One of the best things we’ve ever done when it comes to Christmas traditions in our family was beginning to celebrate Kings’ Day. Kings’ Day, also known as Epiphany is traditionally celebrated on January 6th, which is also the 12th day of Christmas.
If you research Kings’ Day or Epiphany, you’ll find that it means and commemorates all sorts of things to all sorts of people, so I felt fairly free to use it to suit my own purposes, which were to keep our minds our hearts focused on Jesus in the days surrounding Christmas. As a child, I remember feeling some self-inflicted guilt on Christmas morning that I was more interested in my presents than in Jesus, who I really did love. So as a parent, I wanted to surround Christmas morning with Jesus so that it is just one small part of a huge celebration of God’s generosity to us and the world. The combination of Advent and Kings’ Day has helped us to do just that.
I already shared in my Advent post how we spend the days leading up to Christmas preparing our hearts for the coming of Jesus. This year, we’ve read books and colored Christmas pictures while working on memorizing the Christmas story for about 20 minutes each night before bed.
We usually have a birthday party for Jesus, complete with cake, games, and presents about a week before Christmas, but this year, we’re waiting to do that with some friends who are coming to visit us next week.
We add baby Jesus to our nativity scene(s) on Christmas day, and that is also the day the wise men begin the 12 day journey around our living room to get to Jesus. They arrive on January 6th, Kings’ Day.
To celebrate Kings’ Day, we go on some sort of journey to commemorate the wise men’s travels, complete with a paper star we’ve attached to a pole that the kids take turns carrying in front of all of us. . Usually for us, this is a walk around our neighborhood since we live in the tropics and it’s hot at Christmas, but you could adapt your journey to your climate.
I pack a picnic of (Middle) Eastern/Persian food like they might have eaten and we carry it around the neighborhood with us. Usually, this includes flat bread, cheese, olives, dates, almonds, and grape juice. We stop somewhere to eat it (or eat it when we get home) and talk about what it must have been like for the wise men to go on such a long journey based on a star they saw in the sky and what kind of faith that must have taken. We talk about the gifts they chose and wonder what kinds of things they talked about on their journey.
Sometimes, we’ve made gifts to carry as well but other times, we’ve skipped that part. When we get home, we gather around our nativity scene and imagine what it must have been like for the wise men to finally find Jesus. We spend time worshiping Him just as the wise men did. And we give each family member three special gifts – for gold, each person receives something precious to them, for frankincense, each receives something that will enhance their worship and/or bring them closer to God in the coming year, and for myrrh, each receives something to adorn their body. I have found these are the gifts that require the most thought each year, and I really enjoy the process of finding or making these gifts for each person.
Kings’ Day has become one of the most meaningful traditions in our family. I hope I’ve shared something here that will be useful to your family! What kinds of meaningful traditions have you instituted in your family to make sure to keep your focus on Jesus throughout the Christmas season?