Traditions that Matter

5 comments Posted on November 1, 2018

by Michelle Cox

My youngest son, Jason, was the Christmas snoop at our house when he was a little boy. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, his hunt for gifts was relentless. He searched through closets and cabinets, under furniture, inside the car and all around the basement. In fact, he was so good at it he probably could have inventoried our entire house! Needless to say, it was a challenge to keep him from finding them.

The year he requested an electronic video game system, I knew he’d be extra vigilant in his pursuit. And in a moment of sheer brilliance, I knew exactly where I’d put it. On Christmas morning, Jason asked, “Where did you hide this? I looked everywhere!”

With a bright smile, I replied, “Under your bed.” He was flabbergasted. He’d been sleeping right above the present the entire time. Yes, that was the year I outwitted our Christmas snoop. It’s one of my favorite holiday memories—along with a gazillion others.

Our sons are grown and have their own families now, but those memories are extra precious. I can close my eyes and replay the snapshots in my heart: Their sweet little faces as they placed ornaments on the tree, and their clothes covered in flour from baking lopsided sugar cookies together. I can see a tiny little boy using a present for a pillow after he fell asleep under the Christmas tree. I see the coupons the boys made for “five-minute back rubs” and then tucked them into my stocking. I can still feel their excitement as they handed me the gifts they’d bought for their dad and me. Such cherished times.

Now we get a second chance to experience this all over again with our grandchildren and see Christmas through the eyes of a child. We get to listen to their squeals of excitement as they tear into gifts and get lost in a mountain of wrapping paper. We get to carry on the tradition of cookie-making as our kitchen island is surrounded by six adorable, flour-covered grandbabies. These are the moments to remember.

Christmas truly is one of the most special times of the year. It’s a season filled with family, friends, food, fun and faith. It’s a time for making memories and celebrating love—the love of family, friends and more importantly—the amazing love God wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in a manger.

I love everything about Christmas. I love the decorating, the shopping for presents and wrapping them, the baking, the parties and the festive meals, but I’ve found that in the midst of the busyness, it’s sometimes easy to lose track of what really matters. If we’re not careful, we entirely miss out on the “Christ” of Christmas and the moments to reflect on what Christmas is all about. We miss the opportunities to worship and praise Him and plant spiritual traditions in the lives of our children and grandchildren.

Years from now, I want our sons and grandchildren to look back on their Christmas memories and see that while we had fun together as a family, we also enjoyed traditions that honored Jesus.

Maybe some of our traditions will be helpful to you and your family. Here are some of the activities we do each year:

We invite people who will be alone on Christmas to share our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. What better time to teach compassion to our children and extend God’s love to others?

At the end of our Christmas meal, we enjoy a birthday cake in honor of Jesus. The kids blow out the candles, and we all sing “Happy Birthday” to Him.

Before we open gifts, we place our Nativity set on the floor. The children choose a couple of figurines and then gather around the stable. We read the Christmas story from Luke 2:1–16, and as we come to the part for the shepherds, angels, Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus, the little ones put the respective figurines into place.

We close by praying together as a family—from youngest to oldest, thanking God for each other, for His blessings throughout the year, for His grace and faithfulness through the difficult moments, and for His oh-so-special gift who arrived one Christmas long ago. That’s one of the sweetest moments of Christmas to me, as I look around and see my family on their knees and hear those sincere prayers from the little ones.

Since God’s love doesn’t end on Christmas Day, we hold on to all the Christmas cards we received that year. Then we choose one card each week and pray for the folks who sent it to us. We send them a note letting them know it’s their week, and we ask for any special prayer requests they may have. We’ve found it blesses both them and us.

What traditions are you adding to your Christmas this year? Trust me when I say these moments will be your most precious memories someday—especially the ones where you and your family celebrate Jesus each year.

Michelle Cox is co-author with Brian Bird (Executive Producer and Co-Creator of Hallmark’s When Calls the Heart television series) of When God Calls the Heart at Christmas (a 25-day devotional with God-moments from Christmas episodes of When Calls the Heart, holiday recipes, heartwarming stories and traditions) and the When God Calls the Heart at Christmas Keepsake Journal. For more information, visit

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  • 11/02/2018
    Vasiliki Koleas-Whitten said:

    I love this article. Thank you Michelle for writing about your Christmas traditions. I love my Devotional book ‘When God Calls the Heart at Christmas.”

  • 11/02/2018
    Debbie Welch said:

    I love this devotional with its stories, recipes & connections to my favorite Hallmark show “When Call the Heart”! Everything about the show’s family relativability is also shared in this book. No censoring or filtering needed when you gather around the TV to watch WCTH. The family values shared are reflected throughout this book. It’s the perfect gift for any family member or friend!

  • 11/02/2018
    Jeannie Waters said:

    I love your ideas about children holding a figure from the manger scene while the story is read and your family praying for those who sent Christmas cards. I want to have my grandchildren and their friends come to our house for a birthday party for Jesus.

  • 11/03/2018
    Dorothy Reed said:

    This article along with the “When Calls The Heart Christmas Devotional” embodies everything authentic and real warm and fun allowing those of us who didn’t always have those wonderful memories or family traditions a reason to celebrate the way God would have intended. Thank you Michelle Cox for this beautiful template and plethora of goodness to draw from and to share with all whom I live and care for this Christmas and many years to come!

  • 11/03/2018
    Kim Johnston said:

    Oh Michelle – I love all of your traditions! Growing up, my best friend’s mom was also my mom’s best friend. (Did you get that?) And they would Christmas shop together. Then they would exchange all of their shopping madness with each other and my mom would hide Jeanne’s gifts for her family at OUR house and vice versa! They thought that would outwit us? Nuh uh! Kelli, (my best friend) and I would snoop for each other and then call each other on the phone and tell the other one what we found hiding in the closets! Our moms found out and much of it was moved to the trunk of the cars, as I recall! 🙂

    With our own children, our favorite tradition is to hide baby Jesus somewhere around the house so that he’s the only one missing from the nativity on Christmas morning. Before we read the Christmas story and open gifts, the kids go look for baby Jesus, put Him in His place… just as if he’d be born on Christmas Day… and then we read the Christmas Story. Because Jesus was our first Christmas gift, THE gift to the world, we continue the tradition with ~ the one who finds baby Jesus opens the first Christmas gift. (Our daughter usually gets this privilege nearly every year – she is so good at finding! But there have been years she forfeits her privilege for her brother. Our kids are in their late twenties, but we still hold to all the traditions. I can’t wait to enjoy them with grandchildren one day, if God blesses us with them! I love that you keep passing on all of the traditions! So fun!


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