5 Steps to a Meaningful Christmas Season

by Hilary Horn

During Advent, each week John Lewis will be providing a post with activities that you can do individually or together with your family.  As you begin to prepare for the advent season, read this great post by John on how to make it meaningful —


Putting up lights or stockings, baking cookies, and wrapping presents may be JOY-FILLED traditions your family already practices. TRADITIONS can help connect these familiar practices and symbols of the Christmas story to your family’s heritage, values, faith and personality. Year after year, these require a higher degree of intentionality. While many of us may not have grown up with traditions like that, their BLESSINGS ae much worth the effort and planning! Where do we start? The most enduring FAITH traditions (Lord’s Supper, Baptism, Weddings) are practiced in community. So, we know that relying on others is a tried and true place to start. Carissa and I offer below not a formula but some steps that might help your family create and celebrate meaningful family CHRISTMAS traditions.

Step #1: Decide to do it

Let’s face it. There are many obstacles during the holidays that must be overcome to achieve meaningful and faith filled Christmas traditions: busyness, distraction, guilt, and added Christmas duties during the month. So:

  1. Gather your family to discuss the benefits of traditions together (family bonding and identity, passing down values and faith, etc.). If you decide together, you will set yourself up for success.
  2. Decide as parents and as a family that this is important. Declare that with God’s help, you will start some small but meaningful traditions. Ironically, the best time to start is when your kids are ‘2 or S, when you are still scrambling and the kids seem too young to understand much. They will pick up more than we realize.
  3. Pray for God’s help and commit this to God together. It’s not about you being responsible for their success!

Step #2: Start with brainstorming

  1. Identify any traditions for your families of origin that you want to continue or adapt (putting up the tree/lights, e.g.)? What does your family already love to do together during Christmas?
  2. Identify some family values, Christmas stories, and biblical themes you want to highlight this Christmas season (giving, serving, God as light, e.g.).
  3. Identify your family’s passions, practices, and personality. What do you already like to do? (love for baking, e.g.) These might contribute ideas to adapting old Christmas traditions or starting new ones.

Step #3: Find some resources

  1. Resources that identify the original story, legend, meaning behind the symbols and traditions of Christmas.
  2. Book or guide that you can use, learn from, or adapt for building meaningful long term traditions (I could not easily find one that I liked that would suit this purpose, so I did my own.)
  3. Ask for help from others who either already practice holiday traditions, or who might be willing to try new traditions with you-together in person and/ or through technology.

Step #4: Make your plan

  1. Create your tradition as a couple and whenever possible, as a whole family. Be specific but not rigid about the what, when, where and how of practicing your traditions. If need be, mark the family calendar.
  2. Do the traditions fit both your family and the hopes you have for passing on values and faith?
  3. Start small. Make the plan doable. It’s better to do something for five minutes than try to do too much or do nothing at all. Remember, you are starting year after year traditions.

Step #5: Be flexible

  1. Anticipate the unexpected. Respond to what comes up spontaneously.
  2. Avoid guilt. When it doesn’t go as well or as often as you expected, resist being disappointed.
  3. Let these traditions grow and develop over the years. Guard the core purpose of you traditions but adapt them to the changing age, energy, personality and circumstances of your growing family.
Interested in more? Take a listen to a Podcast on Developing a Christmas Passion that John and his wife Carissa were part of in telling their story as a family. Also check out John’s book, Finding the Treasures in Christmas: A Guide to Celebrating Advent for Families with Young Children.
John Lewis lives in  Tacoma, Washington and is a father of three grown children and husband of one Christmas-loving wife. He is the director of  Kingdom Story Ministries and passionate about seeing the next generation of Jesus followers grow and stay faithful over their life time. Building meaningful and enduring traditions during the Advent season, the month before Christmas, was certainly one way their kids found long term faith roots. Those 15 years of trial and error, singing carols and squirming in their seats, reading and sharing, putting up the tree, lights, ornaments and star one week at a time, they were well worth the effort. Though far from perfect, we offer to you our flexible approach and variety of ideas for developing Christ centered Christmas traditions. May your kids, year after year, grow anticipate the faith element of Christmas alongside all the fun of the season; may their roots run long and deep for the challenging life they have ahead of them.

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