Our family loves the Christmas season. There has always been great excitement in our home in the lead up to Christmas. I find it a fantastic time of the year to explore the Christian faith more. I also find it an easy time of the year to share my faith with others.
I love making Christmas special for the kids. I also love having traditions at Christmas that the kids look forward to each year. I believe traditions help in making memories and also in keeping the kids connected to the family when they are older.
As the kids have become teenagers, some of our traditions have changed. We make it a priority each year to talk about how we want to celebrate the Christmas season and want we can let go of so that we can celebrate in some new ways.
Below I have listed some of the things that our family incorporates into the Christmas season so that Jesus is kept central.
- Nativity scene
When you see a nativity set, you are instantly reminded visually of the true meaning of Christmas. I have seven different sets which we position around the house. When the kids were younger, they used to love playing with all the people and the animals and tell the Christmas story by moving the pieces about. I love having a nativity scene in every room so that no matter where you are, you are reminded of the event of Jesus coming to earth as a human and all that that means for us.
- Christmas Drama
We love being able to see and experience the Christmas drama. It highlights the meaning of Christmas through several senses. A tradition that we had when the kids were younger was going to the ‘Road to Bethlehem’ drama production put on by the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Melbourne. It is a huge event where you walk around the property and are caught up in the drama of that event over 2000 years ago. It is extremely impacting and the kids absolutely love it, especially Matey.
Along with the church concert and the Carols by Candlelight service, the kids also used to love being involved in the local nativity play. All of this helps them to get a rounded view of the Christmas story.
- Daily Devotions
I find this time of the year it great to really emphasize the importance of a daily devotion and to use that time each day to ponder anew all that the birth of Jesus means to us.
When the kids were younger, we enjoyed the craft aspect to the daily devotion. We tried using ‘Truth in the Tinsel’ (www.truthinthetinsel.com) and the Jesse tree devotional activities in the heart preparation to Christmas Day. (If you have a Lego fan, there is a site that has a daily Lego component that fits in with the ‘Truth in the Tinsel’ devotional.) Basically, there is a reading from the Bible and a craft to make every day. The kids really enjoyed it when they were younger. I used to find, though, that I ended up feeling overwhelmed with the daily aspect of it. Thus, using it for 5 out of the 7 days really worked better for our family.
This year I am trying the ‘IF: Gathering’ app and the ‘Behold’ study. Thankfully this only has 5 days worth of devotional each week and is very doable for me. I am loving looking at the themes of peace, freedom, rest etc that they look at in the reading, message and the 3 minute video for each devotional.
- Advent calendar
Every year we have an advent calendar. When the children were younger, I used to make up one with balloons and stickers and non food items. I would write out the Christmas story on to blank stickers. I would then place these in envelopes and stick the envelopes to the wall so that every day we read out the Christmas story and we would stick it to the front of the envelopes. We then read up to that point in the Christmas story every day. By the time Christmas morning came around, we knew the Christmas story so well. There are so many ideas if you google ‘advent calendars’. As the children have become older, the Lego calendar and chocolate calendars have become popular.
A fantastic advent calendar that we use now is the ‘Names of Jesus’ one (https://sweethoneycomb.com.au). They also have an email daily devotional on the name of Jesus for that day. Plus it is visually very attractive.
Reminders of the true meaning of Christmas around the house, along with the nativity sets, also visually reminds us of the true meaning of Christmas. Every year, the kids brainstorm and write the names of Jesus on glass baubles and we place them in a huge glass vase. Some years, we write on a bauble each day, other years we spend an hour just filling the vase up completely at once. This becomes the table centrepiece.
Who we are and the kingdom values that we model are so important. I find that I am not expressing the kingdom value of the importance of relationship if I am always too busy preparing or too stressed to spend time with people. The last thing I want my kids to remember about Christmas is that their mum was stressed and tired all the time. Thus, we incorporate a lot of fun activities into this season. Allowing time and margin in my life so that I ooze peace and rest, love and justice, kindness and grace is so important. ‘Being kingdom values’ is what I call it and it all contributes to the atmosphere we create around us and in our home.
Candle lighting, especially the tradition of the 5 advent candles, decorations, and music all help create an atmosphere. This year Princess has compiled a Christmas song playlist which we are listening to in the car. Music has the ability to also bring back memories. Singing Christmas carols helps as well.
- Carols by Candlelight
Being able to take part in a Carols by Candlelight service (or watching the Christmas Eve Carols by Candlelight on television) is a family tradition. This calms us down and helps us focus on Christmas.
- Generosity towards others / acts of kindness
Every year we love going to Target and getting a gift tag off the tree for a certain aged child and then buying presents for that child and placing under the tree. This has evolved over the years so that the kids can now think about what that person would love and keep the focus off themselves. We also take part in buying grocery items for families struggling financially. One year we had the beautiful opportunity to deliver a hamper to a family. We were so ‘blessed’. This family were so amazing in their response and it was an amazing time for my kids to witness.
Several weeks ago I blogged about our Acts of Kindness Advent Calendar. Matey loves buying the items and making up the package to send to a member of the Defence Force serving overseas. This year he did the whole thing himself, including buying the box and addressing it. It was fascinating to watch him selecting items in the supermarket. The brand of deodorant was the brand he uses. The lollies were his favourites. He even initiated a discussion with me on what he would like in his box when he serves overseas one day in the Defence Force.
There is a site (http://blog.jamesandjuliepaquette.com/family-nights/shepherds-pouch/ where the mum rewards the kids with coins whenever she sees them doing an act of service in the lead up to Christmas. She places the money in a shepherds pouch and on Christmas morning they empty the pouches, count the money and then look through the gift catalogues for TEAR, Gospel for Asia’s poor, World Vision etc and decide how they will spend the money and send it overseas. This is their present to Jesus on His birthday.
- Books we read
Selecting great Christmas books that have Christ centred values also helps us focus on Jesus at this time. I listed some great books on my blog Favourite Christmas Books several weeks ago.
- Movies we watch
What we visually take in is so important and this is why movies can greatly impact us. Now that the children are older, they love watching a variety of Christmas movies and we are enjoying viewing them as a family. I listed a number of great Christmas movies for the Family that highlight Christian values last week on my blog.
- Things we cook / bake.
My children love cooking and we spend time each year cooking up biscuits and cakes as presents for neighbours and extended family. Princess has been baking gingerbread this year using the Christmas shaped cookie cutters. Matey also loves cooking and in past years has made shortbread biscuits in the shape of the nativity pieces and decorated each piece with icing and sprinkles. Yesterday we spent the afternoon making and decorating gingerbread houses – not Christmas themed but spending time with friends, playing Christmas music, chatting about Christmas plans all contribute to the real themes and values of Christmas being expressed.
- Things we play with
If you have younger children, put away the normal toys and bring out Christ centred toys. Print off nativity colouring sheets. Make items to remind you of Jesus. Have a Christmas sensory box with items that emphasise Jesus and the nativity play.
- Birthday cake
When the kids were young, we began the tradition of making a birthday cake for Jesus on Christmas day (or the day before) to celebrate His birthday and keep the focus on Jesus. We love going to church Christmas morning as well, giving Him that time before the rush and noise of Christmas lunch.
- Presents we buy/make
Every year I like to buy the kids a prophetic tree ornament present – something that they can keep that reminds them of their calling or how God sees them. Something that speaks into their identity.
Another fantastic idea is to have a big jar or container and every day each family member writes down one thing they are thankful for and places that piece of paper in the container. On Christmas Eve, the family sit down together and open the container and read out the things people have been thankful for. I love activities like this as it takes the focus off presents and receiving stuff ourselves.
- Christmas lights
Every Christmas we take a drive around the local area and spot houses decked out in lights. We enjoy spotting lit up houses on the evenings we are returning home from being out after dark. It creates a special atmosphere. We have also made up special cards to place in letterboxes of people who have lit up nativity scenes and the card expresses our thanks to them for highlighting Jesus in this season.
- Limit Screen time
Limiting screen time has an amazing ability to free up our thoughts, and the information entering our mind. It frees up our senses, especially sight and hearing, to receive fresh stimuli that is not crowded and fast paced. We find that when we limit screen time in our household, everyone is more creative, kinder to each other, more patient, and we all tend to sleep better. Give it a go and see.
I encourage you to spend a bit of time before the Christmas season to think about ways that you can creatively explore and enjoy the true meaning of Christmas with your children. I would love to hear from you what traditions you have that makes this time special for your family and helps keep the focus on Jesus Christ.