In Brian's article Preparing Spiritually for Christmas, he shared a few things we practice during Advent to prepare our hearts for the coming of the Christ Child. I'd also like to share a few things that my own family has done and which Brian and I are now incorporating into our family life.
Have a Birthday Party
Being Jesus' birthday, it is only natural that it is celebrated as such with Christ being the guest of honor, rather than Santa. On Christmas morning we would all gather around the table that holds the empty manger. We would place a large white candle in the center of the advent wreathe and light it. Then Mom or Dad (or an honored sibling) would place the child Jesus in his manger and we'd all sing Happy Birthday. Then the festivities would begin, which included a birthday cake decorated by the kids, of course.
Jesus' Gift Box/ Stocking
During Advent we all have been making small sacrifices for the Child Jesus but on Christmas day we each make a special gift for Christ. The kids make and decorate birthday card and the adults use card stock in which they write down an act of love or sacrifice for Jesus. (Anything from making an extra Holy hour to sharing their toys with a sibling.) Some years we make a special wrapped gift with a slot cut out on top so we can slip our cards inside. Other years we simply placed our card in the giant stocking (one of those 3 foot ones) that had Jesus' name on it. Anything will do as long as offering acts of love for Christ is the focus.
Hold the Gifts
Years back, our holy parish priest, during one of his homilies, challenged all of us to not to give gifts on Christmas. He suggested we wait until the Epiphany, twelve days later. I thought he was a bit crazy at the time but I didn't give it too much thought until we got home and mom and dad announced that we would give it a try. My heart broke at not having the traditional presents on Christmas morning - I was a gift-giving fanatic who put a lot of time into the "perfect" gift.
However, I must admit that the transition was not all that hard. Christmas became a celebration of Christ's birthday and our gifts to Him. Emphasis was given to family togetherness and enjoying one another's company. It also eliminated the anti-climatic day after Christmas. We finally realized that the Christmas season, in reality, is just beginning! The Christmas Octave took new meaning as we waited for the coming of Epiphany with new interest. We still have the fun of exchanging gifts with our loved ones but waiting until Epiphany (or "Kings") helps keep things in proper perspective.
The Spirit of Giving
Nothing invokes greediness quite as quickly as a materialistic holiday season. To help conquer this, it is helpful to keep kids (and adults) focused on the spirit of giving, especially those less fortunate. This can be done through working at a soup kitchen, food pantry, or visiting the elderly. Kids can do extra jobs and chores around the house to earn some extra money (or use their tithing money if they get an allowance) in order to buy canned goods or small gifts for needy children. Ideally, they could also help deliver these gifts. Seeing the living conditions of those less fortunate (physically and spiritually) or seeing the gratitude of a poor child thankful for a simple gift or act of kindness, helps to instill generosity and thankfulness for their own blessing. Christmas is a good time to start this process but it can be carried on throughout the year, making giving of oneself not just a holiday thing, but a way of life.
There are numerous other ways to keep Christ in Advent and Christmas but these are just a few suggestions. With a little imagination (and the prompting of the Holy Sprit) you can start your own family traditions of truly living Christmas!
God's blessing to you all!
Continue Reading: Part II
For more ideas about Advent and Christmas activities, read or visit the following:
The book Advent, Christmas Epiphany in the Domestic Church by the Fourniers