Simplifying Christmas Events & Building Traditions

Christmas is a wonderful season and yet how easily it fills up with an overwhelming load of activities! How can we simplify our outside activities and focus more on building strong family traditions during this season?

Limit outside events

Carefully and prayerfully evaluate how you wish to spend your holiday season as you know the invites, ideas and events will be coming. Using the holiday evaluation questions were a great tool for making these decisions and one I highly recommend you complete together with your husband. We have divided outside activities into two different themes for our families: outreach, and local holiday events (family building activities), and just limiting them deliberately to two events per category.

This year we are planning on hosting a Christmas Ladies tea for the women in our neighborhood and singing and playing Christmas carols at a local nursing home and visiting with the elderly. Other events are home centered – such as including our international students in our holidays celebrations and making some simple baked goods for our neighbors. We also like to attend two local Christmas events. I think it will be the Singing Christmas Tree (it’s free and right across the street!) & Handel’s Messiah this year. Limiting it this way helps us to prayerfully evaluate what events to participate in without stretching us too thing and not having a restful holiday season.

Enjoy Advent Reading

Advent readings throughout the season keep our hearts focused on the reason for the season and increase the family centeredness of the holidays that I enjoy. We can get so caught up in outside events and miss the meaningful times of building the family. Growing up, my family really enjoyed Jotham’s Journey: A Storybook for Advent and the other books in this series by Arnold Ytreeide. He has written three different advent stories that will take you through three years. Some of his doctrinal statements I do not agree with, but overall it was a fun family building time. When my own children grow older we will be reading through these again.

This past year, Aaron and I read through Watch For The Light: Readings For Advent And Christmas and really enjoyed these deeper and thoughtful addresses from different authors (C.S. Lewis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, etc).

Of course, you must have an advent wreath to go with it! Last year we used a small wreath with a colorful small garland tucked into it and four red candles for of the four weeks prior to Christmas and one white candle in the middle for Christmas day. You can also use three pink, one purple and one white which is very common as well.

Other family traditions we enjoy: giving a Jesus gift to a family in need, buying one new classic Christmas movie each year, buying one new ornament to commemorate a special event from the year, going out and finding a Christmas tree together, along with a few other fun things.

To read more about other Christmas traditions at our home, read Celebrating Christ’s Coming.

Other Advent Resources:

Celebrating Advent with Kids – instructions on how to make your own advent wreath and readings.
Homemade Advent Calendar
– including fun family ideas and events for each night counting down to Christmas. Why not include a fun activity along with a passage of Scripture to reflect upon using the resource below?
Advent Calendar with Verses (Days 1-12 & Days 13-23)- another option is to post a verse behind each day on your advent calendar.
Jesse Tree Info & Resources
-Rocks in My Dryer has done a fabulous job creating a unique Jesse tree. Check out here ornaments here. The Jesse Tree is a means of telling the whole story from Creation to the Nativity story with the use of ornaments and devotional readings. A great means of keeping a Christ-centered focus during the holidays! An alternative to the Advent Calendar.
Jesse Tree Advent Celebration by Ann Voskamp – another great resource for the Jesse Tree idea, including ornament ideas and devotionals.

How do you limit outside activities during the season? What traditions are you hoping to establish this year? Have any good advent reading materials to share?

About Lindsay

Lindsay Edmonds is first a lover of Jesus, wife, mother of four, homemaker, and writer. She loves inspiring women around the world toward simple, natural, and intentional living for the glory of God.

11 Responses to Simplifying Christmas Events & Building Traditions

  1. Rebecca December 6, 2008 at 2:52 pm #

    Christmas on a different note…you don’t have to do anything!! Let me explain…after serving overseas as a Christian relief worker/missionary for years in Haiti, Mozambique, and India, and marrying a wonderful Christian man who grew up not “keeping” Christmas, gave me a much different perspective. Why give gifts when Jesus is our greatest gift, the magi brought Him treasures? We don’t really do much for Christmas, but focus on Christ’s coming a Savior, and it is the most relaxing and spiritual time for us. It is also so sad to see the waste of time and expense, and stress that most Christians and non-believers face at this time. It is interesting to see how much folks want to slow down and rethink, be intentional and less stressed about what they do and don’t want to do over the holidays, so that’s good. I just want to let you know that you don’t have to celebrate the way the way the world does at all if you don’t want to, and not to be trapped in cultural traditions of the Western materialistic world. If we look at church history and scripture we know that the apostles and most disciples of Christ throughout the ages acknowledged but never celebrated the Lord’s coming, but looked towards His resurrection and ascension. In fact, true examinination of many of the traditions is frightening! Let’s face it, we like the traditions and trappings and celebrations, and that’s okay, but you don’t have to partake if you don’t want to, or choose to do something different. Hindus, Muslims, animists, and pagans, wonder why, when they are converted to Christ, we are “bowing” down to the idols of Christmas, and to look at Jeremiah 10 and see how the people put up a tree in their house, fastened it so it wouldn’t totter, and then festooned it with gold and silver. Christians in other countries do not celebrate Christmas as we do here, except when they are influenced by our Western culture and it’s materialism. Charles Spurgeon, the prince of preachers proclaimed, “what rubbish!”. I’m not trying to be a grinch here or against it at all, just amazed that we don’t really see other Christian perspectives or questioning of our practices even from soundly saved folks embracing good biblical doctrine. I believe it is because it is so entrenched in our culture. It is a good time for outreach and evangelism but beyond that we can let go of more and more if we choose to, and look towards the author and finisher of our faith instead. Blessings and Peace in Him :-)

  2. DeAnna November 21, 2008 at 6:33 am #

    Thanks for the ideas. Especially since our girls were born, we have simplified alot of Christmas. I always want us to have family traditions for them rather than just dragging them to every get together someone has. We love classic Christmas movies, but I can’t say I buy a new one every year, we’re stuck in a rut, my hubby and I love White Christmas, Holiday Inn and Christmas in Connecticut and we watch them every year. :) We do have several fun family outings that we all really enjoy and along with buying gifts for needy children, this year we want to include our neighbors in our outreach. Last year we wanted to do this, but due to an emotional Christmas (my aunt was very sick with cancer and died the day after Christmas) we didn’t get to do everything we wanted. So this year, my girls and I will bake some goodies and we are going to go to each neighbor’s house on our street and pass them out. I LOVE the idea of a Jesse tree. Have you ever read or seen the Jesus Storybook Bible? It is by far my favorite kids Bible book — it does such a wonderful job in each story to point everything to Christ. My girls love it, we’ve used it to read to them at night and as soon as we’re done, the girls barely want a break before we start it again. This would be great to go along with the tree. Thanks for the info.

    • Lindsay November 21, 2008 at 8:14 am #

      Yes, we have and greatly enjoy the Jesus Storybook Bible! Karis isn’t quite old enough yet to read through it all the way, but we love the clear and solid Biblical doctrine that it tells. Wonderful resource!

  3. Amyswandering November 19, 2008 at 10:11 pm #

    Thanks for all of the great ideas!

  4. Kate November 19, 2008 at 3:02 pm #

    My husband and I are taking our children to NYC for one night to see the Rockette’s.

    Every year we host a Christmas party, this year it will be the first weekend in December. Since we are youth pastors we are having a Christmas concert. We just had auditions last night for a few solos. And I ordered our robes last nite as well. We will have our concert Christmas Eve.

    We really never did an Advent wreath, I now my mother did something similar.

    I’ve already started making cookie dough to freeze. I’ll be making those cookies for a cookie exchange mid-December, another party we have at our home.

  5. Julia November 19, 2008 at 10:31 am #

    Thanks for the recommendation. We have a 3.5 year-old son and I would love to do something like this with him…but would this book be too old for him?

    • Lindsay November 19, 2008 at 10:40 am #

      I don’t see why not. It may take a little more explanation. My younger siblings participated in the family readings from that age.

  6. MacKenzie @BRC Banter November 19, 2008 at 8:48 am #

    I remember my mom reading us Jotham’s Journey. My older brother and I were already in our teens but my mom “convinced” us to listen for our little brother’s sake as he was young enough that he wanted to hear it – and so did we, we just didn’t want to admit it was still nice to listen to read alouds.

  7. Julie November 19, 2008 at 8:11 am #

    Last week, our women’s ministry at church hosted “Redeeming the Season” – based on the book of the same title. The book is chock full of ideas pointing families to Christ.

  8. Susan November 19, 2008 at 7:11 am #

    I like the idea of being intentional about Christmas, and therefore not over-committing. I love “events”, and so this year we’re going to the Nutcracker, A Christmas Carol, and a Boar’s Head performance, but that’s it – we don’t do parties. I am done with shopping already, and the girls and I will have a baking day sometime in Dec. Thanks for sharing some helpful strategies!

  9. calina November 19, 2008 at 5:41 am #

    Thanks for the ideas. I definately want to do more advent activities this year!