By Thamar Jones
Why do we have a tree, decorations, lights? Why do we
exchange gifts at Christmas? What do these Christmas
traditions mean? Are they important?
Christ is or should be at the center of Christmas.
Consider the traditions that many of us maintain
during the Christmas holidays: the dinners, the
decorations, and the gifts. Is our focus and
celebration based on Christ and the gift of his
birth? Perhaps there is more—some additions to these
traditions that would bring more meaning to your
holidays and make Christ the true center of
Traditions are powerful for families. For one thing,
they bring families closer together. By nature,
traditions take time and commitment. This time
together helps you make new memories while also
remembering the past. Traditions remind us to stop
the busy cycle of life long enough to reconnect and
build bonds.
But the ones that are most affected by traditions are
children. Psychiatrist Martin V. Cohen, Ph.D. says
that children love rituals and that they find a
certain security and solace in something that gives a
sense of belonging and comfort. Kids find rituals
fascinating—artistically, spiritually, and
emotionally. They find a sense of awe in the
holidays, giving them a picture not only of family
bonding, but also of the importance of Christ.
Traditions are symbolic. Perhaps the most important
purpose of traditions in the Christian community is
to remind us of Christ Himself. This is most obvious
in the symbol of communion. In Luke 22:19, we find
Jesus leading the disciples in the first communion.
At the end of this verse, He says, “… Do this in
remembrance of me.”
In the same way, we have Christmas traditions that
remind us of Christ. The nativity reminds us that God
came as a man in the flesh to take away the sins of
the world, and gifts repeat the story of the three
wise men that came to adore the Christ child.
You can start new activities that will bring even
more meaning to your holidays and build a legacy for
your family. Perhaps you came from a family of non-
believers, and you have never celebrated traditions
that were based on Christ. Or perhaps you have found
that your current traditions have no meaning for your
family. Here are some ways to make sure that as we
celebrate Christmas this year, we are celebrating its
true meaning.
1. Fast a meal. In Belize, Christmas includes a
large focus on food. This year during the week
before Christmas, give up a meal and pray during that
time for the poor, hungry, and spiritually lost in
the world.
2. Watch a movie that remembers the life of Christ.
There are several good films that focus on the birth,
death, and life of Christ. We recommend Jesus of
Nazareth, the film, Jesus, or for mature audiences,
The Passion of the Christ. Or for a change of pace,
try Ben Hur, a movie that begins with Jesus’ birth
and ends with His death, and tells the story of a man
who was transformed by His love and forgiveness.
By watching movies that focus on other aspects of the
life of Jesus, the Christmas celebration of His birth
is put into proper perspective. This can be an
excellent opportunity to talk to your children about
why Christ had to come in the form of a child.
3. A family I know has a birthday party for Jesus.
They have a dinner together followed by the lighting
of the Christ candle on a nativity wreath, and then
they read the Scripture account of Jesus’ birth.
After that they have a birthday cake for Jesus. The
cake is chocolate, representing sin. It’s filled with
cherry pie filling, representing the blood of Jesus,
and it’s covered with white frosting which represents
our new life in Christ.
4. As a child my family decorated with all the
traditional stuff—tree, lights, presents, etc. One
year it dawned on my mom that we could add a deeper
spiritual touch to our celebration by thinking in
spiritual terms. As we gather to have our family
Christmas, we began the evening by looking at the
decorations and sharing what each item reminded us
of: the lights—Jesus, the Light of the world, the
tree—the cross, the gifts—God’s gift to us
Traditions create legacy and are a great way to pass
down family values to children who will in turn, pass
them on to their children and so on. When used
properly, traditions are a great way to pass down
stories of faith and customs through generations to