During the holiday season, it’s so very easy to get caught up in the pretty packages, Christmas movies, hot cocoa, and the endless lists filled with names of all the people dear to us that it’s easy to forget what we are celebrating. While these things are wonderful, if we don’t stop, and reflect on the true meaning of Christmas, we are missing the WHOLE point. If WE are missing the point, you can bet our kids surely are.
During this time of year, stores constantly target our children with huge toy catalogs and commercials showing off the newest and coolest gadgets. They’re telling our kids that they need more and more and more. The message being conveyed is that the Christmas list to Santa should be filled with everything their heart desires, to the point where the gifts are “expected”.
The world has taken the message of love out of the season and replaced it with sale signs. This just isn’t what Christmas is about…like, at all. My husband and I became increasingly aware that the message of Christmas was being lost on our kids through the size of their Christmas lists. We saw a need for change.
We wanted a simple, easy way to explain it to them. Our journey actually led to us writing a children’s book called, “Little Catholic Clubhouse & the True Meaning of Christmas”. We found a new way to explain what Christmas is about so that our little one’s can understand it. We felt called to redirect the attention back to the Birth of Christ, and I invite parents all over to do the same. While stores and people are doing everything to take the Christ out of Christmas, it is our job as parents, to make sure that Jesus and His message stay front and center in the Christmas season. It’s our God-given duty to teach our kids exactly what we are celebrating every year and why.
Here are 4 easy ways to make sure Jesus stays the most important part of the CHRISTmas Season:
1) Read the Story of the Nativity and Go See it Live
The best way to teach the kids about the importance of Christmas is to share the story of where it all started. There are many books available on the Nativity, so find one that you love and start reading. While telling the story of Mary and Joseph looking for a room in the Inn, try to relate it to your family as much as you can. Ask your children questions like, “Could you imagine if we needed a place to stay and all the hotels and houses were full? What do you think it would be like to sleep in a “barn” or place with a bunch of animals? What do you think Mary thought about having to put Baby Jesus in a manger instead of a crib?” Try to engage and bring your child into the story and attach their feelings to it. The more questions the better because this makes it real to them.
After reading the Nativity Story, look around your town for one of the many Live Nativity displays that are available during the Christmas Season. Bringing your child to see this can be truly eye-opening for them, especially after just reading the story. It will give them the experience of “being” there to witness Baby Jesus in the manger, to see Mary and Joseph surrounded by shepherds, angels and animals and the visit from the Wisemen. By pairing the reading and the live version, you are taking the words of the Nativity Story off the page and bringing them to life. It also makes the reason for the season “touchable”. When you tell them that Christmas is about celebrating the Birth of Our Savior, they will remember the story and how special it is because you’ve wrapped it up in a nice little concrete memory.
2) If You Bake it, They Will Come
We all know that an easy way to get kids involved in any activity is…cake. I mean who doesn’t jump to attention when that savory dish is mentioned. Since we are celebrating Jesus’ Birthday, it only makes sense that we should bake a cake to celebrate. The simple tradition of making Jesus a special treat and singing “Happy Birthday” to Him, brings the focus back to why the day is special and what we are celebrating. While presents are nice to give and receive, the reason we do it needs to be remembered and celebrated. Simple…fun…easy and delicious.
3) Let Them “Rush Home with Their Treasures”
One of the BEST parts of Christmas is following the gift-giving tradition the Wise Men gave us. They brought Jesus their three presents to show that He was treasured and special to them. That He was a King and would do something great. We’ve adopted this idea and now during the Christmas season we give gifts to the people in our life that are special to us. I love this tradition and I don’t know about you, but I am ALWAYS more excited to give presents. I am not the kind of person that will go into a store and pick an item closest to the door. I am a hunter, a thinker and on Christmas morning I am as giddy as a child. Every present I’ve picked, while it may not be perfect, is being given from the deepest part of my heart. I’ve put thought into every one of my gifts, with each particular person in mind, because those people are special to me.
We can’t expect our children to get their minds off their Christmas lists and onto others if they aren’t given a chance to. It is so very important that they partake in the giving aspect of it. Whether you let them make a gift, take them to the dollar store, let them buy one at a school “Christmas Pop-Up Shop” or they spend their own money, they need to be allowed to give to those that they love. Tell them that the gift does not need to be perfect, but it does need to come from the heart. Teach them to think about who they are crafting/buying for and to pick something that would be special to that person. By doing this, your teaching your child to think of others and this is a gift that will keep on giving. You’re also giving yourself a gift. Watching the face of your child, giving someone a gift from their heart is absolutely priceless and EXACTLY what Christmas is about.
4) Not All Gifts Can Be Bought
There are gifts that can be paid for, wrapped up nicely and put under a tree, but these are not always the most important. The gift of charity, friendship, kindness and a good example go further than anything we can purchase in a store and these are the ones that we need to make sure get passed on to our children. While giving presents to our friends and family is fun, we need to remember that God gave us the biggest and best gift of all…Jesus. The whole reason for this season is to celebrate the birth of Jesus because He is so special. Jesus taught us to love our neighbor as ourselves and to take care of those in need. During this special season, make sure you and your family get involved with those that have less. Teach your child that there are people out there who are hurting and that are lonely. That your one simple gift or act of kindness, might be the only one that a person receives all year and it truly can make a difference. There are so many in need and so many ways to help. Here are a few ideas: Include a lonely neighbor or friend in your holiday plans, adopt a child or family in need from an Angel Tree in your parish, donate food to feed hungry families and others in your community, or help collect clothes for the needy. Christmas is the perfect season to love BIG and to celebrate Jesus. He taught us to love and love and then love some more. God put us here to help one another and I can’t think of a more perfect way of celebrating Him then by teaching our children to do just that.
This Christmas, teach your children that Jesus is the most important guest of honor. The reason for all of it. That the parties, the presents, the family time, the food…it’s all for Him. He has always been the reason for the season and always will be. The world can try to take Him out of our commercials, catalogs and coffee cups but they will never be able to take Him out of our hearts.
Jesus gave us everything and because of Him, we celebrate! I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas!
p.s – Check out this great infographic with essential bedtime tips for Christmas Eve!
More about the True Meaning of Christmas
Come along and join the Little Catholics, as they set out to find the True Meaning of Christmas. When Pete receives a gift from his grandmother, his reaction is not what his mother would want it to be. Being told he does not understand the “true meaning of Christmas,” Pete uses the power of the clubhouse team to search for answers. Under the guidance of Father Q, Pete and the other Little Catholics travel back in time to the Nativity to find the truth and discover what Christmas is really about.