15 Dec How to Pick the Best Christmas Traditions

Dominick Albano is Dynamic Catholic’s RCIA team leader and co-founder of Arise Missions. Dominick enjoys playing baseball, going to the beach, and eating burritos. He and his wife live in Kentucky with their three young children.

Which Traditions Help You Become the-Best-Version-of-Yourself?

Your essential purpose is to grow, change, develop, and become the-best-version-of-yourself. Do your Christmas traditions help you do that? Will they help you prepare for Jesus’ coming? Follow Dominick’s 3-step process to decide which Christmas traditions to keep and which ones to consider eliminating.

  1. Take an inventory of all the habits and traditions that make up your typical Christmas.
  2. Look at each one and determine which ones will help you become the-best-version-of-yourself this Christmas, which ones don’t make a difference, and which ones are just distractions.
  3. Eliminate the things that are just distractions, even if they are fun or old traditions.


Your Christmas traditions can help you become the-best-version-of-yourself.


Use your Christmas habits to discover the wonder and joy of Christmas.


Jesus, help me to surrender the things that will not lead me to you this Christmas.


I’ve loved getting to spend time with you this week.

We talked about how we become the-best-version-of-ourselves.

We talked about the journey of the soul, how we get from point A to point B. We talked about happiness and how the-best-version-of-ourselves is the surest way to lasting happiness. We talked about how we make good choices.

And yesterday we heard from Maricris, who shared with us her story of how her daily decisions have led to becoming the-best-version-of-herself.

Next week we’re going to hear from Brian, who’s going to take all of this—he’s going to wrap it all together—and really show us how we have a great Christmas.

Here’s what I’d like us to do this weekend to make sure that we’re really prepared for next week.

First, let’s take a long look at our habits and our traditions surrounding Christmas.

Second, when we look at those, let’s really decide which ones help us have a great Christmas, which ones really don’t make a difference, and honestly, which ones are just distractions.

Third, let’s eliminate those distractions. Let’s take out the things that don’t really make a difference and hold us back from what matters most.

You can do this.

You can figure out what matters most and eliminate the things that hold you back.

I know it. I know you can. And I know that if you do this, it will have a huge impact on your Christmas.

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We encourage you to comment on this reflection. All viewpoints are welcome, but we ask that you remain on-topic and respect other members of the discussion. Please remember that we are trying to help each other become the-best-version-of-ourselves. We reserve the right to make editorial decisions regarding comments, including but not limited to removal of comments. Be Bold. Be Catholic.®

  • Michelle

    If it requires rushing around, it doesn’t happen this year.

  • Karen

    With my hubby in Hospice, we have taken our traditions that matter the most and put them first….the love of our family. Pure, simple joy…being together and sharing our love. We don’t need special presents or food but time to share our love….I know God is always here in our home with us too……joy, joy, joy…..

  • Barb Stuart

    New habit-as I stand at my front window each morning to wave at my granddaughter and great grand kids as they go by,I say an Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be for all the people that are passing my house!

    • Laura Sherman

      Great idea Barb, I am going to make this a part of my day as well.

  • Kathy

    This will be a good project over the weekend. I decided this year that any gifts I wanted to give would be purchased online instead of fighting the mostly unhappy and stressed people running around the stores. It cost a little more for delivery but it was well worth it. My sister has a tradition of having a Happy Birthday cake for our Lord Jesus Christ for dessert on Christmas day and has been doing it for years and years. Now that one of my grandchildren is finally understanding what Christmas is and that most important part is the birth of Jesus Christ I will follow my sisters tradiation. He’s only 4 so obviously presents are what he’s most consumed with but this year when I go to their home I will bring a Happy Birthday cake for Jesus. I will continue to do this every year so that he will realize as he gets older the true meaning of Christmas. I love The Best Advent Ever and wish we had a focus group all year long as I gain strength and spiritual growth reading all the posts. Have a Blessed weekend and don’t stress out at the stores.

    • Ssamaca

      Thanks Dominick.

      Please don’t do it Lisa…………… Don’t leave them dark. Light up Mary and Joseph too. They are so important in the story. It shows that Jesus came to be one with us. “The Word made flesh”. It’s all important. The birth of the Good Shepherd was first announced to the poorest, humblest in Judea – the Shepherds. They came to welcome their Shepherd King and worship. “Come Let Us Adore Him”. They thought a stable was a wonderful place for a shepherd to be born. Warm and dry, sheltered from wind and rain. And the Magi Kings were so wise because they were able to see beyond Jesus’ humble birth in a stable to what really mattered: He was the One sent to save all humankind. And they Adored Him too. .So Please, please please don’t leave Mary and Joseph dark — do it for me. Tell the story. It never gets old. Bless you for it.

      • Kathy

        These children are young and certainly could not grasp all of the story right now. I’m working with the 4 year old who is just learning about Jesus and how much he does for us in our lives. The 3 month old doesnt grasp anything. I grew up going to Catholic school and I had to memorize everything leaving me without any story telling or even much insight to what I was memorizing. I want my grandchildren to know and understand all of what I feel is so important in their lives. So right now I am focusing on having him understand that Jesus is the real gift at Christmas not the toys he will receive. I don’t intend to hurt you when I say that I think you are wrong in thinking that children at this age could understand the entire story of Christ’s birth and what Mary and Joseph went through to bring Jesus into this world. I want everything I teach them to be understood and for the stories to be joy-filled. As many of us yearn to be better Christians and a better version of ourselves most of us have to go one step at a time. I am not leaving my grandchildren in the dark I am bringing them into the LIGHT with each and everything I teach them, we all have different ways. May God bless you this Christmas season and bring you joy and happiness

      • Lisa Graves

        I put new bulbs in that day. They are lit bright. I had no intention of leaving them dark. Merry Christmas

        • Ssamaca

          Blessings to you. Let it shine!

  • 7cathy17

    This will be my second Christmas with my dad. He is a bit cranky about birthdays and Christmas.(85).So this is very new to me who had my own Traditions ,to encounter one who is not interested.Tomorrow is my birthday and he celebrates it because I am here with him.Next week I am going to clean the house ,buy a Tree and think about a Good Book that he would possibly like to read.He likes History,Malachi Martin,are what come to mind.If anyone has any suggestions it would be appreciated.Merry Christmas

  • Lupe Cota

    I really have only one Christmas tradition. It is to send cards. For other things I flex my faith. I look at the church’s calendar and see who is in today. I have my personal calendar and look for birthdays and holidays. My birthday is December 29th and when my mother was living she told me to remember this, “I was the one who born you.” Since her death I just wrap the year up by remembering she wanted to be pregnant christmas to have me on the 29th to celebrate the new year.

    • Dominic Thordarson

      That’s such a beautiful story, Lupe. Many blessings upon you and family this Christmas 🙂

      • Lupe Cota

        I remember my dad too. I ask him if he remembers parents day May 1st in Brussels.

  • Merilee Therese

    Okay this is a tough one for me. What do I stop doing. I don’t feel like I rush around so I can’t use Michelle’s idea. I must admit that I do go overboard with cleaning and decorating but I take my time and the family helps. As long as it gets decorated by Christmas Eve its okay. I don’t do a lot of baking. I don’t buy a lot of gifts. I’m missing something but I can’t figure out what is it is. Maybe keep the TV off during the holidays? Any suggestions?

    • Stephen Bender

      I agree about turning the TV off. Instead of living in a fantasy and watching TV (with commercials that use every vice to make us into a second rate version of ourselves), I’ll turn off the television and enjoy the company of others. Thanks for the idea! I might never turn it on again.

    • jesspinosa

      How about making time for Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament? Nothing can clear your mind off of shopping, decorating and baking than an hour or so with our Lord.

    • Pat

      I agree with turning the television off. What a total distraction for me. I do turn it off during Lent. Funny how peaceful the house becomes. Never though about turning it off during Advent. Thanks Merilee and Stephen, I agree with you too…I may never turn it on again. I am feeling better already!

      Always appreciate everyone sharing.

      • Micki

        I have a new thing I have started this year. Last week I told my husband I wanted an early Christmas present and bought the entire bible on CD discs and have been listening to the CDs in the afternoon instead of watching TV. Sometimes I’m following along or sometimes just listening but so far this has been for me a wonderful way to engage in the bible and bring my mind to a closer connection with Jesus. This particular bible has been created using well know actors to read the various parts and it’s almost like watching a movie in your mind while your listening to sound effects, chirping birds, background music etc.
        Have loved reading everyone’s comments and ideas.
        Wishing all who have participated in this advent program a blessed Christmas.

        • Pat

          What a wonderful idea, Micki

        • mjtav240

          What is the name of that bible series, Micki? I would love to get it!!

          • Micki

            I bought it on QVC and it is called the Bible Experience. It came in a nice case and has something like 89 hours of listening. It was about 54.00 before the tax and shipping. Not sure where else you might find it.

  • jesspinosa

    When I was growing up in the Philippines, we had a family tradition we called (interchangeably) Media Noche (midnight) or Noche Buena (good night) meal. Just before midnight, we will gather together to pray, then we sit around the table to partake of simple, delicious, memory-provoking dishes that my mother and sisters would make. I have carried it over with me when I migrated to NY in 1971. I practiced it during my short married life, and I still do it now, by myself. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day invitations are declined because I now want to spend that time alone with the One who has become the most important Person in my life, my beautiful Baby Jesus. In the early evening, I turn on all the lights in my apartment, basking in the glow of the Christmas lights while listening to Christmas carols. Before midnight, I turn off the music, kneel in front of my creche, and pray. Then I sit at my dining table, set for one, elegantly if I may say so, and I enjoy the simple meal I have prepared for myself. Then off to bed and up early for an early morning Christmas Mass, followed by breakfast, a movie if I am so inclined, then a nice lunch. I do miss the old family gathering I used to enjoy, my mom’s cooking and being surrounded by happy familiar faces. But I can’t complain. When I think Who is with me, this dummy has no reason to grumble.

    • Stephen Bender

      If you ever make it down to central New Jersey stop by for some lumpiang shanghai and pancit bihon. My wife and her friends make some delicious dishes. 😉

  • Lisa Graves

    I have a white lighted Holy Family out from of my house. As I came up the drive last night, I noticed Mary and Joseph were not lit up. There, the Baby Jesus in the manger, was lit bright, illuminating Mary and Joseph. It was as if to say, they are important but, I m the reason for it all. Let my light shine on others through you. All this from a burnt out bulb! Merry Christmas to all

    • mjtav240

      That’s cool, Lisa!! What an excellent perspective!!

      • Lisa Graves

        Thanks. He sure does touch us in the most unusual ways sometimes

  • My Christmas tradition is going to Confession. St. John the Baptist came to “prepare the way of the Lord.” Getting my soul ready and cleared of all mortal sin is the BEST tradition to ever have.

    • Kathiehc

      David, your tradition is so appropriate. Most mornings I read the Canticle of Zechariah as part of Morning Prayer. Zechariah tell his new born son, John, “you will go before the Lord to prepare his way, to give his people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sin.’ (Luke 1:76b-77)

    • Kelvin

      Confession is one of the most beautiful sacraments. We have to know our Lord never gives up on us, he always wants us to ask his forgiveness. He will always grant it!

  • Angie O’Mara

    My favorite Christmas tradition started when my children were very young, before they even saw what Santa had brought, we would stand in front of the manager set and say Happy Birthday, Jesus and thank You for this day. I don’t know if they still do this, but for me it is my Christmas morning tradition.

  • Jo

    Great idea! Looking forward to doing this!

  • Ann Cook

    One of our favorite traditions is for our grandchildren to sing, dance & ring bells as we play Evie’s “Come on Ring Those Bells” from her Christmas Memories CD. Gives us so much joy as we all sing along. We used to play this song for our children too. Definitely a keeper!
    Thank you to all those who have shared. I truly have believed that I’ve been listening to God through all of you this Advent season. Have a blessed Christmas.

  • Barbara Levich

    Several years ago my husband and I started saving our change all year in a large pickle jar, and in December we find a random person who seems to be in need and give it to them.

  • RD

    I have a pretty long list of Christmas traditions: Decorating the tree; Doing an Advent calendar; Putting up decorations; sending cards; cookies; Buying a gift for the poor from a parish giving tree; Christmas Eve dinner with my husband’s family; Midnight Mass; Christmas Day dinner with my side of the family; A luncheon between Christmas and New Year’s with two old friends. I don’t think I really want to drop any of the traditions. They all build a connection with others or bring joy to me or someone I love, and that’s important to become a better me.

    Over the years, instead of totally dropping any of these traditions, I have learned to scale them down. The tree doesn’t have to be “perfect.” I don’t use every ornament I own each year. If it becomes stressful to keep up the decorating, I stop. And usually the tree or house looks beautiful just as it is. I save any unused ornaments or decorations to be first out next year. (Or sometimes realize an item can just be discarded.) Same with cards, I used to write notes to everyone on the list, now I may choose a handful of people to get a longer note, but the rest just get a signature. But when the card arrives at their house, I hope it still brings a smile to know I’m thinking of them. And that’s important to me. I don’t pick a tricky thing to buy from the Giving Tree, unless I know I really will have time to hunt for it. I used to think, “a bag of diapers” I need to get something “more fun” than that. Now I realize what a need this could fulfill and I just toss the item in my cart the next time I’m at the market. It feels good to be helpful, but not stressed. (Maybe at a different stage in life, I can go back to picking the “trickier” items, but it really was getting problematic and learning to let go has been a good thing for me.)

    I don’t worry about family gatherings being perfect anymore either. I try to make the traditional foods, but if others offer to bring something, I don’t insist the menu has to be exactly the same each year. So I guess what I’m saying is that you might not have to eliminate any traditions that you love, just look at them through eyes focussed on simplicity. If something is stressing you, it probably needs to be changed. . . Maybe it needs to be dropped, but maybe it just needs to be scaled back. Don’t worry about impressing people. Just ask, how will this bring joy? Sometimes it means letting go. Sometimes it means sharing the activity with others (delegating so work is shared, rather than absorbed by only one person). Sometimes it means just taking a break for a year or two.

    Traditions are wonderful, but the meaning behind the ritual is most important. If no one is feeling that meaning anymore, adjust it so the meaning comes alive again. The Lord might give us stamina to repeat the tradition once again for the sake of those who are benefitting from it. The Lord may indicate it is time to let this tradition end. There is grace in saying yes either way :o)

  • Arthur Brown

    Every year we exchange our presents on Christmas eve and spend dinner and games with the family on Christmas day and now I go to mass every Christmas and for many years have attended Midnight mass. It usually to late and my wife stays at home. We put up the tree and put out the nativity scene that I acquired over seas many years ago. This year I have been spreading the word about Dynamic Catholic, purchasing books by Matthew Kelly and giving them out. I plan to continue this tradition. I hope each and everyone of you will have a Blessed Christmas as we celebrate the birth of Christ. God Bless you on your Spiritual Journey and may Advent be in your heart all year long and not just at Christmas.

  • Zoe

    Since my Husband and I are in the process of MOVING, we are going to have to celebrate Christmas in our hearts….This is going to be a tough Christmas. We are going to a better place….A less expensive apartment. I have been doing what I can, just to decorate THE NEW PLACE, even though WE are not really THERE yet. We’ve got BOXES over there…We’ve got a couple of shelf units over there…A couple of my Christmas towels are hanging in the Kitchen, I’ve got Christmassy burner covers on the stove, and our Nativity sits in a window sill, just to show our new neighbors, that we’re Catholic. We wont actually be moving any FURNITURE over there, until December 28th, but what I would LIKE to do, as a way of saying “goodbye” to this place, is to light our Menorah on Christmas Eve, because THIS YEAR HANUKKAH BEGINS right on Christmas Eve! Does anyone know how INCREDIBLE that is?

    This month has been so painful…We’ve been living in poverty for the past couple of years, because I lost my job. My MOTHER didn’t have a Daughter she could be proud of, so she took mine. She’s got MY BABY. It’s been EXCRUCIATING, having to go through my Baby’s room ~ the room she GREW UP in, for 16 years ~ and BOX UP her life, and take most of it to Goodwill. Even if we could find an apartment with one more room, our Daughter still wouldn’t come home. My Mama’s got money. I know my Daughter still loves us, but money talks and apparently it’s a marvelous conversationalist.

    I got my Menorah from an old, Jewish man, I was friends with. He was our neighbor for a while. He was like a Jewish Grandpa, to me! When he died, his Daughter invited me to take any memento of him that I wanted. She was so surprised, that I would choose one of his Menorahs! She was actually really happy, to give it to me! Christmas is usually too busy, for me to light it (because you have to WATCH it, and KEEP IT LIT), just to be mindful of THE MIRACLE of the Menorah, and how God kept the lamps lit for like 9 days, or something (I really need to REVIEW this miracle); but this year, I really want to observe this custom.

  • Barb Stuart

    Good morning everyone! All your comments are helping me keep my actions and thinking in the perspective of the best advent ever. My husband and I have become more flexible as our family changes and grows.We celebrate Christmas on a different day because of in laws, traveling and how many people. I sortof like it because we are usually home by ourselves to relax and enjoy the day.I am so very blessed and I think I need to share more with others than I do. Let that light shine all the time in our thoughts and actions.

  • Sarah Bailey

    I’m struggling with this one. I am young, 26 and I don’t really have any traditions on my own. I’m kind of at the mercy of my family and what they want to do. I have, with much reluctance, insisted that we go to Christmas mass; so maybe that will become a positive tradition. I do go shopping for gifts for my family. One year I went with all religious gifts and my dad got offended, so I shall not do that again.

  • Lisa Graves

    Merry Christmas Eileen