At the end of a frigid night rumble on a scavenger hunt, family friends all warmed their freezing toes in front of the fire place while we warmed the hot chocolate.
Chilly, snowy nights are usually the norm of Colorado Decembers. Many years ago, we instituted a scavenger hunt Christmas party for our teens. We knew that they needed some outrageous, bigger than life sort of activities to keep them busy. We would divide up the teens into car fulls of kids.
Each car of kids (mixed up by a drawing of numbers to determine the car) had a list of things they had to bring home. First car to bring home all of the goodies on the list, wins a box of chocolates for their whole group.
Last year, we did a photo scavenger hunt. We listed 20 things that the kids had to find in our neighborhoods and they had to take pictures of that object and bring it home on their iphones.
A candy cane ornament in someone's yard.
A picture of someone with a Santa Claus
A group of angels, etc.
The rule was, the kids from their team had to be in the pictures they took, so they could not get anything off the internet. The result was many hysterical pictures of kids around angels pretending to fly, or 4 of them on a Santa's lap. Of course, we always had trustworthy drivers who had been driving a while.The end reward was hot chocolate and cookies and pizza. The point of many of our "parties" was to give my children and their friends a place to belong and a place where we could shower our love and fun--to open their hearts to seeing Jesus' true love.
Delight was always a memory of mine from childhood, so this delight motivated me to fill our days and places with fun, surprising and delightful traditions. I filled my home (still do!) with interesting things children could touch and explore during the Christmas season...
- A basket of golden books just the right size for little hands with Christmas stories.
- The camel shown in the previous Traditions post
- the little dolls we would imagine stories with
- last year's cards to cut up and glue onto construction paper
- picture books with my children's pictures in them through the years on the coffee tables
- Lincoln logs to build a Christmas village right on the hearth.
- Little hand jingle bells to wear on their wrists to shake as babies when we would sing
- rhythm shakers, whistles and kazoos to help make up the Christmas band for our advents
- coloring books and crayons or pencils in a basket to draw with while we read the Christmas verses
- popcorn, fruit, pretzels and snacky things like cheddar fishes, with hot chocolate or tasty herb tea before we went to bed
- The creche scene my grandmother made--with cows and donkey, lambs, wise men and Jesus, Mary and Joseph were each placed and held and cherished. (We also had a wooden one the younger ones could pretend without the worry of breaking.)
Outreach party to neighborhood kids
We would also have a decorating party with our children for the Christmas tree, and often invite their friends from the neighborhood as a sort of outreach. We would have a tray with specific decorations on it, which all the children could take turns putting on the tree as we read the different verses with each decoration.
First we would talk about the evergreen tree, representing everlasting life--The tree is always green, as Jesu came to give us everlasting life, so that we would never die but always be with Him in heaven forever. John 3: 16
A number of candy canes--each child would put a candy cane on the tree.
Then we would read Luke 2: 8-13. This passage tells of the shepherds who were out in the fields, keeping watch over their sheep when the angels appeared. The canes were symbols of the shepherd's staff--those shepherds who first heard of the news of Jesus being born. Jesus talked of being the good shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. John 10: 11
We also speak of David seeing God as his shepherd and we read the first part of Psalm 23. The staff reminds us that Jesus will always take care of us and watch over us wherever we are.
The swirl of the candy cane also shows the red of the blood Jesus, the good shepherd from John, spilled when he died for us on the cross, by protecting us from the death that sin would bring to us. The white shows that because of the sacrifice, we are washed as white as snow -- Isaiah 1:18, "Come now, and let us reason together," says the Lord. "Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though the are red like crimson, they will be like wool."
An angel would come next. The angels were in the second part of this passage. They were celebrating Jesus's birth with great music, just like all the great music our family loves to sing and enjoy. The angels were God's special messengers who came to the earth with His messages--to Mary, to the Shepherds and to sing of His great glory as they do in heaven. Matt. 1:20; Matt. 2:13
Then we would sing one song.
Next, Matt. 2:2 and a star for the top of the tree--God made a special star to celebrate Jesus' birthday. He put it in the sky so that the wise, learned men of the world could come to worship Him.
Lights to string around the tree remind us that Jesus is the light of the world. "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; they that dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them the light has shined." Matt.4: 16 Also, "I am the light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
A little treasure box--Matthew 2:11: "After coming into the house they saw the child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh." Even great kings and scholars believed in Jesus and came to give him gifts fit for a king.
Gold represents the idea that we should entrust our money and wealth into His hands.
A little vanilla candle to put on the tree--this fragrant gift that they brought to Him means that they found Him worthy of worship.--this represents our worship of Him--and that we pray to a God in heaven who hears our prayers and answers us.
A little packet with cloves, cinnamon sticks wrapped in netting and tied with a ribbon. This represents the myrrh. The spices were used to prepare someone for burial. Each of us has only a short time on earth and while we are here, we need to present our lives to Jesus so that when we see Him face to face, we will have lived our lives to please Him.
A little Christmas tray filled with candy canes ends the time. We say that the tray represents the idea that even though Jesus was the king of the whole world, he came to serve others and to show them the sweetness of His love and forgiveness--and then everyone gets to lick their candy cane.
This is just a summary, (Clay has it somewhere all written out!) But you get the idea. It always made the tree and all the ornaments on it meaningful when our children were young. And even the babies, when they didn't understand everything, liked toddling up the tree and putting something on a branch.
What is your children's favorite tradition?