Do you want to make Christmas all about Jesus, instead of just about chocolate and presents? These 12 easy Christ-centered Christmas traditions are great ways to get your kids (and grandkids) excited about the true meaning of Christmas: Jesus’ birth and God’s great rescue plan to redeem our broken world.
We have incorporated quite a few of these Christ-centered Christmas traditions into our Christmas celebrations over the years. Our family’s favorite tradition is the birthday party for Jesus, which is perfect for churches and at home. This tradition varies for us each year: it always involves a birthday cake for Jesus, and we have variously done secret Christmas presents, a movie night about St. Nicholas, and various birthday party games – sometimes at church and sometimes just inviting friends over to our house.
Try incorporating some of these Christmas traditions into your holiday to help keep your kids focused on Jesus and keep Christ in Christmas.
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Christ-Centered Christmas Traditions to Start with Your Family
Pick one (or a few) of this easy and meaningful Christ-centered Christmas traditions to start with your family. We love every single one of these because they are fun, easy, and memorable for the kids.
These are great traditions for small kids and big ones. The more of these you implement each year, the more Jesus-centered your holiday will become!
1. Tell the Christmas Story for Advent
We start our Christmas traditions on December 1st by telling the Christmas story for Advent. Instead of giving our kids those Advent calendars that have chocolate or toys each day, we have our own Advent calendar that we made. (It’s super easy. Get the pattern and instructions here.)
Each day, the kids pull out a laminated piece of the Christmas story from behind a rock and stick it onto the calendar. By Christmas Day, we have the whole story of Jesus’ birth.
Last year, I decided to supplement this with a chocolate hunt that also tells the Christmas story. So we have a set of Nativity Story Stones that match our Advent calendar, and each day the kids find the matching stone and the chocolate hidden with it. (The Story Stones are also super easy to make. You can get those instructions here.)
2. Have a movie night
Movie nights can be great opportunities for spiritual formation for your family. Have a movie night that focuses on the story of Jesus and his birth. There are so many movies that tell the story of Jesus’ birth in a creative way (great for Christmas movie night!) or tell other stories that help kids engage with the Gospel.
Some great options for a family Christmas movie night that put Jesus front and center:
- VeggieTales: Saint Nicholas, A Story of Cheerful Giving tells the story of Saint Nicholas and reinforces generosity and self-sacrifice.
- The Star (available on Netflix) tells the nativity story from the animals’ point of view.
- VeggieTales: The Toy that Saved Christmas (available on Amazon Prime in the US) tells the story of a toy that comes to life and wants to learn the true meaning of Christmas.
- The Very First Noel tells the story of the first Christmas and Jesus’ birth; it’s told in rhyme and follows the story of the wise men as they travel to Bethlehem .
3. Read a Christmas Story
Make it a tradition to read some Christmas stories about Jesus (and not just Frosty the Snowman or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer) leading up to Christmas. Kids love stories! Reading stories that are Jesus-centered is a great way to have some quality family time AND encourage faith formation.
Some great options for Christmas stories that keep Christ in Christmas:
- The Legends of Christmas Treasury is a great collection of faith-based stories about Christmas. Learn about candy canes, Saint Nicholas, and more!
- The Berenstain Bears’ The Joy of Giving is a great story about sharing, centered around the nativity story.
- Humphrey’s First Christmas is a cute story that tells the nativity story from the camel’s point of view.
4. Throw a Birthday Party for Jesus
Every year we play party games and throw a birthday party for Jesus. This is a great way to reinforce the ‘Jesus’ part of Christmas and to make the holiday tons of fun for your kids.
Some ideas for party games:
- pin the nose on the reindeer: draw a reindeer on a paper and stick a red nose on him
- fishing for candy canes: put a bunch of candy canes in a large bowl; tie one candy cane to a stick like a fishing hook and use it to collect the others
- Would You Rather? Christmas edition
- Simon Says
- have an indoor snowball fight with these cute snowman cotton ball launchers
Be sure to include birthday cake, Christ-centered Christmas stories, and a movie night to make this an epic Jesus birthday party.
5. Bake a Birthday Cake
We don’t have pie for our Christmas desert. We have birthday cake.
Since Christmas is Jesus’ birthday, why not bake him a cake? You can let your kids pick which kind of cake each year, and even get them involved in making the cake. (This year my kids requested that we make an edible nativity scene on top of Jesus’ birthday cake! One year we made a rainbow cake with rainbow sprinkles. That one was fun.)
This is also a great ‘soft-evangelism’ strategy (a term coined by a friend of mine). When we go to family Christmas gatherings, we bring birthday cake. When someone asks why we baked a cake, it gives us the perfect opportunity to talk about how Christmas is Jesus’ birthday (and who Jesus is, for our friends and family who don’t know the Christmas story at all).
6. Give a Gift to Someone Who Really Needs It
Gift giving is a big part of Christmas. And it’s not just about giving – and getting – more stuff. Giving gifts can show someone that you care about them. And giving gifts to people who really need them is even more important than just giving to your friends and family.
There are so many people in our world who don’t have enough: enough food, enough shelter, enough money to be able to give their own gifts at Christmas. Giving to someone who really needs something is a great way to show the love Jesus to your neighbours, near and far.
Our way of giving to someone in need for Christmas is to pick a gift from the World Vision catalogue. (Compassion Canada is another great charity that does the same thing, for my Canadian friends. And I’m sure that there are many others.)
We let each kid pick out a gift that goes to someone in another country who really, truly needs it. Usually they pick baby chicks or a llama. But you can also send medical packs, warm clothing, help build a well…. And letting each child pick something special to send to someone in need makes it a lot more personal and memorable.
You can make this a big deal that they’ll remember by choosing one day each year to go through the catalogue and pick out your presents. Make it just as important as picking out something for friends and family.
If you don’t want to buy baby chicks or stock a medical clinic with a place like World Vision, then just let your kids pick their favourite charity and choose an amount to donate as a special Christmas gift.
7. Teach Your Kids about Saint Nicholas
We don’t do Santa Claus in our house. Christmas is about so much more than just getting presents. It’s about more even than giving presents and being with family. So instead of Santa Claus, we focus on the true meaning of Christmas: Jesus’ birth (i.e. the coming of the Lord God, our Creator, into the universe to fix our broken world). This means that we also teach our kids about Saint Nicholas.
The Saint Nicholas story is actually a fascinating one, and one that reinforces everything that Jesus taught us about loving our neighbours and self-sacrifice.
Teaching your kids about Saint Nicholas is an excellent way to explain Santa Claus AND to teach your kids about Jesus.
Our favourite way to do this with smaller kids is to watch the Veggie Tales movie about Saint Nicholas. We do this every year, since the kids were about 2 years old (they’re almost 8 now).
8. Give a Secret Present to Someone
This is a tradition that I especially love: pick someone in your life (a friend, a relative, a neighbour) and give them a present in secret. This helps to reinforce the habit of giving. It also adds some fun in trying to keep it a secret. We have a lot of fun driving to someone’s house, sneaking up to their door, leaving a present and then running away.
9. Do a Family Devotion on Christmas Eve or Christmas Morning
Instead of diving straight into present opening, end Christmas Eve or begin Christmas morning with a family devotion.
Jesus Calling: The Story of Christmas makes a great Christmas devotion for Christmas Eve or Christmas morning.
For tweens and teens, you can try this Christmas devotion that examines the Word becoming flesh throughout the New Testament writings.
10. Saturate Your Family in Christian Christmas Music
So much of our Christmas music is about Frosty the Snowman and Santa Claus. Some of that music is fine, but when you’re saturated with music about nothing but magical snowmen and a jolly guy with flying reindeer who gives you gifts if you’re good, then you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to engage your kids in the true meaning of Christmas.
Find your favourite Christian artists and get their Christmas songs. My kids love TobyMac, so we listen to his Christmas albums every year. I’ve found that the best way to find Christmas music that my kids like (and that doesn’t drive me nuts) is to search for Christian Christmas music on Spotify, Apply Music, etc., play a whole bunch of it, and save the ones that the kids approve of in a separate list. Then voila! Instant Jesus-centered playlist for the littles.
11. Go See Christmas Lights
This is a great (and free!) activity that you can do with your family to help make Christmas special. Go for a drive, or a walk, and see all the Christmas lights in your neighbourhood. This is also an opportunity to talk about how Jesus is the light of the world, and how good wins over evil (like light winning over darkness).
12. Build a Nativity Scene
Make a nativity scene out of Lego, stuffed animals, or anything else you can think of. If you want to make it extra exciting, make a nativity scene that you can eat like this graham cracker nativity scene.
If you pick the same activity every year, or let the kids choose how you’re going to make the nativity scene each year, then it becomes a tradition and sticks with them.