I have loved Christmas as long as I can remember. The magic, the lights, the music, the sweaters and of course, the presents. I know that gifts are a HUGE part of the holiday and children naturally get super excited about it. While I love this part of Christmas, now that my oldest is five, it is really important to me that he remembers what Christmas is all about. The birth of our Savior, giving back to those in need, practicing gratefulness. There are a few things we’re doing to reiterate to our kids the true meaning of the holiday.
Talk about Jesus’ birthday
Kids love birthdays, birthday parties, cake and all that comes with the milestone. I continually talk about Jesus’ birthday and read books like Veggie Tales Away in a Manger or The Birth of Jesus. When I first joined my husband’s family for Christmas, a cake was brought out with candles and everyone began singing ‘Happy Birthday.’ I exclaimed, “Oooh, who’s birthday is it?!” All eyes on me, my husband whispered, “Angelina, it’s Jesus’ birthday.” Wow, I felt dense. It was a tradition his aunt had started in their family and later became a long running joke to tell me ‘Happy Birthday, Jesus’ every Christmas. But now I am continuing this tradition with my kids, because it’s a great reminder of who we are really celebrating.
Tell them the story of St. Nick
So many children get excited for and believe in the magic of Santa Claus, but we often forget why the tale came to be. St Nicholas was a historic 4th century saint and Greek bishop, attributed to many miracles throughout his life. He had a reputation for secret gift giving, putting coins in shoes for children who left them out for him. He is revered by many religions and I love to tell my children why Santa really came to be. I also like to read about how different countries celebrate Christmas and Saint Nick, which my son found really interesting. I’m obviously a Veggie Tales fan, so we like to watch St. Nicholas: A story of joyful giving. It’s a wonderful way for younger children to understand the concept and history. My friend recently shared the idea of giving three gifts from Santa, reiterating the three gifts Jesus received from the wise men. It reminds them of the story while also keeping the gift overload in check.
Involve them in giving back
This year, all the New Orleans Moms Blog contributors adopted some local families through St. Tammany Project Christmas. Most of us chose children who were the same gender and age as our own and involved our kids in selecting gifts for them. I’ve also done Operation Christmas Child, where you fill a shoebox for a child in need. You can pick the gender and age as well to ensure your children are more interested in selecting the items. While my oldest is only 5 1/2 he understands the concept we are blessed and some children do not have the things we do. I encourage him to donate old toys before the holidays as well.
Have an Advent calendar
Not only are Advent calendars a fun way to countdown to Christmas Day, it also provides an opportunity to talk about how it came about. Advent means “coming” in Latin, preparing Christians for the coming of Jesus. Since we discuss Advent in church each week, continuing the discussion at home helps reinforce that Jesus is the reason for the season. My boys love this Melissa and Doug one.
Have them participate in gift giving to family and friends
It’s easy for kids to get wrapped up in the idea of all the presents. It’s EVERYWHERE. My cousin’s kids recently asked for a Chevy Equinox because the commercial kept coming on during their favorite show. My son wants every lego imaginable, which somehow has skyrocketed in price since I was a kid. As I select gifts for family and friends, I show my children and even ask their opinion on the selection. I share my excitement in wanting to give a gift and make someone happy. It all goes back to St. Nick and the spirit of blessing others with joy. I believe if my children find happiness in gifting to others, it will remind them of the kindness of Jesus they should celebrate year round.