Last Updated on January 3, 2024 by Sarah McCubbin
Let’s talk about the 10 Top Reasons Why We Celebrate Christmas Traditions. It’s the “most wonderful time of year” filled with family memories, Christmas movies and spending time with the entire family.
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But even as we drive past the glittering lights, we know that not everyone feels the joy of this season of good tidings. There are many who struggle and other’s who just don’t enjoy this time of year.
Recently I was watching a documentary on Amazon called the 12 Days of Christmas that talked about where our Christmas traditions came from and how our celebrations have changed over time. After all, when Jesus was born, there were no evergreen trees, stockings or Santa’s workshop. Even 500 years ago, MANY of the traditions we enjoy during this season did not exist.
Over the centuries, more traditions have been added to the Christmas celebration. Walmart starts putting up Christmas items the day after Halloween. What used to be a slow and simple holiday spread over 12 days or so has now become a months long marathon that can be overwhelming…if we let it.
When is Christmas Celebrated THIS Year on the Gregorian calendar?
Table of Contents
12 Top Reasons Why We Celebrate Christmas
1. Celebration of the Birth of Jesus Christ
For the first 300+ years after Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the early Christians did not celebrate the birth of Jesus. However, in the 4th century, the Roman Emperor Constantine became a Christian, he began to influence many early church traditions in the Roman Empire. After his conversion, church officials wanted to add a feast day to celebrate the Feast of the Nativity. Pope Julius chose December 25th for that feast. Because that date was during the Roman festival of Saturnalia, some scholars believe Pope Julius was hoping Christians would incorporate the Feast of the Nativity into a festival they already celebrated.
Few scholars believe that Jesus was ACTUALLY born on the 25th of December. However, because it is the date that has been celebrated in Christian religious traditions, Jesus’ birth is the reason so many have celebrated historically. Jesus was not just any baby, He is the Son of God who would become the Savior of the World when he died and rose again.
Of course Jesus death and resurrection is celebrated at Passover and Easter in March or April every year.
Traditions That Celebrate the Birth of the Baby Jesus
Christmas Eve church services and mass
Many Christians attend church services on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day to focus on the birth of Jesus. These services may include Christmas songs, lighting candles, a sermon or even a reenactment of the Nativity.
Birthday party for Jesus
Some families choose to celebrate the birth of Christ with a birthday party for Jesus. This usually includes a cake and decorations but it may also include gifts or food that will be donated to a food bank or charity.
Advent is celebrated for the four weeks leading up to Christmas with each Sunday having a different emphasis like “Hope” or “Peace.” Scripture is read as part of advent and candles in a wreathe are lit.
Decorating with nativities
The birth of Jesus is central to the celebration of Christmas. Because of this, nativities are used to decorate homes, churches and even community Christmas decorations.
12 Days of Christmas
Historically, the 12 days after Christmas leading up to January 6 or Epiphany were the celebrated as a festival. The famous Christmas Carol, “The 12 Days of Christmas” remembers gifts to be given each of those days.
Three Kings Day
Three Kings Day is also known as Epiphany or the Feast of the Epiphany. It is a Christian festival celebrated on January 6th in many Christian denominations. It marks the biblical adoration of baby Jesus by the Three Wise Men. These men followed the star of Bethlehem to bring gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. This day is commonly celebrated with special church services, processions, and the giving of gifts in many cultures around the world
2. Spend Time With Friends and Family
Christmas is also when many people have MORE time to spend with friends and family. In western countries, many employers give additional time off for Christmas or adjust company work hours to make it easier for people to all have Christmas day off.
Spending time with family can look like:
- Enjoying a special Christmas dinner
- Baking Christmas cookies
- Decorating a Christmas tree
- Christmas parties
- Driving around to look at Christmas lights
3. Give & Receive Good Gifts
Giving and receiving gifts is probably one of the most popular Christmas traditions. Giving gifts was actually part of the Roman festival Saturnalias occurred on December 25…before it became a Christian holiday. Christians give gifts as reminders of the 3 gifts that the Magi gave to Jesus. They also give gifts as a reminder that Jesus himself came down to earth as a gift to all mankind. Of course the tradition of gift giving is then continued with St. Nicholas who became famous for giving gifts to the poor. It continues today through they symbol of Santa Claus who is said to come down the chimney to give gifts to good children and lumps of coal to those on the naughty list!
Whether one is religious or not, giving gifts is popular with nearly everyone who celebrates Christmas!
4. Remember Those In Need
Looking outward and taking note of the needs of others is the part of Christmas that we all need…even if we are not in need. In the rush of daily life, it is so easy to focus on our own wants and needs. But the true meaning of Christmas is reflected when we give just as God gave his son Jesus to us.
The most famous story about giving at Christmas is that of the Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Mr. Scrooge is rich in material wealth but poor in everything that matters. Through a series of events, he learns that when he gives his wealth away, he gains more wealth in relationships than money can buy and he can change the world…one person at a time.
5. Light Up the Darkness
Christmas falls at the darkest part of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. Where I live in Ohio, at Christmas it is dark at 5pm. The daytime hours feel so short.
So it is truly is a gift to the community when people decorate their homes with twinkly vibrant lights. I love taking my younger children for a drive at night at Christmas time. We can look at the lights and get a cup of hot chocolate. If its warm enough, we will bundle up and walk around a nearby lake that is decorated with lights displays all around.
And of course, we love to bring the light indoors by putting up a Christmas tree or extra decorations in the house. These give the house a warm cozy feeling that is perfect for resting and reflecting.
6. Peace, Good will and Forgiveness
As people take the time to slow down during Christmas. They often focus on the birth of Christ for at least a small part of the holiday. And when you focus on Jesus, it does something. It reminds us that if we choose to accept it, we have been forgiven. Jesus made a way for us to have peace with God and peace with other. When we follow His example and forgive others, it gives us freedom. Whether that relationship is restored or not, we can walk in peace.
So, if we choose to grab hold of it, practicing forgiveness and peace can be one of many good things during the holiday celebrations.
7. Winter Solstice
The winter solstice is the shortest day and longest night of the year. It occurs when the Earth’s axis is tilted furthest away from the Sun, resulting in the least amount of daylight in the Northern Hemisphere. In the Southern Hemisphere, it is the summer solstice. The winter solstice usually falls on December 21st or 22nd in the Northern Hemisphere.
Christmas fall at the darkest time of year which makes the holiday lights that much brighter. In different cultures around the world, the Winter Solstice is recognized with different cultural and religious celebrations. Saturnalia was a Roman pagan holiday celebrated during the Winter Solstice that some traditions still practiced today as part of the Christmas holiday.
In our family, while we don’t “celebrate” the winter solstice, we do deliberately slow down as the solstice approaches. Our kids do not participate in winter sports and we all spend a lot more time inside and at home rather than running around to do a lot of outside activities. None of this is legalistic…they are fine without winter sports and we could obviously make different choices if one of them LOVED a winter sport. But for now, we are all benefitting from a much needed season of doing less.
8. Slow Down
I love almost everything about the Christmas holiday season. But I have found that it is the MOST enjoyable when we choose to slow down and choose to spend time doing the things we love with the people we love. It is so easy to get pulled into all the busyness of the Christmas season. And while all of the festivities are fun, it can leave us feeling drained and wanting. There is something beautiful about choosing to do less…so we can enjoy time together more.
Stocking Stuffers We LOVE!
9. Make Memories Together
In so many ways I love that Christmas is in this dark time of year when you simply can’t do as much outside (at least where I live in Ohio!) It’s cold…and it gets dark early. But it gives us a chance to do things together that we are too busy to do when its nice out.
Things We Enjoy Inside Include:
- Playing Games
- Watching Christmas Movies
- Baking Christmas Cookies
- Wrapping gifts
- Doing Crafts
- Decorating and More!
10. Celebrate New Beginnings
For many, Christmas has become a time to celebrate new beginnings. The birth of Jesus marked the hope of new life for all men. And that idea…the hopefullness of NEW is something that carries over into other areas of our lives.
Christmas has become a time when people think about:
- Restored relationships
- New Goals
- Improved Friendships
- New Year’s Resolutions
- and more!
11. Enjoy Cultural Celebrations
Christmas celebrations have changed over the time. What began with simple religious celebrations became more commercial in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Some families may go to a midnight mass service on Christmas eve…and others prefer more western traditions of parties and gift giving. There is a place for all of it.
Because Christmas is such an old holiday, it provides a wonderful way to enjoy the many different cultural elements. Years ago we had an exchange student from Germany and we loved learning how they celebrated Christmas in ways that differed from our traditions in the United States. I have friends who are from China and the way they celebrate is more low key than mainstream western culture.
There is room in the celebration of Christmas to focus on the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ (whether it happened on December 25 or not!) and enjoy the cultural holiday traditions that have been added over time. From holy days to traditional foods and everything in between, Christmas is a time to enjoy spending time with family members and friends.
12. A Season to Give Thanks
It is of course appropriate that Thanksgiving sort of launches the Christmas Season..as least here in America. As we move through the Christmas season, there are so many opportunities to pause and give thanks. Gratitude helps us have the right attitude toward others and appreciate the little things that are easy to overlook.
To practice gratitude this season, consider writing notes to people who have done something kind for you this year. Or add a note with your gift to loved ones. The words your write will be remembered long past the memory of the gift.
When we think about why we celebrate Christmas, it is important to take a step back and see the bigger picture. Some families choose not to celebrate Christmas. And there have been some hilarious movies made about skipping Christmas…my favorite is “Christmas with the Kranks.” Choosing not to celebrate is fine, but I think the benefits of enjoying this season at whatever level works for you is worth doing…even if its just an opportunity to bring a moment of joy to someone else.
Sarah McCubbin, founder of Ten Minute Momentum, is dedicated to helping parents confidently parent their kids by teaching life skills, social skills and leadership skills. As a child she was the kid that never quite fit in and is on a mission to help others understand the building blocks we all need to be successful adults. She lives in Ohio with her husband Mike, and 9 kids ranging in age from 5 to 21 where they use homeschool, private school and public schools for their kids education!