12+ Ways to Commemorate the First Christmas Without Dad


You will experience many “firsts” in the year following your dad’s death. The holidays may be particularly difficult. You may worry about how you'll through the Christmas season.

Here are some ideas on how to commemorate your first Christmas without your father. Keep in mind that there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Some of these ideas may seem odd to you, but others may find comfort in the experiences suggested.

1. Acknowledge the Death to Your Mom and Discuss It With Her

It is important to remember that you're not alone in your grief. If your mom is still alive, she is also facing her first Christmas alone.

As the holidays approach, find time to have a conversation with your mom. Ask your siblings to take part. Calmly discuss your ideas on how to spend the time around Christmas. Make sure everyone has a chance to speak and listen. You may not all agree on everything, but hopefully, you can make some compromises. The time will be difficult enough. Don’t make it harder by arguing with your family.

» MORE: Online obituary that is 100% free. Honor a loved one beyond a newspaper.

2. Reflect on a Poem to Remember Him

Text about reading a poem to remember your dad over an image of a winter street

Poets and songwriters provide us with words to express how we are feeling. Consider sharing the following poem with your family during the holidays. It may cause some tears, but crying can be part of the grieving process.

You may also consider reading a poem or listening to a song that was important to your dad. This can remind you of happier times. It'll also keep your loved one’s memory alive. And it can be a way for younger members of your family to learn about their relatives.

If you are looking for holiday songs to help you through your grieving process, consider our list of Christmas songs on death and grief.

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3. Find a Fitting Quote and Share It 

You may want to read other people’s thoughts about the grieving process. There are books on grief by psychologists and ministers. Or consider a book written by laypeople who have been through this experience. You may also find solace in reading some books about life after death. 

Share quotes about grief with other members of your family. It’s helpful knowing that you are not alone in your sorrow.

4. Celebrate Your Dad by Keeping the Same Traditions

Sometimes in mourning keeping traditions alive can be difficult. Some traditions involve everyone in the family. And some are created and continued by one person. Keeping time-honored traditions in place can be important. But it can feel strange, especially if this is the first year without your dad. 

If you want to keep a family tradition alive, try to discuss everyone’s new roles in the tradition beforehand. Your mom might take over and read the Bible passage from Luke that your dad usually read. Or your oldest sibling will now recite The Night Before Christmas. Making those plans in advance will allow those participating to emotionally prepare. 

5. Set a Place at the Table for Your Dad

Some families choose to continue to set a place at the table for their family members who have passed away. You can leave the chair empty. Or you may want to adorn it with flowers or a candle. This can be a nice way to remember him.

» MORE: Grief can be lonely. Create space for your community to share memories and tributes with a free online memorial from Cake.

6. Create Commemorative Christmas Tree Ornaments

Text about creating a commemorative Christmas tree ornament over an image of holiday decorations

Trimming the tree may be a particularly poignant event. It's something usually done by the whole family, so missing someone can be hard. 

Consider making or purchasing a commemorative ornament that celebrates your dad. The ornament could be something that reminds you of your dad. It could be a fishing pole ornament or one shaped like a basketball. Or something else that represents one of your dad’s passions. Or something in his memory. A glass ornament etched with your dad’s name. Or a metal ornament engraved with your dad’s birth and death dates. Either would be a beautiful addition to your tree.

Some families associate their loved one’s death with natural symbols. A red bird, butterflies, or feathers could have significance for your family. You could personalize one of those symbols with the name of your family member who passed. You could also use a cross or other religious symbol if your family is religious.

If you choose to purchase a special ornament to honor your dad, make sure everyone is there when it’s hung on the tree. It may seem like a silly thing, but sharing that moment is important. If you have Christmas with your family, they’re likely also grieving the loss of your dad. Hanging the ornament together can be a moment of shared reflection. And it might provide comfort to everyone. 

7. Start a New Tradition

It can be hard to continue traditions with some missing. Try to find new things to replace them instead of ignoring them completely. Instead of sitting down to share a meal, why not find a restaurant that is open and go out instead? You may choose to have a faux candle in every window of the house instead of hanging Christmas lights. If attending Christmas Eve services at your home church is difficult, you might consider going to a different service instead or have a service at home. 

You may feel that you can't continue the traditions that you practiced when your dad was alive. It may be too painful. Some members of your family may be disappointed with the change. Reassure them that you won’t forget the traditions completely. You may feel like it is necessary to take a break from them, at least for the first year.

8. Travel for the Holidays

If the idea of celebrating Christmas without your dad is too hard, why not travel instead?

You could go to an exotic location where there are few reminders that Christmas is happening. Or celebrate somewhere with customs unlike your own. Setting off on a new adventure could be the distraction you need. 

9. Spend the Holiday Volunteering

One of the best ways to spend the first Christmas without your dad is to volunteer at a community shelter. You can prepare or serve a meal for the homeless, sing Christmas carols at a nursing home, and deliver gifts to needy families. 

This would be a great way to honor your father’s memory. And it spreads Christmas cheer to others in your community.

» MORE: An online memorial is a perfect ending to honor and celebrate someone's life. Create one for free.

10. Host a Meal for Others

Text about hosting a meal for others over an image of a pathway covered in snow

The holidays are challenging for many people. It’s possible others in your family or friend group are spending the holidays alone. It could be because of divorce or estrangement. Or because they have no family nearby.

If you know someone in this situation, invite them to join your celebrations. If you are flying solo, consider hosting a meal for a few people in the same situation. You could do a small gift exchange as well. Don’t worry too much if no one knows anyone else. Everyone will appreciate having the opportunity to celebrate with others. 

11. Focus on the Children

If you have small children in your family, canceling Christmas might not be an option. Young people, especially toddlers, will not understand what’s happening. Not having a celebration, or gifts under the tree could be confusing for them. And if your dad always made a big deal of Christmas, it’ll be an even starker contrast than other years. 

Instead, consider putting your energy into a special celebration. Whether you continue with your traditional celebration or throw in a few surprises is up to you.

12. Talk About Your Dad

You may feel the need to protect your family during the Christmas season by not bringing up your dad at all. You may worry that the mere mention of your father will cause your mom to break down in tears, or upset your siblings. 

But ignoring the emotions during this difficult time could be a mistake. When you lose someone close to you, people forgetting them can be a big fear.  Instead of staying silent, consider sharing memories of your dad. You could set aside time to do this during your celebration. Try reading the memories that friends and family shared on your dad’s online memorial site. Or talk about your dad over dinner. You can record the conversation so that the memories will forever be a part of your family’s history.

13. Take Care of Each Other

Everyone handles grief differently. It can be difficult when everyone is together. Try to put minor disturbances on the back burner. Be patient. And give everyone the support they need during this time. Even if it’s difficult, focus on enjoying the time with your family. 

Remembering Dad at Christmas

Holidays can be a trying time for everyone. Especially the first year after losing someone, everything can remind you of them. Your dad might have loved Christmas. And his passing means the celebrations will be very different. If he was instrumental in your family’s traditions, your celebrations will likely feel like they are missing something.

Instead of becoming angry use this opportunity to create new traditions. Incorporate the things your dad loved into them. You can honor his memory without being overcome by sadness. The holidays are a time of joy, and the best way to honor your dad is by enjoying yourself.

If you need more ideas on how to remember dad after he died, visit our articles on how to celebrate Father's Day without dad.

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