If you are friends with me on Facebook, you may have read that my Grandma passed away late on Friday night. While I am sad for me, I am happy for her, as she is no longer limited by her 100 year old body. She went peacefully, which is a blessing. All 4 of my grandparents were living until I was 26 – they were such a godly influence in my life! I have such a fondness in my heart for my time that I was privileged to spend with them. As I look back, I do not remember them doing huge projects with me or going to a lot of fuss – they just invited me into their lives. That is what I want for my kids – I want them to know that we enjoyed having them around and include them on what we are already doing. Not memories of a frazzled, frustrated mommy (which is unfortunately what they get sometimes!)
Sometimes memories are made in more of the unexpected moments, rather than planned ones. For one thing, how many times do we manage to have kids follow our schedule or agenda perfectly? (If you know a secret to 100% cooperative kids, please let me know!) But sometimes, it does help to do a bit of planning if you can manage to relax and enjoy the experience regardless if the outcome was not as you had planned. So, here are 9 different family experiences that could help to facilitate meaningful memories. Some of these ideas are from last year – some are some new ideas that I just found.
One more thing – I decided to only include ideas this year that focus on Jesus. This is simply because sometimes those ideas are a bit harder to find. For instance, when I did a quick search on Pinterest of “Santa,” the page was overflowing with ideas. If you search “nativity,” there are not as many. Please know that we are in no way condemning you if not every holiday tradition is about Jesus at your house. If your kids love “Elf on the Shelf” or making cookies for Santa, please do not feel pressured to stop those gestures. As I have mentioned in previous posts, not every television show we watch in December is specifically about the birth of Christ. Rudolph still makes an appearance. I just know that for me, I want to make sure that most of what I spend my energy on this season needs to point me back to Christ.
Note: if you choose to do all 9, you will be exhausted, and no one will have fun, so please try to only implement your favorite one or two. Next year, you can try some different family activities. The ideas that are highlighted with an @ symbol could also be fun to do with another family or could even make great outreach activities. Simply invite an unchurched family over and do the activity together. Then while you serve all of the kids cookies, read a Christmas story picture book or another Christmas related book together. Thanks to Rhonda, our Moppets coordinator, for sharing some of her family’s ideas with us!
- @ Our family was invited to a Christmas party last Saturday. I wanted to bring a gift to hand out to all of the kids that would reflect our family’s belief that Jesus is our reason for celebrating. After getting the hostess’ permission, my kids and I had fun assembling these – they were well received. http://pinterest.com/pin/137078382379622746/ You could also just invite another family over and make them together as well.
- One last Pinterest idea that is similar to “Elf on the Shelf,” play ‘Where is the Star?” Hide a large star around your house – remind your children that the wisemen searched for the star, so that they could find baby Jesus. http://pinterest.com/pin/255579347575071928/ (For someone who is not convinced of Pinterest, I sure seem to be using that site a lot. So far I have been resisting becoming a member – I just use it as a search engine sometimes when I know what I am looking for – we’ll see how long I hold out!)
- Rhonda has a shepherds meal at her house in the living room sitting on the floor – “I have to throw down a blanket for my peace … We have fruit, crackers, bread, sliced meat & cheese … anything a shepherd could have packed in his sack for the lonely days & nights out with the sheep! I stole this idea from a friend three years ago and have done it ever since.” Another idea is having a Bethlehem Dinner – serving more middle Eastern dishes. This could also be fun but may not work well if you have preschoolers with picky palates. http://christcenteredtraditions.blogspot.com/2008/11/bethleham-dinner.html (Note: upon doing further searching, I discovered that this is actually a Mormon site – I think that they still seemed to have good ideas, but just another reminder that you need to use discernment when looking at information on the internet.)
- Get the kids ready for bed, then tuck them in early. About 5 minutes after you have tucked everyone in, surprise your kids by announcing that you are going to go around and look at Christmas lights. Then load them up, jammies and all, and have a later night adventure. Hot chocolate is optional – warmed chocolate milk in sippy cups works too. Turn into Christian radio or play Christ Christmas songs while you drive around. A good time to remind your children that Jesus is the Light of the world. (Just a reminder that Campus Life has the Christ-centered display at 64th & Pine Lake from 6-10 this year).
- @ Place items that signify the true meaning of Christmas in a stocking such as a candy cane or even an unlit candle. The original site where I found this had a bunch of great ideas – if I can find that site, I will post it in the comments. (I do plan on doing this with my two youngest using the nativity stockings I won the other day at MOPs!)
- Play a homemade game with your kids. This site has many great file folder games and meaningful activities: http://www.christianpreschoolprintables.com/Christmas.html I think I might make the “Road to Bethlehem” game for my kids, that is if they cooperate on straightening up the house before we have to go out of town. (Just keeping it real – hard to be motivated to make memories when you trip everywhere you turn!)
- @ Place enough candy canes in a small box for each member of your family – use one large cane and have the rest be small ones. Wrap up the box. Put this in a slightly larger box – wrap it again. Continue putting the smaller boxes into larger boxes until you have a large box with lots of wrapped smaller boxes inside. Sit in a circle and pass the gift around while listening to Christmas music. Stop the music and let the person holding the box unwrap the gift. Continue until you are down to the last gift. The person opening the final box gets the large candy cane and then shares the little ones with every one else. (This idea is from The ADVENTure of Christmas by Lisa Whelchel. She has so many great ideas that I could copy the entire book. Due to probable copyright infringement laws, I refrained and just passed on one idea. I will just again recommend you get the book instead!) One thought from me: to make it “fair” play a pre-chosen short song for the last time the big package goes around. That way when the box stops, you can’t be accused of playing favorites for the large candy cane. Also the candy cane is traditionally thought of as the letter J for Jesus, as well as representing the shepherd’s crook. This would be a great time to read The Legend of the Candy Cane by Lori Walburg. You can also find the legend in a printable form online, but the illustrations of the picture book make it very memorable and enjoyable.
- At Rhonda’s house, she does name tags around the table at Christmas Dinner. On the back, they put the passages of scripture with the Christmas Story starting with some of the prophesies in Isaiah. When they sit down to eat, they read the passages together. I found a link to a “Name of Jesus” advent chain. While it is too late to start the chain tradition this year, you could definitely print out the list of names of Jesus, as there are Scriptural references included. The advent chain idea and pictures can be found at http://www.spelloutloud.com/2011/11/names-of-jesus-advent-chain.html A link to the names study is here: http://www.easyfunschool.com/article1679.html
- @ Have a birthday party for Jesus. Play “pin the tail on the donkey” (with Mary pictured sitting on the donkey). Play bingo using the word angel instead. Have a birthday cake with candles. (Idea from Celebrating a Christ-Centered Christmas by Sharon Jaymes) Additional ideas (http://www.squidoo.com/birthday-party-for-Jesus): play pin the star on the manger. Put a nativity set on a tray – leave the room, remove one person, then come back and see if the child can guess who is missing (a great game for toddlers!)
Well, hopefully if you have not yet established any Christmas traditions, between this blog and our recent meetings, you can find some ideas that would work for your family. Enjoy celebrating Jesus’ birth!
A note from Gretchen: since this week is now involving a funeral for my family, I debated on stopping my 12 days of Christmas blog posts. But since I enjoy doing them and like finishing what I have started, I decided to continue. I can actually post blogs in advance, so that helps as well. When you get Wednesday’s post, I will not be on the computer but will instead be spending time with my family remembering my Grandma. Actually I will probably post several columns in advance and take a break from “live” blogging. I definitely have plenty of things I need to catch up on around here! 🙂