meaningful activities for you and your family
The Christmas season is a time for celebrating the gift of Jesus Christ, reaching out to others, and sharing traditions with loved ones. Family time at Christmas can create some of life’s most precious memories! Even simple activities can carry a lot of meaning and greatly impact the lives of your children.
Here ATI staff from across the country share the traditions and holiday ideas that have meant a lot to their families, encouraging you to plan special times for your family and to keep Christ the central focus of your holiday celebrations.
Celebrating the Advent Season
“Probably my favorite Christmas tradition growing up was doing Advent together as a family the four weeks prior to December 25. Each Sunday we gathered around the table and lit a candle in the Advent wreath—one candle for each week, until all the candles were lit.
“After lighting the candle, my dad read Scriptures to us that specifically related to the birth of Christ—prophecies the first couple weeks, then the coming of John the Baptist, and finally, the coming of Christ as a child.
“On Christmas Eve we lit the last of the candles, and Dad read the account of Christ’s birth. Then we sang a Christmas carol, prayed, and often opened one gift. I appreciate this tradition because it kept Christ as my central focus.”
—Kara Lee Olson
A Tree-Full of Memories
“One of my favorite holiday traditions is the decorating of the Christmas tree. Each year, we enjoy hot apple cider and molasses cookies as we decorate. With Christmas music playing in the background, we all hang our own ornaments on the tree.
“Memories flood over me as I unpack ornaments from Christmases past. I remember competing with my older brother to see who would get to put their ornament on the highest branch of the tree! Sometimes my sugar plum fairy won, and sometimes his soldier won.
“Our tree has never had one particular theme, except maybe ‘hodgepodge’! Yet, I think it’s one of the most beautiful trees of all, with stories and memories tucked into every branch.”
More Blessed to Give
“It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
“I have often wondered about the validity of this statement. Where is the blessing in giving away something I would like to keep for myself? It might be more blessed, but it certainly is not more fun. Or is it?
“For the past several years, my family has helped with the local effort to give to the needs of the poor in our community during the holidays. We have each helped in a different aspect as schedules and talents allowed.
“The participation of many people is required to make this project happen. A volunteer committee organizes names, food, and gifts; school children blitz the community asking for canned contributions; high school students raise money and collect food; the grocery store donates a variety of resources; one family decorates the gift boxes; home schooled children sort donations; local citizens buy presents for the children; and area veterans pack and distribute the groceries and gifts.
“As I have observed these volunteers giving time, talent, and resources, I have seen the blessings of giving: generosity, diligence, memories, new relationships, and a job well done.
“Yet, even more than these blessings, I sense God’s pleasure as He watches families within a community work together to give to others. I can think of nothing more wonderful to receive than God’s pleasure. Yes, it is true. It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Tell Me the Story of Jesus
“For as long as I can remember, our family has celebrated with my mother’s family on Christmas Eve; therefore, we have created many special traditions and memories!
“One of the most special traditions takes place every year after dinner. We take time in our celebration to read through the Christmas story. Typically, the grandchildren act out the story in costume as one of the adults or older grandchildren reads the story right out of the Bible. This not only allows the younger children to be involved, but also helps bring the story to life again for each of us as we visualize what took place on that special night so many years ago.”
Happy Birthday, Jesus
“I love Christmas! I love the smells of balsam, the sounds of Christmas hymns, and—most of all—the faces of friends and family! It is one of the most wonderful times of the year.
“Our Christmas is especially special because one of my sisters was born on Christmas! To make sure that her birthday didn’t get lost in the midst of so many presents, we always saved Christmas night to celebrate her birthday so that she still felt special.
“Of course the most important birthday on Christmas is the birthday of Jesus! One of our favorite holiday traditions has been to make a birthday cake for Jesus. Early Christmas morning, we would all go to the kitchen, light the candles on the cake, and sing happy birthday to Jesus! This helped us focus on what the day was really all about.”
Creative Christmas Cards
“Over the last twenty years, we have enjoyed the tradition of making Christmas cards together. We have made many different types of cards using rubber stamps, embossing, calligraphy, sketching, or the computer. This has become a special time of working together, and we have found that people love receiving homemade Christmas cards!
“Inside the card, we include the Gospel message, encouraging recipients to trust Jesus, our Savior. This is a non-threatening way to share the Gospel at a time when people seem to be open to the Christian message. To see examples of our cards and find other Christmas ministry ideas, visit our family’s Web site.
“Throughout the year, we have continued sending homemade cards to the elderly and shut-ins. We include a Scripture and a short prayer, and over the years, we have heard testimonies of the encouragement this has been to many individuals. One man said, ‘See, someone loves me!’
“Use the small opportunities that the Lord brings along during this holiday season to reach out to others in the name of Jesus. Only He knows the fruit that will result when we share His love with others!”
- Here We Come a Caroling!
- Since few today take time for this long-standing custom, those who receive a visit from carolers often express genuine delight and gratitude! The tunes of the old carols are familiar to all, and the words express the greatest message ever given to mankind. Take time out of your holidays to give your friends and neighbors a moment of beauty that will brighten their memories of the season.
- A Themed Appreciation Evening
- Host a holiday-themed appreciation evening for those who have especially impacted your life in the past year—friends, relatives, Christian leaders, civil officials, or neighbors. Your children could join in by selecting guests they would like to honor. With options ranging from light holiday refreshments to an elegant banquet, consider hosting a gathering for those who have invested in your life.
- Tales of Christmas
- For a child, Christmas stories told and retold become treasured traditions. The special books that come out only at Christmas fill young ones with anticipation and delight as they enjoy time with the ones who mean the most to them. A quiet half-hour with Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, or an older brother or sister is quite a treasure in itself!
- Christmas 2006 Update — Read About More Holiday Traditions
- IBLP staff members share another collection of family traditions that make their Christmases meaningful. Read more >>
May your holiday season be filled with meaningful times for you and your family as you take time to celebrate the gift of Christ, family, and friends. Happy Holidays!
Many thanks to the staff who shared what made their holidays meaningful and kept Christ as their central focus.
November 2004; Updated April 2008