We all want to have a joyous time with our families at Christmas. There is something really special about being surrounded by loved ones during the holidays. And children need these special times to feel a part of a group. The Christmas season is a great opportunity to give your children a sense of belonging.
Unfortunately, Christmas has been overtaken by commercialism and worldly traditions that have nothing to do with the true reason for the season. It’s interesting that you can watch movies made for the Christmas season that try to show a message of how materialism is not what is important… but many times they still miss the point. They still do not make it about Christ and His birth.
Today we will talk about different ways to be sure we are helping our children focus on the real reason for the season and how to use these kinds of special occasions to boost their feeling of family and their desire to keep those family connections strong.
So let’s start with some things that would be beneficial to teach our children about Christmas.
Teach your children that Christmas is a celebration of Christ’s birth. It’s about His most wonderful gift to us! Because He came into the world, we all have the opportunity to attain everlasting life with God! How miraculous! But, we need to also realize there are many traditions that can take our children away from this message. Christmas is not about Santa Claus, reindeer, nutcrackers or sugarplum fairies. These may be fun things that are traditions in our culture, and that is fine if they are in their place. But they are not what Christmas is actually about. If you are a Christian mom, this is an opportunity to teach truth to your children while having a fun and joyous holiday season! Santa?
If we want them to believe us about things they cannot see, we need to be honest with them about what is real and what is not. Recently I saw a video on the internet where there was a Santa and sleigh that looked so real and was actually in the air above the heads of a crowd. The caption said, “Show this to your children!” When you turn on the news on Christmas Eve, the weather person is tracking where Santa supposedly is on his trip around the world. How sad is that? The whole culture is prompting parents to lie to their children and supports finding ways to deceive them.
There is no need to do this. We can have fun with the Santa character, and in fact, can tell about the true story of St. Nicholas and how he was a generous person who was orphaned as a child, a Devout Christian and who gave gifts to needy people. Why not tell our children the truth? There is nothing sad about it and it would be a source of inspiration to do good things with real people rather than to lie to them about a fictional character. If you have not yet read the blog post entitled “Trust: Building a Relationship with Your Child” please do. The relationship of trust we build with our children permeates every other part of our parenting.
For a brief review… in order for our children to know they can always believe what we say, they need to know we would never lie to them. It is a matter of judgment as to how and if you decide to incorporate Santa Claus into your family holiday.
Some leave the character completely out of the picture and others choose to play with him as a fun way to spruce up the Christmas season. But, no matter what you do, it is not right to lie to your children about this or any other fantasy character. Tell them the truth, and if you decide to incorporate Santa Claus, a sleigh and reindeer, be sure that it is clear that this is for fun, and it is not real.
Truth of Christ’s Birth
Another way to help your children know the truth of Christmas is to know the things that have become traditions about Christ’s birth… and even things Christians believe… that are actually not true. This is a fantastic way to show your children how even those who read and know the scriptures can be mistaken! Here are some facts that your children may hear about the Christmas story that are not true…. And that can be fun for your children to find and recognize when they hear the story from other sources.
Use this knowledge as a game to talk about with your children during the holidays, but be sure they realize these facts are not always appropriate to share in all circumstances. Sometimes we should just enjoy the celebrations of others and not mention the mistakes. But… it’s still fun to know!
Did Mary ride on a donkey? – There is no indication there was a donkey involved at all in the trek from Nazareth to Bethlehem.
Were Mary & Joseph turned away by an innkeeper? - Bethlehem was a very small town and did not likely have “motels” or innkeepers.
Was Jesus born the same night they arrived in Bethlehem? – The Bible only says that while they were in Bethlehem, “the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.” It does not say she was delivered the same night. It could have been days or weeks later.
Was Jesus born in a stable? – When studying how households were set up in the small villages like Bethlehem at the time, it is likely that Mary & Joseph actually stayed with relatives and were not able to stay in the main part of the house, but were put in the back of the home. (Not in the “inn” – a room in a home designated for guests.) This could have even been a kitchen area. The animals were usually behind the house and it was likely a manger was provided because it was in a convenient place near where they were staying.
Was Christ born in December? – It is likely because of the shepherds in the fields, when the Roman census was taken, and other indications from the biblical account that Christ was born sometime in the spring or even in the fall… but not in the winter.
Did the shepherds follow a star? – The Bible says a star appeared to the wise men that caused them to seek the Christ child. There is no indication that the shepherds saw a star at all. Only that they saw angels and were told to go to worship the child.
Were the wise men kings? – There is no indication that the men who came were kings. They were likely advisors to royalty. Were there three wise men? – the Bible doesn’t say how many wise men there were. We only know there was more than one. There were three gifts mentioned and this is why it is suggested there were three.
Were the wise men on camels? – the Bible doesn’t indicate what country these men came from, how many there were, or what method of travel they used.
The wise men didn’t visit the manger. – The wise men actually didn’t go to the manger at all. It is estimated they didn’t arrive until about 2 years after Christ’s birth. It says they visited the “house” that was likely not in Bethlehem since that is not where Mary & Joseph lived at the time.
Many of these things may seem shocking! After all, we have all been taught these “facts” from our own childhood and see them every year in nativity scenes! But does any of it really matter? No. It doesn’t.
So why bring it up? Because it can be a lesson to show your children that when they are learning things about history and about scripture, that many times people read things into the texts that are not there. And, it is also important to study out what things really mean in order to have a true picture of history and of God’s word. Just because the story we are so used to hearing is likely not accurate, the truth that Christ was born and His life here on earth is still what’s important. The details may not matter, but the reason for his entry into the world does.
Don’t Be a Downer
Yes, we need to be sure our children recognize the truth of what Christmas is all about. But it is not helpful to be all about “no”. No presents, no worldly Christmas music, no tree, no lights, no decorations… basically… no fun. In my view, it is fine to enjoy the cultural traditions that are a part of just about everyone’s holiday. And, it is fine to decide which of these traditions you will or will not incorporate into your own home. But don’t constantly put down others who choose differently. There is no need to do this if you are uplifting the truth about the good things happening during the Christmas season.
The point is that you make sure your child understands the truth, recognizes the celebration’s purpose, and is constantly reminded of Christ and His birth. Do not allow your children to become lost in the worldly culture, but at the same time, don’t be the downer that will cause your children to want to flee from the “Christian prison” at your house. Let them feel free to enjoy celebrations with friends and at school. Help them be the witness about the truth when appropriate while participating with others.
Help Children See Christ in Christmas
There is no way to completely shield our children from the worldly influences at Christmas time… and there is no need to do so. Instead, find things that point to Christ and help your children think of Him when they see those seasonal icons.
Santa Claus – teach them about the true St. Nicholas and ask them questions about him when they talk about the fictional character.
Candy Canes – Teach them about the “Legend of the Candy Cane” and how every part of the candy is a reminder of Christ.
Red – blood He shed
White – His purity
Shape – shepherd’s staff or “J” for Jesus
Stripes – the punishment for sin He took on Himself for us
Three fine stripes – Holy Trinity
Christmas Tree – Help them to see Christ in the tree so when they decorate it or see it they think of Him.
Evergreen – Everlasting Life
Star or Angel on top – Stars and Angels in the sky
Lights – He is the light of the world
Gifts – His gift of eternal life and our gift to share with others
Bells – Tell your children bells have long symbolized celebrations and also call people to gather to church for worship. Help them think about Christ when they hear bells or see them as decorations.
Doves – We often see doves as decorations at Christmas. Teach your children that doves symbolize peace and that Christ’s goal is peace on earth.
Holly - The sharpness of the leaves can remind us of the crown of thorns worn by Jesus; the red berries of the drops of blood that were shed for salvation. The holly plant maintains its bright colors during the Christmas season which can help children remember to keep a happy spirit and a bright countenance even when things seems grim.
Poinsettas - They bloom during the Christmas season, and their star-shaped leaves call to mind both the star of Bethlehem and Christ himself who is called the “bright morning star.”
Wreaths - Their circular shape has no beginning or end and can serve as a reminder of the “Eternal God” and the life without end offered to “whoever believes in the Son.” Since wreaths are made of evergreens (trees that survived the “death” of winter), they can symbolize both the immortality of God and the souls of men. Lastly, the light of a wreath could represent Jesus, who said, “I am the light of the world.”
Candles - Jesus is the light of the world.
Take time to point out all these things to help your children constantly think about Christ and His sacrifice for us through His birth, life, death and resurrection so that they will completely associate Christmas with Him.
Make Things Simple
Though Christmas is a time most of us look forward to, it is also a time when we feel pressured as moms. Pressured to buy expensive gifts, bake delectable meals, prepare exciting activities, and elaborately decorate our homes. We feel the stress of wanting to make these special days beautiful memories for our children. As a mother of children still living at home, this can add to the already full schedule of daily tasks we do just to keep our families running smoothly. The added responsibilities can sometimes feel overwhelming.
Let’s discuss some practical ways moms can navigate through the holidays without being overwhelmed and still enjoy the season with a decorated home, yummy meals, great gifts and memory making activities. All of these things are important to making the holidays meaningful for our families, but we don’t need to be overwhelmed.
Gifts - if you read the article entitled "How to Raise Grateful Children", you probably already know why it is a good idea to limit the amount of gifts your children receive during special occasions like Christmas. But think about how much easier it makes your life! You prepare one gift for each child. Done. If you just can't keep yourself from going further, think about doing a little stocking stuffed with small token gifts on a separate day. For instance, Christmas Eve open something and Christmas Day open something. This spreads out the cheer and makes the excitement of gift giving and receiving last for a little bit longer with no additional effort.
Save all gift bags! These are fast and easy ways to make gifts look great without all the hassle of wrapping. Do at least half or more of your preparations with gift bags rather than paper.
You can also let your children help wrap presents with gift bags! They can choose the bag and the tissue paper. Or, get the really inexpensive ones at the dollar store and let your children color on them. Put some cookies or other treats in them for the neighbors and let your children deliver the gifts! Meals - Have you ever watched the old TV show "Everybody Loves Raymond"? There is a mother/grandmother on that show that brags about making everything from scratch and makes digging comments about how her daughter-in-law doesn't. Don't worry about all that! Make your meal preparation easy by using as much pre-done food items as you feel comfortable. Buy the bulk cookie dough at Sams club and put them in the oven without all the fuss! The children will love to spoon the dough onto the cookie sheet and this will eliminate the flour and sugar all over the kitchen! Buy pre-rolled pie dough and fancy it up with egg whites and sugar. You can use them for quick turnovers with canned pie filling or to top a pot pie with the leftover turkey. Don't do all the cooking! Always do potluck for holiday meals. Choose your two best foods and cook those. Have everybody else bring everything else... including the paper plates!
Use Disposables - Use throw away table coverings, paper plates and plastic ware - clean up takes seconds and gives you more time to spend with family. Children can also clean up easily when all there is to do is put everything in the trash! Line cookie sheets and baking pans with foil - makes clean up quick!
Think ahead - Have treats on hand in the freezer. Purchase an extra bundt cake or other freezable sweets every time you go shopping and store it so when you are in a hurry and guests are coming, dessert is taken care of. Frozen yeast rolls are wonderful. They take care of the bread for a meal and take no effort. Children can also line them up on the baking sheet to be put in the oven.
Keep bulk bouillon on hand. You can make soups with leftovers in minutes.
Use snacks as a meal. Cut up veggies ahead and have them in ziploc bags. Fruits, veggies with dip, cheeses and crackers already in the fridge can make a meal with no prep from you when you are feeling exhausted. (Cereal and fruit is another great dinner when you are in a hurry!)
Decorating - I am one that really works a lot do make our home look great for the Christmas season. It was so much work, I had to make myself cut down on some of it! But, I still do have a few ideas to make it easier.
Pillows change the look of a room quickly. Get a few for each season for a festive change to any room. Same with entry rugs. Just changing up the entry rugs takes a few seconds but makes a lot of difference.
No matter how messy a house looks... candles will make it look better. Put as many candles around as you can -- high enough where children can't accidentally tip them over.
If you change only 5 things in a room for each season, your home will look ready for the holiday! Limit your work to this if you are feeling exhausted and think of 5 things to change in your living room and other frequently trafficked rooms. (Pillows, candles and rugs are already three!) Just a festive holiday soap dispenser in the bathroom is enough to bring the cheer into the privy. Takes seconds and changes the look of the bathroom instantly!
Activities - Relax and don't worry about preparing things to do. While your children are small, take advantage of all the preparations others make and take them to enjoy the festivities. There are a lot of free things to do around the KC area that take no preparation by you! I suggest you try to take your whole family to see "Journey to Judea" in Overland Park. It is a wonderful experience, costs nothing, and focuses on Christ in Christmas. Your children will love it, you will too and all will learn more about and be reminded of the miracle of His birth.
Every year, Independence Square has a living windows event. This year it was Dec 1, but look for it next year and take your children!
Drive thru light displays are another fun activity for the whole family. Pleasant Valley Baptist Church in Liberty has a light display show that starts every 15 minutes next weekend. It is all about the gospel and is choreographed with music that you can tune in on your car radio. If you don't live in the Kansas City area, most cities have numerous free events and family friendly activities. Check them out and take advantage of the fun! Make Family Traditions
Each time you create a memory during the holiday that can be repeated, it can become a tradition. Some say traditions are bad because they cause people to see things as sacred when they are not. But I say, traditions can be a key to a family bond that can last a lifetime for you and your children. Make them good, fun, easy and something everyone looks forward to each year. Suggestions: Make a family tradition of giving to neighbors. Have your children help prepare gift bags with treats to deliver and add a card that tells of the gospel of Christ. Let your children be as much a part of this as possible. (It's a good time to try out those social skills we learned about in previous sessions. Practice shaking hands, looking in the eye, and speaking clearly. Talk to them about specific things to say when the neighbor opens the door and let them practice on you.)
Make the drive thru light displays a yearly event that your family shares. Always go to someone's home afterward for cookies and hot chocolate.
Have a special menu item that is only made at Christmas. (Ours is Dad's homemade clam chowder every Christmas eve!) Make a "night before Christmas box" that has a DVD movie, popcorn or treat, new pajamas and special hot chocolate packs that your children open and enjoy on Christmas Eve!
Do some kind of service or activity that you all enjoy every Christmas. Some like to go see a movie on Christmas afternoon. (Our family always sings at a place where people have to work on Christmas Day - we go to the Mormon Visitor's Center. They are open on Christmas Day!) Have an advent calendar that has a gift of service in it for your children to do to show they love their sibling, parent or grandparent... or even someone at church or a neighbor. For instance: give mommy a kiss on the cheek. or make the bed for someone else in the house or draw a picture for a neighbor. Each day for the month before Christmas, your children go to the calendar and find the special thing they can do to show Christ's love to others. (Have a treat that they can get after they have done the act of service just to make it exciting!)
Put a little toy, treat or gift in their shoe or slipper every year when they don't expect it.
Have a cup, plate, pillow case, sheet set or other item that they only use during the month of December every year!
Be sure to find those things that your children will look back on and want to repeat in their own homes with their own children. These traditions can have a lasting effect and create a bond of belonging that will help you continue to be a positive influence on your children as they get older.
Whatever you do, remember one of the mottos at Mentor4Moms. "Don't struggle." If you are struggling, that only means something needs to change. Make your holiday something that is enjoyable, and holiday stress is not enjoyable. Make things as simple as possible and don't overwhelm yourself with tasks.