Merry Christmas! I get so filled with excitement and happiness around this time of year. For our family, the reason its such a joy-inducing season is not just because we have the chance to spend a lot of time together, but because we’re focused on HIM. Our kids are now 12, 11 and 8, but when they were toddler age we realized that we really wanted to place less emphasis on Santa and have a more Christ-centered Christmas.
Santa is fun and we enjoy that tradition. We still put out cookies and milk for Santa. He still brings a special gift for each of our children and fills their stockings. However, Christ was the first gift we were ever given and the one we should be the most excited about. Together, Mr. Maven and I brainstormed ways we could help our kids (and us) spend more time thinking about the gifts that Jesus Christ has given us and how we can share those gifts with others.
This particular tradition began a few years after we decided to have a more Christ-centered Christmas, but it starts the earliest in the season, so I’m listing it first. A friend gave me a little white felt stocking to hang on the tree for Jesus. We decided to use that stocking for more than just decoration. Instead, each year on December 1st begins our month of giving. Strips of paper and pens sit under our Christmas tree. Each time one of us does something kind as the Savior would, we anonymously write it down on a strip of paper, fold it up and put it in the stocking. Our goal is to fill the stocking with good deeds by December 24th. On Christmas day, we read all of the ways we showed Christ-like love and kindness that month. It’s a continual reminder of who we are as God’s children and the kindness and love shown to us by God and his Son.
Sibling Gift Exchange
For children, Christmas is often all about presents and what gifts they’ll be receiving. We really wanted our kids to understand that Christmas is about giving and not getting. So each December, we take our kids to a local thrift store and let them pick out a gift for their siblings. At first, we were paying for the gifts, but now they use their allowance to choose something small, but meaningful for their brother or sister. They look forward to sneaking through the store, trying to make sure the others don’t see what they’re choosing. Often, they choose things like games, puzzles, books or yarn. Then on Christmas morning, Mr. Maven has them give the gifts they’ve chosen to their siblings first before they open their own gifts, so they can experience the joy that comes from giving. This is my favorite! Is it sappy that I’m getting teary just thinking about this moment?
Act Out the Nativity
Now, I realize this isn’t something unique to us. I know a lot of Christian families do this. It’s always kind of hectic getting all of the “costumes” together after our special Christmas Eve dinner (more about this in a future post). I put costumes in quotes because they consist of bathrobes and sheets and whatever usually the dog is the donkey 😉 So, we read the christmas story as found in Luke 2 and act out the birth of the Savior…and have a few laughs along the way.
Watch the Nativity
Before we open any gifts at all or read the good deeds from the white stocking, we set the mood for the day. Our church put out a short video years ago called The Nativity which re-enacts the journey to Bethlehem and the birth of the Savior. We gather around and watch this video. The first time we did this, all of our children (including our dog) sat and watched intently and reverently as the joyful event unfolded on the screen. If you want the spirit of God to be in your home on Christmas morning, watch this seven and a half minute video. After the video, we’re lead to the next item on the list.
Opening the Gift
We have a Little People Nativity set that we bought years ago and though my kids are getting older, they still insist we put it out every year. I wrap up the baby Jesus from this set and place Him in the tree. After watching The Nativity on Christmas morning, we open the baby Jesus and put Him in the manger. A simple, but effective reminder that He was the first and most important gift.
Birthday Cake for Jesus
After a nice Christmas dinner, the kids help me make a birthday cake for the Savior. We usually don’t have time to make it fancy, but it’s always yummy. We serve it as a regular birthday cake, complete with candles and the “Happy Birthday” song. The kids blow out the candles together and then enjoy tasting their treat.
These simple little additions to our Christmas season have helped us to grow closer together as a family and build our faith. They help remind us that the colorful, wrapped packages, plates of goodies and decorations are lovely and fun, but what matters most is finding peace and happiness through celebrating His birth and living like Him.
My hope for you is that you can feel that peace and joy this Christmas season and enjoy every wonderful, memory-making moment with your family.
Is there something special that you do to focus on the Savior at this time of year? Please share! I’d love to hear about it.
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