We have had a wonderfully busy weekend enjoying activities unique to the Christmas season. Friday we went to Atlanta to enjoy the final dress rehearsal of the Nutcracker at the fabulous Fox Theater. This was the trio's first experience with a live play or ballet...and they did a terrific job. They were taken with the sights and sounds. Thank you, Storey & Mrs. Thompson for the tickets!
Saturday morning we went to the Christmas Parade in downtown Atlanta. It was our third consecutive year of attending with Grandmother & Granddaddy. A Christmas tradition indeed!
I have been very cognizant this year of the fact that the children comprehend most of what is going on around them and have distinct memories of similar events in the past. I want to be very intentional about how we are spending our time this Christmas, mindful that we are shaping their childhood memories of this holiday.
Santa will certainly visit our home, but we are trying to counteract the overwhelming "gift" emphasis surrounding the holiday with a focus in our home on the gift of Jesus. Here are a few of the intentional things we are doing to make this holiday about Christ, not just commercialism:
1. An advent calendar that has the nativity as its focus. Each morning after breakfast, our "leader of the day" gets to do the honors of opening the box and placing the daily magnet into the nativity scene. We then talk about how many more days until Jesus' birthday, as opposed to "when Santa comes."
2. Most of my Christmas decorations are focused on angels, wisemen and the nativity. I have a few snowmen and one singing Santa, but for the most part the historical, Biblical aspects are what we display.
3. I have two nativity scenes that are completely child safe. They are displayed at levels where the children can access them easily and play with them. The two scenes that are in our family room are missing the baby Jesus. He will appear on Christmas morning. I read this tradition somewhere a couple of years ago and loved it. It is another "anticipation" tradition that keeps Christ as the center of the celebration, not just waiting for Santa to bring stuff. (I do have a question for those of you who also do this. How do you explain how the baby gets there? One of the boys asked me this morning if Santa was going to bring baby Jesus and I did not know what to say. I sidestepped it this morning, but am wondering what others say. I know I will be asked again.)
4. Santa brings each child three gifts. This is a way to honor the three gifts the wisemen brought and frankly, it is accountability for me to keep my excitement about the "stuff" under control. I must confess this is really much harder than it seems, especially at this age where they like little simple things. A trip to Target is a battle for me to keep this promise because I get sucked into the lure of the bright, shiny, adorable sale items. I don't count stocking stuffers as part of the three gifts. Nor do I count the two gifts from Daddy and me. This one is clearly as much about keeping my focus pure as it is theirs.
5. We go visit Santa only one very special time. We are just instituting this rule this year. We have been invited to three different 'breakfast with Santa' events and I just think it is too much and too confusing to explain why he looks different and why we are having to re-tell him what we want. We also hope that by de-emphasizing the big guy a bit, Christmas will still remain magical for them after they get a little older and learn more about who is wearing the red suit.
6. On Christmas day we have a birthday cake and sing for baby Jesus.
We also do seasonal, non-religious things: the Nutcracker, decorating gingerbread houses, parades, Christmas caroling, riding the Pink Pig, looking at light displays, selecting and decorating our tree. I am not opposed to the widespread secular holiday celebrations. Frankly, I love the lights, sounds, smells, emotions of Christmas. I just want to be intentional about keeping it all in perspective.
Despite all this, my children are still typical three year olds. There is still plenty of chatter about Santa and all the stuff we want, want, want. :-)
I'd love to hear your ideas. What are you doing to emphasize Christ in Christmas?
EDITED TO ADD: I forgot about the Jesse tree. I had intended to do it this year, but have not made the ornaments yet. The devotions start today, so maybe there is still time...I guess I know what we are doing post-nap this afternoon!