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Between the gifts, the Grinch, and the jolly elves, it’s tough for Christian parents to help kids focus on the true reason we celebrate: heaven’s come down to earth! I believe we have to be intentional to build rituals and traditions during this time of year that will instill in our kids a sense of the wonder and awe at Christ’s birth.

Each year I am eager to expand my repertoire of ideas, so even as I share some of our family’s rituals below I hope to learn from you as well. Please post a comment with your own ideas!

Advent wreath

Four purple candles with a white one in the middle is all you need—though you can also purchase a family-sized version of the one you see in church. We do our after dinner prayer with this wreath.

  • Beginning with the first week of Advent we light one candle, increasing the number of lit candles each week.
  • Along with the candle lighting we sing a simple refrain like “Prepare the Way of the Lord” or the first verse of a familiar carol like “O Come, O Come Immanuel,” followed by a spoken prayer.
  • On Christmas day the white Christ candle is lit.  
  • We continue after Christmas, changing our song to something like “Go, Tell It on the Mountain,” for example.

Jesse Tree 

This year we plan to begin the tradition of a Jesse Tree. Thanks to the Reformed Church in America, great directions for creating these ornaments that reflect the meaning of Christmas can be found at There are also two sets of family devotionals available for free on the website.

Nativity set

Make sure that there is a nativity set that your children can touch and play with. If you don’t have one, consider creating one together. (Several option are available online; just Google “making a nativity set with kids.”) This may result in some interesting versions of the Christmas story, but the ability for your child to interact with the story will reap greater rewards!

Christmas Giving

Look for ways that your family can give to others. Last year we decorated cookies together and then dropped them off with some of our senior members of our church who are confined to their home. Most churches or community organizations will have additional ways for you to give.

Worship Together

While I grew up going to church on Christmas day, the church I attend now has Christmas Eve services. When that is the case it is even easier for Christmas day to be about presents. To help combat that we begin the day with our own short worship time. We read the Christmas story from a child’s book, sing a few carols, and pray. I want to emphasize that the greatest gift at Christmas is not found under the tree but is heaven come down to earth: the Christ-child Savior living in our hearts!

Start a conversation at your church about what we do to celebrate Christmas and why. It could be the beginning of some meaningful new traditions!

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