people on christmas tree at home during winter

Christmas After a Faith Shift: Ideas For the Whole Family

Regardless of whether or not you belong to a religious community, if you’ve had a faith shift — if your view of your tradition has expanded from where it used to be — you may be wondering what to do during holidays, particularly Christmas. 

It can be difficult, especially if your family now has mixed beliefs about the holiday. You may want to revisit your favorite Christmas traditions but don’t want to offend people, or you may simply not know what to do during the season.

The Uplift lesson library contains ideas for a range of holidays, including Christmas. 

In each case, we encourage families to start with what they want in their home. 

Consider asking your kids these questions:

  • What are your favorite Christmas memories?
  • What is a tradition you’re ready to let go of?
  • What is a tradition you want to start?

Here are some ways to make sense of Christmas, followed by some ideas that might appeal to families with mixed belief.

Christmas is always evolving.

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer didn’t exist until 1939. Santa Claus wasn’t popularized as a fat man with a white beard and red clothes until the late 1800s. Christmas trees weren’t a widespread tradition in England or America until a Christmas card from Queen Victoria made the idea acceptable. Early Puritan Americans outlawed Christmas celebrations, which were seen as too rambunctious and pagan. St. Nicholas, who inspired Santa Claus, wasn’t born until 270 C.E. And there’s no record that early Christians celebrated Christmas at all, in part because there was so much disagreement about when Jesus Christ was born. 

Christmas is part of a wider set of traditions and celebrations.

The holiday falls in line with winter solstice — the moment in the northern hemisphere between when the days stop getting shorter and start getting longer. As such, many cultures around the world, including ancient Roman and Greek cultures, held celebrations around this time. Christmas evolved alongside these broader traditions, influencing them and being influenced by them in turn.  

All of this shows that Christmas isn’t set in stone. Instead, it’s a living holiday, always being shaped by a collective — by a confluence of traditions.

Because Christmas is always evolving, you can make it what you want. If the nativity story resonates in the home, great! If not, ask what each person wants from Christmas? It’s likely that regardless of belief, people want to feel warmth, connection, and joy.

To that end, here are some ideas worth exploring.

Ideas for Christmas After a Faith Shift

1. Tell family stories. Choose one topic to tell stories about — a person, an event (such as a vacation), a place (such as a grandparent’s house) — and share memories about that topic. You might even type up the memories ahead of time and then print and read the memories together. Over the years, you will have a collection of memories about each person, each major event, and each important place, which you can gather into a binder. Regardless of belief, these family stories matter. They make you who you are.

2. Have a family talent show. Invite each person to share a talent if they’d like to, whether it’s related to Christmas or not. You might conclude by singing Christmas songs together.

3. Experience light and dark. At its most primal, Christmas is tied to mid-winter and the winter solstice. (In fact, December 25th was the winter solstice in the ancient Roman celebration.) Given this, Christmas can be a time of lighting candles in the darkness and sitting around telling stories or singing.

4. Read stories and watch movies. If you have nostalgia around certain stories or movies, they can be a way to bring a spirit of giving and compassion to the season. Favorites include It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and more.

5. Write heartfelt notes to each other. Get a bunch of pens and paper and write how you feel about each other.

6. Donate money or gifts to people in need. (See our lesson on giving for ideas.)

7. Make a list of gifts you’ve received throughout the year. This can help you see the abundance that’s present.

8. Do a year-in-review. Invite everyone to pick pictures from the last year that show some of the highlights and lowlights they’ve experienced. Then have each person present a slideshow of photos on the TV screen. 

In short, aim for an expansive, heartfelt Christmas centered around being with each other. In this way, Christmas can still be a time of spirituality and connection — perhaps more so than ever.


Recommended Resource: Looking for more on this topic? We recommend Reimagining Christmas: Reflections From the Wilderness of Spirituality by Joy Vetterlein, which explores ways to make Christmas expansive and universal.