Christmas is a joyous time of year when families gather together to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. As Christians, this holiday gives us a special opportunity to honor God and bring our families closer together in faith.
Starting new Christmas traditions or reviving old ones can help make the holiday more meaningful. Traditions remind us what the season is really about – the arrival of our Savior on earth to save humanity. They provide comfort through familiar rituals and create lasting memories with our loved ones.
Here are some great Christmas traditions to start practicing in your Christian family:
- Set up a Nativity scene in your home
- Read the Christmas story from the Bible each year
- Sing or listen to Christmas hymns and carols
- Give thoughtful, charitable gifts just as the Magi did
- Perform a Christmas play or pageant at home or church
- Create hearty homecooked Christmas meals together
- Light an Advent wreath candle each Sunday before Christmas
- Construct a Jesse Tree to teach about Jesus’ ancestors
- Display a Christmas tree adorned with Christian symbols
- Take a drive to see neighborhood Christmas light displays
- Watch classic Christmas movies focused on the Savior’s birth
- Attend candlelight Christmas Eve church services
- Enjoy new Christmas books and movies with uplifting Christian themes
- Send thoughtful Christmas cards to family and friends
Set Up a Nativity Scene in Your Home
One of the most symbolic and meaningful traditions for Christian families is setting up a nativity scene in your home each Christmas season. Having a visual representation of the story of Jesus’ birth provides a great conversation starter about the true meaning of Christmas.
A basic nativity set includes figurines of Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus, an angel, shepherds, three wise men, and animals like a donkey, sheep, and cow. Let your kids help arrange the scene somewhere special like the mantle, coffee table, or entryway where it will be prominently displayed. Gently remind rambunctious ones that these figures are precious so they must be handled carefully.
For extra fun, add to your nativity over the years with new pieces like additional animals mentioned in the Christmas story. Let the kids make figures of stars, shepherds’ staffs, and other props from household items like paper towel tubes, fabric scraps, sticks, and blocks.
If you don’t have room for a full nativity scene, just displaying a few key figures like Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus in the manger can still provide a thoughtful focal point. Just be sure to keep your nativity set in a place of honor throughout the Advent and Christmas season as visual reminder to reflect on Christ’s birth.
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” (Micah 5:2 NIV)
Read the Christmas Story from the Bible Each Year
One of the best ways to maintain the spiritual focus of Christmas is to read the Biblical account of Christ’s birth each year as a family.
Set aside time on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning to gather and read the nativity story either from the gospels of Matthew and Luke or a children’s storybook paraphrase. Have different family members read a paragraph or play roles by reading the narration and individual lines of dialogue. Before or after reading, sing some Christmas carols or hymns together like “Joy to the World” and “O Come All Ye Faithful”.
If your family includes younger children, act out the story as you read using your nativity set pieces or costume props. Rotate roles from year to year so everyone gets a chance to play Mary, Joseph, the angel, shepherds, and wise men. Help younger kids memorize key lines like “Do not be afraid” (Luke 2:10) and “Peace on earth” (Luke 2:14) to repeat.
Close your reading by asking some discussion questions like who is your favorite character in the story and what gifts would you have brought baby Jesus. Then join in prayer thanking God for sending Jesus to be our Savior. End your time with hugs, a sweet treat, and joyful wishes for a blessed Christmas focused on Jesus, the best gift of all.
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. (Luke 2:1-20)
Sing or Listen to Christmas Hymns and Carols
Music is one of the best parts of Christmas. Singing traditional hymns and Christmas carols together as a family is a simple but meaningful tradition that points our hearts to Jesus.
Hymns like “Silent Night,” “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” and “What Child is This” have beautiful lyrics straight from scripture that tell the story of Christ’s birth and God’s promise of a savior. Carols like “Joy to the World,” “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” and “Angels We Have Heard on High” are upbeat, catchy songs that inspire joy and celebration of Jesus’ arrival.
Set aside time on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning to sing together as a family. Let each person pick a favorite song to share. Pull out hymnals or song sheets and a recording to sing along with. Have fun with it by singing in silly voices or using homemade instruments like jingle bells and spoons. Let the little ones dance around as you fill your home with praise.
If your family isn’t feeling particularly musical, simply playing recordings of your favorite Christmas hymns and carols in the background adds a sacred ambiance to your holiday celebrations. Stick to renditions with more classic arrangements rather than flashy pop versions in order to maintain the spiritual focus.
Singing or listening to these meaningful songs year after year provides comfort through familiarity while renewing our wonder at God’s greatest gift to the world – the birth of Jesus, our Lord and Savior.
“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. (Luke 2:8-11 NIV)
Give Thoughtful, Charitable Gifts Just as the Magi Did
A tradition practiced around the world is giving gifts on Christmas in remembrance of the precious gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh that the wise men presented to the Christ child. While showering family with presents can be part of a joyous celebration, this tradition presents a great opportunity to also teach our children the value of selfless generosity.
Take time with your family to intentionally select a few gifts to donate to charitable organizations or directly give to a family in need. Talk with your kids about the message of the Magi bringing their finest treasures to honor Jesus, and how we can sacrificially give as well by supporting others we know could use basic necessities and Christmas cheer.
Research reputable local charities like shelters, hospitals, and children’s homes to donate unopened toys, clothing, or household items in good condition. Make care packages with essentials for homeless populations in your community. Buy gift cards for an elderly neighbor or struggling single mom to help with groceries and expenses.
For an easy family activity, have everyone draw names to select one relation to shower with extra love through homemade coupons for help with chores, a family baking session, or a board game night. Discuss how the best gifts don’t always come from a store.
Set an example by donating a portion of your own money or time volunteering as a family at a charity during the season. Lead your children by modeling selfless giving in the spirit of Christ, whose arrival as a humble babe in a manger gave us the greatest gift we could ever receive.
“On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:11 NIV)
Perform a Christmas Play or Pageant at Home or Church
What better way to dramatically bring the story of the very first Christmas to life than through a fun family play? Gather your kids, cousins, or other families from church to put on a simple Christmas pageant acting out the nativity story.
Choose a children’s picture book version of the story to adapt into a script. Assign parts like narrator, Mary, Joseph, angels, shepherds, wise men, and animals. Let kids help make simple costumes using bathrobes, towels, cardboard wings, and fabric scraps. Scatter stuffed animals or nativity set figures around a makeshift Bethlehem set with a blanket “manger”.
Recruit someone musically inclined to play piano or guitar carols as transitions and accompaniment to acted scenes. Practice ahead of time, then put on your Christmas play at home to entertain relatives or coordinate with your church’s children’s ministry team to perform during a service or event.
Make sure every child feels included by finding roles to highlight each one’s unique strengths. Let shyer kids hold props, operate background music, or sing in chorus groups while bolder ones take speaking roles. Help timid tots warm up to acting by starting as part of the angel choir before taking featured parts when ready.
Staging your own production of the nativity story helps cement this sacred tradition in young minds and creates lasting family memories. Celebrate your Christmas pageant premiere with cookies, hot cocoa, and a viewing party where kids can bask in the glow of their performance.
“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.” (Luke 2:8-9 NIV)
Create Hearty Homecooked Christmas Meals Together
Having a delicious homecooked Christmas dinner with your family is a holiday tradition that can inspire togetherness and deepen faith. Enjoy favorite tried-and-true recipes while also starting new food traditions unique to your Christian household.
On Christmas morning, make a commemorative birthday cake for Jesus. Gather ingredients the night before so you can mix batter and bake a sweet treat to enjoy after opening gifts. Frost with white icing and decorate with strawberries to resemble a red velvet cake. Add candy sprinkles and candles to celebrate Christ’s birth!
For your main Christmas feast, collaborate on festive dishes that will fill your home with holiday aromas and your hearts with joyful fullness. Assign each family member a course to contribute, like appetizers, side dishes, desserts and beverages. Prepare treasured handed-down recipes from past generations along with new ones to add to your traditions.
Involve children in making simple sides, setting the table, and creating place cards or favors. Infuse spiritual significance into your menu by selecting a crown roast or lamb to reflect Christ as the sacrificial Lamb of God. Bake breads to represent Jesus as the Bread of Life. Name each dish after a virtue embodied by Jesus like love, hope, peace or joy.
As you stir, chop, bake, taste and decorate together, talk about the blessings of the past year and hopes for the one ahead. When all is ready, join hands in prayer to dedicate your feast to Christ’s glory. Enjoying God’s abundance and communion of loved ones around the table is a precious tradition reminding us of the eternal heavenly banquet awaiting all believers.
“Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God“ (Luke 14:15 NIV)
Light an Advent Wreath Candle Each Sunday Before Christmas
Count down the four Sundays preceding Christmas by lighting Advent wreath candles as part of your family devotional time. This beautiful tradition symbolizes the light of Christ coming into the world, and helps build excited anticipation for celebrating His birth.
To make an Advent wreath, form a ring of evergreen branches or use a wire frame as the base. Add 4 equidistant candle holders secured upright with bits of greenery in between. Use 3 purple candles, 1 pink candle, and 1 central white Christ candle. The purple candles represent hope, peace, and joy; the pink represents love; and the central candle represents Jesus our Savior.
Each Sunday morning in December, gather your family to light that week’s candle(s), gradually increasing the light each week as Christmas draws closer. Sing a verse of a themed Advent carol or song like “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” or “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus”. Read corresponding scriptures from Isaiah proclaiming the Messiah’s coming light – Is. 9:2, Is. 9:6-7, Is. 11:1-10, then Is. 2:4-5 on Christmas Eve.
Let kids take turns lighting and extinguishing the candles as you explain how the wreath’s growing brightness symbolizes the nearness of Jesus, the true light of the world. Close in prayer thanking God for fulfilling His promise of sending a Savior, asking Him to make your hearts ready to celebrate Christ’s birth.
Centering your family each Sunday around the Advent wreath infuses spiritual awareness into your Christmas preparations. The visible growing light serves as a meaningful visual countdown, building eager anticipation for joyously honoring Jesus’ arrival on Christmas day.
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” (Isaiah 9:2 NIV)
Construct a Jesse Tree to Teach About Jesus’ Ancestors
Displaying a Jesse Tree is an Advent tradition that traces Christ’s lineage through His ancestors and God’s whole redemptive plan from Creation to His birth. Teach your family this rich heritage while enhancing their Christmas Bible literacy.
A Jesse Tree depicts a tree or branch bearing symbols representing stories from the Bible that led to Jesus’ birth. The name comes from Isaiah 11:1 foretelling of a Branch from the stem of Jesse, King David’s father.
To make a Jesse Tree, hang a small artificial tree or branch on a wall. Create leaf or scroll ornaments bearing names, key events and symbols corresponding to Old Testament people and prophecies that prepared the way for Jesus. Display 1-2 ornaments each day of December leading up to Christmas, retelling those stories to reinforce God’s faithfulness across generations.
Select figures like Adam & Eve, Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Deborah, Jonah, Isaiah, and more. Highlight prophecies pointing to the coming Messiah and His redemption. Write the backstories to accompany each ornament so you’ll be prepared to share these meaningful histories.
Making your own Jesse Tree ornaments and daily storytelling builds eager anticipation for Jesus’ birth by revealing the intricate threads God wove through centuries to fulfill His promise of salvation at just the right time. This rich heritage of faith will help anchor your family’s celebrations in the vast, wondrous sweep of God’s purposes.
“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.” (Isaiah 11:1 NIV)
Display a Christmas Tree Adorned With Christian Symbols
The tradition of decorating an evergreen Christmas tree originated in Germany as a symbol that even in the midst of winter’s cold and darkness, life and light continue through Christ. Bring deeper spiritual meaning to your family’s tree by intentionally decorating it with Christian symbols.
Choose decorations representing elements of the Christmas story and our Christian faith. String strands of lights to represent Christ illuminating our lives and extending God’s love to the world. Top your tree with a star or angel reminding us of the star that led the Magi to Jesus and angles proclaiming his birth.
Adorn branches with ornaments shaped like a manger, cross, doves, Bibles or other Christian symbols. Craft homemade ornaments depicting nativity figures, angels, stars, crowns, fish, hearts and the Greek letters Chi-Rho for the title “Christ”. Let kids help tie bows, string popcorn and cranberries, make salt dough creations, or pipe clay into shapes that represent Jesus’ life and ministry throughout the year ahead.
Set up your nativity beneath the boughs to complete the symbolic picture. When loved ones come over, explain the special meaning behind each meaningful ornament. Reading the Christmas story by the light of the tree creates a sacred space for reflecting on God’s wondrous gift of Jesus.
Choose a treetopper angel or glowing white star to discuss how God guiding the Magi by a star revealed Christ came to save all nations, both Jews and Gentiles. Let younger kids search for the “Baby Jesus” ornament each time the tree is turned on, reminding them He is the heart of Christmas.
Take time when packing up decorations to explain how evergreens stay alive through winter just as Christ brings eternal life. Decorating your Christmas tree with purposeful Christian symbols both teaches and reminds us of God’s redemptive plan revealed through Jesus’ birth.
“The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.” (John 1:9 NIV)
Take a Drive to See Neighborhood Christmas Lights
A festive family tradition that delivers wonder and whimsy is piling in the car after dinner to cruise around looking at neighborhood Christmas light displays. Kids will love this visually dazzling adventure while you rest and catch up on their days.
Drive through nearby subdivisions, retail districts, public parks, and community holiday light shows. Crank the Christmas tunes and sing along while you take in the visual splendor of twinkling lights, inflatables, sparkling reindeer, giant candy canes and more. Let the kids jot down favorite streets and yards to revisit year after year.
Turn this into an opportunity to teach gratitude and compassion by chatting about the work and expense that goes into those elaborate light displays. Drop off home-baked goods or hot chocolate gift baskets to thank a few neighbors on your route for their dazzling displays.
Offer to take older neighbors along to enjoy the lights. Or donate blankets to the homeless shelter afterwards. The light displays celebrate Jesus as the Light of the World while reminding us to spread light through lovingkindness to others.
Time together admiring neighborhood lights helps make the season bright. The laughter and wonder of taking in the amazing light displays with your kids will create priceless memories and become a much-anticipated family tradition for years to come.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.“ (John 1:5 NIV)
Watch Classic Christmas Movies Focused on the Savior’s Birth
What better way to spend time together as a family than watching movies that inspire faith and the true meaning of Christmas – the birth of our Savior? In contrast to often-secularized Christmas cinema, choose classic or new films specifically focused on the nativity story.
Watch the timeless 1965 animated “A Charlie Brown Christmas” which beautifully blends humor and heartfelt meaning as Charlie discovers what Christmas is really about. Snuggle together to enjoy “Nestor the Long-Eared Donkey” telling the story of a donkey scorned for his big ears who ends up carrying Mary to Bethlehem.
The modern version “The Nativity Story” portrays the hardships faced by Mary and Joseph on the journey to Jesus’ birth. For family-friendly laughs, queue up Tim Allen’s “The Santa Clause” series with warm themes of Christmas spirit prevailing through adversity. Add in the manger-centric Muppet/peanuts mashup “A Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie”.
Supplement with animated Bible stories about Jesus’ birth, fictional tales highlighting nativity themes, and documentaries examining historical context. Set a sacred tone by introducing each film, then ask discussion questions about Gospel parallels afterwards. Provide snacks that appear as props in these stories, like cous cous, dates, olives and figs.
Watching nativity-centered movies together creates cuddle time that feeds the soul. Laugh, cry and be inspired by films affirming that Jesus is indeed the precious reason for the season.
“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.“ (Luke 2:11 NIV)
Attend Candlelight Christmas Eve Church Services
Attending candlelight Christmas Eve church services is a profoundly worshipful tradition. Gathering together with other Christians on this holy night to sing carols, hear scripture, light candles, and celebrate communion connects us to the collective joy of commemorating Jesus’ birth.
Search for a local church holding Christmas Eve services. Look for earlier children’s services that welcome younger family members, then stay up late to attend a midnight mass focused on worship through drama, music and candle-lighting as Christmas arrives.
Dress up and arrive early to get seats for your family. Sing along to treasured carols with gusto. As candles are passed to light rows of worshippers, appreciate this sacred symbol of Christ the Light coming to show us God’s salvation. Gaze around in wonder with kids at the dark sanctuary illuminated by flickering candles representing Jesus illuminating our hearts.
Bow heads reverently to take the bread and juice of communion, remembering the sacrificial purpose for which infant Jesus came. After worship concludes with closing carols and greetings of Merry Christmas, head home filled with the spiritual blessings of celebrating the birth of our Savior surrounded by fellow Christians.
Attending candlelight Christmas Eve services together immerses your family in the sacred spirit of the season. These special gatherings help us practice traditions that connect believers through generations and draw our hearts to worship the newborn King.
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12 NIV)
Enjoy New Christmas Books and Movies With Uplifting Christian Themes
As your kids grow, carry the tradition of enjoying Christmas stories into fluent reading ages and the teen years by giving books and movies with uplifting spiritual themes. Share these faith-based favorites to inspire older kids with messages reminding them of Christ’s love and the true holiday spirit.
Read Christmas novels for upper elementary and middle school kids that highlight kindness, compassion and doing the right thing. Movies like “The Christmas Candle” tell stories of people struggling through hardship who are changed by miracles only God could design.
Watch new faith-based films like “Christmas with The Chosen” that continue Biblical stories in historical fiction form to make spiritual connections. Themes of redemption, sacrifice, and God’s perfect timing enable meaningful conversations about the everyday purpose of Jesus’ birth.
Discuss research on the credibility of the virgin birth. Study classic Christian works like CS Lewis’ “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” drawing parallels to Jesus’ ministry. Analyze the symbolism and deeper meaning in popular secular Christmas films and novels.
Challenge teens to identify Christ figures and other biblical symbolism in mainstream stories. Contrast visions of Santa and sleighs with the substantive message of Emmanuel – God with us – found in the crèche. Uplifting books and films inspire older kids to keep Christ in Christmas.
“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Luke 2:11 NIV)
Send Thoughtful Christmas Cards to Family and Friends
An old-fashioned tradition that brings cheer while keeping Christ the centerpiece of Christmas is having family members make thoughtful handwritten Christmas cards. Convey love and share the story of Jesus’ wondrous birth by sending seasonal greetings to relatives, friends, and neighbors.
On a December afternoon, spread out around a table with cards, decorative paper, glue sticks, markers and embellishments. Provide card templates or have kids fold construction paper and decorate the covers with crayons, stickers, rubber stamp images, or cut-outs from Christmas ads in magazines.
Have each person write a personal greeting inside explaining what they love most about Christmas. Help young kids sign their names. Use this as a teaching moment to review the Christmas story or select Bible verses focused on Jesus’ birth to copy inside cards.
Address envelopes together and nurture generosity by letting kids decorate and deliver some cards to neighbors. Drop off others to residents at senior centers and nursing homes who may not have local family. Seeing the recipients’ smiles will show your children the gift of sharing love.
The tradition of making and mailing Christmas cards keeps your family’s focus on the heart of the season – honoring the birth of Jesus by spreading inspiration and happiness.
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14 NIV)
Christmas is so much more than parties, presents and indulging in sweets. The joy of this blessed season comes from honoring the miraculous gift of Jesus Christ our Savior. Starting meaningful Christmas traditions centered around the true “reason for the season” helps families cut through the commercialism and stay focused on what matters most.
Choose traditions that remind us of God’s faithfulness across generations. Teach children the beautiful legacy of our Christian heritage from Creation to Bethlehem. Join fellow believers for worship and outreach that spreads light during this darkest time of year. Share the love of Christ through simple acts of kindness, charity and sacred celebrations that create lasting memories.
Most importantly, pause amid the busyness to prayerfully reflect on Jesus’ sacrifice for us. Meditate on His arrival as Immanuel, God with us, to walk among mankind, save us from sin, and offer eternal life to all who believe. There is no greater gift we could possibly receive than the incredible gift from God of His own beloved Son.
May your family’s Christmas be filled with the wonder of Christ’s birth and new traditions that point your hearts toward Him. Celebrate with joy as you cultivate sacred traditions that help each one draw closer to the Lord during this blessed season.
Merry Christmas and God bless you!