How to make Christ the center of Christmas traditions

When our children were small, we started an annual family Christmas tradition. This tradition, centered on Christ, included the following:

Holding a family council in November. Each year, we selected a family or two in our neighborhood whose lives best exemplified Christ during the previous year.- Choosing an appropriate book and inscribing, "Thank you for your Christlike example to us." On Christmas Eve, we left a book anonymously for the family or families. Our children left it on the doorstep, rang the doorbell and hurried away so as not to be discovered.

This became a favorite tradition for our children. Getting the book onto the doorstep and leaving without being seen was exciting in itself. The entire operation was planned by those chosen that year to deliver the book. The approach and escape routes were mapped out as well as the site where the others would watch the action.

This tradition helped our children to recognize the Christlike qualities that are found in ordinary people, each trying to practice the gospel of Jesus Christ. As they watched their neighbors giving quiet, unheralded service, it became more natural for them to look for the good things people do and made it easier for us and our children to find opportunities to do the same. - Names and location withheld

What we did:

Example of service, love

One of my favorite Christmas memories is a tradition my parents began when I was young. At the beginning of December, my mom would get the Nativity set out of storage and display it on top of the piano, but the manger would be empty. Next to the Nativity set was a pile of straw.

During the days leading to Christmas, when family members performed quiet acts of service, we would put a piece of straw in the manger. Knowing that the Baby Jesus would be placed in the manger we were more anxious to make it comfortable for Him. The straw pile on the manger grew. On Christmas Eve, my mom placed the baby Jesus in the manger and talked about the Savior's great example of service and love.

This tradition helped us to focus more on the Savior during the Christmas season. - Emily Anderson, Cleveland Heights, Ohio

Highlight of season

Years ago we felt Christmas morning was too materialistic, so my husband decided to have each child and parent memorize a selected passage from the scriptures to be recited Christmas morning before opening our presents. After reciting the passage, (only three to four verses), each family member then was to bear a short testimony.

After setting the spiritual mood, we then exchanged our Christmas gifts. At the time we began this tradition, our children were ages 4 to 14. Today, 11 years later, we have carried this tradition on to include our son-in-law, and it has become the highlight of the Christmas season for me as their mother. The Spirit is strong and gives us a chance as parents to listen to all our children bear their testimonies and bonds us together as a family unit. When our children have gone on missions they also have memorized our selected scripture and sent their testimonies home in a letter. It is an honor to be the one selected to pick the Christmas scripture.

Looking back, I am able to see that the scriptures have painted a history for what our family went through or learned that year. For example, we have done Section 4 of the Doctrine and Covenants twice as we have had missionaries leave. - Debbie Brown, Kaysville, Utah

As the Savior would

Instead of just teaching about the Savior around the Christmas holidays, we parents can use this great opportunity to teach our children how to live and act as the Savior would.

Acts of service are the best and most complete way to really put Christ first in Christmas. We have had so much fun as a family secretly delivering plates of cookies, gifts and other items to people's homes. We love to park the van around the corner and have one of our children run up with the items, ring the doorbell and run for the van. I don't think it matters what you do. What is important is that it is done in remembrance of the Savior and it should center around service to another. - W. Denis Nurmela, Sun City, Calif.

Opens doors

It has always been a tradition to place the Nativity scene under the Christmas tree in the front. Our Nativity scene has a lighted star at the top. The presents are placed around the sides to the back. In the evening, when the tree is lit, the lights on the tree are like stars in the sky over the Nativity scene.

I have had neighbor's children ask about the "little people in front" of the Nativity. This opens the door to explain what Christmas is all about. - Lorraine-Denise Kerrigan, Cherokee Village, Ark.

Christ's gift of love

As I was growing up and even to this day, my dad has a tradition he does every Christmas Eve to remind us why we really celebrate Christmas.

Every year we read about and discuss the birth of Jesus and the reasons we need to remember the gifts He has given to us. My dad also reminds us that Christ gave His gifts out of love, and we need to do the same.

I don't know if my dad knows it, but this is a tradition that I want to have when I have a family. - Jason J. Udy, Spring Valley, Calif.

Given from the soul

About five years ago, I received a phone call from my parents. It was at this time I realized how very important and special Christmas is. My parents told me that this year they would like to start a Christmas tradition. "This year we would like to give a gift to the Savior."

I thought about this and it wasn't as easy as I thought it would be. It wasn't going out to the store and buying something that one of my children had on their list. This was different, special, meaningful. This would be something very important to me. I found myself wanting to give something to the Savior that only I could give.

I look forward to giving my gift to the Savior every year. I find these gifts always seem to be things that have been given from the soul. My children and my sister's children look forward to Christmas time so they can decide what gift they want to give to the Christ Child. I'm so very grateful for this and pray that my children will continue on with this tradition with their children and so forth. What a wonderful Christmas gift we can leave behind and give to our future family members. - Wendy Warnick Christensen, Phoenix, Ariz.

How to checklist:

1 Remember reason for Christmas; ponder Savior's life.

2 Read about, discuss His birth; include a Nativity set as part of Christmas decorations.

3 Include service in traditions; give gifts anonymously.

4 Take the opportunity to share your testimony of Christ with others.


Dec. 27 "How to develop qualities of discipleship."

Jan. 3 "How to gain a deeper spiritual appreciation for the Old Testament."

Jan. 10 "How to better serve those to whom you are assigned as a home teacher or visiting teacher in 1998."

Jan. 17 "How to avoid greed."

Jan. 24 "How to be more resilient in day-to-day life."

Jan. 31 "How to save more, spend less."

Feb. 7 "How to teach children respect for their elders."

Also interested in letters on these topics: "How to get out of a rut in your career," "How to help yourself or loved one overcome an abusive nature," "How to be prepared to share the gospel and answer questions," "How to build a strong work ethic in children," "How to encourage children and young people to be physically active."

Had any good experiences or practical success in any of the above subjects? Share them with our readers in about 100-150 words. Write the "How-to" editor, Church News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, Utah 84110, send fax to (801) 237-2524 or use internet E-mail: Please include a name and phone number. Contributions may be edited or excerpted and will not be returned. Due to limited space, some contributions may not be used; those used should not be regarded as official Church doctrine or policy. Material must be received at least 12 days before publication date.

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