When I think of Christmas, I think of a peaceful time, a time of worship, giving, love and family. During Advent, we prepare for Christmas. These are some of the ways our family is doing that.
I made an Advent Calendar with doors for the kids to open every day in December until the 25th. I have two things behind each door: a Bible passage and an activity. First we read the passage from the Bible about the people who waited in the Old Testament for Jesus and later in Advent we read about the story of Christmas from the Bible. Next we do our family activity. Some of our activities are: buy a present for your brother/sister, paint a Christmas tree, write a letter to a friend, play a family game. What is extra special about these activities is that we do them with all four of us (when possible). I love having Ben with us to do these things because when Levi (a boy) sees Daddy (a man) doing these things, he sees that those activities are not just for girls and he takes them even more seriously and enjoys them more. It also seems to strengthen my relationship with my husband as we are having fun doing these activities together.
Christmas/New Years is exciting for children because of the gifts, but we don’t want our kids to focus on just GETTING THINGS. Happiness does not come from toys or clothes or other gifts. One thing we do to focus our kids’ attention away from the things, is to focus them on the greatest gift of all, Jesus. We talk about baby Jesus and why his life and death (a full payment for our sins) is so much more important and lasting than the gifts we put under the Christmas tree. It lasts beyond this life! We have a children’s nativity scene made of plastic and we get that out during Advent and act out the story of Jesus being born.
Another way to focus the kids away from getting, getting, getting is to focus on the joy of giving, giving, giving. Buying or making gifts for others is one way to do this. Levi does chores and earns a little bit of money every week which he can use to buy gifts for his family and friends. His gifts are small and sometimes he even makes them, but at his age (4), the process of giving is more important than the actual gift. But I do try to encourage him to think about what the other person might want so he can learn empathy.
We also are taking time to find some of our used toys to give away to children who are in need. We have a woman at our church who takes things to an orphanage or to families whose houses have been destroyed by fire. It is not always easy to convince the kids to give away their toys, but I think it is a good habit to encourage. Some toys just sit on the shelf and don’t get used for months. Soon the kids will be getting new toys and it is nice to make room for some extra things. Before talking to the kids about this, I gather a basket full of toys that I think would be good to give away. I don’t expect the kids to give away everything in the basket (but it would not be a problem if they did). When we are together as a family, we have a conversation about kids who don’t have mommies and daddies. We talk about families who are very poor. We pray for them. Then, we talk about how many toys we have and how we will be getting new toys soon. Let’s find some nice, used toys we can give to those poor families and children without moms and dads. At this time we bring the kids to the basket of toys I have already collected and let them choose as many toys as they wish to give away.
If the kids hesitate to give away their toys, it might be good to have them start by choosing just one or two things. Ultimately, we want our children to learn to be generous with others and to show love for those in need. We think this a great way to accomplish that.