Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A More Christ-Centered Holiday with "12 Days of Christmas"

      Ever since I was a child, I have felt that Christmas is way too commercialized.  It comes and goes every year with the main focus on gifts and people never having thought of the true meaning or why Christmas is so important to the world.  I have always had a strong faith in our Savior Jesus Christ, and I have a deep respect and love for the Christmas spirit.  Believe it or not, when I was a young teen, I begged my parents to have a Christmas without presents and just dedicate it to family time.  My parents just laughed at me and said, "Yeah, sure." They had problems recognizing the truly important things in life.  No dice.  We got plenty of presents, but no quality time with the family.  I don't remember what gifts I received.  I just remember feeling sad and lonely.  I remember feeling ashamed that my family did not once stop and talk about the birth of Christ on Christmas Day.

     All those years inspired me to do more for my family and for my kids.  I had vowed that I would teach my children about the significance of Christmas and the value of family togetherness.  I knew things would be different for my family.  Luckily, my husband Daniel was on board and has always made endless efforts to better our life for our family.  Every year, we attempt to make Christmas more Christ-centered, spiritual, and memorably fun.
   
     This year we decided to start limiting presents to three gifts per child.  With each gift representing the gifts given to Jesus: Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh.  We will be explaining to our children the meaning behind each gift.
  • GOLD: This gift will be something that the child has been wanting; that special gift they have been asking for.  
  • FRANKINCENSE: This gift will be something for their body.  It could be something to encourage health, or maybe clothing.  
  • MYRRH: This gift will be something that enriches the mind or spirit.  It might be something of spiritual or sentimental value, or an educational present.  
These specific guidelines made it much easier to make out our Christmas shopping list this year! And helped us stay within a decent budget.
   
     Another tradition we are starting this year is "12 Days of Christmas Family Fun."  I have a list of (free or inexpensive) activities for the family to do together every evening for the 12 days that lead up to Christmas.  I ordered these adorable Small Red Envelopes and then I used these Printable Tags link to paste on our envelopes. I printed out this Free Tag Template and wrote one activity on each tag and placed them inside the envelopes. They turned out so cute!!
I plan to hide them in the tree and ask my girls to find the right number each day.  I figured this is a good tradition to have if we want to focus on quality family memories, instead of focusing on Christmas gifts. And guess what?  Finding the envelopes will be a fun educational way for my girls to practice their numbers! Homeschooling score!

Here is my list of activities. But shhhh! Don't tell my girls. ;)

 1)  Play a board game or put together a puzzle
 2)  Do a service project
 3)  Movie night
 4)  See Christmas lights and drink hot cocoa
 5)  See the temple Christmas lights
 6)  Play an active game (like hide & seek or tag or a sport)
 7)  Go ice skating
 8)  Bake treats or make a gingerbread nativity scene
 9)  Talk a walk on the pier and eat ice cream
10)  Make ornaments or another craft
11)  Read aloud the nativity story (I bought The Christmas Story book which is perfect for preschool kids!) and sing Christmas Carols around the tree
12)  Gifts on Christmas Day!!

     In case you were wondering, we still "do Santa."  We love Santa and the fun childhood traditions that come with Santa Claus: pictures with Santa, letters to Santa, stockings filled with goodies from Santa.  And to be honest, I'm pretty certain my 4 year old is perfectly aware of the Santa tradition.  She has expressed to me how she thinks it's fun to pretend we are giving each other gifts from Santa, haha.  We didn't say anything to her. I guess she figured it out on her own, but since we daily encourage pretend and magic play, it doesn't seem like a big charade...just another fun game.  But overall, we don't talk about Santa a whole lot and we don't use it as a way to get our kids to behave, because hey...they should be behaving regardless! ;)  But we do make sure to discuss Baby Jesus a lot around Christmas and we always explain to our kids that Christmas is a time to celebrate his birth and to rejoice in "peace on earth, good will toward men."
Happy Holidays to all!