Christmas Traditions for Pastor’s Family
A few days ago I realized while talking to someone about Christmas, that I am basically a real-life Grinch.
I don’t like dragging out Christmas decorations and putting it all up knowing I’m going to have to take it all down. It feels like I’m deliberately orchestrating a really cute mess for myself. For the last decade, I’ve had at least one toddler in my house so I’m constantly cleaning up broken ornaments.
Nothing says “Happy Holidays!” like shattered glass all over the floor.
And part of my lack of enthusiasm is probably from my dysfunctional childhood. But I’m grown, so it’s lame to blame my current Grinchiness on that. Part of it is the commercialism of the holidays.
But honestly, most of my disdain is from the expectations of Christmas.
My kids all bring me lists of the stuff they want, my friends post pictures of their beautifully decorated homes, our church has 712 parties that we’re invited to, and I want to do it all.
And if I’m going to bother to do it, I want to do it perfectly.
But I know I can’t.
My friends with beautifully decorated homes aren’t homeschooling moms of 4 married to the most hospitable pastor in Southeast Texas.
My kids’ Christmas lists are ridiculously long and filled with overpriced things.
The church Christmas parties often fall on the same night so we have to choose or split the time or go to none and I know that someone will be disappointed.
It makes me want to cover my ears and say “Noise! Noise! Noise!”
And when you add to all that, the pressure to have these amazing, Pinterest-worthy Christmas traditions,
I. JUST. CAN’T.
But I still pin all the “Christmas Traditions Your Family Needs to Start NOW” every time I see them on Pinterest.
Because I LOVE the idea of having grown kids who reflect fondly on what a great and traditional childhood they had. But then life happens and I forget to actually buy and wrap 25 new books to open each night of December. Or whatever.
And I feel so disappointed with myself.
And my kids are disappointed and my husband is confused as to why I ever thought we needed to open new books each night considering we are currently out of room on our bookshelves and owe the library five bucks for overdue/lost books every time we go.
So what’s the solution?
How can we have Christmas traditions as a pastor’s family without going crazy?
1. Be flexible
Have you ever told your child you’d do something on a certain date and then, weren’t able to do that thing on the planned date?
How did they handle it?
If they’re anything like mine, there was much crying and gnashing of teeth.
Kids don’t do well when plans change. So instead of becoming a calendar stickler, stop dating your activities.
Instead of creating a tradition that is date dependent, make your family traditions simply activity-based.
For example, don’t say that every Christmas Eve your family will read the Christmas story in Luke, open new pajamas, and drink hot chocolate.
Instead, say that every Christmas season at some point you will read the Christmas story in Luke, get new pajamas, and drink hot chocolate.
It may not all happen on the same night or in that order, but at some point during Christmas time, everyone will get new PJs, drink hot chocolate together, and read the story from Luke.
Then if your church decides to do a Christmas Eve service, your family traditions aren’t ruined.
You can grab new pajamas on a random Target run, hear the Christmas story at church, and drink hot chocolate while driving around looking at Christmas lights together. You’ll get to do all the things that are fun without the pressure of the calendar.
One of our two traditions is to spend an evening driving around and looking at lights together while eating popcorn and drinking hot chocolate in the car.
It’s great because we can do it anywhere and at any time during the Christmas season.
It also requires very little prep from me.
So if we are visiting family during Christmas time, we can all hop in the car and look at Christmas lights in their town. If we are at home, we can look at Christmas lights in our town.
We can make hot chocolate before we go, or we can drive through Starbucks and buy really expensive hot chocolate on the go.
It’s a very flexible tradition.
And honestly, my kids love the variance in it. They talk about what we did in years past and compare and contrast the trips, the lights, the weather, and the music.
If I were a better homeschooling mom, I’d probably have them write an essay or at least make a Venn diagram comparing and contrasting the trips.
Related Post: Why I Hate Homeschooling But I’m Doing It Anyways
So when considering your Christmas traditions as a pastor’s family, be sure to choose traditions that are flexible.
2. Remember the reason
I know, I know.
Your life is inundated with “the reason for the season.”
You’re the pastor’s wife, and you serve people all. the. time.
But how often is that service done as a family?
And before you say, “My kids are with me for all my church commitments. We do everything as a family,” take a second to really consider the last time you deliberately served with your kids.
I’m not talking about needing to set up the fellowship hall and so you had your kids slinging folding chairs and rolling out tables, I mean purposefully choosing to do a service project together as a family.
Related Post: 39 Ways to Serve With Your Kids
My family’s only other holiday tradition is to bake treats and deliver them to people.
We used to say “on Christmas Eve,” but when we couldn’t do it that day, everything was ruined.
I mean not actually, but I’ve got a preteen daughter with a love of calendars. Try adjusting something she’s already written down in glitter pen and you’re in for an eye-rolling, heavy sighing, muttering quips kind of day.
Related Post: 5 Fights to Let Your Preteen Win
So now we say that we will bake and deliver treats at some point during the Christmas season. (And place and bake cookies totally count as homemade in our house.)
The point is that we commit a day to spend together serving others.
We go out and deliver treats to people that are alone at Christmas or have seemed down during the season.
We talk about why we’re doing all this and we pray for the people we’re baking for.
At some point, there may be a service project that is bigger or better for my family but at this point, baking for others is what works best.
Baking stuff is manageable for me and is something I already enjoy. If we were to do a house cleaning service project, I would not enjoy it nearly as much as making brownies while listening to Christmas music.
Baking treats is something we can all participate in. Even my youngest can throw M&Ms into a trail mix or test brownies for me.
And it is a way to help our kids think about others in a season that is very self-centered for most kids.
3. Keep only what matters
I love Pinterest as much as the next mom.
But much like other social media platforms, you’re only getting the highlight reel.
Knowing this doesn’t stop me from pinning up a storm, but maybe it should.
But the real issue is the experience of making them because I struggle with perfectionism. If I pin a recipe, I promise I am going to try to make it exactly the way it says. I am a classic first-born rule follower.
If I have 4 kids in the kitchen helping me, I can also promise that I am going to lose my cool at some point during the futile exercise of trying to follow a complicated recipe to produce an over the top dessert.
So why even bother!!?
It’s not for them.
My kids are so happy with so little.
If I gave them store-bought edible cookie dough, a bag of pretzels, and some M&Ms and told them “have fun!” it would be “THE BEST DAY EVER!!!”
So as you consider this holiday season, maybe it’s time to cull some activities.
Look at what your family does every year and prayerfully consider why you do it.
Do the activities truly bring you all joy?
Do your traditions bring you closer to Jesus or each other?
Is there another thing your family could that would better suit y’all?
Our favorite family memories are times that we’ve spent together. I’m sure that’s true for your family too.
So is there a trip you could take together in lieu of gifts?
What if you spent a couple of days at Great Wolf Lodge? (Great Wolf Lodge is a huge indoor water park with several onsight restaurants and tons of activities for kids.)
Or what if you went to the beach after Christmas? Beach houses are often pretty cheap in December since it’s offseason. There are even places that give large discounts for pastor’s families.
Or maybe you could just find someone in your church with a lake house or cabin. You could pack up a ton of games, puzzles, movies and spend time together.
What if you took your family on a trip that wasn’t an overly scheduled sort of vacation where you try to cram in all the activities the place has to offer, but instead a restful time to recharge together?
My kids love spending time with their dad, but he works a lot.
And even when he’s home, he is often working. As you well know, pastors don’t have a traditional 9-5 schedule so our dinners are often interrupted with phone calls and texts. But imagine a trip together without church pressures or activities or events. Just time together as a family.
This is a gift my kids would remember forever.
Which would be nice because they can’t remember half of what they got for Christmas last year even though it was definitely on their mile-long list and they insisted they would “love it forever!!!”
If I had to add a third tradition, a relaxing trip together would definitely make the list.
What do you think about having Christmas traditions as a pastor’s family? Tell us in the comments!
WANT TO REMEMBER THIS LATER? PIN CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS FOR PASTOR’S FAMILY TO YOUR FAVORITE PINTEREST BOARD!