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Christian Mamas - Keeping Christ in Christmas?

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

I am looking for some ideas and suggestions for keeping with the true meaning of Christmas.  I grew up as more of a cultural Christian, but DH and I have become Believers and want our daughter to grow up knowing the Christmas is about more than just presents.

 

We are a house that does Santa (I still love Santa) and at 2.5yo this is the first year she has gotten really excited about Christmas.  She is very excited for Santa to come, and to get presents.  We go to church and talk about Jesus a lot, but I think at this age Jesus is still an abstract concept, but Santa is very real.  You can't go to the mall and visit Jesus, you know? 

 

I've picked up a story book about the Nativity that we will give to her on Christmas Eve and read together before bed.  DH wants to make a birthday cake and sing Happy Birthday to Jesus (although I might be buying a cake as I am rapidly running out of time!!). 

 

So what do you do to keep Christmas about Jesus in your house?

post #2 of 13

We been talking about Jesus' birthday and this year will be our first year of singing him Happy Birthday with candles and everything for breakfast.  We try to talk to our oldest (3yo) about Jesus in a manner that she can understand, like reading books, talking about how much Jesus loves us, etc etc.  We also are doing an Advent chain and both the kids love taking rings off of it each day :)

post #3 of 13

You can do the three gifts thing for the Gift of the Magi..... good enough for baby jesus, good enough for my kid. 

 

You can have out a nativity set and leave off the baby jesus until xmas morn when he "magically" appears in the manger.

 

But really, all the best parts of Christmas are pagan. I think you have to admit that and do your best to downplay the commercialism and play up the spiritual in your lives.

post #4 of 13
some things we do or I am planning to do in the future:
-celebrate Advent with an Advent calendar and talking about what we are looking forward to wrt the christmas story
-not do Santa.
-just a few gifts and gifts are really not the main focus of the holiday
-singing christmas carols together, particularly the hymns
-watching christmas movies and reading books that talk about the nativity story
-celebrate the 12 days of christmas
-Midnight Mass, love it love it love it!
-set up a nativity scene at home
-visit a live nativity scene at a local church
-making things together, like cookies or cards, to give to people we love
post #5 of 13

We say some advent prayers and light the advent wreath before dinner every day in advent.  My 2 year old loves it.  He really looks forward to "lighting the candles" every day.  He even repeats back the prayers as my husband reads them.  It's so cute.  Sometimes I even catching him saying bits of the prayers to himself as he's playing.  :)  Also, if you're not already doing it, go to Church every week.  You might not be able to go to the mall to see Jesus.  But you can see a statue of him at Church (well, maybe not all Churches).  My son can recognize Jesus.  Having a nativity around the house (particularly one that a LO is allowed to touch and play with), can also be beneficial.  Maybe you could also do some sort of volunteer work or charitable acts and involve your daughter.  Maybe buying presents for those less fortunate, or donating some of her old toys to Goodwill, having her put money in the Salvation Army red kettles, or something else along those lines.

post #6 of 13

We celebrate Advent.  That means we're focusing on Jesus and the meaning of Christmas all through December.  Something for next year, maybe, you could do a Jesse Tree.  They use Scripture and symbols of Christianity to work your way through the prophecies of Jesus' birth, the theology of salvation, and the actual event.  There are basic kid versions, and more in depth ones.

post #7 of 13

There are some great ideas here!! I would love to do a Jesse tree next year. We have a fisher price little people nativity set that we get out every Christmas and we talk about the nativity story. Also, when we talk about Christmas, I ask my oldest DS (4) "Whose birth do we celebrate at Christmas?" And we talk about how God sent us Jesus which is the greatest gift of all. We don't really do Santa but we don't really discourage it either. We talk about St. Nicholas and how he gave gifts to the needy because he was doing what Jesus said to do and that is where the idea of Santa comes from.

 

 

post #8 of 13

Personally I think it would be very confusing to a child to celebrate both Jesus and Santa. Both can be visually experienced via nativities, plays at church or visits at the mall, but in essence you have to believe in both of them to make it real on a personal level. Isn't it confusing to promote the believe in two such figures, one of whom you want your child to believe in and know for eternity, and the other you want your child to stop believing in at, what, 8?  Besides that, the believe in both would cause conflict.  Jesus is the Ruler and Judge, yet Santa knows whether you've been bad or good and will reward you accordingly with gifts.  I was a little torn about it at first because having Santa come to my house when I was little was fun, but after some consideration I just don't think he is consistent with the true meaning of Christmas, and I don't want to risk confusing my kids.

 

The things we do to make sure we keep Jesus central are....(my kids are young still).... 

have a birthday cake for Jesus

refer to Christmas parties as birthday parties for Jesus

talk about the birth of Jesus

pray before we give and open gifts thanking Him that we have the freedom to celebrate Him, and the resources to give and receive

post #9 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by philomom View Post


 

But really, all the best parts of Christmas are pagan.


I'm confused by this, can you explain?  I know that religions tend to borrow from each other, is that what you're referring to?  Things like the Christmas tree being a spin off of the yule log and the like?  The statement kind of rubbed me the wrong way, but it may well have been that I'm reading it wrong.  Thanks!

post #10 of 13


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by la mamita View Post

some things we do or I am planning to do in the future:
-celebrate Advent with an Advent calendar and talking about what we are looking forward to wrt the christmas story
-not do Santa.
-just a few gifts and gifts are really not the main focus of the holiday
-singing christmas carols together, particularly the hymns
-watching christmas movies and reading books that talk about the nativity story
-celebrate the 12 days of christmas
-Midnight Mass, love it love it love it!
-set up a nativity scene at home
-visit a live nativity scene at a local church
-making things together, like cookies or cards, to give to people we love


this is pretty much what I'd say.  We have a beautiful nativity from Haba that the kiddos LOVE.  They play with it every day of advent.

we do very few gifts.

we do a lot of singing-and they do annual Christmas pageants (church and school.)

we also celebrate the 12 days of Christmas (though we do Christmas eve as well.)

there is an advent calender that comes out that they take turns working through.

we watch a few movies that are traditional for us.

we do santa but do focus on the St Nicholas story.

post #11 of 13

Some things we do:

 

We prepare for the Christmas season by fasting (like Lent) which helps turn our focus towards the fact that this is a feast of the church, part of the liturgical cycle and not just a big gluttonous free for all.

 

We have a little advent calendar but don't do the advent wreath as it doesn't really fit with our traditions.

 

So many things that we do to celebrate christmas in America is a mash up of other religious feasts.  We celebrate St Nicholas on the feast day of St. Nicholas (Dec. 6th) and do stockings then.  

 

Our tree goes up at the beginning of the fast (early nov.) and we keep it up through the Christmas feast (12 days) and end with Theophany.

 

We do not begin celebrating until the 25th (well, after Liturgy on the 24th).  cookies, treats, meals, all of that waits until the Nativity Feast has begun (also I am really working on calling it the feast of the Nativity instead of Christmas).

 

We do exchange gifts but not a whole lot.

 

We put the Nativity icon up.  

 

During the feast we will add the Nativity hymn to our daily prayers.

 

When they were little they had a little nativity set they could play with.  and of course childrens books.  

 

This is not a major feast day for us which I actually think helps keep Christ at the center of it.

 

 

 

 

post #12 of 13


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by bluebirdiemama View Post

Personally I think it would be very confusing to a child to celebrate both Jesus and Santa. Both can be visually experienced via nativities, plays at church or visits at the mall, but in essence you have to believe in both of them to make it real on a personal level. Isn't it confusing to promote the believe in two such figures, one of whom you want your child to believe in and know for eternity, and the other you want your child to stop believing in at, what, 8?  Besides that, the believe in both would cause conflict.  Jesus is the Ruler and Judge, yet Santa knows whether you've been bad or good and will reward you accordingly with gifts.  I was a little torn about it at first because having Santa come to my house when I was little was fun, but after some consideration I just don't think he is consistent with the true meaning of Christmas, and I don't want to risk confusing my kids.

 

The things we do to make sure we keep Jesus central are....(my kids are young still).... 

have a birthday cake for Jesus

refer to Christmas parties as birthday parties for Jesus

talk about the birth of Jesus

pray before we give and open gifts thanking Him that we have the freedom to celebrate Him, and the resources to give and receive



I just asked my daughter about this; she is almost six, and doesn't seem to find it confusing. 

 

Kids are pretty concrete, and they find abstractions of concepts difficult without concrete reminders.  That is all Santa is - a kind of personification of an idea about Christmas.  I'm not especially worried at all about my daughter, who believes unreservedly in faeries, rejecting God.  On the other hand, my friend's son is such a concrete thinker and a literalist, he doesn't find that imaginary world compelling at all.  I think the chances of a child like that having difficulties with religious faith as he got older are a lot greater.

post #13 of 13

Quote:

Originally Posted by Panserbjorne View Post

I'm confused by this, can you explain?  I know that religions tend to borrow from each other, is that what you're referring to?  Things like the Christmas tree being a spin off of the yule log and the like?  The statement kind of rubbed me the wrong way, but it may well have been that I'm reading it wrong.  Thanks!


Not philomom, but I have a feeling she's probably referring to things like the Christmas Tree.  Some think that the passages in the Old Testament talking about the Ahserah pole apply to the practice of bringing in an evergreen tree and decorating it with ornaments.  I personally find this a bit of a stretch.  There's quite a bit of debate among scholars as to what exactly the Ahserah poles were including the issue of whether or not they were actual poles.  Although the ritual of bringing in bits of greenery into ones home as part of a religious celebration is certainly a common element amongst religions all the way back to the Egyptians. The consensus amongst the controversy appears to me to be that the current iteration of evergreen tree in the winter goes back to Germany.  There's a bit of legend about a Christian (missionary?) trying to convert the Druids.  In his attempt to convince them that the oak tree wasn't sacred he cut one down, the tree fell, crushing everything in its path except a single Evergreen.  He attributed this to Christ which then lead to the practice of bringing in trees as holiday decorations and then somewhere down the line hanging decorations on the trees (possibly as offerings to thank the spirit of the tree?)

 

Since I'm neither carving up the tree, painting it gold, nailing it to the floor, or planting it next to an altar I feel comfortable with our Christmas tree.  I think this idea that you can somehow find the "true" expression of Christmas without any outside cultural influences is going to be near impossible.  As you mentioned different cultures and religions borrow from each other all the time which seems both reasonable and understandable.  It would be hard for people to live together without influencing each other in one way or another.

 

I suppose that can also include things like the fact that December 25th was picked as the date - or the practice of The Twelve Days of Christmas.  There are a multitude of religious celebrations around this time of year.  Saturnalia to name one, but there really have been a multitude of sun welcoming festivals through out history.  I don't necessarily blame Christians for trying to utilize the similarities between "sun" and "son."  On the other hand, the public outcries in the United States about the supposed "war on Christmas" and the admonishment to "Keep Christ in Christmas" as it relates to our public, secular holiday seem to me to be a bit misguided and ignoring the HUGE elephant in the room - mainly that other faith traditions could make a case that we should take Christ out of their festivals and celebrations.  Christians really did co-opt the holiday and the United States currently is far too diverse to claim anything more than a civil, secular religion when it comes to Christianity (Although I know other Christians like the dominionists will disagree with me here - to each his own).  

 

I want to be clear, though, I mean no offense meant to the OP - I think it's appropriate for Christians to try to discern what it means for their family to "keep Christ in Christmas."  It's easy to lose focus as it can be easy, as the OP pointed out, to just focus on the present part. Being honest about the ambiguities of the origins of our traditions is probably a first step if one wants to do so with a clear conscience, but (and again other Christians will disagree with me here) I see nothing wrong with practicing the traditions that most resonate with me.  They're a tool to help me connect with God and a way of expressing my faith.  Then again, I'd locate myself more towards the liberal end of the spectrum so it's entirely likely that other Christians will disagree.

 

For us we try hard to focus on things like Advent and St. Nicholas Day.  We still exchange presents, but we try to also encourage the kids to share with others - buying food for the local food pantry or purchasing gifts for Toys for Tots are all ways that we've chosen to do this over the years.  We have an Advent spiral and are working on incorporating our own family liturgy to accompany the lighting of the candles.  We do give gifts in connection with St. Nicholas day, but I like to focus on the historical Bishop Nicholas.  Our kids know that the gifts they receive on St. Nick's day are from us.  We're clear that we do so as a way to remember and honor the historical figure.

 

No nativity scenes here as I've never found a set that I was comfortable with.  Most of them look far too white in skin tone to me to be accurate and I don't want my kids to think that Jesus was white (the same is true for other images of Jesus as an adult...I don't want them to think of him as a white man with long hair).  We do exchange gifts on Christmas Day, but none of them come from Santa.  I think through it all what matters most is our intention - including Bible readings (small ones at this point as my kids are young) and a bit of our own liturgy is probably what brings the focus a great deal more clear.  The rest is just a way of taking what would be awfully abstract and make it more concrete.

 

We're also exploring incorporating The Twelve Days of Christmas this year leading into Epiphany which is outside of our backgrounds, but has been helpful this year.

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