The moment we open our eyes the day after Thanksgiving (and oftentimes even before), we are inundated with reindeer, gingerbread, gifts, elves, and Santa. Though these things are not inherently bad, if we do not keep our Christmas season properly ordered, it is all too easy to make the focus of Christmas about these worldly things rather than the birth of our Lord. This can be especially challenging when we have children. As parents, we are all determined to raise our children knowing and loving Jesus while simply knowing the world but one of the most liturgically significant times of the year all too often becomes a blur of worldly images and a din of worldly noise and we find that the Christmas season has passed before we’ve had a chance to help our children learn to embrace Jesus at this most special time of the year. Helping our children learn to celebrate Christmas in a way that is ordered toward God should be one of our greatest priorities as Catholic parents this time of the year. And believe it or not, this is not only doable, but dare I say…even simple?
4 Tips For Embracing Jesus As A Family This Christmas:
- Observe Advent – observing advent is one of the simplest and most effective ways to keep the focus of the Christmas season on Jesus. Taking the time to prepare our hearts and the hearts of our children for the birth of Jesus before jumping right into the celebrating can make Christmas one of the most profound days of the year for us as Catholics. It can also lead to our children greeting Christmas morning with the wonder and awe that is due to the day. And surprisingly, observing advent does not have to be a laborious thing for your family and can even be fun! There are so many fun traditions out there from amazing Catholic families that it can be pretty easy to find a way to observe advent that will work for your family.
- Incorporate Jesus – you don’t have to reinvent the wheel in order to teach your children the importance of keeping the focus of the Christmas season on Jesus. Most families already have some wonderful traditions that they enjoy during the advent and Christmas seasons. So don’t worry about adding in new traditions, just find easy ways to incorporate Jesus into the traditions you already have. Does your family read a bedtime story each night? Add some Christmas stories and a book about a saint or two into the lineup. Does your family decorate gingerbread houses every year? Talk about Mary and Joseph being turned away from the inns as you decorate them and brainstorm ways you can make your hearts welcoming for them now. Does your family enjoy driving around looking at Christmas lights each year? Talk about God’s light and how it shines brighter and more beautiful than any of the twinkling lights they see out of their windows. Don’t overthink it and keep it simple.
- Don’t stop too soon! – the modern cultural way to celebrate Christmas is to begin the day after Thanksgiving and end the day after Christmas. But when you end the celebration the day after Christmas, you don’t give your kids time to really revel in the glory of God the Son being born! His birth is a big deal and should be celebrated for more than one day. Christmas is not a single day – it is an entire season so there is no reason the celebration should be limited to just one day! Delaying the celebrating during advent and then shifting the celebration until after Christmas in this way, teaches our children that God is worth waiting for and that His birth is certainly something to celebrate.
- Don’t overthink it and keep it simple! – family life is busy and hectic and oftentimes overwhelming. It can be panic inducing to simply think about adding more to our plates as parents, especially at a time of the year as busy as Christmas. The truth is that there is no “right” way to do this so don’t get too caught up in the details. All families are different so do what works for your family. It is far more important that we as parents share Jesus with our children than that we stress about how to do it.
Check out a list of ways to accomplish this during Advent:
- Use an advent wreath
- Read an advent devotional together as a family
- Use an advent calendar
- Exchange your Elf of the Shelf for an Advent Angel or Mary On The Mantle
- Try out the Jesse Tree
- Read a Christmas/saint/spiritual book every night
- Pray the St. Andrew Christmas Novena together
- Hold off on singing Christmas carols until after Christmas day
- Choose a charity to give to during advent
- Go to confession as a family
- Leave shoes out on the eve of St. Nicholas feast day
- Read through the gospel of Luke leading up to Christmas
- Teach your children to sacrifice for others by trying the empty manger tradition
- Attend Christmas Mass!
- Begin Christmas day by ringing bells and wishing Jesus a “happy birthday!”
- Bake a special birthday cake for Jesus
- Move wise men around the house as they look for baby Jesus until Epiphany
Consider celebrating these Advent and Christmas season Feast days:
- St. Andrew – November 30th
- St. Nicholas – December 6th
- Feast of the Immaculate Conception (don’t forget this is a holy day of obligation!) – December 8th
- St. Juan Diego – December 9th
- Our Lady of Guadalupe – December 12th
- St. Lucy – December 17th
- Christmas Day (also a holy day of obligation!) – December 25th
- Feast of St. Stephen – December 26th
- Feast of St. John – December 27th
- Feast of the Holy Innocents – December 28th
- Feast of the Holy Family – the Sunday after Christmas
- Solemnity of Mary (another holy day of obligation!) – January 1st
- Solemnity of Epiphany – January 6th
- Baptism of the Lord – the Sunday after the Epiphany
This is only a short list of traditions, so if nothing here strikes you as something you’d like to try this year, there are so many wonderful resources for Catholic families who are looking for ways to celebrate. Here are just a few to get you started: