Throw Out Christmas Traditions?

Gold Brush Stroke

As we get closer to celebrating the birth of Jesus, I am still processing something my oldest son said last Christmas. In the midst of squeezing in our Adorenaments (a wonderful 12-day countdown to Jesus’ birthday celebrating His various names), Daniel mentioned that he was tired of this annual activity and didn’t feel we really needed such traditions to celebrate the meaning of Christmas.

Adorenament-Bright Morning Star

Celebrating the Bright Morning Star

This revelation sent me reeling! I am a traditions person. I love the anticipation and feeling of togetherness generated by yearly customs.

However, after the initial shock, his statement encouraged me to examine how we prepare for our Savior’s birthday and why…: What customs do we incorporate each year? What are the reasons for each of them? Have they become rote and therefore lost their meaning?

…and what should be done with each tradition: Should I throw them all out? Should I plow ahead with our current ones regardless of how Danny feels because they are good for him? Perhaps I have just not found the right ones? Maybe I could make a list of possible activities and as a family vote on the ones to keep and those to ditch.

As I wrestled with the idea of letting go of some of my favorite customs, the Bible and Webster’s Dictionary provided insight and guidance.

Scripture suggests practices have been known to lead people astray and even replace God. There are actually some strong words against traditions in God’s Word. For example, in the Gospel of Mark, the Pharisees are reprimanded because they “revoke God’s word by your tradition that you have handed down” (Mark 7:13). Further, Paul cautioned us to “Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elemental forces of the world, and not based on Christ” (Colossians 2:8).

Okay, so maybe Daniel has a point, and I shouldn’t be so quick to jump on the tradition bandwagon. However, later in 2 Thessalonians 2:15, Paul encouraged the church to “stand firm and hold to the traditions you were taught, either by our message or by our letter.”

What gives! First, traditions can lead to captivity and the revoking of God’s Word but yet we are to stand firm and hold onto them!

It begins to make some sense if we look at the meaning of the word “tradition.” In Webster’s Dictionary, tradition is defined as (1a) an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, actions, or behavior; (2) the handing down of information, beliefs, and customs by word of mouth or by example from one generation to another without written instruction; or (3) cultural continuity in social attitudes, customs, and institutions.

My mistake is that I tend to look at the practice or the act as the tradition. When, actually, they are just the mechanism to pass on a belief or attitude, which is the true tradition.

In other words, tradition is not really about the action or activity but the outcome of that process.

Therefore, if a practice no longer conveys the beliefs you want to pass on, or a custom becomes more important for what it is and not its meaning (think Pharisees), perhaps it is time to drop it or change it up a bit.

Let me give you a couple of examples: I want to instill in my children the importance of family. To pass down that tradition, I incorporate game nights, read-alouds, and family-first rules. These activities and rules change throughout the year and from year to year, but there is always the same goal.

I also love to give homemade gifts and want to help the kids see how meaningful that is (to others and to me), so I spend long hours making homemade chocolates. Recently, I began knitting scarves for gifts as well. This conveys the same tradition, but the meaning is passed on with two different activities.


Giving Homemade

Christmas cards

Sending Love

I still don’t relish giving up my favorite seasonal activities (for some reason, Danny hasn’t asked me to cut out the chocolate-making tradition yet!), but now with my newfound understanding, I can please both Daniel and myself during the Christmas season. Each year, I can incorporate fresh, significant approaches to celebrating and unveiling the true meaning and joy of Christmas.

Establishing different practices to pass on the importance of the birth of the Christ-child is a tradition that will never lead others astray. So, although our family activities may look different each Christmas, there will always be those that focus on unwrapping Jesus, the greatest gift of all.

“Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for God’s glory” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

What activities do you use to pass on the true meaning of Christmas? What other traditions do you want your children/grandchildren to inherit and how are you conveying those? I’d love to hear them!

Linking with Faith Barista Jam Thursdays.




By His Grace,



  1. Julie on December 16, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    So much that’s rich in this, Julie. I find myself weary today, wanting more of the Savior and less of all the trappings. It is a hard but sweet release to let go of traditions for tradition’s sake and just to savor the gift of our dear Jesus!

    • juliesunne on December 16, 2011 at 9:27 pm

      I agree, Julie! It is amazing what our children can teach us if we take time to listen to and explore what they say.

  2. terri0729 on December 19, 2011 at 9:52 am

    Beautifully said, Julie!! and kudos to your son as well 🙂 Blessings and Merry Christmas, Terri

    • juliesunne on December 19, 2011 at 11:46 am

      Merry Christmas to you and your family, Terri!

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Julie Sunne

Hello, I'm Julie, an imperfect wife and mother of four. Life in this broken world is not always easy. Yet, joy can be found in each day through the grace and mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I find it's easy for our day's blessings to get lost in its happenings. But God's "mercies never end" (Lamentations 3:22) and His "grace is sufficient" (2 Corinthians 12:9).

May the posts and pages on this site offer you a measure of peace and encouragement.

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