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How to create family Christmas traditions

Christmas is a beautiful time where the focus of the day is on family and togetherness. You can make both the lead up to Christmas and the day itself even more meaningful by creating family Christmas traditions.

A family preparing Christmas gifts, cookies, and candies after reading this how to create family Christmas traditions

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For those of us who celebrate Christmas, we know the holiday season will bring up many emotions. They may be nostalgia or happiness, sadness or regret.

Often, this is because of the close association we have between Christmas and family and the Ghosts of Christmas Past.

(If that sounds like you, you might also like: How to survive your family Christmas.)

If we’ve also experienced transition in our lives since the previous Christmas – through marriage or divorce, birth or death – it will be different for better or for worse.

This will require some adjustment as we discover our new normal.

But regardless of whatever circumstance you find yourself in, it is within you to create a beautiful, meaningful Christmas.

Starting from now, you have the power to rewrite negative childhood Christmas memories by creating positive ones with your own family.

Or, if this is the first Christmas with that “new normal,” you have the chance to embrace those changes: to celebrate both endings and beginnings.

How, you wonder?

By creating family Christmas traditions.

Why traditions are important

A family of three wearing Christmas socks after reading these tips on how to create family Christmas traditions

Traditions are fundamentally important to our lives. They are much bigger than a simple act, for in the words of Frank Sonnenberg, they “help form the structure and foundation of our families and our society” (source).

For these reasons, traditions are powerful ways of creating a sense of comfort and connection. They also reinforce relationships across generations.

There is something beautiful about creating something that will go through your children to their children and perhaps even to their children – creating a sense of heritage and belonging far beyond your own self.

Once you’ve decided that establishing family Christmas traditions is something you’re all over, you need to get purposeful about the process, rather than latch on to the first thing that catches your eye on Pinterest.

The best traditions are ones that are simple, meaningful, and reflective of what you and your family are all about.

 Here’s how to create Christmas traditions that tick all those boxes!

Step 1: Create a Christmas vision statement

A couple wearing a Christmas hat and sweater, creating a Christmas vision statement after reading these tips on how to create family Christmas traditions
  1. Set a timer for five minutes and brainstorm as many words that you can think of that reflect what Christmas means to you. For example, family, children, food, faith, gifts, gratitude, service, excitement, wonder…
  2. Once the buzzer goes off, go through the list, pruning each time, until you have narrowed it down to two or three words.
  3. Now take those two to three words and craft them into a vision statement that summarizes what you want your Christmas to be about. For example:
  • A child-focused Christmas filled with wonder and excitement
  • A faith-based Christmas, embracing service and gratitude
  • A family-orientated Christmas, loaded with food, gifts and fun

The purpose of having a Christmas vision statement is to help you select those only traditions that reinforce your vision, rather than getting distracted by all the shiny things.

It’s about making meaning.

There’s no point, for example, in getting up at the crack of dawn and going for a 5km Christmas morning run when your Christmas of dreams is about spending all day with your extended family eating until you have to put on elasticated pants.

Step 2: Take a trip down memory lane

Two kids reading a book together: How to create family Christmas traditions

Even now all my grandparents have long gone, I still treasure the memories of the massive Christmas dinners that my grandmother on my mother’s side would prepare for a literal houseful of people.

I still can feel the excitement at seeing the bottles of different flavored fizzy stored in the garage, waiting until we got to drink them on Christmas Day.

When my own children were young, and even not so young, one of our favorite things to do was to tour the city looking at the Christmas light displays.

Houses would enter an annual Christmas display competition and have their house featured on the map, so we’d plot out our route, jump in the car, and go enjoy the magic.

These memories are things traditions are made of.

Now it’s your turn!

  1. Write down the aspects of Christmas in your past that were meaningful to you. Get your husband to do it as well. Think about the order of your day, how gifts were exchanged, the food that you ate.
  2. Now again, go through the list, and this time think about your Christmas vision statement. Highlight those things from both your and your husband’s past that fit into this vision.
  3. Looking at the highlighted list, how many of these traditions would you like to be part of your Christmas now?
  4. Do you want to adapt this traditions in any way, or will you be as true to them as possible? If the former, how will you adjust it?

Step 3: Look into the future

A person holding a Christmas gift after reading these tips on how to create family Christmas traditions

Now you have the basis for your family traditions by connecting to the past, it’s also time to look to the future by creating a new family tradition (or twenty!).

Below is a list of some great ideas for new traditions to incorporate.

Read through them and think about how they align with your Christmas vision statement.

Before Christmas

  1. Purchase a special Christmas tree ornament for each year
  2. Make a Christmas Countdown calendar or advent calendar for couples
  3. Create a family carol playlist
  4. Purchase and donate a gift for a child or family in need
  5. Research the Christmas traditions of a culture (maybe one in your ancestry) and incorporate it into your day
  6. Buy ugly Christmas sweaters like the ones below for the whole family and immortalize them in family portraits
Men's Jesus ugly Christmas sweater

Show Jesus is the reason for the season with this ugly Christmas summer.

12/05/2023 07:26 am GMT
Uideazone unisex ugly sweater

This ugly sweater is both awesome and terrible at the same time. Get ready to ruin Christmas photos in this beauty.

12/05/2023 11:14 am GMT
Blizzard Bay men's ugly llama Christmas sweater

This super soft sweater features an adorable llama.

12/05/2023 03:57 am GMT
Women's garland Christmas sweater

 This ugly green Christmas cardigan features tinsel and baubles.

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Tipsy Elves men's gaudy garland sweater

 This green tacky Christmas sweater with ornaments will be a hit this Christmas.

12/05/2023 02:40 am GMT

The night before Christmas

  1. Drive around town and look at the Christmas lights
  2. Bake some Christmas cookies and leave some for Santa and his reindeer
  3. Watch your favorite Christmas movie
  4. Get matching family Christmas pajamas and wear them to bed
  5. Attend a midnight service
  6. Take turns with these Christmas questions to ask your spouse

On Christmas Day

  1. Get up and make a hot chocolate before going outside to watch the sunrise. Think about how each day is a new beginning and how grateful you are for the day you are about to have
  2. Have a Christmas breakfast
  3. Invite someone who is alone to join your family
  4. Light a candle and share a memory for each person who can’t be with you
  5. After eating the main meal, play the dice game. The rules of the game are pretty simple. Purchase a gift of $10 or under and wrap it. Sit in a circle and throw two dice. Doubles and you get to pick a gift OR swap for someone else’s gift (you can only have one gift at any time). Once everyone has a gift then the dice goes around one more time.
  6. Make a new “signature dish” for Christmas day

You now have both old and new combined and have created new family Christmas traditions.

Family Christmas traditions

A family reading a book together after reading these tips on how to create family Christmas traditions

Christmas is a beautiful time where the focus of the day is on family and togetherness.

You can make both the lead up to Christmas and the day itself even more meaningful by creating family Christmas traditions.

Simply create a Christmas vision statement, pull out the best from your past, and select the most fun for your future.

You’re writing family history right here.

What are your favorite family Christmas traditions? Let me know in the comments!

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April J Harris

Friday 24th of November 2017

It is so wonderful how traditions link us to generations both before and after us! You've shared some great ideas for how to celebrate longstanding traditions and create new ones in this post. Thank you so much for sharing, Katie. I hope you and your family are enjoying the Thanksgiving weekend.


Saturday 25th of November 2017

Thank you April, and same to you.

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