Christmas is my middle daughter’s favorite holiday. She likes it even better than her birthday. Having a child in the house anticipating Christmas makes the season even brighter.
We have three children in elementary school. I remember when our youngest Lucy was a preschooler. She would sing “Jingle Bells” but re-invent the words each time around. She loved running to the Christmas tree to be the first one to switch on the lights. And of course, when shopping, she would point to a toy and exclaim, “Put THAT on my Christmas list!”
Christmas is magnificent when seen through miniature eyes. Instead of focusing on to-do lists, baking and shopping, kids are searching for wonder. Adults tend to think, “Oh no! Only 15 days ‘til Christmas!” But kids think, “Oh yay! Only 15 days ‘til Christmas!”
I think the kids have it right.
They’re looking for little surprises in stockings, brightly colored homes at night, and Christmas decorations on trees. They are waiting for Jesus’ birthday with a sense of wonder.
The best thing we can do as parents is take all of this wonder and anticipation and point it towards the pinnacle of the Christmas season: the birth of Christ. Before you put an activity on the calendar, ask yourself, “How does the time spent here magnify the Christ child?” That question may help you trim down your calendar in order to enjoy a calmer, Christ-centered family Christmas. Make space for contemplation so you can follow Mary’s example in Luke 2:19, “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
Here are a few simple ideas to help you make Christmas a happier time for your family. As you have these experiences together, you too will enjoy the wonder of Christmas.
- Go to a little train or carousel in the shopping mall or park. Then add this musical twist. Give your child a bell to ring while she rides. Tell your child that Christ’s coming is worth announcing (like with a bell!). The other holiday riders should find it very festive and smile with approval. If not, just take the bells away after the ride is over and walk away quickly!
- Take a walk around your neighborhood in search of Christmas lights.It’s fun to bundle up and have an adventure right past your doorstep. Vote on which house is the best overall, most creative, and personal favorite. Talk as you walk about how Jesus is the light of the world and how the light shines through the darkness.
- Make or buy photo ornaments.Put your child’s picture in it and date the back. Any child gets a kick out of seeing his photograph on the tree. Cup your child’s face in your hands and say, “Jesus sees you on our Christmas tree, and He can see you every day, wherever you are!” Add a new photo ornament each year and watch how your children grow, right on your Christmas tree.
- Have a birthday party for Jesus.Invite your family and maybe even a handful of friends. Read the Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke and have the kids act out the different parts. Use scarves and coats to dress as shepherds, Mary and Joseph. A doll or stuffed animal makes a fine baby Jesus. Enjoy a birthday cake for baby Jesus and celebrate His birth, the best birthday of all.
- Create a hot chocolate bar with toppings.Stuck at home one night? Make the most of it with a hot chocolate extravaganza. Use whatever you have on hand for toppings: whipped cream, ice cream, sprinkles, cinnamon, or chocolate chips. This point won’t be lost on your child: Jesus makes life sweet!
Sprinkle your calendar with meaningful activities the whole family will enjoy. When your family has something to look forward to that honors Christ, the season will come alive with joy.
Any suggestions for other simple family Christmas activities?