Every family has its own Christmas Eve traditions. These small rituals help people get into the holiday spirit, stay close to loved ones, and remember the meaning behind the Christmas festivities.
For Christian families, it's important to remember the spiritual meaning of the holiday season. If you'd like to teach your children about the reason for your Christmas celebration, consider adding the following Christmas Eve traditions to your schedule:
- Ask your children to make a list of things they would like to do to become a better person during the following year, such as reading scriptures on a daily basis, avoiding fights with younger siblings, or helping an elderly neighbor. Wrap the lists in a special box to be opened on Christmas morning as a "gift" for Jesus.
- Gather around your nativity and read an age-appropriate version of the birth of Jesus to your children before heading off to your Christmas Eve church service.
- If you're trying to scale back your Christmas celebration, consider giving just three presents to each child. Explain that this represents the number of gifts the wise men gave the baby Jesus.
Fun holiday traditions make happy Christmas memories! Both the young and the young at heart will enjoy the following Christmas Eve traditions:
- Have a slumber party while waiting for Santa! Dress everyone in a new pair of pajamas and play games, sing Christmas carols, or watch Christmas movies during your Christmas Eve festivities.
- Make and decorate homemade cookies to leave out for Santa and his reindeer. Package the extras in pretty containers to deliver to friends and family on Christmas day.
- Drive around your town to check out the various Christmas light displays. Award "prizes" to the best, worst, and funniest decorations.
Traditions from Around the World
For a unique twist to your holiday celebration, consider incorporating traditions that reflect your cultural heritage into your Christmas Eve festivities. For example:
- People in Denmark eat Christmas dinner at midnight on Christmas Eve. For dessert, they enjoy a special rice pudding with one almond in it. Legend says whoever gets the almond will have good luck throughout the coming year.
- In Ireland, the man of the house puts a tall candle on the sill of the largest window. The youngest child lights the candle in remembrance of the baby Jesus.
- In Italy, people observe a strict fast for the 24 hours before Christmas. The fast is broken on Christmas day with a traditional dinner that includes spaghetti, fish, anchovies, salad, broccoli, fruit, and sweets.
A Stress-Free Holiday
While traditions are an important part of creating joyful holiday memories, the pressure they add can sometimes create unnecessary tension. To keep your sanity, remember the following tips:
- Make sure everyone has time to rest during the days leading up to Christmas. Pushing tired and cranky people together will only create added tension.
- Don't confine the holiday celebration to Christmas Eve and Christmas day. Celebrate for an entire week if it's necessary to avoid over scheduling. It's the spirit of the holiday that matters the most, not what it says on the calendar!
- Be flexible. If you're recently married or part of a blended stepfamily, holiday scheduling difficulties are often unavoidable. Learn to expect the unexpected.
- Don't make perfection your goal. In a few years, no one will remember if breakfast was burnt or someone received a less-than-ideal gift. Focus on creating happy memories instead.