Holiday Traditions That Matter: Point Your Kids to Jesus With Your Family's Holiday Plans

“What does your family do for the holidays? Anything special?”

     I asked a friend this question just this morning. I'm sure you've started to hear this question more now that winter is closing in. It usually sparks nostalgic conversations of childhood memories and time together with family. My friend answered my question by sharing some of his family traditions of going to basketball games, cooking food, and spending time with his grandparents. It got me thinking about my own family’s traditions, and I had to ask myself, “Why do we do all this stuff?”

     As I thought about it more, it was helpful to break things down into town categories: rituals and traditions. Most of us, myself included, fall into the habit of rituals: setting up a Christmas tree, giving presents to family, and saying what we’re thankful for at Thanksgiving without much intentionality. Rituals aren't bad, but they can have so much more meaning when they're rooted in a tradition. Simply giving my kids a gift at Christmas is performing a ritual. But, I can pass on a meaningful tradition by giving my kids a gift because it is a reminder that God gave us the ultimate gift by becoming a man in order to die in our place. God perfectly established the tradition of giving, and I can pass that on in a small way through giving gifts to my children.

      Traditions are much more than performing an empty ritual— they are passing on a truth from one generation to the next. Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:2,

You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.

Starting traditions grounded in Scripture is an important aspect of discipling my own children, especially during the holidays.

     Here are a few ways to help us remember and teach our children the biblical truths behind some of our holiday rituals:

  • Give each member of your family a chance to share how God has blessed them this year before you eat Thanksgiving dinner (It will be a chance to practice self-control too!).
  • Use an Advent Calendar to keep the weeks leading up to Christmas focused on the truths behind our traditions and rituals. If you’ve never done this before, check out John Piper’s free ebook Good News of Great Joy: Daily Readings for Advent
  • Read the story of the wise men (Matthew 2:1-12) while wrapping presents for others.
  • Read the Christmas story (Luke 2) while opening presents on Christmas morning.
  • Read through the Gospel message of Jesus’ death and resurrection (Matthew 23-24) as a family on New Years to remind us of the new life we have been given in Christ.

     Keeping traditions focused on the Gospel can be both exciting and intimidating. Just remember that the goal is to simply remind ourselves and our family about the truths contained in Scripture. So let’s get creative to make this holiday season all about Jesus! What traditions does your family celebrate during the holiday season? How can we point our kids to Jesus in the chaos of Black Friday, school programs, and family gatherings? We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments!