Marriage Advice From A Christian Perspective

Five Christmas Traditions that Strengthen Relationships

  • Pam and Bill Farrel Contributors
  • 2010 16 Dec
Five Christmas Traditions that Strengthen Relationships

Christmas is the time of year packed with tradition. For some families it means attending The Nutcracker ballet, Handle's Messiah, a candlelight worship service, or sitting down for a family meal.

It is in the keeping of traditions that marriage and family values are passed down from generation to generation -- at least our values should be a main priority during the holidays. The passing of tradition doesn't need to be costly, so even in a recession, the sharing of heartfelt tradition is still very possible. Below are five ways to carry traditions forward this holiday and bring more meaning and memories to your family time:

1. Model Marriage: Bill and I have been happily married for nearly 30 years, and since our engagement, we have held to a romantic ritual of exchanging a kiss after praying together at each meal. It is really difficult to be angry at someone you kiss that much! When our oldest son returned from his honeymoon, he prayed over a breakfast we shared with him and his new bride, then he turned and kissed her. I smiled. Our new daughter-in-law replied, "It's a Farrel tradition!"

Let it be a holiday tradition to be affectionate to your mate. Model love, tenderness and affection to you children. Give the gift of kind words and actions to everyone in your family. One year, I told my children, "You are all in college, so I know funds are tight, just give me a card that makes me cry." They did, and I cherish those thoughtfully crafted words.

2. Model Compassion: A part of our family tradition is each person selects a person, family, or ministry in need and we each give a "gift to Jesus". At our family Christmas meal, we share how the blessings of giving encouraged or impacted us that year.

If a member of your own family could use a little extra TLC, the extended family might all go together to meet a tangible need like tuition, rent, paying a hospital bill, or getting a car fixed.  Consider opening up your home to a single mom and her child, a newly widowed, or a military service person. Often clergy do not live near family so don't forget to check with the pastor and staff at your church to see if their needs have been met. A very compassionate gift toward the clergy can be to rally members together to all donate toward a weekend away for the pastor and wife or their family. If everyone gives a little it adds up to a lot. When we were pastoring a small church and had small children, it was the monetary gifts from parishioners that allowed us to have the funds to buy gifts for our own children because we lived on such a shoestring.

3. Model Heritage: Last year, we gave gifts from our cultural heritage. We ate food from Scotland, Ireland, England, Germany and the Native American culture. Some year's we have shared stories from our childhood, or interviewed the eldest relative (and video taped it!) One year, I wrote a children's story about a year in the Depression when my grandfather, a teenager at the time, worked extra jobs to buy supplies to make sure all 12 of his siblings got a gift (which he made) under the tree. There is richness in your own family tree.

In the sharing of memories, simple values are passed from generation to generation like a strong work ethic, sacrifice for country, the priority of the traditional view of marriage as between a man and a woman, and the value of honoring God with our lives. Stories carry values, so share stories, but also ask questions. By asking questions you show you care. There maybe a gift you can give to each person that carries a story you could share first or ask a discussion question that would be answered  before each opens his/her gift.   

5. Model Relationship: Our ministry offers a free "family Advent conversation starter" based on the Christmas story and Isaiah 9:6 at This simple candle lighting is a nice pre-meal tradition that includes all members of the family. Some read pieces of the Christmas story, some light candles, and all share answers to various questions so we can share on a deeper more meaningful level. We also give a "blessing" over each person who sits at our Christmas table, we share ways we have seen them grow, or celebrate successes, and we pray and ask God's favor over his/her life. Even the "Grinch" at your table will have his/her heart warmed by this personalized gesture of positive affirmation and love.

6. Model Spirituality. Christmas would not exist except "God so loved the world that He gave His only son." Without Jesus, there would be no star on the tree top or angels hanging from the branches; there would be no twinkling lights without the one who came as "the light of men"; there would be no gifts shared if the wise men never brought gifts to the manger. Make the reading of the Christmas story, the playing of Christmas music that honors the Christ child, or going to worship services together as a family a part of this holiday.   

Make this the Christmas you celebrate with lasting impact.  From our home to yours, Merry Blessed Christmas!    

Originally posted for Christmas 2008.

Bill and Pam Farrel are international speakers, best-selling authors of over 25 books including Men are like Waffles, Women are like Spaghetti, and 10 Best Decisions a Couple Can Make. For relationship resources visit