When I was a young girl Christmas did not mean as much to me as it does now that I am an adult. Don’t misunderstand me, I am a huge child at heart when it comes to this holiday season. Christmas is by far my favorite holiday and has been since I became a parent.
Growing up I have a few wonderful memories from Christmas, all surrounding my grandparents and their involvement in my life during my early years. As I got older, it wasn’t as special as it is now. Life, struggles and truthfully the lack of spiritual understanding had a lot to do with those feelings.
When my boys were very young, I began truly enjoying the holiday. As a Christian I began to really appreciate the meaning in a way I taught my own children. Historically it is well established that Jesus was not born on Christmas. I also fully understand and know that that the Christmas traditions we now celebrate here in America are mostly based on pagan rituals and beliefs. However, I found a way of ‘tweaking’ all of this into a family tradition that I am now blessed to share with my grandchildren, family and friends.
I created our own form of advent when the boys were young. It became a time that each night we would sit together and share a Christmas story that we took turns reading aloud. Additionally, each week we would light a new candle and say a prayer for the upcoming week together. When the boys were very young I implemented a tradition of giving everyone a small gift on the first night of each weekly candle. Week one was always a form of candy. Week two was a special ornament for each of them. These ornaments are now with each of our grown children on their own Christmas trees, less the ones Joe and I gave each other. Week three was usually some kind of small toy or stuffed animal. Week four usually varied depending upon the date of the month and how close it was to Christmas Day but was generally a small book of devotions or book of some kind. I wanted to make sure that as the kids were growing up that I established a foundation of Christ in our holiday celebrations.
We celebrated the love of God, the joy of Christ’s birth, the hope of the promises made by God to all of us and the sacrifice that Jesus gave for all of us. The central ‘theme’ of Christmas has and will always be the gift of God’s love and salvation through the gift of His Son to humanity. I raised my children still participating in the traditional things like Santa Claus, reindeer and the rest; but I focused on the fact that we exchange gifts to people we love during Christmas as a reminder of the gift that God gave to all of us with the birth and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
I also taught them the various ways Christmas and the tradition of Santa Claus is celebrated around the world to make sure that they realized that Santa is a tradition and custom; but not the true meaning of Christmas. My boys believed in Santa Claus completely. I put out carrots (for reindeer) and cookies for Santa. I made sure to create the illusion of Santa’s visit. We lived modestly (as a single parent it was a necessity) and so the boys were limited to how many things they could ask Santa to bring (3 things). These gifts were always there on Christmas morning without fail, I made sure of it. Stockings were always stuffed and on Christmas morning they would be amazed to see the half-eaten carrots and mess the reindeer left behind outside. I would knock over a few things and having cut a potato to look like a hoof, and I would make sure to leave several muddy hoofs prints about the patio area to really sell the idea of the reindeer having been there the night before. I also created the story that when every child is born the parents are given a birth certificate and Santa’s personal phone number. Only parents get the number and we never reveal it. This was a very handy tool to ensure that the boys stayed well behaved, less I should call Santa and report their bad behavior. It was very effective.
I’ve always decorated elaborately during Christmas (to the dismay of my Scroogesque hubby). I delight in the joy it brings children to see the display and I love the lights too. My yard decorations have become a fixture to our neighborhood everywhere we have lived, so much so that last year when I was late in putting them out the neighbors were making inquiries and worried about us.
This year, my granddaughter is old enough to really enjoy Christmas. It has caused me to think about all the traditions and celebrations I shared with her Daddy when he was little and now am blessed to see being instilled in her and her little brother.
The point I am taking way too long to get to is that Christmas shouldn’t be about the materialism and debt people incur. For years, I made sure to give at least one homemade gift to the boys and loved ones because that is something truly from the heart. I still go crazy with baking and making cookies for neighbors and loved ones. Christmas has and always will be a celebration of love and giving. God loved us so much that He sent His only begotten Son to be born and die as a sacrifice for all of us. That is the true meaning of this season. It doesn’t matter that the time of Jesus’ birth was not actually in December; it is the meaning of his birth not the date it occurred that matters.
I hope as the holiday draws closer that everyone takes the time to REALLY thank God for the gift He gave us and to share that love with those around us and not spend so much time caught up in the gift buying and giving, the shopping, the parties and the stress. Christmas should be joyous, not stressful. IF it’s become stressful, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate what Christmas means to you.
God Bless this nation, let there be blessings and peace for Israel and everyone around the world.