Grounding Christmas in Christ | Establishing Family Traditions When You Don’t Live Near Your Family

This will be Roman and Angelina’s first Christmas home.  There have been thoughts lapping at the shore of my general awareness whispering that this needs to be a special Christmas, a Christmas Angelina will always remember with wonder. Words like magical and perfect spring to mind. Sugarplums. Tinsel. Avalanches of gifts under an elegant themed tree. All your dreams come true.

I’ve looked those thoughts in the face and said thanks but no thanks.  I don’t want my family to have Disney On Ice for Christmas day, I want them to have Christ.  With our young children now at the age to really remember from year to year, this is the year to firmly ground our family traditions in Christ.


Lest you jump to the conclusion the we are scroogy grinches over here, I will point out that my husband and I have the freedom to do this given that we do not live near family and neither my husband nor our extended families have jobs that allow for travel over Christmas (pastor family life).  The Norman Rockwell family holiday is not an option. We gather with my husband’s side of the family around Thanksgiving and do the cousin gift exchange then. My side always meets during the liturgical season of Epiphany (early January) and we do proper feasting, gift exchanging, board gaming, and white elephanting.  So while you read this, know that my kids are not NOT getting gifts, we just have a different time-frame.

Growing up, St Nick’s day signaled the beginning of all things Christmas in my family but the day itself was pretty low key with a few awesome items in your shoe.  I grew up with this tradition in my family thanks to the years my parent’s lived in Germany. Now, living in Wisconsin, this tradition is found all around us due to the large German heritage found in this state.  With these traditions in place, it made it easy to transition the big gift giving day to be on St Nick day instead of Christmas day.   This year we did ALL our family gifts on Saint Nicholas day.  All the kids received an ornament and new Christmas book – those gifts are traditions carried over from my childhood.  The two big girls got house robes to snuggle in during the long winter. Little Kitty got a Nativity play set. Roman got a sensory book that he has so far not been able to chew to rags.  Daddy added magnifying glasses and kid sunglasses to the mix. Topped with a few chocolate coins and chocolate st. nicks and an orange, the gifts were complete!  And ya know what? No one bemoaned that they didn’t get enough gifts.

This is what our Christmas day looked like last year and it will look quite similar this year: Christmas morning we will go to church to celebrate the birth of our savior, Jesus Christ. When I get the kids home, everyone will change back into comfy cozy warm clothes and play while we wait for Daddy to come home (pastor family life).  After Daddy is home, we will have stockings – stockings have always been my favorite part of Christmas – and open a few family gifts (board games) and gifts that arrived in the mail from folks since St. Nicks. The rest of the day will be spent playing family games, eating tasty foods, baking a birthday cake for Jesus, and decorating the home for the 12 days of Christmas.

Hmmm. Now that I’ve written it all out, this does sound magical and exactly what a perfect Christmas day is made of.



2 comments on “Grounding Christmas in Christ | Establishing Family Traditions When You Don’t Live Near Your Family

  1. You are doing that a very nice way… We have always focused on Jesus birthday the 24th in the evening. Caroll singing, story sharing, talking about God’s gift to us.(sometimes going to church but it is far away) On the 25th in the morning, first thing : stockings… breackfast, gifts are opened once the house is tidy and the meal on the way. We always had lonely people for tea and evening meal.
    This year we will only be 4…
    Have a wonderful christmas season !

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