For years I worried that I was turning into Ebenezer Scrooge. As soon as Thanksgiving was over, I started having panic attacks as Christmas loomed ever closer. I wanted to be the kind of mother that baked 12 kinds of cookies, found the gift that everyone secretly longed for, and decorated the house perfectly. But it never worked out, so I felt increasingly hostile toward the holiday.
My kids would give me their wish lists that were often impossible to fulfill, my baked-good ingredients would glare at me from the pantry as I shoved them aside to get dinner on the table, and my Christmas-card list just laughed at me. I hated it, and in the process, I began to hate Christmas—which alarmed me. Even in my flustered state, I knew that it was not a good thing to hate the holiday that celebrates our Lord’s birth. I didn’t want to be known as a “bah humbug” person: it made my children—and everyone else—avoid me.
Instead of worrying about the “perfect” holiday atmosphere, I’ve realized that I should be more concerned with how to keep my family focused on the true meaning of Christmas. Here are a few things that worked well for my household:
Use an Advent calendar: At the beginning of December, we purchased an Advent calendar that included Scripture foretelling Christ and explaining his birth. The kids would open a flap each morning at breakfast and we’d read it. It was a very easy way to keep the focus where it belongs and also led to some great spiritual discussions and explanations.
Make good use of a Nativity set: Instead of putting the Nativity scene out all at once, we’d set up the stable and then daily hide a piece that the kids would search for and add to the scene. When they found a piece, we’d discuss the part that character played in the story (we left Jesus for last). This helped our kids understand the real story behind Christmas, and it was fun too. If you have older kids, let them hide the piece for the younger kids to find.
Celebrate the 12 days of Christmas: Leave a small token at someone’s house anonymously each day leading up to Christmas (especially someone who is lonely or needs cheering up). We did this one year and it was as meaningful to the kids as it was to the person we were trying to encourage.
Give a gift to a needy family. I know someone who once gave a family in a developing country an entire farm for Christmas through World Vision. There are many organizations that do great work at Christmastime, and this is a great way to give your kids (and yourself) perspective on how blessed we are.
Create an Advent wreath: Use an artificial wreath and add four candles evenly spaced around it. Put another candle in the middle. Each Sunday before Christmas, light one of the candles and talk to your kids about the periods of waiting for a Messiah that the candles represent. (A great guide can be found here.) On Christmas Day, light the candle in the middle and read the Christmas story.
Read the Christmas story: Read the Christmas story in Luke 2 before opening any presents on Christmas morning. That reminds us all that this day is about Jesus, not our own selfish interests.
Make a birthday cake for Jesus: Especially when my kids were little, I made a birthday cake for Jesus (see, I actually can bake). Granted, I used a boxed cake mix and store-bought frosting, but it brought home that it is Jesus’ birthday we are celebrating and that the focus should be on him, not us.
Practicing these things not only saved me from turning into Scrooge but gave my kids some lasting memories, and gave all of us more joyful, meaningful holiday seasons.
Check out an earlier post by JoHannah here.