Nurturing Your Child's Christmas Spirit
Giving: The Heart of Christmas Spirit.
Nothing quite compares to the sight of a lighted Christmas tree with heaping piles of beautifully wrapped presents underneath its decorated branches. The moment of excitement reaches its climax with the passing out of those wonderful gifts. And, the joy of watching someone unwrap a present is the pleasure of the giver.
Early in our childhood, my parents taught my siblings and me the value of giving to others through action. Being a pastor, my father not only wanted us to know the meaning of Christmas but also to instill charity into our character. Each year, our family stuffed lunch-sized paper bags with candy canes, chocolate kisses, oranges, apples, peanuts, and orange "circus" peanut candy (which to this day I don't like) to give out to church members. I can remember being allowed to stay up late to help with this project.
As I grew up, I looked forward to this time of year because it was fun family time and I loved giving those bags out at Christmas Eve service knowing that it may be the only gift that person receives. Once, I remember a soldier dropped in on furlough. At the end of the program, we handed out the bags of goodies to the congregation. My sister and I shyly approached the soldier and handed him a bag. He reached out and took it with a smile and a tear in his eye. Later, he shared with my parents the warm love he felt in the giving of that one small gift. It helped quench the spirit of loneliness he carried being away from home at Christmas.
Giving Is At The Heart Of Christmas
Suggestions For Nurturing Christmas Spirit
Christmas shopping can be centered around giving by having your child help choose a gift to give away to a needy child. Make sure you discuss your purpose beforehand and set a price range. Talk about how this gift will make someone who may not have any presents happy. A parent shared with me how his father and mother took him Christmas shopping each year at a local toy shop to buy a present for himself and one to give away to a child living at the orphanage. Whatever he chose was also the same gift given to the child, but being so young he protested believing it unfair to make him split his share of gifts with someone else. As years passed, he came to know the meaning and joy behind the giving and looked forward to the event.
Baking cookies and giving them to neighbors, invalids or the homeless is always a good idea. A family I know started spending Christmas Eve at a local nursing home singing carols and reading holiday stories with those who were alone. Their children gave out homemade cookies to each person afterwards. This family event is one they hold to this day and are now enjoying with grandchildren.
As a family, establishing traditions during this season emphasizes charity everlasting. A Prayer Box filled with requests from family, friends, classmates, neighbors or church members can be a nightly ritual before bedtime. Decorate a shoebox with Christmas wrapping and a bright colored bow to hold requests. Have children pull one request each night to read to the family and join in prayer over the need. This builds faith, affirms relationships, and enhances compassion in children.
In the same spirit, pulling chores out of a Help Jar completed by other family members can be a morning ritual. Enlist children to use stickers, or non-toxic paint to decorate a plastic jar and wrap red and green ribbon around the lid. Write chores on strips of paper like "need help wrapping gifts, help bake cookies, help shopping for mom's gift, help with cleaning toy box, feed the cat, etc." and drop them into the jar. Each morning children pull a slip from the jar and follow through with the need. Afterwards, when the task is complete, they can hang the request on the Christmas Tree. This encourages giving of self and builds the family team spirit (Not to mention, it helps keep them off the "naughty" list!)
Watching family Christmas movies together at this time is very helpful in pointing out the spirit of giving. Enjoy a night of popcorn and treats with a time of discussion afterwards about the highs and lows of a movie. Emphasize the good points like charity and giving. I recently watched the movie Christmas Shoes. The story depicts a little boy whose mother is ill. He strives to earn money to buy her a pair of red dancing shoes like she once owned and loved. The movie really hits on the spirit of giving. I am sure you can think of other really good movies that portray the true spirit of Christmas. The main idea is to enjoy it together and use the time to increase a child's knowledge of giving.
Simple Christmas Gift Ideas
Here are some simple gifts your child can make that will help her or him feel a part of the total experience.
- Beaded jewelry
- Write a poem
- Sing a special song. Compose it yourself!
- Snowglobes made from baby food jars
- Homemade Christmas card
- Christmas coupons for chores
- Homemade ornament
- Decorated foam photo frame
Extending Your Child's Christmas Spirit To Those Who Serve
Sending Christmas cards to a soldier away from home makes the time of year a little brighter and tolerable. Children can include a personal note and a hand drawn picture. Family discussions can center around giving a little encouragement and joy to a stranger or supporting our military who fight for our gift of freedom. Here is a well known annual program you can include:
Recovering American Soldier, c/o Walter Reed Army Medical Center, 6900 Georgia Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20307-5001.
Lastly, your family can employ a tradition throughout the year that culminates at Christmas. Filling a piggy bank with lose or spare change through the year can be totaled and given to a local charity or church program.
"The greatest feats of love are performed by those who have had practice in performing daily acts of compassion" ~ Unknown
Giving is the heart of Christmas Spirit and only requires a little nurturing to establish a life-long habit in children. If you have any family traditions on this topic, I would love for you to share them with us.