• Jason Howell

My Favorite Christmas Traditions

Updated: Dec 21, 2019

Christmas traditions. For many of you who celebrate Christmas, those two words carry a lot of weight. The mere mention immediately brings forth at least a few examples of what this means to your family. My family is no different. Christmas is, and has always been, my favorite holiday. The traditions my family has (including the examples I am about to list) have, since childhood, outlined my experience for the holiday and the overall season.


Growing up in a minister’s household and being involved in church all my life, many of my Christmas traditions are related to the church. These have varied somewhat depending on the church I was attending, but typically involve decorating the sanctuary and participation in annual pageants.

I remember one pageant when I was a kid singing with the children’s choir, where, despite our best efforts in rehearsal, we all blanked out on the final verse of “Away in a Manger.” I recall the time I played Joseph while recovering from an illness, during which I actually needed the prop wooden staff for support. I remember one narrative performance I gave, which the choir director later described as Rod Serling without the tobacco rasp.

And at last year’s pageant, I was blessed to witness what turned out to be the final performance of a brilliant and dearly beloved man in our congregation as he delivered, from the heart, a monologue as Simeon, the devout man who was told by the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he saw Christ (see Luke 2:25-35).

The Gifting Adventures

My family is as close as a nuclear family can be. The flipside, at Christmas time, is keeping secrets and sneaking gift purchases past each other before we have a chance to wrap them and deliver them to the sanctuary of the tree. Sometimes, buying or making a gift can be an adventure in and of itself.

And all is revealed on Christmas Day. Some Christmases, we spent more time telling the stories of how we got the gifts or snuck them past each other than actually opening gifts.

We love talking about how we were able to shop for each other in front of each other without the other noticing. We love talking about the comedy of errors we went through procuring certain gifts. The stories behind the gifts can be downright hilarious and telling them has become part of the fun of the holiday.


I’ve heard people have different traditions for pre-Christmas gift opening. I’ve never been one for opening presents early (I’ve always liked saving my presents for Christmas day). The one exception is the one I always knew to expect: a new pair of pajamas.

Even when I was in the phase of my childhood where the last thing that I wanted to see under the tree was underwear, I always looked forward to my Christmas Eve pajamas. As soon as I got them, I cleaned up and dove into them.

There’s always something special about putting on fresh, clean clothes (anyone who’s put on something straight from the dryer knows what I’m talking about). Mixing that with the excitement and anticipation of Christmas makes it even better. I go to bed in these pajamas and still wear them the next day as we gather around the tree opening presents.

Personalized ornaments

This is one of my single most favorite childhood traditions. Every year, we get a family ornament with our names written on it. For years, it had been part of our Black Friday shopping as there was a vendor in a nearby shopping mall. A few years ago, we started buying our ornaments online. We’ve used multiple sites in the past couple of years. This year, we used OrnamentShop.com.

We have done this tradition for 18 consecutive years. My family’s names have adorned everything from reindeer, bears, penguins, carolers, snowmen, and even Santa’s nice list. Occasionally, we’ll even buy extra ornaments, like the bowling ornament with my name on it the year I took a bowling class.

As much fun as buying the new ornaments is, putting them on the tree is even more fun as we look back on all the ornaments and the memories associated with them.

Fun with the family

This is perhaps the most generic, but nevertheless, the most important. The best part of Christmas is the time you spend with your family. On Christmas Day, we do everything we can to have fun with each other.

Besides the obvious fun we have opening presents, we also enjoy things like watching the Christmas Day parade on television, watching movies, and playing games; card games like Uno and trivia games like Smart Ass and Trivial Pursuit are old family favorites.

But the most important part is spending time with the family and enjoying it.

So what about you?

What do your Christmas or holiday traditions entail? Do they involve cooking or baking? Do you make gingerbread houses or go caroling? Do you go out to the movies or watch football on TV?

As you reflect upon this and prepare to carry out your traditions this holiday season, remember: the most important part of any holiday tradition is not what you’re doing—it’s who you’re doing it with.