Tuesday Topic: Celebrating Christmas with Newly Adopted Children

This week our Tuesday Topic comes from Leslee, who asked:

I’ve been wondering just how to “do” Christmas this year with three newly adopted children from Ethiopia. I would really like to change our “normal” Christmas to focus more on Christ and less on presents. I have been wanting to toss up the question: How does your family celebrate Christmas? How do other large families celebrate Christmas?

As with last week, I will hold your comments until next Tuesday (11-24-09) and post them all at once. It is much more fun that way! I look forward to reading your good advice. Let’s encourage one another.


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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.


  1. Kendra the Bow Lady
    November 17, 2009

    I don't have a large family yet. We have a 3 and 4 yr old. One thing we want to continue is to only do gifts the day after all the meaningful events have taken place. Usually this means Christmas day, as the day before is when we have our special traditions with my parents such as an elegant dinner, Scripture readings, worship music, a Christmas Eve service, etc.

    We also hold our own Advent celebrations with a few close family and friends every Sunday during December and that's been a very neat tradition (started before we had kids). It's probably 10-15 minutes long, comprised of a reading, Advent candles, Scripture passages/verses, prayer, and always O Come Emmanuel and maybe another song…refreshments/fellowship afterward. It really helps MY heart to greatly anticipate celebrating the coming of our Savior. I hope that it serves the same purpose for my kids as they grow older and understand more.

    We also try to keep gifts to a bare minimum so that presents at Christmas is not a HUGE deal, and we focus a lot on GIVING the gifts. Birthdays at our house are when presents can be a little more emphasized, because that's a day to celebrate that child. Right now we're celebrating CHRIST and we don't want our children to think it's about them! Our kids are young so they don't quite understand why they get presents…we explain it in toddler language like this: "Mommy and Daddy are so happy about Jesus and all that he has given us, so we are happy to give you a special gift," or something to that effect. Our kids understand Christmas as a "party about Jesus!"

    To aid the focus on giving, we also have made ornaments every year for family members and close friends and hand those out as gifts all month.

    I'm sure we will be able to incorporate more traditions and talk more as they grow older. Looking forward to hearing from those with older kids!

  2. Kirstine
    November 18, 2009

    I hope to have a big family one day – we have one child and we are adopting our second any day soon.

    By best idea for Christmas is to have a birthday morning for Jesus like you would do any other birthday in the family. Decorated table – a plate for him, singing – what ever you would do for a person in the household on their birthday. It reminds us that Jesus is alive and real and we celebrate Christmas because he was born.

  3. Rebecca
    November 18, 2009

    I love the book, "The ADVENTure of Christmas" by Lisa Whelchel. Lots of great ideas on how to bring CHRIST back into CHRISTmas.

    We are also making a change this your in our holiday traditions. First, the kids will only be getting ONE present and a few goodies in their stockings. Another thing we have done is take all the Santa related Christmas decorations out of our home so that we can focus on the REAL reason for the season. NOT saying santa is bad, we just don't want TOO much santa and not enough CHRIST.

    I am reading through Lisa Whelchel's book right now and plan on adding a few things to our holiday traditions.

  4. Elizabeth
    November 18, 2009

    We are working towards doing the same thing this year. Great minds must think alike! One thing we are going to do this year is get an advent wreath and do a devotion every Sunday evening. I may get crazy and try to do something every evening, but we'll see. I'm going to commit to starting small – succcess at an level is important at this point!:) We were talking about this with some friends from our LifeGroup (Family Home Group from church) and they do their own version of the "Gifts of the Magi". Each child gets something that represents Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. Gold is something they want, Frankincense is something they need, and Myrrh is an experience. Santa brings something as well. They originally did this because they found they were buying in excess at the holidays and the kids really only ended up focusing on two or three of the gifts they received. Typically the experience is something they do as a family. They also shop for a needy family every year and the kids pick out something they really want and give it to a child they don't know. I'm not sure where this idea came from, but I like it! We haven't decided if we are going to implement it, but we are definately cutting back more and more every year, and the kids didn't even notice last year. With me being sick so much this year, we are really going to try to spend some quality family time together this December, whether that means watching a Christmas movie together at home or going to Seattle to ride the carousel and see Santa. I need to do this for my kids and more importantly for myself. I love reading everyone's ideas and can even apply some of them to my little family of 4!

  5. Robin
    November 18, 2009

    Last year, we purchased a dairy animal from Samaratin's Purse for each of the grown children. This year, we will purchase one as a family to show our children that God tells us to take care of others, even if we don't know them. I've let the older ones (10 and 6) look through the SP catalog as a visual reminder of how we can help others and keep the focus on Christ and not on ourselves.

  6. Anonymous
    November 19, 2009

    We have 9 children 4 adopted, we started this tradition back when we had 5 children to get away from materialism! Each of us draws a name on thanksgiving. We make or give away something we have that we know would touch the other person, the kids have come up with, stories, favorite toys, making cookies for eachother,etc. we open them on Christmas eve after reading the christmas story.

    this year we are doing a devotional on the advent. we have been really trying to focus on God and others. every year we also go buy a gift for another child who may wake up with nothing.

    last year we were very finacial straped and the kids all wonted to do things for families who had touch us so, we made cinnmon rolls together and delivered them. I try to stay away from stores especially in the last few years just because I saw how materialistic our children were becoming.

    one other thing we did is we made a dessert from different countries to count down to God birth. We then prayed for all the children that needed adopted.


  7. Jillian and Crew
    November 19, 2009

    We celebrate our Christian heritage with my best friend who is Jewish on Hannakuh to start with…then we attend several events such as Living Christmas Trees and Live Nativities.
    We don't "do" Santa. My kids know his name/image and history and that some people like to pretend he is real. Santa in our house is known as a figure that represents giving and remembering to care for others.
    We have a birthday party for Jesus on Christmas Eve(or the night before if there is a local church event we want to attend on Christmas Eve. We read the Bible and talk about the story of His birth and why it is important.
    Christmas morning, we do have gifts, but they are from each other, nothing from Santa. Mom and dad give a gift to the kids, and the kids give to each other. We also do a large family breakfast together…
    The hardest part for us is "controling" the commercialism from our extended families that buy LOTS of goodies for the kids, so we often ask for educational toys/homeschool supplies, arts and crafts or clothes….instead of several toys for each child. Since we live out-of-state, I do sometimes screen from the mail delivery to getting into the hands of the kids, so it can be spread out over time. 😛
    We also pick a charity each year and ask for donations to be made there in honor of us instead of gifts for us..some people will do that and some just need to give gifts…I guess it is their love language 🙂


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