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New Christmas Traditions:

Making Christmas more meaningful:

As a young mom, I thought starting Christmas traditions took painstaking preparation. Then I heard my daughter announce to friends, “My family always does this at Christmas.” I don’t remember the activity but, whatever is was, we had done it exactly once the previous Christmas. In her mind, it was a tradition. And she relished the idea of doing it again!

Here are some ideas you might like try in your family:

A Bag of “Gold” from St. Nicholas: The spirit of giving

On Christmas morning, what child would not be happy to find a bag of gold in the toe of their stocking? In The Secret of St. Nicholas children learn that St. Nicholas gave bags of gold to save three girls from slavery. Receiving a bag of gold reminds them how the Christmas stocking tradition began as an act of compassion. Mesh bags of gold foil-covered chocolate coins are available in stores during the holiday season. Or sew a drawstring bag for the coins, to be reused each year. In the past, an orange was often put in children's stockings, and it can be used as a reminder of St. Nicholas' bag of gold too.

A Stocking for St. Nicholas: So simple

When your family hangs their Christmas stockings, gather and read The Secret of St. Nicholas. Then hang your stockings. This adds meaning to and makes a tradition of what usually would be only a decorating chore.

Preparing the Manger: Doing good deeds in secret

Start with an empty “manger.” This can be a small basket or cardboard box with popsicle stick legs. Rustic is good. Nearby, place a container with straw, which will be bedding for the manger. During Advent or beginning on December 1st, children can put a piece of straw into the manger each time they do a good deed in secret. A good deed can be as simple as picking up a toy without being asked or feeding a pet. This can be fun for kids when a lot of guessing goes on as family members are on the lookout and try to figure out what deeds are being done. Parents can express surprise over the smallest deed. How did this happen? How did this get here? By the time Christmas arrives, children have prepared a soft bed for the baby Jesus.

Do Good Deeds in Secret: A whole family activity

Have a family meeting and decide on a good deed you will do in secret for a relative, neighbor, or friend. Many community charities provide opportunities for giving anonymously at Christmas, too.

Celebrate the Feast Day of St. Nicholas: Make December 6th special

Celebrate the feast day of St. Nicholas by trying to surprise family members with a secret good deed. This is not a gift exchange but a favor--no matter how small, such as wiping up a spill on the floor or emptying a trash can. At the dinner table or at bedtime, try to figure out what deeds were done. For other feast day ideas, see

Continue to Fight Slavery as St. Nicholas did: Donate to a modern anti-slavery cause.