For most Christians there is not a more anticipated religious holiday than Christmas. While the commercialization of Christmas can seem overwhelming for those who wish to incorporate a religious focus into their traditions, there are ways you can do that. Here are some of the most beloved religious Christmas traditions for you to use in your Christmas celebration.
•Consider using a religious themed Advent calendar. An Advent calendar is generally a picture of a winter or holiday scene with numbered panels or doors that correspond to the number of days left until Christmas. Each day, a panel or door is opened in sequence, from the beginning of Advent to Christmas. There are many on the market that can be purchased ready to use or ones that can be assembled using a religious theme. Check online websites for patterns to assemble one if you wish to do so. Young children especially love uncovering the Advent calendar while the days pass to mark the birth of the Christ child.
•If possible attend a performance of Handel’s Messiah or participate in a sing along. If there are not opportunities in your community, purchase the tape or CD and spend an evening listening to the beauty of the music.
•Consider decorating a Jesse tree. This type of tree is decorated with ornaments associated with Old Testament events, from creation to the birth of Jesus. In some churches, a Jesse tree is used as a collection point for clothing that is then donated for the poor. You can use your Jesse tree as a similar point for charity that you and your family choose to do.
•Do not be afraid to experience a new worship tradition during the holidays. You can plan to attend a Christmas cantata, a children’s Christmas pageant, a choir concert, a “Living Christmas Tree” presentation, an outdoor Living Nativity scene, or a Bell-ringing service. Many of these types of gatherings are non-denominational and are welcome to everyone.
•Set aside a special time to read aloud the Christmas story from the Bible. Many families incorporate this as part of a special Christmas Eve tradition to help set the tone for Christmas. Other families choose to do this before the opening of gifts on Christmas morning in order to remind everyone of the true meaning of Christmas. Reading the Christmas story from the Bible whenever it works best for you and your family will be the right tradition for you.
•Put up your nativity scene together as a family. This can be done as the Christmas story is read at a special time and place that is unique for your family. This is also a good way to include younger children who may have a harder time sitting still for a story. Many families conclude this activity with a discussion of the true meaning of Christmas.
•Some traditions are appropriate to be included in a religious atmosphere due to their very nature. Try putting together a “Blessing Book” or “Joy Journal”. Have each family member write down a blessing or moment of joy they have experienced in the past year. Use a decorated notebook or beautifully bound journal that can be used from year to year. Younger children who cannot write can draw pictures on a designated page. This makes a wonderful family keepsake that can reflect the families’ deepest religious feelings.
•One family’s tradition reflected planning ahead to give a gift to Jesus. On Thanksgiving evening the family gathered to decorate a gift box for Jesus. Each member then placed their gift to Jesus to be revealed on Christmas morning. After singing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus, the gifts are then shown, such as a key with a note attached about “opening the door to my heart” or a watch with the explanation “I’m giving more of my time.” This helps family members concentrate their hearts on the true meaning of Christmas.