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10 Best Christmas Traditions for Family Bonding

  • Karen Whiting Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
10 Best Christmas Traditions for Family Bonding

Christmas comes around once a year, so we want to make the most of the season. Meaningful Christmas activities help us prepare our hearts and focus on the reason we celebrate. Traditions build a sense of belonging and family identity. Starting a tradition helps grow family bonds and create lasting memories. Try some of these activities that can become annual favorites.

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1. Treasure the nativity story.

1. Treasure the nativity story.

Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ and fulfillment of many prophecies. We should treasure the biblical story and read it at the beginning of the season. We can also weave the reading into our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day festivities. 

Take time to reflect over the story as told in Luke 1-2 and Matthew 2. Look up some of the prophecies such as Micah 5:2, Isaiah 7:14, and 9:7. 

Focus on Christ by reading a few verses each day from these accounts and dwell on the words. Find a carol that focuses on the part of he story read, to rejoice in that aspect, such as O Little Town of Bethlehem when studying the journey of Mary and Joseph.

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2. Play out the birth of Christ with a nativity set.

2. Play out the birth of Christ with a nativity set.

A nativity set depicts the events of the birth of Christ. Help families picture the event by placing the figures away from the manger and moving them each day as a reminder of the journey each person took to Bethlehem.

Use an unbreakable nativity set for children to retell the story or hold up figures as the story is read. 

Giftwrap the figure of Jesus and wait until Christmas to unwrap him. It’s a good way to recall that God sent Jesus to us as a precious gift.

If you have a large manger and baby Jesus that is separate you can add straw each day for good deeds family members did to make a soft bed for Jesus.

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3. Celebrate the Light of the World.

3. Celebrate the Light of the World.

Jesus is the light of the world and all the bright lights should be reminders of that. If you use a tree, read Hosea 14:8 where God describes himself as an evergreen tree and then add the lights.

Take a stroll or drive through a neighborhood that’s lit up and rejoice when you see symbols of Christ and nativity sets.

Go shopping at the mall to see lights. Look for signs of Christmas related to Jesus. Here’s a list of decorations to find. Add to it as you see other reminders of Christmas.

  • Christmas lights (Jesus is the light of the world - John 8:12)
  • Christmas trees (We are part of God’s family tree - Hosea 14:8b)
  • Nativity set (Jesus came - Luke 2:1-7)
  • Candy canes - Shepherd’s staffs (Shepherds worshipped Jesus - Luke 2:8-20)
  • People expressing thanks (God wants us to be thankful - 1 Thessalonians 5:18 )
  • Star decorations (The wise men followed a star - Matthew 2:9)
  • People from many nationalities (Jesus came to save everyone - John 3:16)
  • Wreath - circle of greens (God’s love is like a circle-eternal - 1 John 4:7-8)
  • Angels (God’s messengers - Luke 2:9-12)
  • Dove (Sign of the Holy Spirit - Matthew 3:16)
  • Sheep (We are God’s sheep - Luke 2:8)
  • Snowflakes (God washes our sins white as snow - Isaiah 1:18)
  • Crown (Jesus is our king - Matthew 2:2)
  • Gold, incense, or myrrh (Gifts given Jesus - Matthew 2:11)
  • Carolers (Singing praises God - Isaiah 30:29)

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4. Be extra generous.

4. Be extra generous.

Choose to be extra loving and giving at Christmas. Some families make sure to draw names of needy children to buy clothes and toys for them. Make that special by adding little notes and mini-gifts in pockets of clothes or with the toy.

Bring cheer to neighbors. Bake cookies or Christmas bread to pass out to people on your street. Add a card with a note thanking them for being your neighbor.

Be generous as you shop. Let someone go ahead of you in line and smile at the clerks and thank them for taking care of your purchases. 

Buy some gift cards, even ones with small amounts on them, to give someone needy or stressed.

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5. Focus daily with Advent devotionals.

5. Focus daily with Advent devotionals.

Advent comprises the four Sundays before Christmas and the days of those weeks. Put up an advent wreath with candles. Spend a short time daily lighting the appropriate candles and sharing a devotional. Each candle has a name and theme word to help focus on Jesus.

Week 1. Prophecy Candle, Hope

Week 2. Bethlehem Candle, Peace

Week 3. Shepherd Candle, Joy

Week 4. Angel Candle, Love

Use the names and words as your focus of the week to reflect on various aspects of the season. 

For week 1, look up Scriptures of prophecies about the birth of Jesus and find how they were fulfilled.  Consider projects that will bring hope to people, such as making tray favors for a nursing home.

Week 2, chat about how Bethlehem means house of bread and that Jesus is the Bread of Life. Make bread. Work on peace at home without complaining or arguing. Be polite and let others have first choice.

During Week 3, pass out candy canes for shepherd staffs. Sprinkle joy into one another’s day with smiles and words of encouragement.

For Week 4, show love with a group hug. Discuss the role of angels at the birth of Christ.

On Christmas day add a white candle in the center for the Christ candle. Sing Happy Birthday to Jesus.

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6. Fill the air with praise.

6. Fill the air with praise.

Turn on Christmas music and speak encouraging words to fill the air with joy. Say “Have a Blessed Christmas” or “Merry Christmas” often. Attend a Christmas musical or play or join with others to carol.

Talk about what it means to rejoice and why we should celebrate at Christmas. Have a praise evening or praise time while  driving in the car. Let each person shout out a reason to praise God.

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7. Enjoy family time.

7. Enjoy family time.

God brought Mary, Joseph, and even shepherds who they did not know, together at the birth of Christ. Rejoice with others. Be sure to attend a church service. Enjoy a few Christmas gatherings and plan to spend Christmas Eve or Day with loved ones. Invite people who might not have family nearby to celebrate with you. 

Spend some of the season relaxing. Plan a time to watch favorite movies, exchange gifts, or simply share a meal. Use the time to bless each person with your undivided attention.

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8. Spend time blessing others.

8. Spend time blessing others.

Reach out to share the good news. Send Christmas cards or a Christmas letter that shares your blessings received and struggles during times you trusted God through the year. 

  • Think of a way to reach out that you might want to repeat every year.
  • Volunteer to help at a shelter or with a toy drive
  • Choose to watch a single parent’s children so he or she can shop.
  • Consider God’s little critters too and put out extra food or decorate a tree with bird treats. 
  • Purchase some gifts that are made by people in poor areas such as Appalachia or a third world country.
  • Chose to give up desserts or snack for a week and send the money saved in a significant way, such as donating it to to an organization that helps needy people or to purchase  a gift for a toy collection.

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9. Unwrap the gift of Christmas daily.

9. Unwrap the gift of Christmas daily.

Let each day be a day to rejoice. Collect books, CDs, and DVDS that you own and wrap them individually. Place them in a basket or other container. Count how many you have and start that many days before Christmas opening and enjoying one each day whether it lasts one week twenty-five days. This can become a favorite tradition for little ones that helps them be patient as they wait for Christmas Day.

Stack the wrapped packages to form a little Christmas tree and decorate it with some garland or a sting of lights. Set aside a little time to read the book or watch the movie. Each day talk about how the gift opened reminded them of the reason we celebrate.

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10. Serve one another.

10. Serve one another.

Christmas is a season to bless others. Performing kind deeds is one way to express love and share the love of Christ. Let your family choose to serve one another a little more during this season. A back rub for a family member, doing someone’s chores, or making and serving a special treat are all ways to serve.

You can also draw names to be a secret angel to someone in your family. Spread your wings to sprinkle joy in their days before Christmas with little notes, deeds, and tiny gifts like a candy or sticker. Set a time to reveal the identities of the angels.

Be more thoughtful with thanking family members for what they do to make life happy. Spot ways to help before being asked.

Any activity that brings family members closer strengthens family bonds. The activities you start repeating every year become your family traditions and part of your heritage to pass on to future generations.

Karen Whiting is an author of 25 books, an international speaker, and former television host. She’s a mother of five and a grandmother. Her book 52 Devotions for Busy Families makes it easy to practice faith at home. Connect with her on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.


This article is part of our larger Christmas and Advent resource library centered around the events leading up to the birth of Jesus Christ. We hope these articles help you understand the meaning and story behind important Christian holidays and dates and encourage you as you take time to reflect on all that God has done for us through his son Jesus Christ!

What is Christmas? Understanding History, Origin and Traditions
Christmas Eve History and Traditions
The History of Santa Claus: Origin of St. Nicholas & Christmas Traditions
Why Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh Were Given to Baby Jesus
What is Advent: Definition & Meaning Behind Christmas Tradition
Advent Wreath & Candles - Understanding the History, Meaning, and Tradition
The History and Meaning of the Advent Calendar

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