We are planning our third annual Matt Christmas and it’s just about our favorite day of the year. What is Matt Christmas, you ask? It’s that wonderful time of year when you ask your friend Matt to join your family in your Christmas shenanigans. And it is delightful.
We were in a small group with Matt though our church a couple years ago and it casually came up that he wasn’t sure he’d be “home” for Christmas. We said we’d be happy for him to join us. He mentioned how awkward it can be to be involved in someone else’s family Christmas celebration when you clearly aren’t part of their family and traditions. We explained that our big family Christmas celebration happened on Christmas Eve, so he could come hang out with us on Christmas Day when we’d just be spending the day in our pajamas, doing puzzles, playing boardgames, watching a movie (“While You Were Sleeping” if I get to pick) and eating hot dogs. Matt Christmas was born.
It really is one of my favorite days of the year. It’s great to have another adult around for the day, the kids love having him come and there are no expectations of perfection. After all the hustle of the holidays, it’s been a delight to spend a low-key day of just being together. In the over-scheduled chaos, Matt Christmas is a breath of fresh air.
We did not go out seeking someone to spend Christmas with our family. It was entirely providential that Matt needed a place to go and we needed a Matt. I am not an especially hospitable person and I don’t love entertaining. I had never really considered asking someone to join us for Christmas because that felt outside of my comfort zone and what’s the point of Christmas if not for me to be comfortable. . . okay, so that’s obviously not a good attitude, but I feel like that’s where a lot of us land. This day is one we set aside to celebrate our family and our traditions. Inviting someone in feels like a big imposition.
I want to make an impassioned plea here for you to think about the lonely at Christmas. Those who are too far from home, who have dysfunctional families they shouldn’t go visit, who can’t afford the trip, or don’t really have families of their own. I’d like to tell you they need a place they feel welcomed and you have a warm, loving home you could share with them for this day dedicated to family and celebrating. But I feel weird saying those things because they make it sound like sharing a holiday with someone you care about is a good deed you do out of pity or niceness. That’s just not how it is for our family.
It could be that God would nudge your heart toward inviting in someone difficult. It could be that this is a sacrifice your family makes to be obedient. That can be a beautiful thing to do and I trust that God will reward it. But what if inviting in someone just added to the joy and fun of the holiday?
Certainly there are people that are a struggle to love or have in your home. There are ways this could be unhealthy if you don’t have an appropriate understanding of boundaries or if your kids feel unsafe or unstable with a parade of strangers in their home. That’s not what I’m advocating for here. What we’ve experienced is just the delight of creating new traditions with friends who feel like family. It isn’t a sacrifice. It’s not hard. It’s a blessing to our family.
We don’t know how many more Matt Christmases we’ll get to have. His circumstances could change. We’re thankful for each year we’ve been able to have him. It could be that if he’s no longer able to spend the day with us, we’re able to find a new friend to share in the tradition. Matt Christmas may evolve over the years into whatever it needs to be for the one who needs it. I think what we’re mostly learning is that we need it and enjoy it as much as the one we invite in.
If you’re interested in having your own Matt Christmas (or Sarah Christmas, Zach Christmas, Erin Christmas, etc.), here are a couple things to ask yourself:
-Is this person a safe addition to our family for the day?
-What are our expectations and what are their expectations? Are those things compatible?
-What extra prep will this take? Can I do it with joy?
-Are our kids onboard with this?
If you’re at a point in your life where you’re comfortable extending an open invitation to anybody and everybody who needs a place, go for it. That isn’t our current situation, so we walk through these questions and make sure this is a good thing both for the specific person we’re inviting and for our family.
This year, as we pulled the stockings out, we found the one we use for Matt on Christmas morning. It’s a cheesy Santa one we like to fill with an orange and candy and a lego set and some other random fun thing. Not because Matt needs it or has asked for it, but because it brings us joy to do it and because our kids feel it’s only fair—if everyone else has a stocking, why not Matt?
This has been a beautiful side effect of opening our home to a friend. Our kids see this as normal. They see it as “fair” when we treat someone outside our family the same way we treat our family. We didn’t necessarily anticipate that kind of welcoming attitude from our kids, but I think that’s what happens when you normalize hospitality—when it feels less like a chore or imposition and more like a delight. It turns out true hospitality may be less about fancy napkins and spotless baseboards and much more about cheesy Santa stockings and board games. That’s a kind of hospitality we’re all equipped to provide.
I’d love to hear if you have similar Christmas traditions! Let me know in the comments.