A couple of years ago, I went to a big box store with my children to find a nativity set for our front lawn. It seemed an easy enough task. While we found aisles full of everything from twinkling snowmen to LED candy canes and animated characters, the store had only a few small nativity sets and no kind of manger scene for our lawn.
The commercialization of Christmas makes it easy to get pulled away from the real reason for Christmas.
Not only that, the sheer busyness of December can keep us from focusing on Jesus’ birth. I’ve found that if I want to celebrate and help my children learn about the real Christmas story, I have to be prepared and purposeful. If you’re trying to keep that focus as well, here are seven ways your family can celebrate the true meaning of Christmas.
1. Create a Jesse Tree.
A Jesse Tree is decorated with ornaments that symbolize God’s plan to bring his Savior to the world – from creation, through the Hebrew exodus, the reign of King David and all the way to Jesus’ birth. Pinterest is full of Jesse Tree ornament tutorials and books can be found that have scripture, prayers, and devotionals to accompany the ornaments.
2. Write a letter to Jesus.
This is a tradition started by a friend’s family. Kids are used to writing a letter to Santa and asking for the things they want. What if, instead, they wrote a letter to Jesus listing what they want to give? Is there something they need to give up? Something they can give away? It’s a great way to turn the focus from self to God and others.
3. Set up a child-friendly nativity.
Because several of my nativity sets are special and breakable, I like to let my kids set up one manger scene for little hands at their play level. My children will often rearrange the pieces and reenact the story through the season. This printable will help you start conversations with your children about the real Christmas story.
4. Host an old-fashioned carol sing.
One of my favorite Christmas memories is a party my family attended each year. After hors d’oeuvres and conversation, families gathered around the piano to sing all the old Christmas songs. The lighthearted songs were included (I remember singing jingle bells while everyone shook their keyrings) along with the traditional carols.
5. Plan a movie night.
In the bustle of December, a movie night at home with popcorn and hot chocolate is a family favorite. Try one of these movies to celebrate the reason for the season: A Charlie Brown Christmas, the Nativity Story, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Christmas Candle, or The Little Drummer Boy.
6. Tour a Living Nativity.
What a treat to be transported back in time with costumed actors, a stable, live animals and depiction of life in Bethlehem at Jesus’ birth. If a church in your town is not hosting a living nativity, gather some friends together with simple costumes and props for your own neighborhood version one evening.
7. Read the real Christmas story.
My kids wake up with a month’s worth of bottled anticipation ready to dive into the Christmas presents. Several years ago, we decided to start with the real reason for Christmas. So before the chaos of wrapping paper and bows, we first read about the birth of Jesus in Luke 2:1-20. Some families enjoy reading this passage just before bedtime on Christmas Eve or when everyone is gathered around the Christmas dinner table. You can find this passage on this iMOM printable.
Despite the bustle of the season and the push to make December about gifts, this is one month of the year when families can incorporate traditions to celebrate the real Christmas story.
Tell us in the comments: how does your family keep Christ the focus of Christmas?