10 Ways to Put Christ into Christmas
During Advent and at Christmas, our kids focus on Santa Claus and jingling bells. Erin Carelse suggests ten ways of turning their focus to Christ.
The speakers in the malls are piping jingle bell songs, trolleys are filled to the brim with delicious foods for Christmas celebrations, and the magazines and media are enticing you with must-have items to buy as gifts.
This is all part of what makes the build-up to Christmas exciting. But are we doing enough to teach our children the importance of having Christ in Christmas?
For parents, it can be difficult to find the right balance when it comes to the seasons of Advent and Christmas.
As a child, what I looked forward to most on Christmas was the traditions. Family traditions connect us to the ones we love in a special way.
Some of my favourites were placing the crackers on the table when setting up for lunch, wearing those silly, colourful Christmas hats that we would find inside them, and of course, decorating the Christmas tree.
But this year, I want to start some new traditions with my family, especially my children, that are still fun, but faith-based.
Our children—and adults—need to know that emphasising the element of Christ doesn’t mean it has to be boring.
Here are some ways to create your own Christmas traditions:
Get back to the source!
One of the simplest things we can do to put the true meaning of Christmas at the centre of all our activities is to read and reflect on the Christmas narrative in the Bible, which we find in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.
Reading together as a family is a great way of opening up discussions or answering any questions your children might have.
Read Christmas stories
Read a different Christmas story each year and build up a collection of books.
Be sure that the Christmas story reflects the Christian spirit. Here we want the focus on Christ, even if only indirectly, rather than snowmen and reindeer.
For older children and adults, you will find several Christmas stories on the website of The Southern Cross.
Depending on the age of your children, they could take turns to read it, or read it together. But be sure to capture your child’s imagination in the way that you deliver the narrative.
The story and its delivery should inspire a sense of wonder that appeals to your children.
Decorate with Christ
Many of us decorate our homes to make it more festive, but it may not always be easy to find Christ-centred decorations.
So use this opportunity as a family to spend some quality time together and do some bonding by being creative and making Christ-centred decorations yourselves.
They don’t have to be elaborate. It can be a simple bible verse, or saying such as, “Glory to the newborn king”, or “O come let us adore him”.
They can be handpainted or designed on a computer and printed.
Other fun crafts are handmade ornaments to hang on the Christmas tree of Christian imagery. Think of cutouts of angels, the Star of Bethlehem, Nativity scenes and so on.
Let the children help decorate the Christmas tree and use this as a time to explain the meaning of these symbols.
Birthday party for Jesus
Before having everyone over for Christmas lunch, or making your way out for the day as a family, why not throw a little birthday party for Jesus on Christmas Day?
This is a perfect way to get young children excited and help them remember the real reason behind it all.
You can sing “Happy Birthday” and have a cake to celebrate this special day.
Make time for devotions
Set aside some time on Christmas Eve to sit and do simple devotions with your children.
Gather together as a family and read a few Bible verses and discuss as a family the meaning of Christmas.
Ask questions like: “Why do we celebrate Christmas?” or “Why was Jesus born?”
Finish with prayers for Christmas intentions and thanksgiving.
Make a Nativity scene
A Christian home can’t have enough Nativity scenes. You might have one already, displayed prominently.
But children are endlessly inventive. Let them put together their own Nativity scene, using things around the house. A shoebox can be a great starting point.
And to build a Nativity scene, they need to know the Nativity story!
Carols and Nativity plays
Often when it comes to Nativity scenes, children are used to seeing figurines in a manger and often miss the message in the story.
There’s something about seeing real people acting out the Christmas story that makes it come alive for them, so it’s a great idea to see a live Nativity play.
It is also good to attend a carols service.
At home, study the lyrics of carols with children: what do these hymns tell us, and what do we learn from them?
Treats with Christ
While preparing those delicious four-course meals for Christmas lunch, why not try to incorporate some Christ-centred treats or snacks.
These can be cupcakes bearing the word “Christ” or “Saviour”, or biscuits in the shape of angels or stars.
Give religious gifts
Gift-giving is a common tradition during Christmas, so use this opportunity to share the faith through presents.
For younger family members, colouring books based on Bible stories are a fun way to help encourage them to read the Bible.
For family and friends, consider giving Catholic devotional books to help them grow in their spiritual journey.
Or buy Church Chuckles: The Big Book of Catholic Jokes, for family members and friends who enjoy a good laugh.
Share your blessings
Our children need to realise that there is so much more to Christmas than the presents.
A simple way of introducing sharing is by explaining that this year for every gift your kids receive, they should give something away to a child in need.
This could be a book or toy that is still in a good condition. They could also choose to take, say, R50 from their pocket money and buy something small from a shop to be given to a less fortunate child.
The most important thing is to lead by example and to do it together. Remember to talk to your children about why you’re doing both, before and after Christmas Day.
It’s important that we—as parents and grandparents, and as uncles and aunts—teach our children values which may be our legacy to them.
Through these values, and by putting Jesus at the centre of everything we do, may our children experience a deep understanding of the true meaning of Christmas.
Erin Carelse is news editor and a mother of three.