Character Formation through Christmas Traditions

Teenage Girl Holds Gift Close – BYA Character Formation Blog

Many families choose to homeschool because they value character formation. They desire to cultivate strong virtues in their children through and alongside their academic curriculum.

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. states, “We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.

But—as so many homeschoolers recognize—character, morals, and virtues are not learned by books alone. Rather, they are formed through conversations, observations, and lived experiences.

This Christmas season, what are you doing to proactively foster character formation in your children? In the busyness of the holidays, here are three ideas for a more engaged, experiential, and character-forming Christmas.


Character Formation 101: Wrap Someone Else’s Gift

Mom and pre-teen Son in Operation Christmas Child Processing CenterToo often, the messages we hear about Christmas focuses our attention—and our children’s attention—on getting. One way to help your students develop into generous, cheerful givers (2 Cor. 9:7) is to help them practice giving to those whose needs are great.

International nonprofit, Samaritan’s Purse organizes the annual Operation Christmas Child. This initiative invites churches, schools, families and friends to pack boxes of basic goods for delivery to children in need around the world. For more information on packing a box, visit the OCC website.

Consider volunteering with your family at one of their Processing Centers. Or, work with your child to put together items (that OCC or other organizations request) that your child owns and would want to part with so someone else can have.

Not near an Operation Christmas Child Processing Center? Volunteer to stock shelves of a food pantry in your area, or help sort clothes at a local clothing drive.

Questions for Conversation:
  • What are you grateful for?
  • What do you have that someone else might need?
  • How do you feel when you share?


Serve Up a Bowl of Holiday Cheer

Women gather in the backyard of Isaiah House in Santa Ana CA

It can be a powerful experience to reflect on what one possesses in contrast to what another needs. But, it can create even greater, life-long impact when your children come face-to-face with their neighbors-in-need. There, they may experience the joy of serving, and learn to see the Image of God in “the least of these.”

As Jesus reminds us, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drinkas you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matt. 25:35a–40b).

Consider finding a soup kitchen, homeless shelter, or other house of hospitality in your area. For example, Isaiah House in Santa Ana, CA opens its doors to families or groups who want to serve at their weekly meal. The Union Rescue Mission, founded by Lyman Stewart—co-founder of Biola University—invites volunteers to help serve an average of 2300 meals a day and offers programming and recreation for children that live at its Downtown Los Angeles shelter.

Questions for Conversation:
  • What do you think you have in common with the guests who are homeless?
  • How do you think God feels about people who don’t have homes?
  • What did you learn today?


Give the Gift of Presence

Young person's hand holding an elderly person's handAJesus’s story of the Good Samaritan is, among other things, a story about a man who stops and cares for someone whom others have passed by. Help cultivate the mindset of Christ (Philippians 2:5) in your young disciples by helping them develop eyes to see who gets passed by in our society.

Too often today, the elderly are included in this camp. For a character formation practice that helps your children look for those that others have passed by, consider visiting a local retirement home. Many retirement homes invite groups to sing carols, share a meal, or otherwise give the gift of presence during the Holidays.

Create a lasting experience with your students by helping them think through and prepare questions to interview the residents. Many residents may enjoy speaking about their life and visiting with your family. For more ideas, AARP’s lists ideas to continue lifelong learning when visiting a retirement home.

Questions for Conversation:
  • What did you learn through talking with the residents?
  • How did you feel while you were talking with them?
  • How do you think they felt before the conversation? After?




Do you seek character formation each Christmas through a family service tradition of your own? Connect with us on Facebook and share your story.