16 Ways to Remember Deceased Loved Ones at Christmas


Is it your first Christmas without mom? Or your first holiday since you lost your child? Remembering loved ones at Christmas can be especially hard if you’re mourning their loss, particularly if it’s recent. 

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Experts encourage people in mourning to make a plan as Christmas approaches. They say to create new rules for the season and to volunteer in the community as much as possible. You may also think about attending a support group or seek private counseling with a professional. 

In your quest to find a new normal during the Christmas season, you may consider adding traditions designed to help you and others celebrate the lives of your loved ones. Read on for some gifts to give to your family and friends to commemorate the person you lost.

Christmas Traditions to Remember Deceased Loved Ones

Example of a Christmas tradition to remember deceased loved ones over an image of trees and snow

Your husband may have always put up the Christmas lights and carved the turkey. Maybe your daughter always looked forward to making gingerbread houses each year. Now that these loved ones are gone, will you continue with those holiday traditions or not? 

May we suggest that you create new traditions to remember your deceased family member. Here are some ideas to consider.

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1. Make a donation in your loved one’s honor

Did you love shopping for your husband each Christmas? If you are able, set aside the same amount of money that you would have spent on his gifts and, instead, donate it to a charity that was important to him. Encourage others who would have purchased gifts to do the same. Think of all the good that could come from this act of benevolence. 

2. Light a special candle each day

Throughout December, light a special candle each evening and reflect on your loved one’s life. You may want to place a photograph of the person next to the candle. This candle can signify that the deceased is always in your heart, especially during the holiday season.

3. Create a paper chain

Think of all the people who attended the funeral services of your loved one. Think of all the members of your immediate and extended family who were hurt by his loss. He or she made a difference in other people’s lives!

Celebrate this by creating a paper chain made out of rectangular-shaped holiday-colored paper. On each piece, write the name of someone your family member touched during his or her life. Chances are, you will run out of paper before you include all the names. 

4. Visit your loved one’s grave

You may consider visiting your loved one’s grave with other members of your family at least once during the holiday season. Schedule the visit so it does not interfere with regular holiday activities. For example, maybe you want to designate the Sunday before Christmas as the day you gather at the cemetery.

Tell stories of your loved one. Pray. Sing songs. Decorate the grave with holiday flowers.

5. Cook your loved one’s favorite holiday meal or bake her favorite treat

You will probably be invited to celebrate Christmas with family and friends. Consider bringing a treat that was special to your loved one. Share this information with others as you serve it. 

Sometimes people feel uncomfortable bringing up the deceased in casual conversation. Others may not want to make you sad, especially during Christmas. When you talk about the person you lost, it breaks the ice. You may even tell those that you are visiting that you are comforted by hearing stories about the deceased. 

6. Write a letter

Some people have a tradition of writing a letter to their missing loved ones at Christmas each year. Those in mourning may write about what happened over the past year, or they may share their innermost thoughts and emotions in the letter. 

This experience can be cathartic. Don’t feel as if you have to share the letter with anyone. You can tuck it into your loved one’s stocking or you can burn it after writing. There’s no right or wrong way to complete this tradition.

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7. Complete a beloved Christmas tradition with others

Maybe your husband always enjoyed creating elaborate light displays at Christmas each year. If so, invite your family and neighbors to help continue the tradition in his honor. Make hot chocolate and baked treats. 

Perhaps your mom enjoyed displaying her Christmas village each year. Gather the family to set up your mom’s display — just as she would have done if she were there.

Just because your loved one is gone doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t carry on with family traditions. Continuing your family’s traditions is a lovely way to honor a passed matriarch or patriarch.

8. Volunteer together

Maybe you spent the previous Christmas at the hospital while your loved one received chemo treatments. You probably remember how hard it was faking a festive spirit, knowing that your loved one was in so much pain.

Since you know how hard it is to be in the hospital or a hospice facility during the holidays, do something for those who find themselves in that situation this year.

Donate a Christmas tree and gifts to your local Ronald McDonald House. Bring cookies for the hospital staff working Christmas Eve. Give small tokens to people in hospital waiting rooms. Donate warm hats or blankets to those receiving chemo treatments over the holidays.

Christmas Gifts for Remembering Deceased Loved Ones

Example of a Christmas gift for remembering deceased loved ones over an image of holiday decorations

It’s difficult being a family in grief during the holidays. It’s especially hard if there are young children and teenagers in the family. Adults may be content having a quiet celebration but children and teenagers may still desire the typical traditions, even if they are changed by grief.

You may want to purchase a gift to help your entire family reflect and celebrate the lives of those who are no longer present. Here are some ideas for a memorial gift to give to others at Christmas.

9. Christmas ornament

Create a specially designed Christmas ornament to share with your family members. Maybe you can sew your loved one’s name on the back of a felt cardinal or have a professional etch the name of your loved one on a glass ornament. You may also want to check out the personalized ornaments you can order off photo company websites.

10. Keychain

Was your deceased family member known for liking a particular team or animal? Purchase a keychain with that favorite item and give it to each member of the family.

11. Handwritten recipe book

Do you have your grandmother’s handwritten recipes? Create a recipe book of your family favorites. Even if they are older recipes that modern cooks may not enjoy, it’s fun to see how much cooking has changed over the years.

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12. Jewelry

Purchase a commemorative piece of jewelry for each member of the family. You may want to get your loved one’s initials engraved on the back of a heart. 

13. Socks

Does everyone in the family laugh at how much Grandpa loved ice cream? Remember this by purchasing socks depicting Grandpa’s favorite snack. You can find socks in almost any type of design. 

14. A photo book

Create a photo book using the favorite pictures of your family member. Use photos from all stages of the person’s life. Consider adding a timeline to the book to record important dates in his or her life. 

15. Calendar

Do you create a family calendar each year at Christmas? If you lost a family member during the last year, consider dedicating the calendar in his or her honor. 

16. Wreath

Create a wreath for each member of the family to hang on his or her front door. Decorate the wreath with an angel and your loved one’s favorite colors. Your family will understand the significance of the gift, even though most visitors will assume that there is no particular purpose for the decoration.

Final Thoughts

Even if you want to have a quiet Christmas this year, consider the opinions of the other members of your family. You may need to compromise to find a celebration that meets everyone’s needs. 

More than anything else, don’t feel bad about celebrating the holidays. Your loved one would want you to go on with life, even during the holidays. 

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