My 3 Favorite Post-Christmas Traditions

I absolutely love Christmas traditions. Singing Christmas carols. Constructing gingerbread houses. Re-creating the Nativity scene. Decorating the tree. Getting hot cocoa and driving around to look at Christmas lights. I just soak them up!

Not only do I enjoy these beloved traditions because they have created precious family memories, but they are also a perfect opportunity to talk about Jesus with our kids. We talk about Him all year round, but at Christmas time, these moments seem to abound - and I just love watching their true child-like faith in action.

However, when the Christmas season comes to a close, I'm always looking for opportunities to keep those conversations going. There may not be Nativity scenes displayed around the house and they may not hear Christmas carols on the radio as we drive around town, but there are opportunities to weave Christ into our conversations throughout the year.

So, to help you get started, I'm so excited to share three of my favorite post-Christmas traditions that we do each year that help us focus on a purposeful new year!

1. Christmas Tree Cross

Every year we go out and cut down a Christmas tree. We purchase a permit and actually go out into the forest and cut one down. Yes, we've had a few "Charlie Brown trees" in the past, but it is absolutely one of the boys' favorite traditions (my hubby included). After Christmas (and sometimes even New Years) the decorations come off, and it gets taken down. However, rather than just throwing it away or turning it into firewood, we take this opportunity to point to the true meaning of Christmas.
At Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. We see adorable re-creations of the Nativity scene, construct baby Jesus crafts, and read books about what it may have been like that night in the stable. However, as much as I love all of these things, we cannot forget that that was not the end of the story. Because Jesus was not only born - but He was born to save the world from our sins. And so, from birth, His purpose was the cross.
So, our Christmas tree cross helps illustrate the connection between Christmas and Easter. Here's what we do:

First, we take off all of the decorations and lights. Then, the tree heads outside.

Next, we cut off all of the branches, so that only the trunk remains. (You could also use this opportunity to talk about how Jesus was stripped and beaten on His journey to the cross).

Finally, the tree is cut in two, with one piece longer than the other. Then, using twine, rope, or even zip-ties, we tie the two pieces together to form a cross.

Then, when all of the Easter decorations come out, we place this Christmas tree cross in a prominent place - as a visual reminder of the connection between Christmas (the birth of Christ) and Easter (His death and resurrection).

You would be surprised by what a talking point this has become in our house. My oldest son has "share the Gospel" with a number of people, simply because they asked about our cross.

2. Christmas Card Prayers

If you're anything like me, you absolutely adore getting Christmas cards in the mail! And with everything being digital now, it is rare to receive a card that does not have a picture. I love looking though the pictures of our family and friends, seeing how people have changed and grown. For the first couple years of our marriage, we creatively displayed these around our home during the holidays, but when the Christmas decorations came down, I was left with a pile of photo cards that I didn't want to throw away, but didn't know what to do with!

Then, one of our pastors shared this idea - which I just adore! Every year, we collect all of the Christmas cards and place them on our dining room table. We actually stack them in a napkin holder, but I have seen others place them in a basket or on a decorative plate. You can place them in whatever works for you, but make sure it will be a place that you will see every night. On a side note - if you look carefully at this Christmas card, you might notice a fellow blogger and friend! (Her kiddos' pics have been blurred out for privacy).

At dinner, we pick the card at the front (or top) of the stack and pray for that family. When the boys were young, it was a great opportunity for them to hear about friends and family that they didn't see very often - and connect it with a picture. Now that they are a little older, the boys anticipate who they get to pray for each night. They love looking at the pictures and, as parents, we see it as a tremendous opportunity to teach them about the power of prayer and the importance of praying for others.

We've also made notes on the backs of cards for specific prayer requests for that family. This has particularly come in handy for families that we don't see or hear from on a regular basis. Some cards come with letters and family updates - and we make little notes on the back of the cards so that when their Christmas card reaches the top of the pile, we can pray specifically for that.

By the time the next Christmas rolls around, the cards are bent, tattered, and often covered with pieces of food, but each of the families on those cards have been covered in prayer, and it has been a blessing to pray for them! This is truly one of my favorite family traditions that we do throughout the year.

3. Praises and Prayers Date Night

As a single-income family (and that being a teacher's salary), date nights are a rarity for us. However, for the past 8 years, this New Years(ish) date night is one that we refuse to cut out. Right around the new year, my hubby and I, get a babysitter and head out to an actual restaurant for dinner.

We sit down - don't have to worry about watching kids, feeding kids, or managing kids - and reflect on the past year. We talk about all of the ways we have seen God's faithfulness in the past year - answered prayers, unexpected blessings, strength and peace during difficult times, etc. We write each of these down in our notebook,

Then, we discuss our prayers for the upcoming year. These can be huge seemingly impossible requests, prayers for wisdom and discernment in situations, or simple everyday requests for the year. We write these down in the notebook as well.

Sometimes our conversation spills over and we just have to order dessert as well. Other times, we get a call from the babysitter and have to finish the conversation at home once the boys are in bed. But this discussion is priceless.

Then, in the next week, I go through our notebook and divide up the prayer requests over the days of the week - simply because trying to pray for everything, everyday, just won't happen here. So, on Monday we pray for a part of the list, Tuesday we pray for another part, etc. And we try to be faithful to pray through this the entire year.

Now, I cannot begin to tell you how amazing this has been for us. It is absolutely incredible, and quite humbling, to look back at the end of the year and see how many ways the Lord has answered our prayers. Sometimes it's not always as we may have expected, but this has truly opened my eyes to see some of the tremendous ways God has worked in our lives.

And now that we've been doing it for almost 9 years, it almost brings me to tears to look back through the notebook, standing in awe of God's faithfulness. We have truly seen miracles happen, lives have been changed, and even things that I almost felt silly about praying about - have been answered!

The little notebook pictured above may look incredibly simple, but for us, it has truly become a testament of God's goodness, faithfulness, and sovereignty! I hope that it can become the same for you!

Do you have any favorite traditions that help keep Christ as the center throughout the year? I'd love to hear your comment below! Thinking about trying one of these traditions out? Email me or comment below - I'd love to hear how it goes!

Literature is a great way to share Biblical truth with your kiddos! If you're looking for books that instill these truths, be sure to check out my 12 Picture Books that Instill Biblical Truth blog post!

Happy New Year!

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