Friday, December 07, 2007

Making Christmas Meaningful

Sue, over at Naval Gazing had a contest about Christmas traditions. Two reasons why I didn't do the contest. One was because I knew if she chose me, there would be all kinds of allegations about unfairness and stuff, because she loves me so much. (ha!) And two, really, I just forgot to do it in time.
It certainly got me thinking about the stuff I did with my kids when they were small, to make Christmas more meaningful.
One of things we did every year, is the kids were asked to go shopping for another child, and we would wrap the gifts with tags saying what they were and take them down to the homeless shelter. It isn't that we were so rich, (with six kids, who is?) but I wanted my kids to KNOW, no matter how little we had, there were always others who had much less, and we always had more than enough. Enough to share. The kids always seemed to enjoy doing that. Besides the gift from each child, we also gave the shelter things like razors and soap too. Just our family's way of giving back.
When my kids were very small, I wanted them to have hands on experiences with Christmas. For that reason, I made this for the kids when they were very young:

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I sewed it out of one of those panels of fabric you get at the fabric store. It is soft and I wanted to have a Nativity scene that my kids could play with and hopefully act out the Christmas story. Now we get to my favorite part of what we did. The little manger had nothing in it. Baby Jesus didn't come to our house until Christmas morning. Next to the manger was a container with yarn, (pretend straws) in it. Every time any of the children did something kind, they were able to put a "straw" in the manger. The premise of this tradition was that the Baby Jesus would arrive on Christmas morning to be laid in a bed filled with kindness of the children's actions. The kids would really get into it and find ways to share and to do extra chores and to be patient with each other to "earn" straws. The nicer the kids were, the softer Baby Jesus' bed was. I have sweet memories of the children saying, "mom, I did such and such, can I put a straw in manger?"
I wanted my kids to have fun with Christmas, so we do the Santa thing, but being Christians it is important for us to celebrate the reason for the season. We have lots of good Christmas books and we always read the book of Luke out of the bible on Christmas Eve.
There is a lovely story that we read every year, that I think does a wonderful job of tying the Santa thing to the real meaning of Christmas. Here is a link for that story. Santa's symbols of Christmas
I would be very interested in any of your favorite Holiday traditions if you care to share.

4 Kids Who Want To Play:

K J and the kids said...

What a wonderful thing you did to teach your children. They will never forget it.

Instead of giving each other gifts at Christmas...we get a family and we buy for them. We all get together, have a great dinner, go shopping together..splitting names and then come back to the house to show everyone what you got.

I's all about making it meaningful.

Sue said...

Jo, I LOVE these ideas. So wonderful. I'm totally stealing them, you're the best XOXO

Eliza said...

Wow. Once again I am bowled over by your mad parenting skillz, yo. I knew about the baby Jesus not coming to the manger until the big day, but I don't think you told me the part about the "straws," and what a sweet idea! Even a heathen such as myself can appreciate that, and I'm a little jellis that there's no comparable atheist-Jewish situation in which I could try and have my little buggers work toward something in such a manner. Maybe, since they're all such animal lovers, we can get a few rolls of dimes and one of those sad-eyed Bassett-hound containers, and I can have the Animals earn dimes to put in there (would be cool if we could get one of those dealies where you put the coin in and get to watch it go around and around, and, if you are a Doolittle, flap furiously all the while) to buy a holiday meal for the strays at the local animal shelter...hmm...
Our tradition I think you already know: while we are not the least bit religious in any way, we still want our children to experience and absorb the culture, if not the religion, of Judaism, and so we do the Menorah thing, and The Patriarch mangles the Hebrew prayer HORRIFICALLY but, as the only one in the house who ever learned to read it at all (for his Bar Mitzvah), he's our great light-brown hope around here when it comes to Things Hebrew. Because just about every household has a tree, we have one too, because that has been inculturated into American winter-time Things That One Does (and has nothing at all to do with the baby Jesus, anyway), and of course our kids enjoy setting up and decorating a tree as much as any others do. We call it a Hannukah bush, and decorate it in silver and blue (Hannukah colors), with white twinkle lights and blue and silver balls, and a tree topper I made from scratch out of store-bought gift-bows, the kind with the cascades of fabric curly ribbon? I made cube with one open side out of poster-board and packing tape, and attached sheer white ribbon-bunches on all four "sides" and a silver and blue one on the top; I stick the open side on the top of the tree, shove a couple of lights up under the sheer ribbons, and arrange them so that they are all tangled (HA! I said TANGLED) together and in my humble opinion it's simply gorgeous ;-D Then we also do the Santa thing, because that too has been ingrained into pop-culture traditions to the point that my kids would feel left out if they didn't have the fat old fart, er, I mean jolly old elf, too. We scatter "reindeer food" (plain oatmeal oats mixed with red and green glitter) on the front walk, since everyone knows that if you have a gaslog and no chimney Santa just magicks his way through the front door, and leave out milk and cookies and some carrots for the reindeer, and on Xmas eve after the kids are in bed we--er, I mean Santa--add some multi-colored lights and ornaments to our tree on top of everything else, and replace the topper with a gold star (albeit a six-pointed Maagen David), and the BIG gifts appear. This year we're kind of sucking, what with the doom and all, but that's what we aim for, anyway.

elizasmom said...

Oh, I like this tradition!

Our traditions, which I am starting to institute with Eliza, are very German, and focus around the Advent period. My mom and I made our own advent calendar for Eliza by tying little red bags to a streamer. Each day, I cut one down and Eliza gets to see what's inside. It's just little trinkets, a thing of stickers, that sort of thing. When she gets older, I will add more meaningful items to it — the year I got married, my mom made me one she had done like this in which every day, she had a funny story about me when I was a little kid. That was a really sweet one; I still have all the little pieces of paper with the stories on them somewhere.