8 Ideas for Creating New Traditions This Christmas (That Are Also Good for Your Spirit!)
Traditions have been part of life for as long as humans have been able to conceive of the passage of time. Often seasonal, marked by the stars or the weather, traditions have been used to physically symbolize and encompass the significance of special times. For the religious, these special times have been conceived as “sacred time.” Thus, we have “holy days,” or as most of us call them today, “holidays.”
While many cultures throughout the ages observed some sort of winter festivities, sometimes marked by feasts or, as the Druids did, by a tree symbolizing hope for a new harvest come spring, Christians observed Christmas as a time for spiritual meditation. More popular than Christmas for believers was Epiphany, which was celebrated on January 6, the twelfth day of Christmas. While facts surrounding this holiday are obscure to us today, it is believed January 6 was the day Christians celebrated the wise men’s visit to Jesus and their giving of gifts.
While traditions change over the ages, they remain a way for us to observe special times, to be intentional in reflecting on the meaning of our faith, and even to use the physical to teach our hearts spiritual truths celebrated on a specific holiday. For Christians today, Christmas is a celebration of joy: a time to reflect on the Incarnation—the gift of Christ, God’s Son—and to experience the peace Christ has brought to us through his life. Whether you want to find activities to make your own Christmas traditions, or already have traditions but are interested in trying something new, here are eight ideas for ways to celebrate Christmas this year.
1. Attend a Christmas concert.
What lifts the soul better than music? There are so many wonderful concerts that are held only during the Christmas season, whether you live in a small town or a large city. Go hear Handel’s Messiah or Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker. Often there are concerts where an eclectic mix of Christmas pieces are played from a variety of composers. Don’t like classical? There are plenty of other artists who perform Christmas shows. Perhaps your favorite worship hymn-singers are visiting your town, or your local choir has a concert. (And, yes, there is room for Elvis impersonators, too.)
2. Read a story.
Stories help us grasp important truths tied to the holidays. My husband and I plan to incorporate storytelling into our festivities by reading a story together each Christmas Eve. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens or The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry are a couple good options. And, of course, the best story to read this Christmas is the real-life drama of Christ’s birth as told in the Gospels themselves.
3. Learn a new hymn.
I was surprised to find out that my husband had never heard the Christmas hymn “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence,” which happens to be my favorite Christmas carol. There are plenty of Christmas hymns that, while perhaps not as popular, are hidden gems in our hymnals. Learning a new Christmas hymn is both fun and a good way to reflect on the truths of the gospel during the holiday season.
4. Make a new treat (or meal).
Who says you have to make gingerman cookies every year, or ever? And why keep making that same old fruitcake that, secretly, even you don’t like? At my house, we will be eating spicy poblanos rellenos all season, because I’d like to bring some of that beloved California heat (native speaking) to our snowy Michigan Christmas. Food associates with memory. If you want to make this Christmas really memorable—or create new memories—try making a new dish that will bring the kind of experience you want to the table. No pun intended.
5. Peace out.
For most of us, the holidays can be very stressful. There are crowds and traffic, plus tons of errands to do and parties to attend. Yet, Christmas itself is a holiday where we celebrate the peace Jesus has freely given to us. So, how can we make this peace more a part of our Christmas season? Try setting apart a specific amount of time daily or weekly to reflect on just this: gospel peace. Spend this time focusing on passages of the Bible that speak of this peace, journal your thoughts, and pray. For the rest of the year, you’ll remember Christmas as a time of peace—a special time that you will look forward to all year.
It’s pretty much universally held that brunch is the best meal of the day. Brunch is that ultimate symbol of relaxation that declares you can sleep in, have poached eggs, cake, and eat for most of the day. Translation: the perfect Christmas feast. So go ahead and have it all this Christmas. Be festive—brunch!
7. Holiday away.
The world is your oyster. Yet, you don’t have to travel far to have an enjoyable Christmas away from home. A stay at a quaint, enchanting local B&B could be just the ticket for creating new memories. Perhaps in the years to come, you’ll keep up the tradition, making a particular B&B a permanent part of your Christmas memories. Or maybe your tradition will be to spice it up each year by going somewhere new.
There are so many wonderful truths to meditate on during the Christmas season. Why not pick one or two to study more intentionally and in depth? Study the Incarnation, the theme of promise and fulfillment in relation to Christ as Davidic king, or what the Bible has to say about peace or joy. A study like this will bring out the significance of Christmas to you so that you can celebrate the deeper meaning of the holiday. Pretty soon, you’ll be seeing your theme everywhere, a continual reminder of the goodness of God and his gifts in Christ.