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The Traditions of Christmas

The Traditions of Christmas

Our families share their Christmas Traditions

We have a parenting fellowship that meets on Sunday mornings at our church.  We discuss parenting, marriage and family life topics.  Homebuilders, for Glenkirk, is a community that’s smaller than a church service, but bigger than a small group – allowing parents a next-step into community with other believers (and some non-believers) who seek to raise up Christ-following kids.

This year, at our last gathering before Christmas break, some of the families in the group shared their family traditions around Christmastime and I thought I’d share them here.  These might give you some ideas for traditions your family can start, or just give you a picture of what some of the families in our communities do to celebrate Christmas.

Families were asked to submit their Christmas Traditions…
Here’s how they responded:

  • Eat Swedish meatballs on Christmas Eve.
  • Have Santa has come to our house every Christmas Eve, they love it and we go to church.
  • The best part is Christmas day when the entire clan gets together (26 and growing).
  • We got an “Elf on the Shelf” a few years ago, and it is one of our favorite traditions.
  • Glendora Christmas Stroll
  • Advent Cards
  • Visit Live Nativity Scenes
  • Neighborhood Cookie Exchange w/ Santa Claus and Snow
  • Give kids $ to buy Christmas presents for everyone at dollar store
  • Read the Christmas story
  • There’s the usual baking, decorating and getting dressed up for church.
  • Play “Christmas Guess Who” (this is for a large group).
  • We also play bingo after dinner!
  • Make Puppy Chow and deliver it to friends and neighbors.
  • Drive together in the Yukon and look at Christmas lights wearing Santa hats.
  • Advent calendars for the boys from Trader Joes.
  • Everyone knows that the one gift they will “surprisingly” open on Christmas Eve will be P.J.’s.
  • After presents Christmas morning, we have “eggie” casserole and bagels, lox and cream cheese.
  • Listening to Amy Grant’s Christmas album while decorating the tree
  • After putting the kids to bed on Christmas Eve, my husband & I enjoy Mimosas, wrapping & watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” on TV.
  • Do the “What God Wants For Christmas” story
  • Take turns opening presents one at a time and will even stop and play with a present if one of the kids wants to…
  • Have the kids also give each other and each of us presents
  • We also have Eggplant Parmesan for dinner and Thin-Hotcakes for breakfast
  • We always buy a tied up tree and open it up at home
  • Give the kids new Christmas PJs on Christmas Eve.
  • Read the Bible on Christmas morn before we open presents
  • Have Cinnamon Rolls and hot chocolate on Christmas morning
  • At our dinner parties or when we host Christmas eve, we section the Luke 2 chapter in as many pieces as we have guests (kids included) and we read our parts around the table as our prayer.
  • We make about 10-15 loaves of cinnamon bread starting at the crack of dawn Christmas morning to give to neighbors and friends.
  • On Christmas Eve all the kids perform the Christmas pageant and then we sing “That’s How Christmas Came to Be.”
  • We go to my in-laws and have a white elephant gift exchange after dinner.
  • We celebrate St. Nicholas day on Dec. 6. The night before the kids put their shoes out and they get little goodies (a small gift, Clementine, candy cane, and chocolate gold coins)
  • We read stories about the real St. Nicholas and it is helpful to tie our Christmas traditions to a real person and the kindness he showed for others
  • We buy our kids three gifts each: something they need, something they want, and something that’s a surprise
  • We have a traditional Norwegian meal on Christmas eve
  • Santa brings 3 gifts, just like Jesus received 3 gifts.
  • We choose one Christmas card each night from those we’ve received in the mail and pray for that family/individual before dinner.
  • We bake a birthday cake for Jesus.  Then we sing to him and blow out the candles after Christmas dinner.
  • We spend the night with my brother’s family Christmas Eve and wake up to cook bacon, eggs, and cinnamon rolls and open gifts.
  • We spend the whole day playing with new toys and playing over-the-line.
  • Strawberry Farms Christmas Tree
  • Christmas Music
  • Opening a present on Christmas Eve (always PJ’s)
  • Church on Christmas Eve,
  • Christmas Lights- drive around
  • Angel on top of tree
  • Cookies and milk for Santa
  • Mrs. Claus lingerie (after the kids go to bed, of course)
  • Our nativity scene
  • Calendar that counts down to Christmas
  • My favorite, second only to baking with the family, would be our family night where we let each person open two gifts:  pajamas and then an ornament
  • We read the Christmas story (from the Bible) and Santa Mouse.
  • Our family always gets our our Christmas tree the first weekend of December.
  • We pop popcorn, drink eggnog and hot chocolate while we decorate and after its all done, the kids “camp out” on the floor in front of the tree and watch a Christmas movie until they fall asleep.
  • On Christmas Eve, we order pizza, go to Christmas Eve Service and then open one present
  • Do Elf on the Shelf which is huge fun and helps with behavior!
  • Get hot chocolate and drive around looking at lights.
  • Sprinkle oats mixed with sparkles on the lawn Christmas Eve for Santa’s reindeer.
  • Always watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Christmas Vacation” on Christmas Eve.
  • My wife and I started a tradition because she came from a family that never put a topper on the tree, while mine always did. So here is our compromise — we put the toppers on my science fiction awards…!
  • A family tradition all year long… Our family does finger food Friday: appetizers for dinner and play games or watch movies
  • For years we went the Disneyland when kids were little…. We took a break…. We’re starting it back up this year!
  • The past few years we have had MOM and Son friends night at the Crooks with dinner and games or gift exchange….
  • We always watch Mary Poppins Christmas
  • We read the night before Christmas and still leave milk and cookies for Santa!
  • Make gingerbread houses together
  • Read Christmas books that were put away for the year
  • Watch the Polar Express Making hard cinnamon candy
  • Pull out the Little People nativity set
  • Christmas morning always includes homemade cinnamon rolls
  • We wake up Christmas morning, gather on mom & dad’s bed   for a Bible reading of the Christmas Story, then we pray and thank God for his many gifts to us, and we ask for grateful hearts for the many gifts that we are about to receive this day.
  • Lots of baking
  • The one item we make and keep for Christmas day is our Happy Birthday Jesus Cake!
  • We have an “adult tree” with our breakable ornaments and a “kid tree.”
  • One of our big family traditions: Progressive Dinner.
  • Christmas dishes and advent quilt come out December 1st.
  • Christmas boxers
  • Surprise Night
  • Reading Luke 2 and singing “Happy Birthday Jesus” in the hallway before presents.
  • Monkey Bread Christmas morning
  • The nativity manger is empty until Christmas morning

Do you have a tradition you’d like others to know about?  As always, feel free to add your thoughts in the comment section below.

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Posted by on December 22, 2011 in Kidmin, Resources

 

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I am Santa Claus

I am Santa Claus

How to: Talk about Santa in a Christian Context

“No he isn’t!”

“Yes, he is.”

“He is not! … he’s not fat enough.”

“Yes, he is.” … “Mr. Anthony, come over and tell them.  You’re Santa, right?”

*silence*

It’s that time of year, when faithful Christian parents and Sunday School teachers cower in fear at the looming presence of the-jolly-one-who-shall-not-be-named.

Going into this year, as the parent of two preschool-aged kiddos, I knew that the way we begin dealing with Santa in our house had the potential to be a big deal.  I know this because each year, right around Thanksgiving, I begin dodging the land mine we face in Children’s Ministry about what we should do with Santa.  Balancing how my wife and I have decided to tackle Santa mythology while also honoring other parents’ plans for how they handle Christmas legends is a tricky line to walk – but one that I’ve learned to have a bit of fun with.  (more on that later)

A few weeks ago, I asked how other readers of this blog have dealt with Santa in their own context.  Some told me that they refuse to mention Santa’s name altogether, others see the myth of Santa as harmless fun and a part of the spirit of Christmas, while a handful of others spoke of the fear that their children will be traumatically hurt by the Santa myth – one note in particular was from a woman who feared that her children might stop believing in Jesus later because, if she lies to her children about Santa, then her children will assume that she must be lying about Jesus as well.

The Santa conversation is one that I actually don’t mind having with children – but it’s one that I’ve learned to be particularly sensitive about.  Here are a few things I keep in mind when Santa comes up in conversation.

Large rooms are diverse rooms

The larger the room I’m in, the quicker I change the Santa channel when it comes on.  If I’m leading a small group discussion with children, I’ll let a conversation about Santa happen for a couple minutes, giving each child a few moments to share their Christmas traditions.  I’m more likely to let that conversation go on in the group is smaller than 4 children.  However, if I’m in a room with 30 or more children, I’m going to quickly go to one of my go-to moves to distract a crowd (juggling, a quick rock-paper-scissors match, or the turn-to-your-neighbor-and-answer-a-question move) to allow for a chance for myself or one of my volunteers to tell that child that we’d love to have the Santa conversation at a later moment.

In a large room, kids don’t hear everything that’s said and it’s not the best time to try to have a tricky conversation with a child.  Crowd conversations rarely go well and are hard to steer away from controversial topics.  The faster you can shift a conversation, the better off you’ll be.  Just make sure to follow up with the child who had something to say at a later, more appropriate, time.  They need to know you care about them… you just need to also care about the diversity represented in the group at the same time.

Patience is a virtue

I’m not known for being patient in all things.  I show tons of patience to small children who can’t figure out how to tie their shoes, who forget how to hold a pencil or who ask the same question over and over and over.  Those kids are some of my favorites.  I’m less patient when I know that something needs to happen and that I can’t make it happen right away.  Part of why I love cookie dough and hate cookies is because the dough is arguably just as good as a cookie and requires no baking time.  I can’t stand puzzles because it will take me hours upon hours to create the picture that is right in front of me on a box.

I say that to say this – when Santa conversations come up, you need to remember to be patient.  I meet a lot of 1st graders who believe in Santa.  I meet less 7th graders who still believe in Santa.  I meet even less 42 year old adults who believe that Santa is actually coming down their chimney this Christmas.  I’m more interested in raising children who will grow up to be adults than children who will stay happy 7 years olds forever.  Don’t be afraid to listen to a child’s ideas about Santa and talk with them about traditions your family has at Christmas.  I often spend time simply listening to a child’s questions or hypotheses about Santa.  Then, if they want to hear, I’ll tell them about how my children get to be like Santa at Christmastime by giving away some of their toys to children who need them.  I’m willing to bet that you’d rather be remembered as a grown up who cared about and listened to children, rather than someone who smashed their hopes and dreams about Santa.

I’m on “Team Parent”

One of the old models (I’m hoping that calling it an old model will help you rethink things if this is still the world you live in) of children and youth ministry was to hire people who loved kids but couldn’t relate to other adults.  Just the other day, I was looking at an old job description for my position and noticed that there was a heavy emphasis on communicating with children and no mention of being in relationship with their parents.

When Santa comes up in conversation, I’m forced to remind myself that I’m on “Team Parent” – if I undermine a parent by going to far into a Santa conversation with a child, I risk undermining any future partnership with them.  I try to remind parents at any chance I get that I’m on their team – showing some grace around the Santa conversation is a great way to live into that partnership.  I like asking parents around Christmastime what their family traditions are – it’s a great way to get a feel for the pulse of the community you serve in.  In fact, we recently asked our Homebuilders group (a parenting fellowship that meets on Sunday mornings at our church) what their family traditions are – but that’s a post for another day.

I am Santa Claus

It was at one of our after-school programs a few weeks ago that I was asked if I was Santa Claus.  For context, it was one of my adult leaders trying to convince her daughter that I was Santa… a comical situation, to say the least.  When put on the spot, I confessed to a table of 1st graders – I am Santa Claus.

You see, one of the best ways out of the Santa conversation, when there’s no other way out, is to claim to be him.

Within moments, children were telling me that my beard wasn’t long or white enough, that I wasn’t nearly fat enough and that I’ve proven myself to be far too clumsy to sneak in and out of so many houses without injuring myself.  Clearly, I couldn’t be Santa.  I’ve learned to play it off with a bit of heavy sarcasm and, the funny part of the whole thing is, I avoid lying to children while still giving them the space to believe in the magic of Santa.  That day, a couple weeks ago, I replied by saying things like, “I have a whole month to grow a big beard,” … “I eat a lot of cookie dough in December, I usually pack on a few pounds between now and Christmas” … “You’re right, I would make a clumsy Santa.  That’s a great observation.”

—-

I don’t think there’s a black and white answer to how to deal with Santa in Christian contexts.  Christmas, historically, did not begin as a Christian holiday.  The church, in an effort to refocus a pagan celebration that many early converts were struggling with, decided to lean into the culture it existed in and tried to blend the sacred into the secular.  It was kind of a brilliant move, if you ask me.  And so, it’s no surprise to me, that there’s a “battle” for Christmas every year.

I do find it surprising that many Christians forget that we’re the ones who first took this holiday in an attempt to shift the focus of our culture from selfishness to selflessness.  And, if you ask me, I think that the spirit of Santa is often more Christ-like than the spirit of consumerism that often surrounds the day when we choose to celebrate God’s greatest gift to us – His son, Jesus.

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2011 in Kidmin, Thoughts

 

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Where we got the name “Christmas”

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ibyur0xMeBA%5D

Where we got the name “Christmas”

WITB Tour: The Tricky Bits of Christmas

Have you ever wondered where the name Christmas comes from?  And… why don’t we just call it “Jesus’ birthday-day”?

Today, I get to talk a little about an amazing resource that’s coming out this holiday season.  Each year, I come across some tricky questions from the kids at my church, and even the kids who live at my house, as Christmas approaches.  Questions about Santa, the date of Christmas, some more questions about Santa, what the deal is with Christmas trees, and… yes… more questions about Santa.  I’d imagine that, if you’re a parent or work with children at your church, you face some of these same questions every year.

Well, I just happen to be friends with someone on a team who has developed a new tool for parents and church leaders to answer some of those hard questions surrounding Christmas.  The guys and gals who produce What’s In The Bible?  are launching a new resource this holiday season called Why Do We Call it Christmas (You can order the series at this link).  At the end of this post, I’ll tell you how you can win a FREE copy of this resource.

I’ve been asked to tackle some of the tricky bits that surround the lesson about where the name “Christmas” comes from.  It’s probably one of the lesser controversial lessons in the series (tackling the Santa thing sure sounds tricky, but the WITB team actually did it better than I’ve EVER seen), but it’s an important question that I want my own children, and the children in my church, to have the ability to answer.  Christmas is kind of a big deal, our kids should be able to talk about it from a place of understanding… and their answers should sound a bit different than the other answers on the playground at school.

When we work through this series at Glenkirk in the coming weeks (and at my house with my own kids), I’ll be giving my volunteers and church parents a head’s up about some of the trickier parts of this lesson.  The things I cover will probably look a little something like this:

For Volunteers and Parents

  1. In explaining the origin of the name “Christmas,” the video talks a bit about Communion.  Be ready to answer questions about what Communion is and why we take communion.  At our church, Communion is something that we celebrate once a month… but, be ready to explain to kids that some churches take communion more often and some take it less often.  At the time that Christmas originated (not when Jesus was born… but when we started celebrating Christmas on December 25), Communion was a part of each church service.  Having that information in your back pocket is going to be pretty helpful.
  2. The video talks about the fact that the holiday that started out on December 25th wasn’t Christmas.  You should be comfortable talking about this and shouldn’t shy away from the history of the date.  Try asking the kids in your group or in your family what day their birthday is on and if they’d change the day they celebrate it, if they could.  For example, my birthday is on December 27th and I’d change the day I celebrate it in a heartbeat.  I’ve lost count of how many “Christmabirthday” presents I’ve gotten over the years.  I think I’d want to celebrate my birthday in early May, if I had the choice.  Or maybe February.  How about you?
  3. When explaining the history of the holiday, it’s easy to talk less and less about the actual Christmas story.  Make sure that you point your discussion back to the birth of Jesus if it begins straying too far away.  If we spend a whole lesson talking about Christmas and forget to talk about God sending his Son to rescue us, we’re failing.  We should make sure that we make a big deal out of what we celebrate at Christmas.

Ok, here’s how to win your own copy ($79.00 value).  You can enter for the drawing by sharing this post on Facebook or Twitter and by sending me an email at aprince(at)glenkirkchurch.org.  Your email should include a quick story about how you handle (or how your parents handled) talking about Santa in your home.  This post isn’t about Santa… but I’m working on one and would love to use some of your stories (I’ll keep them anonymous, I promise).

Write to me, tell me about Santa, share this link and I’ll choose the winner next Tuesday, Nov.15, and post your name here on the blog.

 
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Posted by on November 10, 2011 in Kidmin, Resources

 

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