Christmas is not about the presents under the tree, the decorations and the lights, the concerts or the fancy meals. It’s not about shopping, snow, caroling, or Santa Claus. True Christmas is found in the first syllable of the very word itself, who is all too often forgotten. Christmas is about Christ! And while all of the festivities, traditions, and activities that accompany this holiday are certainly appropriate and extremely fun, we must ensure that we never forget the significance of why we celebrate in the first place. And perhaps true Christmas is discovered, enjoyed, and made evident only when our actions reflect the actions and character of Him whose birth we commemorate. He loved His lambs, He fed His lambs, and He continues to feed His lambs; our great opportunity is to allow Him to feed His lambs through the service and giving of you and me.
Below is listed not only giving and service opportunities that help us participate in the true meaning of Christmas, but also fun Christmas activities and traditions that can be enjoyed by families and people everywhere:
1) Purpose of the Holiday: First and most importantly, ensure that in the midst of all the fun festivities, parties, gift exchanges, traditions, delicious meals and chocolate, and especially the anticipation of Santa Claus – that you make time to remember Him, and the real Reason why we celebrate this season!
2) ‘Adopt a Family’: Find a local family that may be struggling or has very little, and anonymously give them Christmas. For 12 days, drop off food one night, clothes the next, books, toys, kind notes, treats, etc. (or just drop it all off at once).
3) ‘Draw Names’: On Dec. 1st, each child will draw the name of another sibling or parent – and that is who they have to get a present for Christmas that year. One year, have it be a funny gift; the next year have it be a ‘no-cost’ present where everyone can not spend money; another year each person has to actually make/create their gift; or just buy the gift for the individual; etc.
4) Yearly Ornaments: Each year, every child will get to make/create a new ornament to hang on the tree.
5) Hang Mistletoe: Enough said right!
6) Family Sleepover: On Christmas Eve, the whole family will camp-out together in the same room. Obviously this can’t be in the room with the tree, but upstairs/downstairs or in a bedroom – all the kids (and Dad/Mom) will sleep out together.
7) Yearly Christmas Tree Outing: All the men and boys each year will go out on Dec. 1st and find the Christmas tree. While gone, the women will make a warm meal for everyone to eat when the guys get home. That evening, everyone will decorate the tree, listen to Christmas music, make the house festive for the season, and just play games and spend the evening together.
8) Nightly Christmas Stories: For each night in December, read a Christmas story or book, a holiday poem, the symbols of Christmas, or the words to a Christmas carol.
9) Christmas Eve Present: Allow each child to open one present on Christmas Eve.
10) Nativity Sets & Ginger-Bread Houses: Each year as a family, make a new Nativity set (or have each child make their own). Use paper, play dough, cardboard, card stock, etc. Also, set aside one night to make Ginger Bread Houses together.
11) Secret Santa Care Packages: Identify a child who is sick at the hospital, some children from the orphanage, various people at the homeless shelter, family in need, or even a child in a developing country (work with your local non-profit) – and each member in the family (even the kids) will donate money, items, and time in putting together these care packages for people in need. Deliver it anonymously, or in person so children can feel and see the joy of giving.
12) Christmas Lights Drive: As a family, hop in the car and make it a yearly tradition to just drive around neighborhoods and downtown looking at Christmas lights. Take candy, of course!
13) Read the Christmas Story: Perhaps make Christmas Eve the night to talk about the ‘true’ meaning of and significance of Christmas. Read the account of Christ’s birth from the Bible, talk about it, or perhaps even for fun – have the kids act it out. Then, the 25th can be the day of fun and presents.
14) Mini Tree: With little kids, allow each of them to have their own little Christmas tree that they can decorate however they want – and they can keep it in their rooms.
15) Giving Tree: Set up a tree at the local schools, Churches, and community centers. Have paper ornaments on each tree with a random items that people will donate. Items could be: food, clothes, toys, books, money, toiletries, etc. Then, have a large box where people can come back and drop off their donated items. Then, give these items to local families/individuals in need. Give them to the local Salvation Army, Orphanage, Homeless Shelter, or Non-Profit.
16) Dec 1st Kickoff: Make the first day in December the official day the family starts Christmas celebrations and decorations. Make some hot cocoa, popcorn, turn on the Christmas music, and get the family together. Decorate the house, put up the tree, and just spend the night playing games and having fun together.
17) Gift to Christ: Each year as a family, and especially personally, determine something you will do as an expression of gratitude for what Christ did for you. Break a habit, develop a talent, mend a relationship, or become a better person/family in some way.
18) Christmas Giving: As a family, do one or many of the following each year: visit a nursing home or homeless shelter and take small gifts for people, make a meal or treat for a new neighbor or someone in need, invite a widowed woman or someone who is alone to share a meal, shovel snow for Elderly neighbors, etc.
19) Christmas Culture Night: Learn about how other cultures, countries, and religions celebrate Christmas.
20) Yearly Christmas Fun: Yet, in the midst of it all – have FUN! Every year, make it a tradition to do one or many of the following fun activities: go sledding, make snowmen, go to the beach, go skiing, ice skating, a performance, to a cabin, have a Christmas movie and popcorn night, have an extended family or neighborhood Christmas party gift exchange, etc. Perhaps one night you can specifically set aside as ‘Christmas Family Night’ and just be together. Get Pizza, rent a movie, play games, have a campout in the family room, etc.
Perhaps it was the great Dr. Seuss who summed it up best when he so perfectly penned: “And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” Thus, Christmas and giving is not determined by price, but in how we give and act – the season’s about Christ!
Matt is the founder of http://www.Tips4Families.com/ – a website full of helpful parenting advice, fun games and activities, traditions and holiday ideas, and tips and articles for families everywhere. Matt is also the author of: “Great Games! 175 Games & Activities for Families, Groups, & Children.” To view the book and learn more, visit: GreatGamesBook.com