Christmas is my favorite time of year. This is no secret to my family, and I'm pretty sure this love of all things warm and sentimental has gotten passed down to Noah. He loves it all too and that makes my heart happy! He never wants to take down the Christmas tree.
Figuring out how "to do" Christmas is a work in progress for us though. I am totally in love with the grand imagination it takes to believe in some mythical Santa who possesses magic used to make children all over the world happy by flying with reindeers and delivering gifts. I'm also completely enraptured with the historical and spiritual understanding that without Christmas, there would be no Christ; no atonement for my lack of goodness. Bringing those two worlds together in a way that is understandable for young kids is tough though.
We thought we were on the right track this year. And I think we were...there's just still lots of bugs to work out. We started following an Advent schedule offered by our pastor, where we read a prayer, sing a Christmas hymn, read scripture, and light the advent candles. We weren't great at doing it every night, so that's one thing to improve on, and the other is engaging in this activity in a way that is actually meaningful. I don't want it to feel like a chore, and I want it to hold weight, and I want the kids to learn from it. I want to learn from it. So figuring out how to better do that would be good.
When it comes to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, again I feel like Matt and I are on the right track as far as figuring out what we want this holiday to look like for our family, but still, there's much tweaking to do. My family's tradition has always been to sit down around the tree on Christmas Eve with all the lights dimmed and candles lit with a cup of hot chocolate in hand and listen to Dad read the Christmas story from the Bible. Then we open one gift each (most often from Uncle Sandy and Aunt Pam.) I always loved this, so we've adopted these traditions into our young family.
Reflections on what to do in the following years: (mainly documenting this for Matt and I to read back on next year.)
I'm thinking for next year, we make Christmas Eve a time of intense focus on Christ's birth and meaning. We do the Advent ceremony before dinner and afterwards, not only should we read the Biblical Christmas story, but we should pause during it and ask questions and talk about it. Maybe read the children's Bible version so that the kids are more engaged. Afterwards, have a focused time of prayer (perhaps the prayer should wait til after the one gift, so that the kids can be focused on it). Perhaps everyone in the family takes a turn praying and thanking God for his immense sacrifice and gift in the incarnation. Then, before bed, we re-engage with preparing for Santa...putting out cookies and milk and reindeer food.
And on Christmas morning, it is gift time. There is just simply no combining the idea of Christ coming to earth as our Savior and tearing into decorated boxes filled with presents. They don't go together! Why are we forcing them too? I think this year I finally concluded that the two don't match up, and so to say right before the kids start diving into the gifts, "OK kids, let's remember what Christmas is really about," is so void of meaning at that point that I imagine it almost injures our kids' views of Christ. Let's just keep the two separate. I feel sure that there is no sin in this. After gifts, when we all sit around sharing a big breakfast, we can reflect and give thanks and again speak of the mystery of the incarnation. And I like the idea of having another focused time of prayer where we each offer thanksgiving for all we've been given. But I'm very contented with letting gift time be gift time.