By Teisha P.
As parents we wonder how to help our children feel the magic that accompanies the Christmas holiday when it seems to be lost in a shopping focused season. For some people, the sole purpose of Christmas is to receive and give gifts. Two years ago my husband and I stayed with my father and stepmother for the Christmas Holiday and this was the case in their home. While the tradition of giving and getting gifts is fun and adds to the excitement of the holiday, I noticed that when all the focus was on presents Christmas was over and the day felt empty and boring once the gifts were given.
I think we have to ask ourselves “what is it that really makes this season special?” When you take away all the frills and adornments of Christmas it is easier to remember that the very first Christmas had a much more humble beginning. The magic felt that night was felt because of the Christ Child. If we can help our children and families remember that Christmas begins and ends with Christ, we will find the magic trickling back into our Christmases.
So here is the big question. Do we need to eliminate the tinsel and tree, the gifts and the food, Santa and Rudolf? I’ve asked myself this many times. And I have come to the conclusion that taking it all away is not the solution. Those things are part of what make the holiday fun for our kids. Instead, I think it is more important to find a way to draw our children’s focus of the season to the Savior. But this task is easier said than done. How can we as parents help make Christmas more meaningful for our children? There are three things that I have found helpful and would recommend to parents in order to help children of all ages to feel the magic of Christmas.
First–A Christ Focused Advent Calendar. Whether this is a picture nativity advent, or a nativity reading about the savior, it is effective! When I was growing up my family had both! One was a Christmas reading advent calendar. Each night we read a small paragraph about the Savior’s life and ministry and how it applied in our own lives. Each thought was accompanied by a Christmas activity and carol. Even as an eight year old girl I remember feeling closer to Jesus Christ as my family read those passages. Our other advent was a homemade, felt nativity scene. My siblings and I each had our own that we hung by our bed. Each night we would add one piece of felt to the nativity. I loved being able to have a nativity scene next to my bed. It helped me to think about the birth of Christ each night before I fell asleep. In the years that followed I began to think about Christ and the true meaning of Christmas on my own. And as I became an adult, Christmas held more meaning for me than simply a time of the year to give and receive gifts. Advent calendars are fun ways to help us all to count down to Christmas day. But they are also a perfectly simple way to help children remember that Christmas is about Jesus Christ. Redirecting their focus in this way will make Christmas more meaningful for them year after year.
Second–Symbols. Many of our Christmas decorations are symbols of Christ and his life. It is important to teach our children about these symbols so that they can think of and remember Jesus each time they see the frilly décor of Christmas. There is a story that my family reads every year called The True Meaning of Christmas. It is about how Santa is sad because Children have forgotten that Christmas is about Jesus Christ and not about him (Santa) and receiving presents. He teaches about all the ways in which our typical Christmas decorations are symbols that point us to Christ instead of to him. Teaching about these symbols as you decorate for Christmas in your own home will help children to see the Christ in Christmas as they look around each day. They will feel in their hearts how important Christmas is.
Third–Christ’s teachings. We must help our children understand the predominant themes Christ taught. These themes of love, gratitude, hope, and peace should ideally become the focal point of the Christmas season. Teaching our children about, as well as helping them experience them will help them focus more on others. As they do this, they will remove the focus from themselves. Stories, movies and experiences are all great ways to help children understand each of these things. The Christmas Orange is a story about a young orphan child who receives nothing for Christmas each year except a simple orange. When the child has her orange taken from her, her friends give her a piece of their oranges so that she has enough individual pieces to have a whole orange. Children will feel the magic of Christmas in their hearts as they read stories about values like love and sacrifice. They will learn how wonderful it can be to make others happy. Parents should remember however that while stories and movies are helpful, giving children hands on experience with these themes will be the most helpful. Those experiences will stick with them not just at Christmas time, but throughout the year.
As my family buys and wraps gifts for less fortunate families each year, we not only feel gratitude for what we have, but feel joy in knowing that we are giving up something of ours to make someone else happy. Experiencing what it means to sacrifice helps my family remember what Christmas is all about. Likewise, helping our children use advent calendars and symbols helps us focus our attention on Christ. Hands on experiences helps us learn to be more like Christ. We will feel the magic of the holiday in our hearts. Doing these things will help us succeed in making Christmas meaningful for our kids and will bring us all closer to the Savior of the world.