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What are we Teaching our Children at Christmas?

“Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” Charlie Brown shouted. He’d spent the day trying to answer this question. Earlier, his sister Sally asked him to compose a letter to Santa in which she asked for cash (in tens and twenties), his dog Snoopy decided to forgo all other traditions to concentrate on winning first prize in the house decorating contest (which promised the winner “money, money, money”) and Lucy sent him to find a fake, aluminum Christmas tree. No wonder Charlie Brown was feeling depressed about Christmas.

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Luckily his best friend Linus answered the question for him. Christmas is about the birth of Jesus Christ and thinking of others. (Charlie Brown Christmas Movie). I’m going to apologize in advance. I wasn’t sure if I should publish this here as it is very Christian and not all my readers are Christian. But being a Christian is a huge part of my life so I felt I needed to share this. Even if you don’t believe as I do, please read as you may still find a way to make this time of year less stressful for your family and put the focus more on giving, sharing and loving.

Lately I feel a bit like Charlie Brown. Each year, Christmas becomes less about Christ and charity and more about shopping, decorating and catching that great deal. This has even run into Thanksgiving. The tradition of Thanksgiving followed by Black Friday is quickly morphing into a quick breakfast on Thanksgiving morning and then rushing off to the stores to be the first in line to get a flat-screen TV.

Don’t get me wrong. I love all aspects of Christmas. I love putting up the tree, buying gifts for my family and baking sweets that keep me in sweats well into January. But these are not the main points of Christmas and should not be emphasized as such.

Christmas should not be full of stress. A busy Christmas season doesn’t mean a better Christmas season. Christmas should be a time to reflect on faith, to give to others and to concentrate on family and loved ones.

Here is the problem: I can take a stand, but that won’t necessarily change society’s view. After giving it a lot of thought I’ve decided there is something we can each do. We may not be able to change Christmas throughout the world, but we can change Christmas in our homes. We can set a standard of what is expected and live it.

Rather than just rant and rage about this all day long, I thought I’d actually provide some insight. Here are some ideas we implement in our home to keep Christmas a time to reflect on the birth of Jesus Christ and giving to others.

  • Keep gift giving to a minimum – On Christmas morning, our children get one present from Santa, one present from us, two books, and a stocking with candy. That’s it. Our kids have never complained and this keeps the emphasis off presents.
  • Give to others as a family – One night during December, we go to a store with a toy donation bin. We let the kids each pick out a toy to donate. We buy it and they physically put the toy in the bin. Then we ask them how it felt to give to others. This opens the door for a great discussion.
  • Nativity advent – We have a beautiful advent calendar in our home with 25 Nativity pieces. Each day, the kids get to pick a piece to add to the calendar. They can pick from shepherds, wise men, Joseph, Mary, animals, etc. On Christmas Eve, we put Baby Jesus in the manger. If you don’t have an advent, get a nativity your children can explore.
  • Read the Christmas Story – Every Christmas Eve, we read the story of Christmas in Luke 2.
  • Minimize Santa – We don’t make a big deal about Santa in our house. We tell the kids they can ask him for one present but that’s it. We’re gradually transitioning into telling the kids each family has a Santa, and we’re the Santa in our family. I think Santa is a fun, magical tradition and I don’t want to take that away, but it shouldn’t be overplayed in my opinion.

I am blessed to know some incredible moms. When I thought about this post, I knew I had to turn to them for ideas. Here are some additional ideas from the amazing moms I’m privileged to know:

  • “I think getting involved in community events is always great. Often they have a live nativity, or Christmas plays that depict the birth of the Savior. Another thing I love to do is teach my daughter Christmas songs, and then tell her what they mean. We talked about Joy to the World last night. We also talk a lot about how Santa is a lot like Jesus because he gives us gifts, and Jesus has given us the best gifts.”
  • “We have hand puppets of the nativity characters and a story that goes along with it. But, to really get in the mood of giving, we have found that picking a family member or neighbor and planning out a 12 days of Christmas gift giving really gets the kids into giving instead of receiving.”
  • “We have a book with a story for every night in December. We read a scripture, sing a song, and read a story about Christ, or service.”
  • “We have the kids draw the name of a sibling to give them a gift at Christmas. This year I’m having them do service for the person they drew and encouraging the kids to do enough service that that person might be able to guess who it is by the time Christmas comes around. They also are writing down their acts of service and putting them in a little box for us to read on Christmas. One other tradition that we love doing is Christmas caroling every year. We visit several people in our neighborhood who the kids look up to or are elderly and just need a visit.”

  • “One tradition we do is make candy and take it around to our friends. My son loves it and it gives us a good hour or more in the car  together singing songs and communicating.”
  • “I liked our tradition of drawing a sibling’s name for whom the gift had to be made, rather than bought. It took time–and resourced both parents and the local lumber company, but produced memorable products, including bonding and great memories. We also subbed for Santa as a family, and each kid contributed something, as they got older. Sometimes we just ‘sacrificed’ a nice meal and ate cold cereal for dinner, but the kids got the message.”
  • “Kids make a paper chain, with one link for each day before Christmas. To remove a link, the child has to do a good deed. These count as gifts to Jesus.”
  • “The first Monday in December we think of a gift we can give to Jesus (service acts, bettering ourselves etc.) and wrap it. On Christmas Eve we unwrap it and tell how we accomplished that gift.”
  • “I was thinking about this all throughout November of this year and I even chose a theme- Freely Give (Matt 10:8). I put together ten Christmas gift bags with food, socks, and chap stick to give to the homeless as we drive by. The kids have enjoyed watching from the back seat as the people who receive these bags earnestly and repeatedly say ‘thank you and God bless you.’ “

How do you and your family remember the true meaning of Christmas?

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