Still Celebrating:: A Christmas Without Children

Something about the holidays can feel polarizing. Even when there is not a global pandemic, they can resurrect negative emotions associated with holidays or feelings of loss, anxiety, or loneliness. Things lost, forgotten, or missing.

Among the clatter and glittering lights, I often hear the phrase, “Christmas is really about the children.” And in many regards that’s true. But what about the homes without children—for whatever reason?  

Photo by Anetrius Wallace Photography

As a foster parent, I have little control over when children come in and out of my home. We love as hard as we can while they are here and then hold it together as best we can when they go. But Christmas—that’s a special kind of tricky. I have several items in my gift closet “just in case.” I don’t want to be caught off guard and unprepared should a placement show up right before Santa’s big scene. But for years, it has been the dogs and us. I’ll sit quietly, mug in hand, Christmas music playing on Pandora while I admire the tree. There’s no timetable, no Kris Kringle delivering surprise packages. No ecstatic laughter clamoring down the stairs.

While there is a certain loss to this, grief that should be recognized, there are also several ways to still acknowledge the magic of Christmas. Being intentional about celebrating the season with the family you do have in place. Here are some ways my spouse and I have found to create traditions while waiting on our missing family piece.

Tour Christmas Lights

Christmas lights are one of my favorite traditions! {He tolerates my excitement.} The line-up changes yearly, whether it’s a cool drive-thru, visiting a well-known neighborhood that is a bit extra, or going to a display like Constellation Field. Grab some cocoa and spam your Instagram story!

Fancy Meal

The years we aren’t at a family home for Christmas Eve dinner, we splurge on fancy dinner plans. We are currently making our way through a list of Houston steakhouses. We set a general limit, but on this particular occasion, we are Vanderbilts. Of course, we’ll take your $30 appetizer with two scallops! 

Elf & Pancakes

Okay, not exactly this, but create a tradition that is special for you. This particular custom began our first year of marriage when we found ourselves on Christmas Day with nowhere to go. My mom had gifted us with syrup from Vermont, so we made a stack of pancakes and watched Elf. It stuck with us and is our continued tradition after we open our gifts at home.

Take a Trip

You have no kids! Take a trip if you feel like it. One Christmas, we had to call an audible because my sister was very pregnant and couldn’t travel too far from her doctor. Also, they were building a house so that was not an option. We all rented a condo in a nearby town and created Christmas there. To-date it is one of my favorites. We were on the main strip of the little town and were able to shop, look at lights, go for ice cream, and everyone had a new experience together. {This could just be you two, BTW.}

Furever Family

Everybody gets a gift at Christmas—including our dogs. They are our kids and treated as such. And you bet your butt their gifts get wrapped, too. I think it is hilarious watching our dogs go head-first into their stockings. If you have a pet in your life, involve them in the festivities as well! They can bring a level of excitement {if not entertainment} to the season.

Decorate Together

If you’re up for it, do the holiday decorating together. My husband almost always trims the tree. I put all of the hooks on the ornaments and untangle the garland, but he’s the spatial relations guy and I let him nurture that talent. We lay everything out and plan for placement. Because we have no kids picking up fragile figurines, our boxes are usually around for a week or so while we strategize.

Shop & Wrap

I have never met a man who loves Home Goods as much as my husband. I have gotten many a long face when I admit having gone without him. Do some holiday shopping together and pick out some unique gifts for friends & fam. The gift bag was invented for people like me—I am the world’s worst at gift wrapping. Therefore we have wrapping parties together so he is not embarrassed to hand out our presents.

Children in Need

There are families and children all around us that could use your spare love at Christmas. From angel trees to foster group homes, there are all kinds of opportunities to give back. Even though you may not have a child in your home at the moment, there are many you could bless. This year, I co-headed a drive collecting PJs for an organization that has supported our family during foster placements. Choose something that means something to you and your family and make a positive impact.


Embrace your community. I guarantee that you aren’t the only ones with mixed feelings this time of year. Seek out a few and find some opportunities to celebrate together while loving and supporting each other in the process. That is {actually} what the season is all about. At least, it has been for us.

Cherish what you do have this Christmas. Even if you feel things or people missing in your life, take a beat to notice friends, family, pets, and community around you. Hold all of that close because it’s precious. And one day, you might miss that quiet mug moment by the tree.

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Kirsten C
Kirsten C. was born and raised in Texas Hill Country. After becoming a hopelessly devoted Bobcat and earning a degree in Mass Communications-Public Relations at Texas State University, she was wooed by the never-ending culinary options and vibrant street art of Houston and became a transplant. By day she is a marketing enthusiast for a downtown engineering firm, and by night, an over-the-top {and unashamed} dog mom. She and her husband William are licensed foster parents—advocating for children and families—who hope to one day grow their family through adoption. You can follow their unruly journey on their blog, Cornell Chaos. When she’s not trying a new restaurant, playing behind the lens of a Cannon, piddling in the yard, or scouring markets for hidden gems, Kirsten is often found teaching student ministry through Kingsland Baptist Church or escaping at a local coffee spot.


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