By Victoria Osborn, Contributing Writer
Christmas Eve is one of my favorite days during the holiday season. There is a fresh anticipation and excitement of what’s to come, both in the joy of Christmas and the birth of our Savior. Plus it’s just a fun day to spend together as a family before the activities of Christmas day begin.
For my family, Christmas Eve is spent at home together. I know that Christmas morning will be bursting with excitement and with young children, as much as I want our focus to be spent on the true meaning of Christmas, sometimes things get a little too exciting if you know what I mean! ;)
Photo by Jamie McCaffrey
With that in mind, I try to keep Christmas Eve as intentional as possible with a few meaningful traditions that focus on faith, family and the spirit of the season. With the exception of going to church, we don’t leave the house. Instead we stay inside and spend as much time together creating memories and looking forward to the day ahead.
Depending on your family’s Christmas commitments, Christmas Eve might be the best day to incorporate some intentional, fun and meaningful traditions. While we currently don’t do everything on this list, below are some of my favorite Christmas Eve traditions. Some I look forward to doing with my family in years to come when the kids are older, and others are beloved activities we currently do.
Meaningful Christmas Eve Traditions
Bake a Birthday Cake for Jesus
Spend time in the kitchen with a special baking project the whole family can be apart of. Bake a cake, or other favorite sweet treat, to celebrate Jesus’ birthday with. For younger children who associate birthdays with cakes, this is a perfect symbol to help them grasp that we celebrate Christmas because of Jesus’ birthday. On Christmas morning, you can sing happy birthday to Jesus together as a family.
Have a Marathon Christmas Book Reading
We do an Advent Book Countdown where we open a new book every day leading up to Christmas. We keep all of the books in a book basket under our Christmas tree. Christmas Eve is a perfect time to gather the family and cozy up on the couch with the Christmas tree glowing in the background and read through the entire collection together.
Go to Church Together
Christmas Eve service is my favorite of the year. I love the candle light service and every single year I get choked up singing Silent Night as the church goes dark except for the gentle flickering frames. Last Christmas Eve I was about to give birth (my third baby arrived early on New Year’s Day!) so I was extra emotional as you can imagine, but even still the Christmas Eve service is always so special.
Read the Christmas Story
There are so many wonderful children’s books that reveal the true meaning of Christmas but nothing can replace the first Christmas story read directly from the family Bible. Along with reading aloud from my own Bible, we also adore the Jesus Storybook Bible too. It beautifully illustrates the Christmas story.
Watch a Favorite Christmas Themed Movie
Pop a big batch of popcorn, make some warm hot chocolate, get in your new Christmas pajamas and snuggle up together on the couch and watch a favorite Christmas movie. I love introducing the classic Christmas movies to my kids each year and The Nativity Story is also a wonderful movie portraying what Mary and Joseph went through to bring Jesus into the world.
Sponsor a Family
Christmas Eve is the perfect opportunity to sponsor a family by either taking them a meal or wrapping some Christmas gifts for them. There is a little bit of planning that goes along with this such as grocery shopping and shopping for gifts or other needs but this is a wonderful activity to do together as a family. It’s especially helpful to teach your children about the joy of giving to others.
Make Dinner Together
Make a low-key meal together as a family. Some favorite ideas might be individual homemade pizzas, easy crock-pot soups or even simple finger foods set up buffet style for everyone to grab what they enjoy. Make it super casual by using paper plates so that way you don’t have to spend time doing dishes or cleaning up a huge mess in the kitchen.
Perhaps my favorite tradition of all but I think there is nothing cuter than little children in matching Christmas jammies. It’s a fun tradition many families participate in and the kids get excited about opening a present on Christmas Eve, even if they already know what it is! ;)
My husband and I have the same pair of pajamas we wear year after year but thanks to growing children, they always have a new set to open every Christmas Eve.
Take Photos By the Tree
While everyone is dressed in the Christmas church clothes or Christmas pajamas, take a family photo by the tree or mantel. I find it’s better to take the picture on Christmas Eve because I always forget to take a good one on Christmas morning. I frame each year’s Christmas photo in a hanging ornament that we place on the Christmas tree. I can’t wait for the day when our whole tree is full of family photos!
Open a New Family Game
This is a new tradition we are starting this year and I couldn’t be more excited about it! Along with opening their Christmas pajamas on Christmas Eve, we will also open one new family game together. This year my older two are old enough to participate in family game nights so I love the idea of adding one new game every year. I’m looking forward to everyone gathering at the table together in their Christmas pajamas to play a game together.
Write Letters to Each Other
I have written my children letters to them in their memory journals since before they were even born but I love the idea of writing special Christmas blessings to one another, either in their journals or on stationary to give to each other. I vividly remember one year my mother wrote me a letter and placed it in my stocking for me to open on Christmas morning.
Encouraging your kids to write letters to siblings, parents, or even a Christmas prayer to Jesus could be such a special tradition for older children. Younger children can color special pictures or decorate some paper to give to a special family member too. Plus the letters would be cherished for years to come as special keepsakes for them. I do write each of my children a Christmas letter in their memory journals sometime over the holiday season but I do look forward to the day when they are old enough to write on their own.
Look at Photos or Watch a Video from the Previous Christmas
Spend some time together looking through a photobook of previous Christmas celebrations. My kids LOVE looking through our photo albums and honestly, so do I. It is bittersweet though, I always get a little teary eyed when I am reminded of just how quickly they are growing up!
If you record family movies, upload them to the TV and watch them together. Share their memories of what they remember from last year. Talk about their favorite memories, comment on how much they have grown and matured, and just reflect on how blessed your family is.
A Stocking for Jesus
While we don’t necessarily do Santa, we do hang stockings to exchange small gifts. I love the idea of hanging a special stocking for Jesus and filling it with small gifts of letters to Him from each member of the family. Letters expressing gratitude, letters expressing our devotion to Him and letters to share how we plan to grow even closer to Him in the New Year. This could even be a great idea to include as a New Year’s Eve tradition too.