I wrote today’s article because I know I’m not alone in my feelings of the holidays. The focus on Christmas is becoming more and more worldly, but I want my kids to understand its true meaning. I call the issue “Spend-mas,” it’s a condition we are faced with when the focus fades away from the manger and leads to the pressures of spending lots of money.
I’m not saying do away with gift giving. God gave us the most precious gift of all on Christmas. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6) In honor of this; it can be a blessing and a joy to have a giving heart during the holiday season. The important thing though is to remember to be intentional and to not loss focus.
If you are saying “I’m not ready for Christmas” because you didn’t get all the shopping done on your list or you find your kids asking for toys everyday leading up to Christmas ….you might be feeling the frustrations of Spend-mas. You are not alone though! Last year this was heavy on my heart and after great conversations with friends and searching for a few solutions I made sure this year was different.
God called me to share the good news of Christmas to offer encouragement to families going through the challenge of making Christ the center of Christmas. “And the angel said to them, Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11) In this article I will share with you seven ideas for introducing the meaning of Christmas with your children in fun ways!
1) Advent Calendar- Use an advent calendar to count down to Christmas. My kids love doing this every night. We talk about how close it is getting to Jesus Birthday and how we are preparing for his arrival. I bought a tree shaped advent calendar last year from the craft store with numbered doors that you can open each day in December leading up to Christmas. In each door I placed a felt ornament for their felt Christmas tree and each door number is associated to a different Christmas book. Every night before bed we bond over opening a new door, decorating the tree and reading a story together.
2) Manger Scene- A Christmas nativity is probably one of the best ways to teach young children about the birth of Christ. We set out a nativity display so that our kids can play with the figurines. It’s no secret that children learn through play, so make sure you put out a manager scene that they can touch. Tell them the miraculous story of Christ’s birth or read passages from the bible as they have fun acting out demonstrations depicting the night of Jesus’ birth. What’s even more adorable is hearing your little one tell the story in their words. It can be quite humorous at times and heartwarming too! (For more information on Nativity toy sets visit: https://www.babble.com/toddler/13-toddler-friendly-nativity-sets/)
3) Giving- A great way to teach your kids the true meaning of Christmas is to give! One of the best ways to do this is to volunteer or make donations together as a family. A few ways children can do this is by finding toys they are ready to part with and donating them to a good cause. Another charity project for young children is to make a box for Operation Christmas Child through Samaritans purse. Showing your children how they can help the less fortunate who don’t have gifts or food, not only makes the world a better place but reminds your family how blessed you are. When it comes to family presents making something special such as an ornament or even baked cookies shows how giving spreads love and joy and how it can be beautiful and touching when done intentional. (Information on charity: https://www.samaritanspurse.org/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child/)
4) Santa- This item can be controversial and is one of the things our family is most careful about. After reading and talking to veteran moms it seems the best way to avoid the “Give Me, Give Me’s” is to take the focus off of Santa. Kids naturally ask for toys they see in the store or on television; responding to this by telling kids to put it on their Christmas list or to ask Santa for it, seems like a quick fix to keep them at bay. However, I’ve found it just leads up to a bigger problem of putting the pressure on Christmas for being about getting everything you want.
This also goes hand and hand with the idea of Santa watching over our little ones behavior. Did you know there are actually apps that you can download on your phone that show a meter of naughty and nice to change their behavior? I thought it seemed pretty awesome at first. Many people have Elves on shelves that report back to Santa. I’ve seen those little elves do some mischievous and adorable things. However, while these are all extremely cute and sometimes even keep behavior positive leading up to the excitement of the holidays; I can’t help thinking about after Christmas! Christmas time can be a great opportunity to teach about our actions and reflect on God’s forgiveness. I find it more empowering to teach my children how their actions have an effect on others instead of an effect on what will or will not be under the tree.
Lastly and most importantly; I talk to my kids about the spirit of Santa. We read about Saint Nicholas and how God worked through him to give to the poor. Don’t get me wrong we visited Santa this year at the mall. Instead of sharing a wish list, giving Santa a handmade thank you card seemed like the better option. On Christmas morning Santa fills the children’s stocking with a book, candy, tooth brush and a Clementine. Presents are given by family.
5) The four gifts rule- A friend of mine shared that their family does four gifts at Christmas a few years ago. After giving it a try, I found it’s a great way to keep things simple. The rule is to get four gifts for your kids using; something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read rule. I love this…it’s simple, inexpensive and stress free!
6) Family Traditions that elaborate on Jesus’ Birthday- As a child my mom and dad would hide baby Jesus in the Christmas tree. On Christmas Eve we would search for him and whoever found him got to put him the manger. My mom would than prepare a cupcake with a candle in it and we would sing Happy Birthday to Jesus. It is one of my favorite traditions and something I carry on with my children.
7) I read in TIME magazine that attending church on Christmas or Christmas Eve is becoming a diminishing tradition. Don’t let the schedule of Christmas events default going to a church service. I know that this is not easy with little ones sometimes but well worth it. It is a great way to bond with your family and take a step back from the hustle and bustle to embrace the coming of Christ.
Best wishes for a festive and meaningful Christmas!
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romas 15:13)