Traditions Especially for Little Ones! {Part One}

Den Hearth–pack camel from the middle east like the wise men would have had, and one of four Swedish dolls we put out for Christmas.

Truly one of the most wonderful parts of Christmas is that everything is magnified through the eyes of our children. Coming up with ideas of things that would delight them and then continuing those traditions every year brings much joy to all of us!

A sweet friend asked me to write about the traditions we practiced when our children were little. There are so many that I would have to write pages to adequately describe them all. We did different things at different stages. However, the goal of Christmas traditions is not to do the most elaborate and difficult things, but to help your children love Jesus, revere Him, enjoy His story, to transport the beauty of the Christmas carols so deeply into their hearts. I tried to make things so familiar when they were quite young,  that when they hear the familiar carols as adults, it will flood them with deep memories cherished even from the rocking chair of their mother.

Of course, it is the whole year that will make our children fall in love with Jesus if He is daily cherished in our home. “Look at the twinkling stars that Jesus put into the sky for our pleasure. Isn’t He wonderful?”

“I am so glad that Jesus made grapes. I love to eat them.”

“Isn’t it wonderful that Jesus created us to love music so we could sing and dance?”

… and all in the midst of the other rhythms of life.When the Christmas season was at hand, we would always say, “Now we get to have the best birthday celebration of all! God came to the earth through a little baby to help us, love us and save us. And we get to celebrate His birthday and love Him more by telling His story and singing to Him.”

We need to look at little children as Jesus did–they have innocent hearts, they freely love, they adore great stories, surprises, fun and giggles–they want to be generous and give of themselves without self-consciousness. And so we approach the season with their sweet minds in consideration.

I started out by singing the carols each night to my babies as I nursed them, so that they learned them from infancy. At two and a half, one night as I was singing “Away in the manger” to Joy (very verbal and articulate at an early age), and she looked up and me and said, “Mama, isn’t it amazing that the cows blew Jesus and he didn’t even get mad?”

I said, “What do you mean?” She said, “The cattle were blowing the baby awake, but little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes.”   She had engaged her little mind seriously thinking about cattle blowing Jesus awake!

As the children multiplied and became a little older, we would put all in pajamas and have advent with them each night, singing a carol together, in the light of the candles of our advent wreath and then reading our advent verse before they climbed into bed. It is easy for others to hear of our traditions and imagine that somehow we had total cooperation, but of course our children wiggled or argued — “You sat next to mama last night! It’s my turn!” or “He keeps tickling my toe with his feet.”

But somehow, it was the rhythm of keeping going and celebrating it the same way year by year that made it precious to the children. The expectation that when the dark of night came, we would all cuddle up on the couch and sing and eat little snacks and read fun Christmas tales and have one more piece added to the adventure of the story of King Jesus.

Books everywhere, in every nook and corner, practically memorized.

One of my friends gave me this lovely idea. We would buy at least one new Christmas book a year. But her idea was to wrap all of your Christmas books in tissue paper and put them in a basket and after advent each night (or whenever you do it), the children take turns picking out one book to unwrap as a present and get to read that one before going to bed. This also makes each book a treasure. If you want to make it easier, you can have an older children wrap up the book each night after it’s been read so that it will be ready for the next year and then you won’t have 24 books to wrap!

What traditions do you enjoy with your little ones? (Big ones, too?)

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  1. Suyai says

    Would you care to share the books you cherished the most for Advent tradition? It’s a fantastic idea, I love reading about other people’s traditions! I didn’t have any in my family growing up and I look forward to having great ones for my wee family. Thank you, once again! xx

  2. says

    I left this comment on a different post bc I love your idea of focusing on other kinds of gifts during the Christmas season. But most definitely our family has loved using a Jesse Tree. There are tons of ideas out there that can fit all age groups. I found it originally by just googling Jesus centered traditions at Christmas. It has really become a treasured tradition in our home! I am looking forward to reading your readers responses here to get more ideas for this year! Thank you for doing this!

  3. Meredith says

    I love the idea of wrapping up books and opening one each night.
    Also, right after I read your post my 3 year old woke up and came and snuggled on my lap. I started singing Christmas carols to her, and she’s now cuddled up asleep on me.. Thank you for sharing your traditions!

  4. Elaine says

    we are still figuring out which traditions we like, since my kids are 9,5,and 2. We did the samaritan shoe box this year, along with our churchs giving tree. Then we gave lightly used toys to our local rescue mission. At home we are doing advent calenders and the advent wreath (according to catholic tradition). We are doing a new tradition I saw on pinterest, we are hanging everyones stockings on the footboard of our bed and we will gather and snuggle and share the opening of stockings their. My kids are excited to do this new tradition.

  5. Stephanie says

    I too would enjoy hearing what books your family loved! We are always looking for a special new Christmas book to add to our collection. :)

  6. Judy says

    Without doubt one favourite tradition here occurs on December 6 – known as St Nicholas Day around the world. As a kind and godly Christian church bishop, St Nicholas apparently delighted in surprising others with gifts. Each year, we select a family who is experiencing a particular hardship and purchase/make gifts for each member. The gifts, together with a St Nicholas chocolate and an explanation of our modelling him as a way to give joy, is tucked into a basket. (NB we never identify ourselves as the givers.) The most exciting part is getting up very early in the cold and dark to deliver the gifts secretly to the recipients’ front door before they wake! My children, now in their late teens have spent years of happy wondering about the ways those gifts bless, and have every intention that it happen again this year. No one knows they are the givers; that hasn’t mattered – for them there has been such delight in being the means of blessing others. In an age when Santa has been so commercialized, and receiving gifts is so much the focus, this has been a lovely way to bring Christian grace to what has been so diminished. And in the evening we place our one St Nicholas ornament by the fireplace. We light the fire, and the children take from hanging stockings a cosy new pair of socks, a gingerbread cookie, and a mandarin, and we read the lovely picture book, “Shoemaker Martin” which is based on a story by Leo Tolstoy.

    A new tradition for this year relates to the idea of this being the season of Light and Hope – on December 13th, Italians and Swedes celebrate St Lucia Day. She is often represented as a girl with a candle wreath on her head. The young woman is celebrated in this way because this was how she managed to free both hands (one was not needed to carry a light) in order to carry food into the dark Roman catacombs where early Christians were in hiding. She was eventually betrayed to the authorities by her fiancee and martyred for her faith. We will place a small Scandinavian St Lucia ornament on the table that evening, we will read the story of Stephen from the Book of Acts and spend some time reading about and praying for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ.

    For those of you hesitant about these references to saints, my teens fully understand that all believers are referred to as saints in Scripture. There is no sense in which these individuals are worshipped or idolized, but they do inspire us – they are just a couple of the great witnesses to faith in Christ through history.

    We have more traditions – maybe for another day….

  7. Steph says

    I was wondering also if you could share, Sally, your Christmas book list. Also, if anyone knows an accurate children’s book version of St. Nicholas that I could read to my children.

    • Hippie4ever says

      Voice of the Martyrs sells a book explaining the tale of St Nicholas for children. We enjoy reading it with our son, educating him on the true tale behind Santa Claus.

      Any suggestions on diminishing Santa? My son (3 months shy of 4) knows Santa is only a compilation of stories of historical figures (with great embellishment). But this year we have watched more Christmas cartoons and there is such a push toward Santa in them that now he often talks of Santa. when I ask him if Santa is real, he’ll say “I know, I know, I’m just pretending.” but I wonder if I should allow him to watch any more cartoons. I thought I chose pretty benign ones but they still inject so much Santa into every tale.

  8. says

    We love our books as well! Here is a list of some of our favorites:
    Also, this year, we’re following a scheduled reading that corresponds to Handel’s Messiah. Each day, we read the verses that the 2-3 songs of the day were taken from. It has been rich – both musically and spiritually. We’re incorporating it into the rest of our school day – the children are writing poetry in response to what we’ve read. I think it would be a great exercise for adults to go through as well.

    • Sally says

      We must have the same one–I love this one. (Messiah)Thanks for the book list! Have a wonderful season with your sweet family.

  9. Taryn Hayes says

    Ah! I love the book idea and would also love a list! We have a few traditions of our own that helps us focus on Christ. For example, each year at our Christmas Eve dinner we begin things by raiding the ‘dress up’ box: all adults and kids wear an item to get into character. Then one of us narrates the Christmas story from The Rhyme Bible while the players act out the scene. There is a lot of hilarity and fun. Later that evening after dinner we share thanksgiving points, pray and sing carols around the dinner table by candlelight. But my kids’ favorite is our advent calendar. I made it some years ago after I could not find Christ-focused advent calendars. Each pocket has a picture representing a part of the big picture if the bible. We start with creation, move through the key stories and then focus on the life of Jesus, His death, resurrection and return. Each pocket contains sweeties (candy) for the kids and a card with a short explanation of the day’s part of the story. I love it because they love it and every year they get a solid reminder of how the Bible fits together and how God’s hand has been upon us from the beginning of the world.

  10. Lesia Marie says

    Hello! I two sweet boys, a 3 year old and 2 month old. I desperately want to start celebrating Advent, but as I didn’t grow up even knowing it existed, I don’t know where to start! Do you have any suggestions for learning so I do it right?? I want to start hands on and Christ-centered traditions in our home. Thank you, sincerely, for your help!!
    -Lesia Marie

  11. HollymMead says

    Ah, that was fun to read and we love your gnome-hatted doll on the mantle. We always like your personal pictures best (though, who can complain about the beautiful artwork you usually post?) We have scads of Christmas traditions begun when out kids were tiny. For starters, we allow absolutely no Christmas anything before Thanksgiving, so our “Black Friday” has nothing to do with shopping, but with racing to the basement to bring up the Christmas music, which we play every waking hour through the Christmas season. Beginning when the kids were tiny I’d tell them the story behind one Christmas song per year–our “theme song” for the season and we’d sing THAT song before our Jesse Tree advent study each day. So, by the time they were “big kids” they were steeped in the good theology of the Christmas carols and they get a big kick hearing them played in stores that normally play shallow, immoral music in the background. We also try to buy one new Christmas CD each year, so we have a pretty wild and ecclectic Christmas mix playing. Also, we have made or collected several advent studies over the years. We also decorate to the HILT and, as a family, we collect “special” nativity scenes–to be brought into our house they have to be especially beautiful or meaningful. When the kids were little my mother-in-law made each child a Christmas pillow case so that they could have “visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads” all season and we put them on the pillows with glee every year. We have lots of, “Your nana made THIS when. . .” kinds of stories to go along with most of our Christmas decor. But, though we may live in Colorado, we are all FROM The Republic of Texas, so FOOD, FOOD, FOOD is a critical part of our Christmas traditions. We always eat a huge chicken fried steak dinner to celebrate the putting up of the Christmas tree. We only drink wassail through the Christmas season. We make sugar cookie dough and trace their hands in the rolled out dough to make their own personalized “hand cookies.” We eat gingerbread cookies, muffins, cake, etc. starting after Thanksgiving and through New Year’s Eve. We have special “orange cookies” (and a few other cookies) that we ONLY make during Christmas. Essentially, we set aside books, movies, music, decorations and especially food so that all day, every day is a sensory explosion, never to be forgotten.

  12. says

    We so enjoy little traditions…neighbor treats baked & handed out, Christmas books (we just got an illustrated (by PJ Lynch) version of A Christmas Carol that we are starting and are reading the hilarious story The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson, making snowflakes out of coffee filters, gingerbread, a Happy Birthday Jesus poster & cake and so on and so forth! :) Love this post!


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