A list of simple, beautiful ways to celebrate Christmas Eve at home as a Christian, including a free Christmas Eve Candlelight Vigil.
When I was little, my family always attended a Christmas Eve candlelight service at our church before heading home to celebrate with relatives and open presents. When Ty and I started our own family, we wanted to keep this tradition alive, and often traveled back “home” to attend this same Christmas Eve candlelight vigil. But as we added more children to our family, this beautiful memory from my childhood became stressful.
I had to keep the kids calm through the entire service, pray no one burned themselves on a candle flame, and hope no one got hungry enough to actually start gnawing on a candle, or worse yet, cry loudly during this very solemn ceremony.
I just couldn’t do it.
Maybe you have a small, but growing family like mine, or maybe you are stressed by all the winter germs out there, or maybe it’s just too overwhelming to go out somewhere the night before Christmas. Whatever your reason for wanting to stay at home on Christmas Eve this year, I want to help you find ways to still make precious traditions and memories with your family that point to Christ!
Christian Traditions on Christmas Eve
Before we get into what you can do at home to celebrate Christmas Eve, I want to mention some of the Christian Christmas Eve traditions that have been around for many years in various countries.
In Catholic and some Anglican churches, parishioners attend a Midnight Mass to celebrate Christ’s birth. (Some churches have chosen to make the time for this Mass earlier in the evening to accommodate small children.)
Quite a few Evangelical churches have started doing Candlelight Christmas Eve services, many of which have been moved to the day before Christmas Eve (also known as “Christmas Adam” to my children) to allow families to be at home on Christmas Eve.
During these services, the story of Jesus’ birth is read, the Advent candles are lit, and Christmas hymns are sung, culminating in the lighting of the Christ candle at the center of the Advent wreath and the congregation lighting their candles from that Christ candle to symbolize going out into the world with the light of Christ.
It is this type of candlelight service that my own Christmas Eve Candlelight Service is based off of:
Some traditions around around the world include a fast that ends with the sighting of the 1st star of the night.
In the UK, the annual 9 lessons & carols, presented by King’s College, is broadcast every year on Christmas Eve.
If you’d like to add a study of this ceremony to your Advent homeschooling, check out the Music of Advent Course from Music in Our Homeschool.
For more Christian Christmas Eve traditions from around the world, check out this link >>
Our Family’s Christmas Eve Traditions
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, my family always attended a Christmas Eve service and then we went back home to share in a special meal and open presents with extended family.
I wanted to continue some of this tradition with my own family, but because we lived several hours away from my parents, and my growing family had made it difficult to manage a candlelight service at church, I decided to write my own Christmas Eve Candlelight Service to do at home with my family.
We gather in the living room with the Advent candles lit (all but the Christ candle), reading through the Scripture telling of Christ’s birth and singing hymns that accompany the story.
It is a time for us to center our hearts on Christ, and it has created a truly lovely tradition in our family!
I also kept some of the food traditions from my childhood, including my mom’s fudge and Festive Hot Punch.
However, instead of having a big dinner, we lay out a charcuterie board with meat, cheese, pickles, and cheese ball. It’s simple and easy for me to manage.
Keeping things simple while preserving many of the family traditions from my childhood is really important to me. I want my children to remember the true meaning of Christmas, and not just go through the motions.
Here are more ideas to consider implementing in your own family…
Unique Christmas Eve Traditions that Point to Christ
I also highly suggest adding Advent readings to your Christmas plans. Even if you haven’t been lighting Advent candles every Sunday in December, you can still read a simple Advent devotional and light candles on Christmas Eve.
Here is an explanation of Advent candles and short devotions (with hymn suggestions) you could easily read on Christmas Eve.
Another neat idea for Christmas Eve is to have your children help you put together a Names of Jesus chain. I like THIS ONE because it includes Scripture you can read with your kids.
Read the prophecies of Jesus’ birth as a family. This is a really great way to make connections for your children between the Old Testament and the New Testament. Choose several to study from THIS POST for your Christmas Eve festivities.
Sing Christmas hymns. My mom always sang Silent Night in German on Christmas Eve. She definitely instilled a love of Christmas music in me, and I highly encourage you to incorporate the singing of traditional Christmas hymns into your Christmas Eve.
One of my favorites for Christmas Eve is O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. Listen to it HERE >>
Our family has always done a simple supper for Christmas Eve, but you could take it even further and do what some families call a Shepherd’s Supper. Eat a simple supper on a blanket in the living room and read the story of Christ’s birth from Luke 2.
Here are some examples of a Shepherd’s Meal:
- Shepherd’s Supper on your coffee table
- Shepherd Dinner with neat menu ideas
- Shepherd’s Meal under the Christmas Tree
- Sally Clarkson’s Shepherd’s Meal Podcast
And finally, you could use Christmas Eve to catch up on any Advent activities and readings you’ve been doing during the season that you may have gotten behind on.
We all have that happen.
We start out strong at the beginning of the month, but by the 3rd week of December, we are behind on our Jesse Tree ornaments, our Advent readings, and our Christmas devotions. Rather than adding something more to all of this, you can use Christmas Eve to catch up on a few of the things you’ve missed over the past few weeks.
Friends, Christmas Eve is such a beautiful time of anticipation and joy, so no matter how you choose to celebrate it, be sure to point everything back to Christ and the promise of Christmas in the morning!