How to Give Kids the Gift of Meaningful Christmas Memories!

I remember my dad cooking the turkey.

I remember my mom baking pies – evenings, after work – the week before Christmas.

I remember smells, excitement and the decorations. I remember taking homemade treats to a widow down the street. I remember hiding the gifts for my family under my bed. It was the most magical time of the year for me!

When I was growing up, my parents both worked fulltime right through the holidays. Of course, they would get Christmas off; but, we didn’t have the ‘traditional” festivities that included days of baking cookies or gingerbread houses. We did not lavishly decorate the inside and outside of the house, or have shopping sprees so many families love to incorporate this time of year.

Our family always bought a live Christmas tree from the lot next to Safeway. Every year, we moved the same chair and antique school desk so our tree could stand in front of the bay window in the living room. We used the same ornaments year after year and would string popcorn and cranberries to finish off – what seemed to me- the most amazing tree in the world!

Christmas activities were squished between church and whatever could be accomplished evenings after my parents would get home from work. On Christmas morning, there were always three or four presents under the tree for each of us – making it the best day ever!

In spite of perceived limited festivities surrounding my Christmas childhood, I remember Christmas being as amazing as anything could possibly have been! It was all good.

I had no idea we weren’t rich. I thought it was normal for a family of 5 (plus grandma) to live in a two bedroom one bathroom house. In fact, I remember thinking my brother was so lucky to be sleeping on the living room fold-out couch; because, it would be next to the Christmas tree!

Children will remember a plethora of potentially meaningless experiences around holidays unless a parent intentionally orchestrates events and traditions to cement positive memories in their minds and hearts.


Of course, there are unfortunate circumstances that change the way some families are forced to remember holidays. However, the intention should always be to “do Christmas” on purpose so your child remembers the wonder and happiness around the Savior’s birth.

What do you remember about your childhood Christmas? Most people don’t remember the unpleasant parts first. (Unless, you are a BLUE temperament and, unfortunately, the negatives tend to stick in your memory.)

Our son just dropped by my office and I asked him to quickly tell me one thing he remembers about his childhood Christmases. “Cinnamon” he shot back with a huge smile on his face. Funny thing, my kids never knew I had a pan of water simmering on our stove, with cinnamon sprinkled in it, each year at Christmastime!
They thought I was baking something every day! Little did I know I was creating positive lifetime memories for him.

An important reason to be intentional at Christmas is children have a combination of temperaments; so, each one will react differently to everything.

I was primarily a YELLOW temperament as a child. I loved people, parties and presents. Christmas was an easy success!

The RED kids love to accomplish goals, are driven and intense. Allow them to help execute Christmas plans and traditions.

BLUES are the most sensitive, quick to feel left out if not intentionally involved in the various celebrations. They are most comfortable keeping the same traditions year after year.

GREENS are easy children – nice and cooperative, loving the fun of the holidays. Because they are often quiet and obliging, make extra efforts to include them even in the simplest of holiday tasks.

To understand more about temperaments, check out The Real You by Vicki Barnes, (or invite me to speak at your event!)

Holiday memories usually include feelings, smells and people. Traditions are also important to help children remember what should be the focal point of holidays. A few suggestions:

1. Reading the Christmas story from the Bible as a family
2. Giving to someone less fortunate (visiting a mission or orphanage)
3. Decorating together (It doesn’t have to be lavish or cost money. Making decorations can bond people together in surprising ways.)
4. Cooking with cinnamon (or other cultural, traditional spices)
5. Picking out a tree together as a family

INTENTIONALITY is the most important practice in parenting. In raising our kids, we use it while teaching respect and manners, potty training, cleanliness, good nutrition, godly instruction and other vital necessities.

Intentionality should be uppermost as we “do” Christmas in our homes. Life is going to throw some unhappy times in our children’s lives as they grow up in this world. We have the power to gift to them profound and positive life-changing memories around Christ’s birthday celebration!

Our daughter loves nativity scenes and has several around their home this time of year. However, the baby Jesus – in each one – is missing until Christmas morning! Each Christmas morning, their girls search the house to find the babies before any gifts are open. Jesus is born and belongs in the manger!

We know a family who makes a birthday cake for Jesus and eats it Christmas morning while opening their presents.

Another family sends letters to Santa, and birthday cards to Jesus, through the mail each December. (I have always wondered where the post office delivers the letters to Jesus!)

My Oregon friend recites the Christmas story from Luke 2 before gifts are opened – a tradition that began when her daughters were very little. Now, her grandchildren listen to the same biblical account of the Savior’s birth before beginning their celebration too.

Start intentionally planning today to add another tradition for your family this year that will bring smiles and memories for years to come.

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