The presents. The presents. The presence. Part Two
Sadie Wohlfahrt, Children’s Minister
In part one of my blog last month, I challenged parents to center their Christmas morning traditions on more than just gifts- and to focus their gift-giving on fewer, more meaningful presents.
So what do you do with all that extra time on Christmas morning, if you aren’t tearing through 87 gifts?
There are so many ways to celebrate together other than gift-giving. Again, I am not opposed to presents- but I do challenge you to take your time, take turns, and cherish each gift as it is opened. After all- if it isn’t something that can be cherished, celebrated and admired by all in the room, does it really need to be given?
Many families start their day with stockings. This is great- and we will too. I particularly like to put fun (but not loud) little gizmos in my kids’ stockings like flashlights, mini Etch-A-Sketches, silly putty, drawing pads, water color sets, and stickers. I have also been known to fill them with things I’d buy anyway- like bubble bath, chapstick, socks, and underwear. (Bah humbug, I know.)
It is a great exercise in patience to then take a pause from gifts for a different activity. When I was little, my mom would make us brush our teeth and get dressed in church clothes- no lie- and then sit down to brunch in the dining room as a family. Which, if you’re five, takes like six hundred hours.
If you have littles, I still recommend taking a sacred pause- but maybe not for a fancy brunch. Here are some ideas.
Making breakfast together is always fun, and there are a lot of recipes that kids can actually “help” with. I love the idea of traditional cinnamon rolls- but I have three kids under the age of six, so… nope. This year we will be trying this cinnamon roll casserole which involves tearing and pouring. If your kids are anything like mine, they are really good at tearing things up and dumping things out. We will pair this with bacon because everything is better with bacon. I also love “kidmosas” made with sparkling grape juice and orange juice. I’ll even let them drink out of the glass champagne flutes. (What good are they doing me if they are just sitting on the shelf getting dusty?)
Another great activity for the sacred pause is the birdseed blessings. Go outside and have each family member toss a handful of birdseed in the yard or on the sidewalk. Each critter that “visits” is a sign of a blessing in the new year. In our family, cardinals are always a sign of a visitor from heaven. My daughter is very big on “watching for Grandpa.” Be still my heart!
When my father was little, their family celebrated Christmas morning by finally placing the baby Jesus in the nativity set that had been out since the beginning of Advent. You can extend this by singing a few Christmas carols or reading the Christmas story from the gospel of Luke. I particularly like the version in the Jesus Storybook Bible available here on Walmart.com.
If your coffee is particularly strong and your children are exceptionally motivated, you can also act out your own “nativity scene.” My kids could spend the better part of an hour coming up with “costumes” and “props” and assigning lines and arguing about who will be the angel- and quite possibly forget about the other gifts altogether.
Some families have a birthday party for Jesus. I love this- and we will try it out this year. It’s a great way to remember what the day is really about but also have cake. Win-win.
You can make this celebration as simple or elaborate as you’d like. Kids can “help” bake a cake from scratch, or just throw together a box mix. If you have multiple children and you know that blowing out the candle will be World War Three, make cupcakes so each person blows out their own candle after singing “Happy Birthday.” You can break out the nice china for Jesus’s birthday party, or use the leftover Paw Patrol paper goods from the last birthday party. If you want a fun activity to keep kids busy for a hot second while you unload the dishwasher, you can buy plain party hats for them to decorate with markers and stickers. I particularly like these from Urban Outfitters. (What can I say? I am a sucker for glitter details.) If you want to get crazy and switch over a load of laundry also, they can decorate white pennants in the same way. I like this template if you want to print, color, and string them yourselves.
Remember- December 25 is not the end of the Christmas season, it is the beginning. It is the first of 12 days of Christmas. Next year, I want to explore patience and presence (and delayed gratification) much more deeply by giving my children one gift each day for the 12 days.
I’d also like to incorporate more service and mission into our holiday traditions. Perhaps a mini-mission each day for 12 days? What better way to honor the birthday of our savior, than by going out to be his hands and feet? Let’s brainstorm together!