There is a classic Christmas song by Andy Williams that goes like this:
It's the most wonderful time of the year With the kids jingle belling And everyone telling you be of good cheer It's the most wonderful time of the year
It's the hap-happiest season of all With those holiday greetings and gay happy meetings When friends come to call It's the hap-happiest season of all
Indeed, Christmas is considered to be a “most wonderful time” for many. Some would even call it a season of “magic” or “wonder.”
For our family, we consider Christmas a time for making meaningful memories as well. We want it to be about more than just giving and receiving gifts or attending holiday parties and family reunions. To achieve this “goal,” these are some of the things we do. They may not be the usual traditions, but they work for us:
1. We hold off on putting up Christmas decorations. We usually wait until the week before Christmas or Christmas Eve to decorate, and we stick to simple decorations. We’ve found that doing this helps create a sense of anticipation in our kids. We find that it helps us to focus more on the period of waiting, i.e. Advent, which precedes Christmas.
2. We do a Christmas countdown. We use an Advent calendar made up of mini-storybooks that tell the story of Christmas per day, starting from December 1 up to December 24. This helps us to remember the true “Reason for the season,” which is the birth of Jesus.
3. We focus on the Nativity. Although we have our own Christmas trees (two small ones), we don’t put them out every Christmas. We do, however, make it a point to set up our Nativity sets each year. Doing this helps us to focus on Christmas as an occasion to celebrate Jesus’ birthday.
To further emphasize that Christmas is all about Jesus’ birth, we usually hide or cover the image of the Baby Jesus in our Nativity sets, and reveal them at midnight on Christmas Eve, or after coming home from Mass on Christmas Day. When the kids were younger, we even played a game of “Hide and Seek,” with the Baby Jesus image — the kids were delighted to find him wrapped up under the Christmas tree!
4. We introduce Saint Nicholas, not Santa Claus. Although we acknowledge the fact that many families “do Santa,” and totally respect their choice, we choose not to do so. Instead, before Christmas Day, we focus on Saint Nicholas, from whom the modern-day Santa Claus traces his roots. We read books about him and do fun activities on his feast day, which is on December 6.
Our kids know, though, that many families believe in Santa Claus, and we tell them that there is nothing wrong with that. Each family is entitled to their own traditions and beliefs.
5. We throw a “birthday party” for Jesus on Christmas Day. On Christmas Day, besides going to Mass, we make it a point to hold a simple “birthday party” for Jesus. Wherever we may be on December 25 (usually it’s with extended family), we prepare a cake that says “Happy Birthday, Jesus!” on it, sing the “Happy Birthday” song for Jesus, and — if time permits — play one or more birthday party games.
6. We celebrate Christmas beyond December 25. While traditionally Christmas is celebrated only on the 25th of December, we choose to celebrate it until the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord by doing good deeds and keeping the spirit of the season alive.
Each family has its own beliefs, traditions and customs. Whatever these may be, may we always remember to make the most of every moment with our children, and create beautiful memories with them!
How do you celebrate Christmas with your children? Let us know in the comments below!