Herald Journal Columns
Dec. 13, 2004 Herald Journal

Teaching the true spirit of Christmas


I love the holidays – the music, the decorations, the lights, the sentiment and festivities, and, of course, the food.

The Christmas season can be a wonderful time for family togetherness and goodwill, but, sometimes, that spirit gets lost in the rush to buy gifts and go to parties. We can easily teach our children about Christmas’s true meaning by discussing its origins and planning appropriate activities.

It’s Jesus’s birthday, and it’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Through the followoing activities, we can teach our children about giving, serving, sharing, and caring.

We enjoy watching our children open their presents with anxious eyes as they receive long-awaited items they’ve wanted. It’s important to teach them about giving, as well.

“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35

I found the following activities from the web sites, www.ehow.com, www.christian-parent.com, and my own experiences.

• Discuss the origins of Christmas. Read the account of Jesus’s birth in the Bible with your children.

• Visit a live nativity scene or set up a nativity scene at home. Nativity scenes, store-bought or homemade, are a great reminder of the reason for Christmas, and children love setting them up and talking about them.

• Look for an age-appropriate book about the Christmas story and read it with your children. Make a birthday cake on Christmas, sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus.

• Take your family to church and Sunday school. Churches often provide a range of family activities that keep the true spirit of Christmas.

• Try to simplify Christmas. Decide as a family the most important things that you want to do and focus on at Christmas. Prioritize.

• Set spending limits for the whole family to follow. This will help your children save their money, and remind them that the true value of a gift doesn’t depend on the cost.

• Help your children make gifts and cards for family and friends and others possibly, rather than buying them. Homemade gifts are always the best.

• Turn off the television occasionally. Christmas programming, many times, has little to do with the true spirit of Christmas, so be selective about the shows your family watches. Try to control all the commercials your child can see on television.

Helping others

Encourage your children to look beyond their own Christmas desires as well. Here are some suggested activities to help your child do just that.

• Have them help you choose groceries and deliver them to the local food bank.

• Take a basket of homemade cookies to a neighbor who they may not know well. Your children could even help bake the cookies.

• Visit a children’s hospital. Bring cookies, toys, and games to play.

• Buy sample size toiletries and make them into kits. Deliver them to a homeless shelter.

• Have your children help bring a meal to someone who has a chronic illness or an elderly person who lives alone.

• Invite someone over for a meal or holiday cheer who may be by themselves for the holidays.

• Spend some time at a senior citizen’s home or nursing home. Bring cookies and reading material, sing Christmas songs. When I was in high school, my friends and I would go caroling at group homes, nursing homes, and to the homes of people who could not travel by themselves. We enjoyed this activity as much as the recipients. You get more back when you give.

• Take an elderly person Christmas shopping, along with your children.

• Do yard work, pet care, or housework for someone who is not physically able to do those things for themselves.

• Have your children donate gently used clothes and toys to a local charity.

• Remember our outdoor creatures, as well. Make food for the birds. Collect pinecones, spread peanut butter on them, and roll in birdseed. Hang the pinecones from trees outside.

The web site, www.ehow.com, gives the following suggestion:

“If you are trying to simplify Christmas, don’t just go ‘cold turkey.’ Try to work the true meaning of Christmas into your family’s lives one step at a time so your children don’t suddenly feel deprived or let down. Remind your children that the true spirit of Christmas is something that doesn’t go away at the end of December. Your family can spread joy, peace, love, and charity throughout the year.”

Great suggestion, I would say; wouldn’t you?

Emphasize family, tradition, and togetherness. Many beautiful, spiritual Christmas traditions can be created together at Christmas, which can give your children lots of happy memories of the holiday season.

Gift ideas

Children of all ages can practice the spirit of giving by offering family members or others the gift of time. For example, unloading the dishwasher for a week, doing another sibling’s chores, a few hours of babysitting younger brothers and sisters, or shoveling.

• Make bookmarks. Provide a picture of your child, cut the picture out and glue onto a strip of paper or tagboard that is bookmark size. Your children can then decorate them with markers, crayons, or stickers, or draw or write their names on them. Cover with clear Contact paper. Your child has a wonderful gift to give to grandma or grandpa, or whomever.

• Make refrigerator magnets. Trim a picture of your child to fit inside a baby-food jar lid. Your child can then glue the picture inside the lid. Let your child glue glitter or use glitter glue to put around the edge and then glue a magnet on the back of the lid – another wonderful personalized gift.

• Make ornaments, using 1 cup salt, 4 cups flour, 1 1/2 cups water, and 4 tablespoons oil. Mix flour and salt. Slowly add water and oil to the dry ingredients, stirring with a spoon until well blended. Knead dough until soft and pliable. Sculpt dough into desired ornament shape or use cookie cutters to cut shapes. Use straw to put hole in ornament for hanging. Bake 45 minutes in 350-degree oven until hard. Paint with acrylic paints or varnish to seal. Put a ribbon, string, or yarn in the hole for hanging on the tree or elsewhere.

My daughter was recently at a birthday party where each child was provided a store-bought solid-colored bulb/ornament that each child decorated with glitter. It was a neat way to allow each child to add their own touches to an ornament. This could be a great gift, also.

In a child’s words

The other day, I heard my four-year-old daughter singing this: “If things don’t work out like you always want and things are upside down, you gotta believe in yourself, you keep shining, you never stop trying, it’s better than crying – there’s always a way.”

She learned it from a new television children’s program. It’s nice to know there are some good children’s programs. It’s a pretty good song, don’t you think?

Take some time to truly enjoy the true meaning of the holidays, and remember “there’s always a way.”