Written by Teresa Goodnight
Holiday traditions really bring about excitement and expectation for the season to come. Some of the ones I have appreciated (or implemented) can be an easy addition to your holiday season. Traditions don’t have to start the day your children are born! They can start at any season that God puts them on your heart quite honestly. So, don’t be discouraged if you haven’t really been doing anything for years and years. It might take a little coercion with older children, but it will be worth it when you have memories that will last a lifetime.
Thanksgiving (or any holiday) candle: One of the loveliest traditions I know, I first did with a group of friends I worked with many years ago. We passed around a candle to each person at a Thanksgiving meal with our group. We each shared one thing we were thankful for (work or personal). As awkward as you might think it was, as this was just not my girls gathering together, but our entire team—it was memorable even now, 15 years later. We all talked about it each season. Our company was sold, but our last holiday together set a light to the meaning of friendships!
Thanksgiving serving: As filling as the holiday meal is gathered around the table with family, many find heading down to John 3:16 in Tulsa to serve holiday meals is even more filling in the end. Serving others a meal, when they have no regularly scheduled meals, can bring about a whole new meaning to the season of thanks. It reminds us to help those who are less fortunate for whatever reason. Most didn’t set out hoping to be homeless or jobless. Life happens. It also reminds our families to be thankful for what we do have. Together, giving to others because much has been given to you—that’s a dish worth serving!
Gingerbread Houses/Christmas Cookies: Ok. I know. It feels like a whole lot of work (and you don’t really get to eat the yummy house—cookies are another story!). However, with today’s amazing retailers, you can grab a ready to assemble house at Costco if you aren’t inclined to do your own. My daughter starts asking when we get to do ours at least two months before Christmas. With a little Christmas music, hot chocolate, and nibbling on the icing, it’s quite fun. Our house isn’t going to win any contest, but it’s made with a lot of love enjoyed by all. For the cookies, you can go completely homemade to Walmart pre-made but not yet baked Pillsbury yummies. It doesn’t have to be perfect to be a fun tradition. The operative word here is FUN!
Christmas Caroling: Sounds out of date a bit? Maybe. But, update it with a set of Christmas lights with a battery and you’re golden. Then, wrap up the participants and start knocking on doors. (whoever has a free hand!) You can learn 3–4 songs (most of which you likely already know). Give the neighbors a Christmas smile. If you want to really make someone’s day—add in a local nursing home or retirement center to the list (call first of course!). Pack your hot chocolate and give it a go!
If you’re more inclined to stay at home? Start one night of Christmas Carols around the tree either with family or host a youth event with a few of your children’s friends and play some on your device! If you aren’t musically inclined, I love How Many Kings, Toby Mac, Mercy Me, Casting Crowns or well . . . I’m not gonna lie. I love me some Elvis Christmas—and he really makes for a fun evening to boot! Finish the evening by piling in the car and heading off to Rhema (or start there!) or drive through some well-lit neighborhoods, like 106th and Sheridan (go north and south in there!) and wander around the neighborhood towards 111th. There are some BIG sets of lights to see! Even singing in the car on your way to the lights can be a tradition all its own!
Advent Calendars: Yeah, I know. Everyone does them, but not everyone does them like you might! We bought one from Pottery Barn for Kids (although honestly you could make your own with some hot glue in about 20 minutes or less). Fill it with candy or little toys. Then start your countdown. We use the Life.Church Children’s Storybook Bible to read the story of the birth of Jesus to our little one every night while she eats her candy. Last year for Christmas? Our 3-year old recited the entire story to our whole family after Christmas dinner. You can imagine how that felt! (No kids Bible? Download the free Life.Church Kid’s Bible on your phone or tablet. Done.)
Giving (Anything/Anywhere/Any Time): Let your kiddos participate in some form of giving to others over the holidays. It’s a great tradition built on the generosity of the God we serve. Maybe it’s another meal. Maybe it’s one of the many trees around town with presents children might be wanting. Maybe it’s sneaking a bag of presents or food onto the porch of a family who just lost a job and ringing the doorbell as you hide. Maybe it’s just sitting down taking advantage of tax breaks with end of year giving to your favorite charities/church. Whatever way you decide to create a tradition of giving, build it into your traditions with your children. It will remind them of the reason for the season—which has very little to do with Santa Claus and a whole lot to do with Jesus!
Christmas Eve (SERVE)ice: Don’t just go. Serve! There are usually WAAAY more services for Christmas than just the one you will attend. For this season, create a moment of sharing with your kiddos as you serve at your church. Churches often need door greeters, decorators, and more. There are lots of ways you and your family can make the Christmas season special for your church staff by helping out (plus all of those attending!). When you’re done? Go have a Starbucks or a meal and talk about things that happened. There’s always that ONE STORY you won’t forget.
Anything you do can be a holiday tradition. Last year, I might have started a new tradition by not actually cooking the Christmas dinner for our extended family. We had this incredibly overpriced, fancy new Dacor oven that wasn’t heating up high enough. There was a system malfunction that required complete replacement. I didn’t realize it since we eat out all the time. (No judging!) So, unknowingly, I served everything doughy, raw, and ummm yeah just not done! You get it. People were trying to eat it believe it or not. Talk about love! The world didn’t fall apart. We went straight to the desserts everyone bought. My family still laughs about how I could own an oven for over 6 months and not realize it wasn’t working. Anyway, you get the idea.
So, here are my holiday tradition rules:
- Don’t stress.
- Don’t overthink it.
- Memories with a giggle are magic.
- Your family and Jesus still love you—dry turkey or not.
- Enjoy family and friends. Period.