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What are your favorite Christmas traditions?
When we first married the week before Christmas, our families stayed with one another and we celebrated Christmas together.
Our second Christmas as a married couple, we visited my (Tiffany’s) family to announce our first pregnancy.
Then our third Christmas was spent with Phillip’s family visiting us for our daughter’s first holiday season.
It wasn’t until our fourth December that we celebrated Christmas with just our little family. By that point, we still hadn’t established any real Christmas traditions. That year, however, I was determined to set some firm traditions that we could carry throughout the years.
We combined favorite traditions from our individual families that we grew up with. We’ve also incorporated some Puerto Rican tradtions from our beloved island where we served our missions.
Here is a list of our favorite Christmas traditions.
On the first Sunday in December, the First Presidency for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints hosts a Christmas devotional. It can be streamed online for free on the Church’s website.
These devotionals are filled with beautiful music from The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square (formerly called the Mormon Tabernacle Choir) and inspirational messages
Most families have the tradition of reading Luke 2 on Christmas Eve. However, the reason we celebrate Christmas is because Christ’s birth lead to His Atonement and Resurrection.
Instead, we read a chapter of Luke each day for the entire month. There are 24 chapters in the book of Luke, so you get the entire life of the Savior throughout the entire month!
Watch Christmas movies together on Sundays throughout the month. Here is a list of our favorite Christmas movies:
- Nicholas: the Boy Who Became Santa – this is the story of the real Santa Clause. Since we don’t do Santa in our home, this video makes a perfect bridge that allows us to pretend about Santa without losing the true source of Christmas gifts
- A Christmas Story – I (Tiffany) grew up watching this movie and I kind of hate it. Our first Christmas I had Phillip watch it and he absolutely loved it. So it grudgingly has become one we watch each year. It’s a classic!
- Home Alone – all of the Home Alone movies are holiday classics. The kids think they’re hysterical, and each one is heartwarming.
- Muppet Christmas Carol – this is one of Phillip’s favorite Christmas movies, and it’s mine as well! We tend to burst into these songs all year long.
- Elf – this movie is just hilarious and shows how family and faith are the real parts of Christmas
- The Polar Express – another heartwarming Christmas classic about faith and belief
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas – whether you watch the cartoon version or the live action version, this movie that is based on the Dr. Seuss book demonstrates how Christmas is about what is in your heart, not what you receive.
When I became pregnant with our first child, I struggled with antepartum depression and hyperemesis gravidarum, I couldn’t work (or even leave the house).
After binge-watching way too many TV shows, I tried to be a bit crafty (which is not my forte). A friend down the road showed me how to make this cute advent calendar!
For each day, there are strips of paper with different ideas on what to do for each day of the month leading up to Christmas. Here are some ideas:
- Boil a cinnamon stick on the stove
- Call Grandma and Grandpa to sing Christmas carols
- Visit a stable or manger to imagine what the Savior’s birth was like
- Have a slumber party under the Christmas tree
- Decorate the Christmas tree
- Bake Christmas goodies
- Go caroling
- Have a snowball fight and build snowmen
- Hang some bells. Each time someone serves you, ring them.
- Watch a Christmas movie
- Imagine you lived at the time Jesus was born. Eat a meal of broiled fish, crackers, and grapes.
- Pick out a real Christmas tree
- Write in your journal some way your life has changed for good because of Christ’s birth and life.
- Draw names for Christmas presents
- Visit a lonely person.
- Find a family in need and play Secret Santa
- Draw a Christmas picture and take it to a neighbor
- The shepherds testified of Christ; hold a family testimony meeting
- List the names Christ is called in the scriptures. What do we learn about Him from His names?
- Talk about what has been your best Christmas ever and why. What makes the best Christmas?
- Eat sandwiches cut in a Christmas shape (cut bread with cookie cutters)
- Start a Christmas puzzle that can be put together throughout the month.
- Dramatize the nativity using props and simple costumes
- Go ice-skating
- Go sledding
- Make Christmas-shaped pancakes for breakfast.
- Give service at a local homeless shelter
- Invite a non-member of less-active family to the ward Christmas party
- What a Christmas parade, either nearby or on TV
- Decorate the house for Christmas
- Write a family Christmas letter to mail out
- Make count-down paper chains to Christmas day
In our family growing up, we always opened a new pair of pajamas on Christmas Eve and slept in them that night. Some years the pajamas have been really dorky, other years they’ve been matching, and then most years they’re comfortable and warm.
I like this tradition because we get fun family pictures out of it. Some years we gift robes or slippers, depending on our needs (and what sales I find!)
One of the most difficult things about Christmas, Thanksgiving, and other holidays is all of the time spent cooking and then cleaning up afterwards.
To help with this, my dad institute a family tradition of going out to eat dinner (or late lunch) on Christmas Eve so that we only had one large meal on Christmas day to contend with. To make it more fun, we would always choose a restaurant we had never eaten at before.
Some years we’ve adjusted this slightly if we lived in a place with no open restaurants or if Christmas Eve fell on a Sunday. It’s a tradition that Phillip and I have carried into our own family. Since we rarely eat out, it’s extremely fun for the kids!
On the night of Christmas Eve, after we eat out at the restaurant, we go home and put on our new Christmas pajamas.
Then drive around and look at cool Christmas lights while singing Christmas songs. “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” is a favorite!
You can search your local newspaper or Facebook pages to find out where the best Christmas lights are! When I was a kid in Denver the newspaper would publish the top 20 homes and a route to drive. Now here in Houston there are several subdivisions where the HOA holds Christmas decoration competitions. Some are even interactive – you can get out and walk around in them!
We also love going to the zoo and seeing the lights there. Both our zoos in Denver and Houston have had
Read Christmas books together! Phillip’s mom sent us some beautiful Christmas books over the first few years of our marriage that I had never heard of before.
The most prominent one that Phillip recalls is A Newberry Christmas, which is a collection of short Christmas stories written by Madeleine L’Engle, Beverly Cleary, and many more.
Here are some of the other books that Phillip grew up reading each Christmas and that he now reads to our children:
- The Night Before Christmas
- Baboushka and the Three Kings
- The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey
- The Christmas Train by Thomas S. Monson
- You Are My Miracle
- The Snow Angel
- Santa’s Favorite Story – the story of the first Christmas
- Mr. Finnegan’s Giving Chest
- The Light of Christmas by Dick Van Dyke
I love having these books and all of these traditions with my children. We’re forming memories that I hope will last a lifetime.
What are some of your favorite Christmas traditions?