Truly one of the most wonderful parts of Christmas is that everything is magnified through the eyes of our children. Coming up with ideas of things that would delight them and then continuing those traditions every year brings much joy to all of us!
A sweet friend asked me to write about the traditions we practiced when our children were little. There are so many that I would have to write pages to adequately describe them all. We did different things at different stages. However, the goal of Christmas traditions is not to do the most elaborate and difficult things, but to help your children love Jesus, revere Him, enjoy His story, to transport the beauty of the Christmas carols so deeply into their hearts. I tried to make things so familiar when they were quite young, that when they hear the familiar carols as adults, it will flood them with deep memories cherished even from the rocking chair of their mother.
Of course, it is the whole year that will make our children fall in love with Jesus if He is daily cherished in our home. "Look at the twinkling stars that Jesus put into the sky for our pleasure. Isn't He wonderful?"
"I am so glad that Jesus made grapes. I love to eat them."
"Isn't it wonderful that Jesus created us to love music so we could sing and dance?"
... and all in the midst of the other rhythms of life.When the Christmas season was at hand, we would always say, "Now we get to have the best birthday celebration of all! God came to the earth through a little baby to help us, love us and save us. And we get to celebrate His birthday and love Him more by telling His story and singing to Him."
We need to look at little children as Jesus did--they have innocent hearts, they freely love, they adore great stories, surprises, fun and giggles--they want to be generous and give of themselves without self-consciousness. And so we approach the season with their sweet minds in consideration.
I started out by singing the carols each night to my babies as I nursed them, so that they learned them from infancy. At two and a half, one night as I was singing "Away in the manger" to Joy (very verbal and articulate at an early age), and she looked up and me and said, "Mama, isn't it amazing that the cows blew Jesus and he didn't even get mad?"
I said, "What do you mean?" She said, "The cattle were blowing the baby awake, but little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes." She had engaged her little mind seriously thinking about cattle blowing Jesus awake!
As the children multiplied and became a little older, we would put all in pajamas and have advent with them each night, singing a carol together, in the light of the candles of our advent wreath and then reading our advent verse before they climbed into bed. It is easy for others to hear of our traditions and imagine that somehow we had total cooperation, but of course our children wiggled or argued -- "You sat next to mama last night! It's my turn!" or "He keeps tickling my toe with his feet."
But somehow, it was the rhythm of keeping going and celebrating it the same way year by year that made it precious to the children. The expectation that when the dark of night came, we would all cuddle up on the couch and sing and eat little snacks and read fun Christmas tales and have one more piece added to the adventure of the story of King Jesus.
Books everywhere, in every nook and corner, practically memorized.
One of my friends gave me this lovely idea. We would buy at least one new Christmas book a year. But her idea was to wrap all of your Christmas books in tissue paper and put them in a basket and after advent each night (or whenever you do it), the children take turns picking out one book to unwrap as a present and get to read that one before going to bed. This also makes each book a treasure. If you want to make it easier, you can have an older children wrap up the book each night after it's been read so that it will be ready for the next year and then you won't have 24 books to wrap!
What traditions do you enjoy with your little ones? (Big ones, too?)