celebrating Jesus’ birth, the kids realize that it is important and valuable to us.
    • Traditions give kids a sense of security. Most kids thrive on some sort of routine. This isn’t to say that you can never be flexible. But most kids feel secure in knowing what to expect. When you establish traditions that they can look forward to every holiday season, it makes them feel secure. Sometimes traditions can’t happen or they need to be changed because of something that is going on in the family. This can be a teaching tool also, as we give kids tools to deal with change.

How can you develop your own traditions?

    • Pick out things that are important to your faith and establish traditions around those things. If helping others is important, your traditions can involve serving in a soup kitchen that provides a holiday meal. If giving is important to you, you can establish a tradition of helping a needy family at Christmas.
    • Choose things that you family enjoys and build traditions around those. Do your kids love to help in the kitchen? Institute a holiday baking day. Do they love wrapping gifts? Have a big wrapping party before Christmas. Do you all enjoy seeing pretty Christmas lights? Have a tradition of riding around and finding Christmas lights.
    • Include traditions with extended family and friends. If your extended family has traditions, some of those may carry over to your own immediate family. Sometimes these have to be adapted to suit your family, but you can still enjoy some of these times spent together and incorporate them into your regular family traditions. Decorate the tree with the grandparents. Share a Christmas meal with cousins. Go caroling with friends.

Here are a few of our favorite holiday traditions.

    • Cookie Day- We have a cookie/candy making day every year. Sometimes cousins or extended family come. We make goodies to keep and some to give away.
    • Gingerbread houses- We use store bought kits to make gingerbread houses. We set them up in a little gingerbread village until the kids can’t wait and begin to eat them.
    • Christmas lights- When we have to ride back and forth around Christmas time, the kids count the lights to see who can find the most on the way.
    • Operation Christmas Child– We love to pack shoeboxes to send to children in poverty areas in this ministry of the Samaritan’s Purse.
    • Christmas ornaments- Our kids get ornaments from grandparents every year. Each year when we get all the decorations out, the kids like to look for their own to hang on the tree.
    • Advent Wreath- We set up an Advent Wreath before the first Sunday of Advent (four Sundays from Christmas). Each week we light one of four candles symbolizing hope, preparation, joy and love. On Christmas Eve we light a white candle in the center to symbolize Christ, the Light of the World.
    • Jesse Tree- Another way we count down to Advent is to use a Jesse Tree. The Jesse Tree is a visual way to tell the plan of God for salvation through history using a bare branched tree and symbolic ornaments. The meanings and printable ornaments are here.

Taking the time to build holiday traditions with your family is important. What traditions are you going to begin with your family this holiday season?