Meaningful Christian Christmas Traditions 15 Seconds at a Time
Having raised three children I sometimes marvel that the Christian faith and the story and significance of Christmas have managed to be passed down for more than 2000 years given our generally tiny attention spans. Supposedly we learn most of what we know by the time we are in kindergarten so the whole complicated and rich Christmas story pretty much has to be delivered in 15 second packages to accommodate a preschooler’s proclivity to drift off or be captured by the next shiny object.
I have to confess that I am sometimes a little resentful of Christmas and the demands it makes on our time and how stressful it can be. Unlike Halloween where we can just dress up, decorate the house, eat other people's food (candy) and have a good time without having to attach any spiritual significance to it at all; Christmas demands that we dress up, clean our houses, cook a lot of food, host a lot of people, buy and wrap gifts, spend a lot of money and… attach an enormous amount of spiritual significance to each of those things.
We are constantly encouraged to remember the reason for the season but all those other demands are still weighing upon us.
When my kids were very young with very small attention spans I marveled that some very big concepts of life had to be communicated in 15 seconds or less.
Things like gratitude – the never ending five second reminder to say thank you or the 10 second prayer sang or chanted before a meal.
Or when, on the way home from church, your six-year-old asks what the word "righteousness" means. Then you waste five seconds of your 15 second window trying to figure out how to define righteousness to a six-year-old leaving exactly 10 seconds of attention span to actually answer the question! (The concept of "righteousness" really takes a myriad of 15 second conversations to define!)
So is there a way that we can de-stress Christmas by giving ourselves the OK to celebrate and get across significant spiritual concepts in 15 seconds or less?
Here are some simple ideas I have thought about over the years that may help:
Advent Candles – I love the concept of the Advent Wreath with the four or five candles in it. I used to stress myself out finding the correct colors of candles and trying to create a Sunday morning ritual where we would sit as a family over a wonderful breakfast and contemplate the significance of Advent. It never worked and by the time we left for church my husband and I were sweating and totally ticked off with each other and our kids!
15 Second Advent Celebration: light a match, turn off the light and ponder for a few seconds the significance of light in the darkness. If your kids are anything like mine they get a weirdly huge thrill out of lighting a match. Now wrap a 15 second story of Jesus coming to be the Light in the darkness. Who knows…this might come to be one of the most significant Christmas traditions for your family and could evolve as the kids get older.
Christmas Crafts – I love the concept of doing crafts with my kids… but I do not love the cleanup: the glitter scattered all over the dining room floor, the tiny bits of paper, glue stuck to the table. One Christmas I even found the glitter in my youngest kid’s diaper. But crafts are a great way for kids to use their hands to create gifts and decorations to celebrate the Season.
15 Second Craft Idea: when walking home from the school bus stop or walking into the house from the driveway stop at the nearest evergreen tree or bush and snip off a 3 to 6 inch piece. Bring it inside and tie some gift wrap ribbon around the top and hang it on a door. It could be hung on any interior or exterior door. A simple, quick reminder of the ever presence of God (plus you get the added bonus of a pine air freshener in your home!).
Try not to get caught up in all those Pinterest boards challenging you to create Martha Stewart-style crafts, decorations and traditions. Give yourself a break. Your kids get stressed out when you're stressed out so back off, relax and have fun!
Christmas Readings: I used to put a lot of pressure on myself to memorize Christmas Scripture with my kids. One year we memorized a good chunk of Luke chapter 2. It was good of course but stressful. I nagged my kids constantly about it. Reading the actual story of Christmas from the Bible is probably the most efficient way of getting the story across and now with our smart phones we don't even have to carry a Bible around with us - just use the Bible Gateway app. Have your kids read the story off the phone in the car while you're driving. (I'm a big believer in seeing and hearing the words – I think kids remember and absorb way better that way.) If your kids are too young to read Bible Gateway will read it to them. I find those few minutes that we have in the car together numerous times a day to be invaluable – if I use them well.
Christmas Nativity – OK, this should be so easy… you go to the storage closet and grab the Nativity box and bring it upstairs and set it up. But so what? So you have it set up and it looks good on your mantle or on your dining room buffet table. How do you get some value out of it – more value than it is just being a decoration? And how do you get it in 15 seconds?
15 Second Nativity Significance: bring your dinner close to the Nativity set – don't even bother pulling the Nativity set over to where you eat (it might never get back to where it supposed to be!). Eat in the fancy dining room or have a picnic in front of the fireplace – whether it's take-out pizza or mac & cheese – it's not the food that is the big deal. While you're munching point to the figures or even take one down and pass it around. Talk about who the figure depicts and what part they play in the Christmas story. And if you only get through one figure – that's good too! Maybe start with the Baby Jesus so you at least get the important one talked about!!
Christmas Carols – Although this whole blog post is about not stressing out… I think it's kind of sad that our kids in general don't know (or don't seem to know) the classic Christmas Carols. It is a beautiful thing when a group of friends or strangers come together and can share in the commonality of singing a song from memory. I have a love-hate relationship with Christmas Carols – maybe it's because my mother would start playing them the minute Halloween was over. But the love part of the relationship comes when at the church or at the school gym or at an outdoor Christmas market we can join together as a group and sings Joy to the World or Silent Night and we all know the words. Listening together in the car to carols or going to carol concert with the kids is a wonderful gift to you as a family. Last year I visited the Distillery District Christmas Market in Toronto and witnessed a massive Carol Sing at the end of the day – friends and strangers of all colors and languages joining together to sing some Christmas standards. Powerful!
So my hope for you this Christmas is that you and your family may relax and enjoy all the little blessings of the Season even if it is for 15 seconds at a time!
Owner @ Gingerbread World
Read our other Blog Posts about Christmas Preparations:
Making a List and Checking it Twice
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