Christmas is going to look different for a lot of people this year. Some families may not be able to travel to see loved ones as they have in the past. Some families may not be able to take part in much-loved traditions such as attending church Christmas programs, caroling at nursing homes, or enjoying Christmas parties with friends. And, because of job losses or other financial hardships, some families may not be able to exchange gifts like they have in the past. Many families are needing to plan for a much more minimal Christmas season.
But whatever your circumstances this year, you can still celebrate Christmas. Christmas is not about big gatherings, outings, fancy decorations, or gift exchanges—Christmas is all about celebrating Christ.
A few years ago, my family made the intentional choice to steer our celebration of Christmas away from being focused on “stuff.” Honestly, it was not an easy move at first. But it was worth it. The more that we have focused on Christ, the more meaningful the holiday has become. Here are a few tips for creating a Christ-centered, minimal, meaningful Christmas for your home.
1. Get everyone involved in your minimal Christmas.
A big part of our Christmas celebration is a family worship time. Months before Christmas, we work together with our kids to plan a Christmas program. The kids read or recite verses, sing carols (or play them on a musical instrument), and act out the Christmas story. Sometimes extended family members are here to see the live performance, but we always record a video to send to loved ones who can’t be there.
There are lots of ways your kids can get involved in celebrating Christ’s birth. They can decorate a tree with homemade, Christ-themed ornaments or participate in the reading of Scripture passages related to the incarnation. Or they can make cookies to take caroling around your neighborhood. The more that they can get involved, the more meaningful the day will become for them.
2. Plan a special menu for the day.
Have you ever noticed how most of the celebrations mentioned in the Old Testament center around food? Food is a big part of our lives and our culture. And food can turn an ordinary day into an extraordinary day.
Food plays an important part in our Christmas celebration. We have built Christmas traditions around food—Christmas is the day that begins with homemade cinnamon rolls and ends with homemade chocolate waffles with ice cream. Most of the food that we enjoy on Christmas takes a lot of effort, more effort than I would be willing to expend on an ordinary day. But on Christmas that effort helps signal the specialness of the day. And as my daughters have gained kitchen skills, I value the time that we spend cooking together on Christmas. It’s a great day to teach life skills and build relationships.
3. Be intentional with gifts.
On this point, my family is very countercultural. We do not exchange toys, clothes, gadgets, etc. on Christmas. We’re not Scrooges; we do have that kind of a gift exchange—we just do it on a different day. On Christmas, we give our children stockings full of special treats (candy and snacks that they always ask for but rarely get) and a book or other item that will help them focus on Christ (such as a new Bible, missionary biography, devotional book, etc.).
Whatever you decide to do about gift exchanges, be intentional and communicate your intentions to your kids so they know what to expect.
4. Use the day to build relationships.
Holidays are special days. It’s unusual to have an entire day with no work planned—no landscaping work, no cleaning, no shopping, etc. Take advantage of the day to do things together that you may not normally have time to do. Play a board game together. Do a puzzle or build with blocks. Take a family walk. Make a gingerbread house. There’s a myriad of activities that your family can do together. So go make those memories.
Christmas doesn’t have to be big to be meaningful. A minimal Christmas intentionally centered on the celebration of Christ’s incarnation will leave your hearts full at the end of the day.
Christ is all we need. May Christ be all we desire.