Healthy Habits

Turning Family Fun into Family Tradition

Sally E. Stuart shares a few ways to celebrate the birth of Christ with your family this year. by Sally E. Stuart
father and daughter by Christmas tree

Christmas can be a time for families to enjoy each other’s company, a time to honor old family traditions and discover new ones. Don’t let holiday “busyness” rob you or your loved ones of the many spiritual “gifts” family members can share. Here are a few ways to celebrate the birth of Christ with your family this year.

1. Return to Sender Prayers

During family devotions or at one meal each day, draw one of the Christmas cards you have received from family or friends. Pray specifically for that family or individual and send a note saying what prayers you offered up to God on their behalf.

2. 12 Days of Basket Gifts

Involve the whole family in preparing a 12 Days of Christmas basket for a shut-in, grandparent or special adopted friend who needs to be remembered. Wrap 12 small gifts and label them First Day, Second Day, etc. Pile them into a Christmas basket decorated with a big red bow and sprig of holly. Include practical items that such a person might find useful: a paperback book, pretty postcards or note paper already stamped; a hand mirror; comb or nail clippers; homemade goodies (if diet permits); a simple craft or needlework kit; warm socks; a small flashlight; a magnifying glass; an oversized pen, etc.

3. Christmas Eve Exchange

If your family’s tradition is opening gifts on Christmas morning, Christmas Eve can also take on special meaning with a holiday gift exchange. As you prepare gifts for family members, count the number of gifts each person will receive. Each person chooses that same number of items from their own belongings to present in exchange for the gifts they will receive.

These can be broken or unwanted toys, overworn or outgrown clothing—any variety of “white elephants.” Once everything has been gathered up and officially tallied by Mom or Dad, sort the cast-off items into donations for charity, hand-me-downs for younger family members or friends and items that are better off being recycled or thrown away. This not only keeps excited children busy as they wait for Christmas morning, it also makes room for the new gifts to come and is a unique way to put giving ahead of getting.

4. Noel Neighborhood

Take an opportunity to share the real meaning of Christmas with your neighbors. Plan a live nativity scene in your home one evening. Provide costumes and props. Invite parents and other neighbors in to view the scene as someone reads the Christmas story from Luke’s gospel.

5. Advent Activity Chain

Help your children pass the days until Christmas with a homemade Advent chain. Prepare 25 strips of colored construction paper (1 x 6 inches each). Write a special activity on each strip to help celebrate the holiday together. Possibilities include: making a tree ornament, baking a batch of Christmas cookies, watching a TV special as a family, popping popcorn, singing carols, making fudge, reading the Christmas story from the Bible or making a homemade gift. Make the chain by rolling the strips so that the day’s activity is written on the inside of each ring as you glue them together. Each day, one child gets to break off the next link and announce the listed activity.

6. Family Worship Jukebox

Your family worship times will take on a special meaning if you let everyone help prepare Christmas resources for all to enjoy. Set out 25 sheets of paper and a variety of Christmas books, Bibles, songbooks and other Christmas resources. Have family members select poems, Scriptures, songs, readings, stories, etc. Write one on each sheet of paper, fold it up and place it in a holiday-themed “jukebox.” Starting on December 1, have someone draw a sheet of paper from the box each day and read it as part of family devotions or at the end of a meal.

7. Christmas Collages

These beautiful wall plaques can be used as home decorations or gifts for teachers, club leaders, friends or relatives. For each plaque, you will need an 8-inch square of plywood (or size of your choice). Sand the edges smooth. Spread out old Christmas cards on the table so that each person can pick a theme. Using safe scissors, kids can cut out bells, angels, shepherds, mangers, Wisemen, Baby Jesus or other motifs from the cards to fit their chosen theme. Glue these into a collage on each board so the board is covered completely. Be sure all edges and corners are glued down. Once the glue has dried, shellac the full surface of your plaque and let it dry. To finish, run a bold line of glue around the outside edge and sprinkle generously with glitter in a complementary color. A row of rick-rack or other edging material can also make a great border. Attach a picture hanger to the back, and your plaque is ready to display.

8. Teenage Inspiration

If it seems a lot of the excitement has gone out of the holiday for teenagers in the house, this idea could bring things back to life. Enlist the cooperation and enthusiasm of your teens in “adopting” one or more children from a local children’s home or orphanage to spend Christmas Day with your family. Have the teens make or buy gifts ahead of time, prepare special games or activities and plan ways to share the real meaning of Christmas with those who are less fortunate. Encourage them to continue these new relationships through other holidays and special times in the year ahead.

9. Commercial-Free Christmas

Help your children become more aware of the influence TV commercials have on their Christmas “want list.” One Saturday morning in December, sit down to watch the children’s programming together. Help them list all the different toys that are advertised. After each commercial, talk about what was said, whether the announcer pointed out any of the negative aspects of the toy and what some of those negative things might be (based on their own experience). Perhaps the toy is breakable, hard to assemble or its pieces can easily get lost, etc. Have them evaluate toys on their Christmas list using the same criteria. This discussion could also include recalling gifts they received last year (the ones that have survived the year and the ones broken or forgotten) as well as all-time favorites or the most practical gifts they have received over the last couple of years.

Pick a few activities that best fit your family’s needs and put them on your calendar now. Every family needs traditions. These ideas can help you and your loved ones discover new Christmas favorites. A tradition is anything you do two or more years in a row, so be prepared for repeat requests—that’s tradition!

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