My just turned two year old son calls Santa Clause something that comes out like, “Nanny Bots.” So cute. He loves the big bellied, jolly old man.
Both of my young children are so enthusiastic and cute about Christmas this year…probably the first they have been old enough to really understand and enjoy. They helped put up the tree, make all the goodies, set out decorations and even wrap some presents.
Myself. I love Christmas and I do like Santa Clause. I love the charm, sweetness and magical joy he represents. The thing is, I teach my kids that he isn’t real, instead that he is pretend like a fairy tale.
I love the Christmas tree, the heirloom ornaments, the beauty of it, the joy of putting it up with my children. But what does the tree represent exactly? How does it bring honor to Christ during a time of celebrating His birth?
The gift giving. This is probably my favorite part of Christmas. I love shopping for just the right gift to wrap and tuck under the tree, to be opened and enjoyed by the people I love most before the sun rises on Christmas morning. For a child, it’s hard to beat the thrill of all the presents under the tree. Whether or not we teach that Santa brought them, what a magical and joyous time for children. But how does giving and receiving gifts help them remember Christ?
I do celebrate Christmas. There is hardly a time of year that I enjoy more. I do, however, understand why many don’t celebrate, as is the choice of several sweet families and friends that I know and love dearly.
Here is why I understand their hesitation and have questions of my own: no matter how much I teach my youngsters about the meaning of Christmas being about the birth of Jesus they still learn how to say “Santa Clause” before they voice the name of our Savior.
We all realize how Christmas is commercialized. Businesses thrive as shoppers flock to their wares. Parents spend small fortunes on purchasing just the right toys for their kids. Decorations go up symbolizing Santa as the head figure of the holiday. We overeat, and all the while our children are absorbing everything, much like snow absorbs the sweet syrup when we make our snow ice cream.
The question is, how do we celebrate Christmas and keep Jesus as the focus during our festivities?
I don’t claim to have this all figured out. My own kids often lack in focus and remembrance and there is no one more at fault than myself in spite of my efforts. After all, they learn what I model and teach them.
Here are some thoughts and ideas, though, on how to teach our children about the real reason for celebrating Christmas:
Books! There are so many that tell the story of Christmas. Here are a few:
Movies: I’m sure there are many more, but here are a few that my kids watch:
Church: I teach the children at my church and I put as much focus as I can on teaching about God during the holidays. This is an opportunity for boys and girls who may not ever have been taught about Christ during Christmas to learn, and for children who do know, to strengthen and increase their knowledge.
Remind and teach them: I find myself repeating over and over things like, “Santa sure is neat, but he isn’t real and remember that we are celebrating the birth of Jesus. What is the name of the town Jesus was born in? What kind of bed did He sleep in.”
Create a family tradition on Christmas Eve and Day: On Christmas Eve my dad always read us the nativity story. Try this passage Luke 2:1-20. Even as a young child I felt the sacredness of remembering while he read aloud. There were times, also, when we turned off the lights in the house and left only the flame of a candle burning. The flame reminded us of the Star of Bethlehem and of Jesus and it was simply a time to meditate on these things and a time of worship. All of these are memories from my childhood that I still treasure and they helped to teach me the meaning of Christmas.
Limit the amount and elaborateness of the gifts our children receive: I hope I’m not failing at this one. I really have to reign myself in here, as I want to buy them presents I know they will love. I do believe that it is wise to keep the gifts simple. Our kids do not need every expensive toy on the market they desire, no matter the time of year or celebration! Also, whether or not you tell them that Santa brought them the gifts is a choice you have to make as a parent, but we choose not to for our family. I also love the idea of having my children hand make gifts to give. *Cough* Maybe I will get to this one next year, but here are some ideas I love!
Homemade snow globes!
Woodland animal felt ornaments. I have actually purchased the felt for this project, but have just never sat down to work with my children to make them…someday…*sigh*
Giving! Oh, this category is huge. I cannot wait to involve my children more and more in this aspect of Christmas in the years to come. There are so many ways to give and to involve kids in it. Here is a list with links of some of my favorites:
Operation Christmas Child. Have your kids participate in packing shoeboxes full of gifts that will be sent to children in desperate need somewhere around the globe. Through the gift, the recipient will hear the salvation messages and be touched by the gifts they were given. http://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/OCC/
Local food drives: at least in our community, this is a big deal. There are multiple places to donate food items for those in need. Kids can use some of their allowance money or gift money to help purchase food to be donated.
Reece’s Rainbow: This is a fantastic charity. It is a website that helps build grants and raise awareness for children all over the world with special needs who are waiting to be adopted. When you give a financial gift to this ministry during their Angel Tree program you can receive a Christmas ornament with a picture of the child on it that you donated toward. http://reecesrainbow.org/
Adopt a Family: You have to have some connections and know of just the right family to do this, but it is possible. Find a family in your community that needs some extra help around Christmas. Buy them groceries and gifts for the holidays.
Purchase gifts for someone living in intense poverty: Samaritan’s Purse Gift Catalog: You can purchase practical gifts to send to needy children and families all over the world. For example, buy a cow or purchase mosquito nets. https://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/Giving/gift_catalog/
You can also do this through Compassion International: http://www.compassion.com/catalog.htm
If you already sponsor a child through one of these ministries they give you the option to purchase and/or send extra money for a Christmas gift for your sponsored child.
For even more ideas on giving, Ann Voskamp writes about teaching her children to be grateful during Christmas at her blog: http://www.aholyexperience.com/2012/12/the-grateful-christmas-project-7-ways-to-have-more-grateful-kids-this-christmas/
My friend, Krysten, also blogged some great ideas for Christmas and giving during the holidays over at her site: