For many of us, the iconic scene of the nativity and its cast of characters has become a central piece of Christmas decor. Some sets are well-loved and worn; others are fragile, family heirlooms.
If you’re looking for a new tradition to help your family celebrate a more Christ-centered Christmas, here are a few unique and meaningful activities to add a little more spiritual sparkle to your holiday season.
Share a family history story connected to a treasured nativity set
Here’s how a family heirloom has impacted the beloved Christmas memories of senior marketing manager, Kamie Fisher, and how you can make new treasured memories with your own family nativity set.
I collect nativities every year and have over 20 now, but my favorite set is my Grandma Harrington’s nativity. It was a mainstay at her house when I was little and love that every year it is prominently displayed among our holiday decor. It is handmade, dipped-glazed porcelain, and over 50 years old. When I was little, I used to think it wasn’t the prettiest nativity, but now, it is my absolute favorite because it is so unique and unlike anything you can buy at the store. Every time we take it out, we share stories about my grandma, so it is like she is right there with us as set up the nativity.
Give a nativity set to a loved and unexpecting recipient
A treasure nativity memory can come from a beloved family member, but there may be someone else in your sphere of influence—maybe less top-of-mind or more overlooked—who could benefit from the gift of a tender Christmas scene. Here’s a touching story from LDS Living editor, Emily Linder.
When I was about 13 years old, my Young Women leader gave each of the girls in our class a small nativity set. It was the first time I’d had my own set, and I loved it. Each year I would carefully set it up on my dresser with all the homemaking hopes a young girl could muster. Once Christmas was over, I would carefully wrap each piece in bubble wrap and put it back in the box. All these years later, I haven't lost a single piece of that nativity set. It is one of the very few things I still own from my teenage years. I love the sweet simplicity of it, and I am reminded of that leader—and the love our Church community has for the youth—each time I see it.
Write down a “gift to the Savior” goal for the coming year
Looking for an idea to infuse Christmas with New Year’s resolutions? Here’s a sweet idea from our social media content designer Anna Gardiner Owens.
My family reads the nativity story from beginning to end, finishing at the point where the wise men bring gifts to the Christ Child. Then my mom turns on some peaceful music as my dad passes around notecards and pens. We each take a few minutes to choose a “gift” that we want to give to our Savior in the coming year. We recognize that there truly is nothing that we can give back to Him because all that we have comes from Him, but it’s essentially a New Year resolution or sacrifice we choose to make for the coming year, specifically centered around something that will help us become more like Jesus Christ. But they are often simple!
For example, one year I wrote that I wanted to trust His plan for me. I never would have imagined the changes that I saw that year as I followed impressions to become endowed in the temple, transfer colleges, and change my major. But I truly believe that because I had decided to strengthen my trust in Christ that year, I was able to follow those promptings more courageously.
Other years I have chosen things like increasing my patience or studying the words of the Savior in the scriptures. We also keep the notecards in a glass jar that my mom displays year-round. Each year, we pull out the jar and go through all the past years’ “gifts.”
There are so many cards now because we’ve been doing this for years, and it’s been so inspiring to see the ways our family has grown spiritually. And each time our family gathers for this tradition, I am so amazed at how I can look back at my year and recognize the times I was blessed as I followed the example of the wise men and presented Him with my personal gift of change.
Elevate your family’s Christmas story reenactment
If your family participates in a “live nativity” or holiday reenactment of the Christmas story, here’s a fun way to up the ante from Magnify podcast producer, Sarah Collins.
Every Christmas Eve, we go to my grandparents’ house. The first thing we do when we get there is draw our roles out of a hat. It started off small when we were young, like the obvious main characters, and a few extra sheep or cattle or cows as the family kept growing. Now that we have 100+ people on that side of the family, we have been adding more unique roles to the nativity story. We’ve now incorporated characters like Samuel the Lamanite, Zacharias, Elizabeth, Herod, and the star.
My grandparents have served missions all over the world, so they have amazing robes, dresses, and coats from all over we always got to wear. All the little girls always want to draw angel roles, and one year my 6’5” uncle who played professional football was baby Jesus. There is always something to laugh about, but this tradition might seriously be one of the most core parts of my Christmas experience, and I'll never forget it.
Attend a community nativity event
Christmas is a great time to find common ground with other Christians and build larger, interfaith relationships with members of your community. Here’s one example and idea from LDS Living editor, Haley Lundberg.
In my hometown in California, a local Christian congregation puts on a massive outdoor live nativity and a “walk through Bethlehem.” It’s an incredible production, complete with a historically accurate representation of what the little town of Bethlehem would have been like at the birth of Christ.
It looks like a huge Old World farmers’ market. There are shopkeepers, carpenters, temple workers, laborers, government officials, and of course, weary travelers just like Mary and Joseph who have come to the city to be taxed. There are “believers” and “nonbelievers” alike. And each interaction with an actor within the city is laden with references to New Testament scripture and Old Testament prophecies. After navigating the busy city, you can wander behind the inn to the manger and see Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus in a beautiful and climactic nativity scene.
But it is such a wholly immersive experience, the experience has allowed my family to ponder the nativity story in a new light and with new historical details we may otherwise be unaware of. And since it is put on by another Christian church, I have loved the chance to connect with other like-minded members of our community in a celebration of Christ’s birth. If my family is ever gathering in my hometown around Christmastime, it has become a must-do event for us.
And if you are based in Utah, this year marks the first-ever Nativity Market, one of the largest shopping selections of nativities in the country with over 400 nativities designed by artists worldwide! The event will also include live music from local artists, holiday concessions, holiday home decor for sale, artist and author signings, activities for the entire family, the launch of this year’s Giving Machines, and so much more. Come gather together with a vibrant community to celebrate the birth of Christ in a fun, family-friendly setting.
The event will take place November 16, 17, and 18 at the Mountain America Expo Center in Sandy, Utah. To learn more and get your tickets, visit https://thenativitystore.com/pages/nativity-market-event.
To wet your whistle for what types of nativities you’ll find at this celebratory event, here are a few favorite picks from some of our other staff members.