In my last post I talked about how a few years ago I had a Christmas breakdown when I got super overwhelmed by Christmas festivities and thought, “This isn’t about and Jesus and it’s not even fun.”
That post gave ideas on how to shop to avoid the overwhelm and keep the fun things actually fun. This post is going to focus on how to keep the season about Jesus.
I’m by no means anti-Santa (or as my husband said it, “You’re not antee Santee.”) But I feel very strongly that I need to make sure that Jesus is getting much more focus. My kids will learn about Santa with no effort on my part, but learning about the real miracle we are celebrating is going to take some effort on my part.
The past few years I have been posting a daily activity count down and have tried to align it as much as possible with the Light the World campaign from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
This year I decided to stray a little from that pattern because I’ve realized recently that I just can’t keep up that daily level of activity. Between my current energy level, figuring out how to fit everything in with a kid in full day kindergarten, and my husband having a significantly longer commute than in the past, I’ll be honest, my daily Thanksgiving activity plans have kinda tanked and I’ve realized that I need to simplify more and more.
Also, this year’s Light the World suggestions are smaller and simpler and someone already did the work of creating one specifically for kids. So if you are looking for a simple thing to do every day then I would definitely suggest checking out A Year of FHE. She’s got a really great calendar going on! Although admittedly I did chuckle a little when I saw that the activity on the church produced calendar was, “Think of someone for whom you’ve had negative feelings lately. Try praying for them.” And the corresponding kid activity is, “Pray for your parents or care-givers today.”
But, I did want to give some suggestions of a few larger activities to try and fit in, or how to take things you already do and tie them in to Christ, as well as a few of my own ideas for incorporating kids and this year’s Light the World campaign.
Christmas parties– we’ll have at least two just for fun parties this year. Explain that the scriptures say that we should have joy. Also Heavenly Father and Jesus want us to have good relationships with our friends and family so having fun with them is a great way to prepare for Christmas.
Light displays– No Mesa Temple lights this year 😦 but we like to get over to Glendale Glitters- explain to the kids that Jesus is the Light of the World so when we see the Christmas lights we remember Him.
Live Nativity– Dec 6-7 at Grace Lutheran Church in Glendale, they do a hay ride that will pick you up from Glendale Glitters then take you back
Dec 13- we’ll have a live nativity and petting zoo at our church building at 325 W Coral Gables Dr. in Phoenix
Dec 13-15- First Baptist Church in Chandler has a huge event that sounds really neat
Movie Nights– there are tons of Christ-centered Christmas movies to enjoy together as a family this season. Pop up some popcorn, make some hot cocoa, and sit back for a low energy but Christ-centered activity! Here’s some faves:
- Veggie Tales! (You can buy DVDs from their website, or most can be found digitally on Amazon)
- Little Drummer Boy
- Saint Nicholas
- It’s a Meaningful Life
- The Toy that Saved Christmas
- The Star of Christmas
- The Best Christmas Gift (haven’t actually seen this one yet, but I’ve never met a VeggieTales I didn’t like)
- Beauty and the Beet (not specifically about Christmas, but winter themed and has Christmas music)
- The Star
- Joy to the World
- So many short clips on the Church website!
Petting Zoo– if you can’t make it to a Live Nativity with a petting zoo, I definitely encourage you to seek out a petting zoo somewhere. A couple years ago we started this tradition, I explained to my son that we would see some of the animals that were there when Jesus was born. He hopped out of the car at the farm and immediately started calling out, “Jesus, where are you baby Jesus?!” It was absolutely adorable. I explained that we wouldn’t actually see baby Jesus, we would just see animals LIKE the ones that were there, but I think seeing the animals really helps make things more concrete for little ones.
Gingerbread Stables– this is a fun twist on gingerbread houses, and my kids love it. We use sour patch kids for the people, a peach ring for the manger, and I get animal crackers for the animals.
Service Project– find a larger service project that your family can participate in together. Here’s some ideas:
- Treats and cards to the NICU or another group that is meaningful to your family (my 3 year old spent 10 days in the NICU so this is important to us)
- Pick a Christmas tree angel or family to provide presents to. Have the kids help pick out and wrap the gifts
- Kits for asylum seekers and recently arrived refugees- my kids have loved helping to buy some of the items, putting them in a back pack and delivering them to a local assistance group. We go through Gathering Humanity.
- Food, coats, etc. to a homeless shelter
Christmas Eve– I like to make Middle Eastern food (lamb meat, goat cheese, pita bread or naan, olives, and baklava for dessert) and we eat by the light of an oil lamp similar to the ones they would have used in Christ’s time (admittedly I use a little tea light candle instead of oil). Then we read and act out the Christmas Story from Luke 2.
Light the World activity ideas:
Here’s a few additional ideas to incorporate younger kids into the Light the World activities:
- If you’re in an area with a Giving Machine– get over there!
- Invite someone who might be lonely (like a widow, or someone living far away from family) over for dinner and/or one of your movie nights
- Take treats and carol to some of your neighbors
- Make cards for your primary teachers
- Make cards and maybe a small gift* for school teachers
- Set New Year’s Resolutions using the categories from Christ’s life- wisdom, stature, favor with God, and man. I love this from the Friend to help younger kids set goals in these areas.
* I’m going to get on a little soap box about teacher gifts for a second- if you want more info on gift giving this time of year read my last post. As a former teacher and the daughter of two current teachers, let me talk to you about teacher gifts. As I said in the other post, I do not want this to come off as ungrateful, of course we are so grateful for students and their families thinking of us. But at some point it can turn into a burden instead of a blessing. So before you grab lotions, a candle, a knick knack, or a water bottle, etc. consider how well that would work if you got 30 of those a year every year. For my mom, she can’t handle scented lotions or candles at all, so while it’s kind and sweet, she feels bad because she turns around and re-gifts, donates, or eventually just has to throw them away. Candy, again, think 30 kids giving you sweets- ain’t nobody need that much sugar in their life. Crafts made out of school supplies- I have heard unanimous agreement from teacher friends that rather than receiving a wreath made out of crayons, they would prefer just to receive the crayons.
So stick to a note from your kid, school supplies, and/or gift cards to places like Target or Amazon! Because a note on gift cards, if you get small amounts to random places, you end up spending more of your own money, so at least with Target or Amazon, most people just shop there regularly anyway so even if it’s a small amount, it’s helping reduce their cost, but also they will probably get them from other people as well.