Living overseas, our Christmas traditions have to be portable. Meaning they have to work in whatever country we happen to be in for Christmas. So things like driving around looking at Christmas lights do not make the list.
We’ve worked to simplify our Christmas while having meaningful traditions, particularly for Christmas Eve. Here are a few that work for our nomadic family.
BEST Family Christmas Traditions
1. Fingerfood Dinner
With all the preparations that go into Christmas parties and outreach, this little tradition is pure bliss for me. My kids love choosing one fingerfood each to prepare, like a crackers and cheese tray, quartered sandwiches, chips and dip, brownies, or a fruit tray. They prepare it themselves with help from me as needed. It is fun, tasty… and easy on a busy momma!
2. Christmas Eve Box
When I was young, our parents would let us open one present on Christmas Eve. My husband doesn’t like that idea because we don’t have many gifts around the tree~ smile~ so we do the Christmas Eve Box. In this large box we place a variety of things such as snacks, drink mixes, a storybook or movie, new pajamas or slippers, or a coupon for a Christmas Eve camp-out in the living room. But one thing we always put in this box is a new game for the family. This year, the game is Forbidden Island. A few games on our wish list are Ticket to Ride, Blokus, and Puerto Rico.
3. The Nativity Movie
Watching The Christmas Story in drama form is something the entire family looks forward to. You can’t really have Christmas without this Christmas tradition, right? Snuggling up with mugs of hot cocoa or chai to remember the reason we celebrate is definitely a highlight of Christmas for me.
Along the same lines as the Christmas story, we sometimes do Advent or a modified version of it. Since daily readings and activities overwhelm our family schedule, I modify this to fit what works each particular year. Some of my favorite advent books and resources are:
Countdown to Christmas: Discover the real reason for Christmas with your children in this 15-day advent Nativity Activity. Unwrap the story of Christmas by adding one piece to your manger scene each day and reading the corresponding Bible verse along with that day’s exciting narration.
Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas Each day, families read the provided Scripture passage, engage with a specially written devotion to help children of all ages understand the Advent theme for the day, and participate in suggested activities to apply the theme.
The Dawning of Indestructible Joy: Daily Readings for Advent These 25 brief devotional readings from John Piper begin on December 1 and carry us to Christmas Day.
5. The Annual Snowflake Cut-Out Competition
Our oldest is the one who instituted this idea. (It’s sort of what happens when you are locked inside during Winter break and your parents don’t let you on the electronics~ smile~) We all create unique snowflakes then cast our votes for the best one. Winner gets to be served a cup of hot chocolate; everyone else makes their own! Here is the book I use for cutting beautiful snowflake designs: Snowflakes for all Seasons: 72 Fold & Cut Paper Snowflakes
6. The Christmas campout
This one is where everyone piles in the living room for a campout near the Christmas tree. A little rough on mom and dad, but worth it!
7. The Tent Tradition
Combine caroling with flashlights and a tent constructed from blankets and you’ve got… the tent tradition! We all pile into the tent, hold flashlights (preferable to candles with littles!) and sing all the Christmas carols we know.
8. The Dollar Tree Ten Minute Giving Spree
When we are in the States, we give everyone five dollars. Then we drive to the nearest Dollar Tree and everyone has ten minutes to select one gift for each family member. They have to keep their purchases secret while in the store! Then we return home to wrap the gifts and place under the tree.
9. Gingerbread House
This is another one we do when in the states. We all work together to build the prettiest, yummiest gingerbread house possible!
10. Hot Chocolate, Chai Cocoa, or Apple Cider
I find a yummy recipe I can put in the crock pot (very important to note~ wink) and everyone helps themselves all evening. Here are some of my favorite crock pot drink recipes:
Chai Cocoa (a new one I’ll be trying this year)
If you’ve been around here long, you know that I love making the most of table time as a family. Christmas Eve is a great time to revive some of the forgotten activities in The Family Table. Or try something new! This year I’m thinking the games are going to be Christmas bingo, Forbidden Island, and possibly some Minute to Win It games done Christmas style.
12. The Gift Catalog
Christmas isn’t Christmas without sacrificial giving. The kids love selecting gifts like goats and blankets and gospel tracts from the World Vision and Compassion gift catalogs. This year our family giving project is providing Nicolae with enough money to have genital reconstruction surgery. You can read more of his story here!
If at all possible, we like to do our celebrating with friends. More and more people are “displaced” during the holidays, ourselves included. No one should be alone on Christmas unless they want to be for simplicity; so we look for other displaced persons to invite into our traditions. This is the most fun of all!
Have a very Merry Christmas friends! What are your favorite Christmas traditions?
Oh, one last tip! Don’t forget to grab my favorite devotional to slip in stockings~ it’s a great way to start the New Year~ smile~