When December rolls around, I’m always thankful for the seasonal traditions our family has built and the memories they evoke. While I don’t have an official Christmas memories journal, I try to take time to remember and write about the moments and memories of Christmas—both present and past—that speak to my heart.
Merry Mealtime Memories
I think most of us will agree that many of our holiday traditions involve food! For nearly 35 years, my neighbors have taken turns hosting our annual cookie exchange, so December always finds me stocking up on baking staples, scouring cookbooks (and Pinterest!) in search of new recipes, and baking dozens of cookies.
Our big family dinner is on the 24th. We used to have a glorious turkey and all the trimmings, but over the past few years, we’ve started a new tradition of roasting a prime rib. And no matter what else is on the menu for Christmas breakfast, we’ll always bake fragrant cinnamon rolls and pull golden, icy-sweet summer peaches from the freezer—the ones labeled “For Christmas.”
Decking the Halls
Decorating the tree is an event unto itself. It means recounting 40-plus years of memories as we nestle ornaments, both old and new, among the branches. No one—and I mean NO one—can place a single ornament anywhere till my husband sticks his ancient yarn Santa on the tree, front and center.
Among our treasures are Snoopy and Woodstock ornaments from our first year of marriage in 1975, Battenburg lace angels and bread dough animals handmade by dear friends, a red double-decker bus purchased on our first visit to the UK, and ornaments with photos of our kids and grandkids over the years.
After my stepmom passed away, I found boxes of my dad’s glass ornaments—ones I remember from my own childhood—in her apartment. Talk about a rush of memories! Faded and fragile, these treasured globes have found a new home in glass vases on our sideboard.
Celebrating the Christ Child
On Christmas Eve, we bundle up and head to our pastor’s house. Sleepy children in fuzzy jammies, sweet babies resting in their mamas’ arms, and families dressed in Christmas finery on their way home from a celebration—we all gather to hear the reading of Luke 2, worship together, and welcome the Christ Child at midnight.
Christmas Memories Journal Prompts
Each family has special traditions, from Advent readings to caroling at convalescent homes, from setting up manger scenes to making gingerbread houses. Have you ever written down the different things that make Christmas unique and memorable for your family?
If not, don’t let another year go by without capturing those memories. It’s not too late to start a special Christmas Memories Journal that you can add to every year.
With your children, take time in the next few days, before the last-minute crush, to write about the sights, sounds, aromas, and activities that make the memories swirl every December. One person can do the writing, or you can share the pen and let everyone write something. Optionally, tuck in photos, Christmas cards, ticket stubs from a play or choir performance, or other memorabilia to enhance your journal.
Here are 50 Christmas journal prompts to get you started:
- How does your family welcome the holidays? Do you do something special to launch into December?
- What are your family’s Advent traditions?
- Do you have Nativity set traditions? Where and how do you display the pieces? Describe what your set is made of and how it looks.
- What are your favorite Christmas books?
- How many Christmas trees do you decorate each year? Is each one different from the rest? Describe them.
- Record your Christmas dinner menu.
- Make a list of friends and family who stopped in to visit over the holidays.
- Have you ever had a Christmas mishap? Write about what happened! (For example, we can look back and laugh about the year our kids got coal in their stockings as a joke, even though it pretty much backfired at the time!)
- Do you get a fresh tree each year? Do you chop it down yourselves or buy it from a tree lot or farm? Write about your experience.
- When do you decorate your Christmas tree? Do you have tree-decorating traditions?
- Does your family put presents under the tree all month long, or do they all appear on Christmas Eve?
- Do you have a special Christmas stocking tradition? Are stocking gifts wrapped or unwrapped?
- Who is the first person to wake up on Christmas morning? What time does everyone wake Mom and Dad?
- What are you most thankful for this Christmas?
- Do you have special gifts from Santa?
- Do you leave out milk and cookies?
- If you don’t have a fireplace, where do you lay out the stockings?
- What are your gift-giving traditions?
- What is each family member’s favorite Christmas ornament?
- When do you start listening to Christmas music? What is each person’s favorite carol?
- Which family traditions will you keep when you are older?
- Make a list your favorite holiday cookies or treats.
- Write down memories about cooking and baking. Do you bake with others, or do you like to bake alone?
- What are your favorite spiritual Christmas traditions?
- What homemade gifts have you made for others? Received as gifts? How does it feel to give or receive this kind of gift?
- Do you give your pets Christmas presents?
- How do you encourage or bless those who are less fortunate than you are?
- Do you have a favorite Christmas movie? Do you have movie-watching traditions?
- How does your family decorate the outside of your house?
- What are your favorite Christmas smells?
- What was your most memorable childhood Christmas? Why?
- Do you go to church on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, or both? Write about your favorite parts of the service.
- Is Santa Claus part of your family’s Christmas festivities? Tell about some of your family’s Santa traditions.
- Have you ever peeked at presents before Christmas? How did you feel?
- Do you host family Christmas celebrations at your house, or do you go somewhere else, such as your grandparents’ house?
- How do you spend Christmas day?
- What are your Christmas Eve traditions? Are there things you do every year, no matter what?
- Do you have a special Christmas breakfast? Is it the same every year? When do you eat breakfast?
- Does everyone take turns opening Christmas gifts, or is it a free-for-all around the tree?
- Some people get a special kind of ornament every year, such as snowmen, angels, rocking horses, or gingerbread men. Do you have an ornament collection or tradition?
- Does your family wear Christmas pajamas?
- Do you dress up or go casual for Christmas dinner?
- Some families open gifts on Christmas Eve and others wait until Christmas morning. What is your family’s tradition?
- Have you traveled a long way to celebrate Christmas in a faraway place?
- Have you ever been stuck on the freeway or in an airport on Christmas Eve? What was it like?
- Do you have a musical family? Write about the special role instruments and singing play at holiday gatherings.
- What are some ways your family remembers Jesus at Christmas?
- Write about one of your family’s most meaningful Christmas traditions. Why is it so important to you?
- Is there a traditional place you visit or an event you attend every Christmas, such as a tree-lighting ceremony, Christmas pageant, or holiday lights display? Write about it.
- Does your family celebrate holiday traditions from other countries? What special foods, decorations, or activities mark the event?
For some of us, it’s been an insanely hard year, and Christmas may be bittersweet. As we celebrate the birth of the King, may your family times be meaningful and warm—no matter the circumstances. And may this coming year be filled with hope and promise for each of you.
What prompts about Christmas memories and traditions would you add to this list?
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