Responding to an invitation from the Liahona, Latter-day Saints from around the world shared traditions they have developed in their families, wards, and branches that have brought them closer together and helped them focus their celebration of Christmas on the Savior.
When our children were little and we lived in San Rafael, Mendoza, Argentina, we started the tradition of making Christmas doves. Previously we had been sending so many Christmas cards to friends and family that it started to become a strain on our budget. So, instead of purchasing expensive, preprinted cards, we decided to make our own in the shape of doves, spreading a message of peace at Christmastime. In the beginning, our doves were simple and made of white cardboard, but over the years they have been adorned with a variety of colors, Christmas messages, and scriptures about the birth of Christ. The children enjoyed making them. Although our children are all grown now, the tradition continues on.
, Black Creek (Spanish) Ward, Mississauga Ontario Stake
A Monthlong Celebration
After joining the Church, we decided to create Christmas traditions for our family that would focus less on materialism and more on Heavenly Father’s love for His children, embodied in His Son, Jesus Christ.
Aside from the tradition of decorating our home with a tree and garlands, each year our family holds a series of family home evenings to help us remember the Savior. For these meetings, we have compiled a book of our favorite Christmas songs and various drawings for the children. On the first Monday of December, we talk about the origin of Christmas, its symbols, and the ways people celebrate Jesus Christ’s birth around the world. We also read a favorite Christmas message from the Liahona of December 1986, the year my wife, Vani, and I were married. On the second Monday, we read from a favorite book about Christmas. On the third Monday, we read and discuss the First Presidency Message from the current Liahona.
The most special day of the month for us is 24 December. We invite friends and our extended family to our home for dinner and a Christmas program. In the program, the children present a musical number, we read the story of Christ’s birth, and I give a Christmas message I have prepared. We then enjoy a wonderful dinner my wife has prepared.
In these and many other ways, we have created family traditions to help us celebrate Christmas as the birth of Jesus Christ.
, Visconde de Araújo First Branch, Macaé Brazil District
Good Tidings of Christmas Cheer
Although we had both been members of the Church since our teens, because of our Buddhist background, we didn’t have any Christmas traditions for our young family. Then, when the Tabernacle Choir performed in Japan in 1979, we became friends with choir member Mary K. Zackrison. That December and every December since, we have received copies of her family Christmas letter, the “Zackrison Gazette,” complete with Christmas messages, updates on her family, and information about important events in the Zackrisons’ lives.
The Zackrisons inspired us to develop a tradition of our own. The next year, we decided to take a picture of our children arranged in a Nativity scene to send out to friends and family. Starting the year after that, we began cutting out photographs of the children, which we arranged in various Christmas-related settings, and then taking another photograph of the whole scene to make into a card.
In the years since then, we have created cards of the shepherds hearing the angels’ tidings, of the Nativity, of the visit of the Wise Men, and so on. Our children have surprised us with their enthusiasm and creativity for these projects. We send cards each year to many family members, friends, and coworkers. Many of the recipients say they look forward to our cards every year.
Creating Christ-centered family traditions can be challenging, but it can also be a lot of fun. Last year we exchanged our 19th annual Christmas card with the 41st annual “Zackrison Gazette.”
and , Kasugai Ward, Nagoya Japan Stake
The Liahona received descriptions of Christmas programs from many families, wards, and branches from all over the world. Most programs included choir numbers or congregational singing of Christmas carols. Many reenacted scenes from the story of Christ’s birth as related in the New Testament or from His visit to the Americas as recorded in 3 Nephi.
The Rosas family of Zapopán, Mexico, reenacted the account of the Savior’s birth in the Book of Mormon for family and neighbors, including some nonmembers. For their Homemaking meeting, the Relief Society of the Engenho de Dentro Ward, Rio de Janeiro Brazil Stake, followed up their Christmas program by sending the sisters out to contact all the less-active sisters and give them a Christmas greeting. And members of the Taahueia Branch of the Tubuai Australes [French Polynesia] District made sure to invite nonmember friends to their Christmas program and party.
Gifts for the Savior
One December we gathered together for a family meeting. We began by asking our 11-year-old son how he would feel if on his birthday we gave presents to everyone but him. He didn’t like that idea at all. We went on to ask if there is a holiday when we give gifts to others but not to the person whose birthday we are celebrating. It didn’t take the children long to realize we were talking about Christmas. We decided to start making Christmas more meaningful by giving gifts to Jesus Christ, whose birthday we are celebrating.
Our children wondered what they could give the Savior. We talked about what He desires of us. We discussed His Atonement and His desire for us to give up our sins and be obedient. We talked about how He wants us to give of ourselves by serving and sharing our talents.
That year, we had each family member write on slips of paper the gifts they planned to give the Savior and place the slips in a box. On Christmas morning, before we opened the other gifts, we had family prayer and shared with each other the gifts we were giving the Savior for the coming year.
As the years have come and gone, the tradition of giving gifts to Jesus Christ has helped our family focus on the real meaning of Christmas and on our love and gratitude for Him.
and , Bluffdale Second Ward, Bluffdale Utah Stake
Following His Example
We have created a tradition for our family of six children that they like very much. Each year at Christmastime, we prepare carols, bake cookies, make rag dolls, and gather some of the children’s own toys and clothing in preparation for our activity. Then, with one of the children dressed as Santa Claus and the others as his helpers, we visit the old and sick in our ward, people in a nearby hospital, and less fortunate people in the streets. This activity has helped us feel the true meaning of Christmas and learn to be more like Jesus Christ.
Family, Casas Grandes Ward, Colonia Juárez Mexico Stake