Building Holiday Traditions within Your Family by Linda MacKillop {GIVEAWAY}

Making Christmas Traditions

As the product of a broken home, building a sense of safety, security, and continuity in the lives of my four sons became a priority as they grew up. We wanted them to have a strong foundation filled with assurance that certain activities would happen on a regular basis, and ultimately showing them the steadiness of both their parents and God. In the midst of a changing world, we wanted them to count on certain events returning each year, each month, each day—like dad coming home from work in the evening, mom being available after school, supportive family members to show up for their activities, and the fun of birthday and holiday celebrations.

Traditions mark the arrival of a special event, but they also provide sought-after predictability and continuity. Holiday traditions, in particular, mark special occasions as both a promise that the celebration returns yearly and as a reminder to kids that some days stand out more than other days because they are the basis and reminders of our faith. These moments are so important and influential that we celebrate them with regularity. By tradition, we remember Christ’s sacrifice weekly or monthly (depending on your church tradition) by taking Communion. By tradition, we baptize our children. By tradition, we baptize them into the faith through the passing on of knowledge through stories and reading.

In our home, we had traditions for each holiday, Christmas especially. While struggling to celebrate this most commercial of American holidays without letting the secular emphasis take over, we found a mixture of fun traditions balanced with sacred traditions that did the trick for us. We always had similar food each year, and the food is still expected today, now that our sons are grown. Chinese food on Christmas Eve (because way back when, most other restaurants closed on Christmas Eve so people could celebrate the holiday); sour cream coffee cake made from scratch on Christmas morning; and turkey, Ritz cracker stuffing, corn pudding, and pumpkin chiffon pie arrived at the table for Christmas dinner.

I find my sons must think about these dishes before they come home for the holiday, because they most certainly expect to see them on the table when they arrive. In addition to food, we always read the Christmas story, set up a manger scene in our living room, set out luminaries to light our way after the Christmas Eve service into the house, and watch It’s a Wonderful Life.

M is for Manger

Age-appropriate reading material, in addition to the Bible story about Christ’s birth, also offers the opportunity to teach about Christ’s entrance into the world. M is for Manger by Crystal Bowman is a wonderful book as the youngest children among you to begin to learn the great story of Christ’s arrival. This book is designed to become a family classic you will be able to return to each year until your children outgrow its simple format—unless they request the familiar story be read again – even to their own children.

Someday your family traditions may have to morph, and may disappear altogether as parents age, but for now, bask in the safety and warmth of them. Each family needs to develop their own traditions, but we suggest you begin with an idea as simple as M is for Manger that allows you to begin tradition-building early. Gather your young ones together this holiday season and form some lasting memories.


More about M is for Manger: Travel through the alphabet with this beautiful rhyming storybook that tells the story of Jesus’ birth. Begin with the angel who tells Mary that she is God’s chosen vessel and follow along until you reach the zillions of stars that paled in comparison to the star that announced the birthplace of the newborn King. Beautifully illustrated and written, this book will be a classic for parents to read to their children every Christmas season.

Sneak peek:
Mary gently wrapped her son,
then rested in the shed.
She placed the newborn Savior
in a MANGER for his bed.

Want to win a copy of M is for Manger? Leave a comment telling us about your favorite Christmas family tradition! We will choose five winners on October 16th. [GIVEAWAY CLOSED]

Congratulations to our winners!

  • Lacey
  • Maddy
  • Amy Tolley
  • Jennifer Cervantes
  • Maryann


  1. The Christmas Eve candlelight service is one of my favorites of the year – I love sharing that with my family!! I always get goosebumps.

  2. We enjoy gathering on Grandpa’s farm on Christmas Day – it’s a loud an busy houseful, but we’re thankful that God has given us each other.

  3. We always have an assortment of quick breads to snack on while opening presents and my husband makes breakfast.

  4. Jennifer Cervantes says

    We do Christmas at midnight with my inlaws family with tamales, and a huge dinner and then Christmas morning at my house with my family every year with another ham dinner every year.

  5. Michelle J. says

    We decorate sugar cookies on Christmas Eve!

  6. Every Christmas, our entire family comes over and everyone opens gifts in increasing order of age. So cute to watch our kiddos plus all their nieces & nephews get stoked on their gifts. We also make an AMAZING breakfast.. mm

  7. We bake a ton of cookies together each year

  8. I love going to the Zoo Lights at our local zoo every year, and now we get to do it with our little boy! Thank you for the chance to win!

  9. We always spent Christmas Eve at my grand parents house. They had 14 children and everyone would show up with their children, every family had between 1 and 6 kids. The house was very, very full but also full of love.

  10. tina reynolds says

    I love we have grandma and grandpa over the night before go look at lights have dinner and exchange 1 present

  11. Holly Mitkowski says

    We love to go to Koziar’s Christmas Village!

  12. We usually fondue on Christmas. Super tasty! Yum! kristiedonelson(at)gmail(dot)com Thank you.

  13. Drinking coke in glass bottles with the family on Christmas morning.

  14. My husband and I go ride the “Christmas train” a local farm park puts on and attend a church service there in the church we got engaged in during Christmas! It’s so beautiful and such a sweet place to revisit those memories!

  15. Inda Blackwell says

    My favorite tradition has to be completing the advent calendar with the kids. Each day has a new task to complete. Holiday baking is a pretty close second though.

  16. Kathryn Hyatt says

    Even though we are all grown, my brothers and I still go to my parents house and help put up the Tree, make Christmas cookies, decorate, and open gifts on Christmas day. I can’t pick a favorite tradition – I love them all.

  17. Rachel Armock says

    We always bake Christmas cookies on Christmas Eve and read about the Christmas story. The next morning we have french toast for breakfast.

  18. We spend one day of the weekend before Christmas making homemade ravioli. Everyone in the family helps. Then on Christmas Eve, our house is the site for dinner for all of our extended family and friends.

  19. Growing up we always went to the tree farm to pick out our tree and it was always way too big when we got it home. Now our tradition is to fondue on Christmas Eve.

  20. My favorite family Christmas tradition is decorating the tree together. We always put on jazzy instrumental sounds of the season. In the evening, we turn out all the lights but those on the tree and sip hot chocolate.

  21. Kelly mcgrew says

    We used to drive around and look at Christmas lights ! When I was a kid. Now we go to Kennywood Parks Holiday Lights

  22. This will be the first year we start this tradition, but for a Christmas countdown, we are going to give my son a new book each night. Some will be Christmas related, some won’t. I’m so excited for him to get new books and it’ll be fun to read a new one together each night before bed!

  23. Marissa S. says

    My favorite tradition is decorating the tree and making cookies!

  24. My favorite holiday tradition is our big extended family white elephant gift exchange. Its good to catch up with everyone, and we have a lot of fun.

  25. amy tolley says

    our favorite Christmas tradition is every year we take the kids and they pick out an ornament of their choice to hang on the tree we date them and put their initials on them

  26. Driving around to look at all the beautiful lights & opening special pjs on Christmas EVe are my favorite traditions. But now that I am a mother, I’ve discovered he joy of watching the children’s faces.

  27. My favorite tradition is having my father read the Christmas story from Luke on Christmas Eve. He now reads it to my children each Christmas Eve.

  28. we go christmas caroling with the kids and their friends!

  29. Our family tradition is every year going to the tree farm and picking out a tree 🙂 then on Christmas eve we all get new pjs and a movie to watch with home made hot chocolate 🙂

  30. Our favorite traditions are packing up Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes and going to our church’s Christmas eve candlelight service.

  31. Ellie Wright says

    My favorite tradition is gathering the kids and drinking hot cocoa while watching White Christmas on Christmas Eve.

  32. I love making handmade gifts and cookies every year!

  33. My favorite Christmas tradition was a big family get together on Christmas Day at Mom and Dad’s house. Now both of my parents, 2 brothers, 1 sister, my husband, my daughter, several in-laws and others have died and we no longer get together on Christmas Day.

  34. My favorite Christmas tradition is making cookies as a family. We’ve been doing it for as long as I can remember.

  35. My favorite family tradition is decorating the tree, followed by delicious gourmet candy that is oh so abundant during the winter holiday season.

  36. Christmas eve jammies and a book tradition we started with our daughter.

  37. Nicole Sender says

    My favorite tradition is to spend Christmas morning with my grandsons. Great fun and brunch.

  38. lorene desjardins says

    We love to take the kids to ride around and look at the Christmas lights.

  39. On Christmas eve my kids each open one gift and we have a little party. They love it!

  40. Cutting down our own tree!

  41. My favorite Christmas family tradition is baking ginger cookies and decorating Christmas tree
    Thank You for the chance

  42. I love our family’s Christmas Eve Tradition – we attend church together, then drive around the area looking at holiday lights. When we get home, we have hot apple cider and the kids exchange their gifts before bed.

  43. My favorite Christmas tradition is staying up and watching the midnight mass from St. Peter’s Basilica with my family, and my favorite whole family tradition is setting up our Christmas train set.

  44. Julie Waldron says

    My favorite family Christmas tradition is sitting around the Christmas tree with only the Christmas lights on drinking hot coco & reminiscing about the year.

  45. Our family traditions happen on Christmas Eve! We go to the candlelight service and then have the German tradition of opening family gifts that night, too. Thanks so much for the chances to win this.

  46. My favorite tradition is attending church with my family on Christmas Eve, then driving around our neighborhood to see all the Christmas lights. When we get home we have hot apple cider and the kids exchange their gifts.

  47. Rebecca Xavier says

    We go to the Christmas Eve service at the church.

  48. Drinking hot cocoa by the fire on christmas eve 🙂 Thank you!!! My daughter would love this!

  49. Absolutely love riding around in our pjs Christmas Eve with the babies looking at Christmas lights but the most important and cherished moment is the midnight church service where we give thanks where thanks is really due!

  50. We go to a Christmas Eve service, then come home and open a gift, usually a Christmas book and jammies., We read the books, get in the jammies, and sprinkle reindeer food on the lawn, and get the cookies ready for Santa!

  51. We always go out to eat Chinese food on Christmas Eve.

  52. We like going to the farm areas to pick out a fresh Christmas tree as a family

  53. I love going to look at Christmas lights!

  54. When our sons were young, we would go to travel to my parent’s home and spend Christmas Eve with my family. We would open presents and have Christmas goodies. The next day we would travel to visit grandpa and celebrate at this home with Christmas dinner and more presents. It was a very special time.

  55. Debbie Lewis says

    I love having all the family come to my house to open presents Christmas morning

  56. Darlene Owen says

    My favorite tradition is when all of my family all comes to my house for good food and fun. Then we all go sledding.

  57. Holly Caulfield says

    Opening the Christmas stockings on Christmas day.

  58. Barbara Blanton says

    Decorating our Christmas tree with my husband and our children 🙂

  59. Claire Quaile says

    On christmas eve we drive around and look at all the christmas lights and luminaries then we go to my sister in laws for christmas eve dinner then midnight mass. We love it. Thanks for this wonderful giveaway

  60. My favorite Christmas tradition is going to my moms Christmas morning for breakfast and wish Jesus a very happy birthday. After breakfast its time for presents. My daughter,my sister,my 2 nieces play Santa and pass out all the gifts.There’s 12 of us so it takes awhile. Then we always let my nieces and now my granddaughter open their gifts first. That way we take lots of pictures. I always open my gifts last because Im to busy watching everyone else open their gifts. Then we have coffee with pastry. Then we hang out and visit. Then we watch Christmas movies. Im so blessed and love my family so much. Christmas is my fave holiday because its the time to celebrate the reason for the season,Jesus. Thank you for the chance 🙂

  61. Sumner Hernandez says

    On Christmas Eve, we wear pajamas and drink hot chocolate while looking at Christmas lights. We also love participating in the Candlelight Service at our church.


  1. […] Building Holiday Traditions within Your Family – “While struggling to celebrate this most commercial of American holidays without letting the secular emphasis take over, we found a mixture of fun traditions balanced with sacred traditions that did the trick for us.” […]

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