Faith Spilling Over… Into Everyday Life

Best Ever Family Tradition that Rescues Christmas


best ever family traditionWhen I was growing up, Christmas was all about Santa Claus. I still remember the year I discovered Santa wasn’t real. I was in 3rd grade, and I’d heard unbelievable rumors from bigger kids at school. Christmas morning before the crack of dawn, I raced with my brothers to the Christmas tree and saw the doll I’d found hidden in Mom’s closet the week before. The gift tag on the doll said: “From Santa.” I was horrified. The big kids at school were right.

When I had children of my own, I chose not to go the Santa route, but gifts remain a central focus of the Christmas season. Many of us expend more energy buying, wrapping, and giving gifts than we do on any other activity in December.

Gifts are fun, but I what I really want to pass on to my kids is the marvel of the Christmas miracle.

Celebrate Advent, Christ’s Awaited Coming.

At our house, celebrating advent rescues Christmas from the gift goblins and turns it into a special opportunity to encourage our children’s faith. When the kids were little, we started lighting a wreath every evening in December. We read a brief scripture, sang a carol, and blew out the candle. Some nights we had a special treat like a cookie, cocoa, or hot apple cider.

Gathering around an advent wreath builds family togetherness and brings a bit of candle lit wonder into your holiday. Singing a familiar carol brings a peaceful pause to hurried days of holiday preparation.

Let go of perfect.

You may have rosy pictures of your family gathered around a candle lit wreath, like in a Christmas Hallmark movie. Your kids’ angelic faces are rapt with attention. They sing “Away in the Manger” and adore Jesus.

Ain’t gonna happen that way every night, folks.

Real life advent time is like this. Your kids fight over who gets to light the candle and who gets to blow it out. (Smart parents devise a system of taking turns, which works only sometimes.) While they sing “Away in the Manger,” one kid hits his brother. The other kid sticks a pencil into the candle flame to see how fast it will burn.

Relax. It won’t be perfect. Remember that even your most feeble efforts to point to Jesus as the center of the Christmas celebration will encourage your kids’ faith. If your children are small, keep it short and sweet. If your kids are busy high schoolers with evening activities, aim for 3 or 4 nights a week and call it good. Our family’s doing it in the MORNING this year! Candle light is not quite the same at 8:00 a.m., but we’re letting go of perfect in favor of what works.

Here are some helpful resources:

We Light the Candles

Good Morning Girls Advent Study

Focus on the Family’s Advent Readings

The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp

UnWrapping the Names of Jesus: An Advent Devotional by Asheritah at

Maybe you haven’t had the time or energy to think about advent. It’s not too late to start. If you don’t have a wreath, grab 4 candles. If you don’t have kids, you can still light candles and read scripture with your mate as a special ending to each day.

Now it’s your turn? What’s your favorite Christmas tradition?

Linking up with Equipping Godly Women for #FellowshipFridays



Author: betsydecruz

I want to enjoy the everyday life God is giving me as best I can, even when the road gets bumpy. I love having fun with my teenagers, learning almost anything, and drinking dark roast coffee with my friends.

32 thoughts on “Best Ever Family Tradition that Rescues Christmas

  1. The year our oldest child was 4, I developed a unit study version of the Jesse Tree modeled after the curriculum we were using for school. The next year I decided to do it again, but with slightly different activities. The trend continued, and this year marks the sixteenth year for us to do the study. Our activities have varied as the kids have gotten older and as our family has expanded, but every year the Lord teaches me/us something new as we look back at His earthly lineage and briefly retrace His History with His people.

  2. Thanks for writing this it made me stop and think! Visiting from Equipping Godly Women.

  3. We did a Jesse tree too for two years in a row and I loved it, LaNette. Ann Voskamp used to have a free Jesse Tree Advent devotional with printable ornaments. I cut mine out and glued them to red cardstock. Made a beautiful tree. But I can’t find the link. Congratulations to you on 16 years!

  4. Betsy, I love your positive attitude and sense of humor! I was laughing out loud as I read your post, because what you described is real life and what goes on in my home as well. Still, it’s worth our efforts to pass on traditions and to start new traditions all our own. When I was young, we always went to my grandparents’ house on Christmas Eve. Just before bedtime, we turned out all the lights in the house and my grandpa read the Christmas story from Luke by candlelight. I loved it. Praying continued blessing on your mornings of Advent!

  5. Betsy,
    Thank you for such a great post about Advent! I really appreciate the resources you listed…they are very helpful! Wishing you a Holy Advent Season!

  6. “Let go of perfect.” Whew! I need to embrace that. See the need for yet another Pinterest board–It’s Gonna Be Okay – Scripture and quotes to get us through the crazy days. You inspire me, Betsy! One of these days I’ll get busy on all these boards I think of when I read your posts. Love you, girl!

    • I love that Pinterest idea. “It’s Gonna Be Okay.” (I’d add the word “Really” at the end 🙂 I don’t know if I follow you on pinterest yet–I’m hardly ever there- but I’m gonna be on the lookout for that board ’cause I need it!

      • So do I, Betsy. Maybe I’ll work on that one and the one on Real Hospitality after the New Year. 🙂

  7. This was such a joy to read….”real life Advent time” ….like your story the evening reading often doesn’t start peaceful in my house but it always ends with Christ as our focus and the peace always permeates the house. That is why I love Advent season…the way it really prepares us for His coming. This year I want to fovus onmy own quietness and silence before Him. It is the best yes I can commit to…yes to His coming!

    Blessings on your advent celebrations.

  8. Our church gave out an Advent devotional this year, which really helps. We’re reading prophetic Scriptures this week. Last night, I totally forgot about the candle, lol! As you say, with teens it’s hit or miss. I just start our Advent time when everyone is in the front room. It is a great way to keep the focus in the right place. I’m going to incorporate your ideas of singing and a treat.
    I’ll share this on Facebook. Great reminder!

    • Thanks for sharing this, Lisa. We’re reading prophetic scriptures this week too. My church back in Texas makes an advent devotional available too. This year I’m using Focus on the Family’s page, and really like it. Pretty much standard readings, plus a few different.

  9. Thank you for sharing these ideas, Betsy. And thank you so much for your last point. That is one I need to hear over and over because inevitably things never go the way I envisioned them in my head. 😉 While unwrapping a special nativity scene this year where each character had it’s own special box and story to go with it, my six-year-old was more excited about opening the boxes than the story. But that’s just the way it goes and I’m still grateful that he retained some of it, especially at his age. 😉

    • Of course your boy is more interested in the boxes than the story. He’s a smart one, that means. 🙂 That sounds just like what would happen here. I find that during the holidays we have so many romantic ideas, but then they don’t really go like we imagine, as you say. I get out our tree over two nights because fluffingit, putting lights on, and THEN decorating has us all in a tizzy fit by the time it’s over. Now we fluff and put lights on in advance, THEN have family tree-decorating…

  10. “Gifts are fun, but what I really want to pass on to my kids are the marvel of the Christmas miracle.” Oh, yes! The marvel and the awe of Christ’s birth! That is what I remember from childhood (along with Santa Clause 🙂 ). Thanks Betsy!

    • Yes, Ellen, a favorite childhood memory of mine was the 11:00 candle service at the Methodist Church. It was like a miracle with all those lights shining as we sang, “Oh, come let us adore him.”

  11. I love to make decorations for the Christmas tree and house with the kids. I want to build memories of time spent together enjoying the season. Your post came at perfect timing for me. All my plans to decorate and create are not coming along like I have planned. My sweet four year old daughter keeps taking ornaments off of the Christmas time and we haven’t even put out all of them. She likes to put them in a hiding place and then re-decorate the tree to surprise me. It’s cute and just a tiny bit annoying. The dust all over my house is keeping me decorating too. So nothing is perfect. I am trying to stay calm. Your post helps. thank you

    • May God give you lots of grace for staying calm, Lisa. I remember doing crafts with my kids and having all kinds of expectations abaout how cute everything would look, but their ideas were ALWAYS different from mine! Just put out the decorations over the dust. No one but you will notice. 🙂 At least, that’s my plan for this house.

  12. It is so refreshing to hear that those arguments happen in your home too! I am reading the Love God Greatly Plan; and dipping into Unwrapping The Greatest Gift for bedtime stories – my letting go is that we’re reading it in the boys’ chosen order, not the chronological order! I think that’s ok! We’re also using a praying in colour advent calendar and moving our wise men one step nearer the nativity every day from the furthest point of our house! (Luckily we have 3 boys and 3 wise men, so no arguments!!)

  13. Betsy,
    I did have to chuckle at the pencil in the candle flame…been there experienced that and worse lol. This year I am really enjoying Ann Voskamp’s “The Greatest Gift”. By reading along, spending some quiet time with God and pondering the miracle of Christmas and one by one putting the ornaments on my Jesse Tree…I am finding a new way of anticipating Christ’s coming.

    • I’ve heard so much about that, Bev, and look forward to using it next year. Since we live overseas, we can’t always get books easily, and I figure that’s one I really want in hardcover rather than on Kindle, so next August, when we return to America for 9 months, that book will be one of the first on my list.

  14. lol. you mean it isn’t just my children that act like that? Actually, they are pretty good–as long as I don’t expect them to sit still! I love your tradition and how it is so focused on the real reason for the season. Thanks for sharing!

    • Your kids are definitely not the only ones who act like that. I remember starting out with a Toddler’s Bible, that told each Bible story in four pages. Each page had one sentence. It was about perfect for my kids!

  15. I think celebrating Advent is the ONLY way to celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday remembering the birth of Our Saviour. We are lost in commercialism and presents if we don’t teach our children to approach Christmas through the season of Advent. Thank you for this post, Betsy! Spot on, as usual!

  16. Advent has brought a new level of meaning to Christmas for me and my family. It always seemed like Christmas morning snuck up on me unprepared, but spending the four weeks leading up to Christmas preparing to celebrate Jesus has changed all that. Thank you for sharing your family tradition, and thanks for sharing #unwrappingJesus as well.

    Hope you and your family have a very blessed Advent together!

  17. I love this – let go of perfect and remember that even the most feeble attempts at bringing Jesus into Christmas will be important. Words I need to remember! It’s hard seeing Facebook posts of friends having ‘perfect’ Christmas moments while my house is in a state of chaos. but, I’m letting go of perfect and accepting what it is. Small moments of wonderfulness, of wonder, of Jesus. Glad I saw this one today!

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