How to Explain Family Christmas Traditions to Kids

| | Updated:

The other day, it came to light that a certain elf who sits upon certain shelves had returned to our neighbor's home. Meanwhile, our elf was presumably still hanging out at the North Pole. The kids were bewildered. Did the neighbor's elf love them more? Was our elf a huge slacker? This prompted a discussion about how different people have different family Christmas traditions. Things operate a bit differently in every single person's home.

And some family's elves are overachievers.

Making Family Christmas Traditions Come to Life

Familly Christmas photos

We shared last week how we made a photo book to prove to the kids that we had a life before they came along. We wanted the boys to be able to handle it, flip through, and ask all the questions they could think of. This week, we gave them that book and used a lot of examples in it to show them where our family Christmas traditions come from.

Helping kids understand Christmas traditions

First off, the best way to explain family traditions to kids is to engage them in ALL of the fun activities. Tree-decorating, light viewing, Santa visiting, cookie making. Do the stuff and let them come up with questions. Once they have an idea of what it's like to participate in family Christmas traditions, they'll have a much greater respect for the history and meaning behind them. It'll also get their wheels turning and prompt the discussion.

Photos of the Past

Kids looking at photo books

There are inevitably a whole bunch of semi-strangers coming in and out of kids' lives during the holiday season. Instead of trying to force some sort of relationship with people we see maybe twice a year, we show the kids pictures of these people and the fun times Nate and I have had with them. Then, instead of Auntie Kay being “that lady mom told us about from Bakersfield,” she's the funny great-aunt who danced on stage in a chicken suit at a barn party. Kids are extremely visual, and they'll glom onto your stories and experiences if you help them feel like they were there.

Make it Relevant to their Lives

No matter how much I tell my son about my closest friends and family, nothing explains it quicker than making a comparison. “Jen is a dear friend to me, just like Ben is to you.” I even do the same with decorations, to give them some context about what purpose it serves. “You know how you like to collect rocks from every place we visit? I collect an ornament everywhere we go.”

Read them Books and Show them Movies

Similar to making connections to their interests, showing them a book or a movie that highlights family Christmas traditions can demonstrate why they're important. Nothing shows the importance of a symbolic Christmas tree better than A Charlie Brown Christmas. Nothing explains the importance of presents and generosity faster than A Christmas Carol.

Give them Gifts – and Encourage them to Give to Others

Family photo book gift

The boys were SO excited to receive the photo book we made for them! We spent a whole evening chatting about all of the pictures. Afterwards, they decided on their own that we should make photo books for everyone we know.

Get Crafty

However you can get them hands-on and immersed in activity, do it! Make gingerbread houses, and take the opportunity to tell them about the original homes of your ancestors in Germany, and Hansel and Gretel's epic fate. Hang mistletoe and tell them how the romance was sparked by Norse folk who would give this plant to their loved ones. Make paper poinsettias and tell your children the Mexican tale of Pepita, a child who is said to have brought this flower to Jesus.

Talk about your Childhood

Familly Christmas traditions include snuggling under the tree

There are some tender moments we don't have photos of, so we tell stories to paint the picture for our boys. Every year, I take the kids to buy pajamas and tell them how my Grandma would get a new set for all the cousins and we'd lounge next to the tree watching movies until we fell asleep.

Kids looking at family christmas photo book

Are you looking to explain family Christmas traditions to the kids? Make a photo book highlighting all of your favorite pastimes from the season! You could even make a little keychain book that they can tote around with them. They love to see their parents in action, and it'll get them even more enthused about the festivity.

Do you have unique family Christmas traditions?


Nightmare Before Christmas Halloween Costumes

Handprint Calendar for Preschoolers