How To Teach Children the True Meaning of Christmas
In today’s culture, especially as a parent, it is easy to concentrate on the commercial aspect of the Christmas season instead of the spiritual reason for the season. For the past three months, our four year old has been asking how soon it will be Christmas (and how soon he can open his gifts!) Here are eight ways you can focus on the true reason for the season.
Place the Christmas Tree Topper
On Christmas Eve, place your angel or star Christmas tree topper on the top of the tree. Discuss how the angel reminds of us the angel that brought the Good News of Jesus’ birth to the shepherds and the star reminds us of the star the Magi followed to visit baby Jesus in the manager. Additionally, you can take this opportunity to bless your Christmas tree, following this blessing found on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop’s website.
"Happy Birthday, Jesus" Cake
Each year, we make a birthday cake for baby Jesus, complete with candles for our dessert for our main Christmas meal. We sing happy birthday to Jesus, and the children blow out the candles for him. Our children always remember eating birthday cake and ice cream.
Make “Mass” the Priority in “ChristMAS”
We have set expectations early on of which Mass we will be attending (we choose Christmas morning) and gifts from Mom and Dad are only opened after Mass. We give three packages for each child because according to tradition, Baby Jesus only got the three gifts (gold, frankincense, and myrrh). One of these gifts is either a religious book or toy to help us better explain our faith to our children.
Put Baby Jesus in the Manager
While you can place your nativity set out prior to December 25, perhaps wait until Christmas morning to allow the youngest child to put baby Jesus in with the manager. This more concretely reminds the children Christmas is, in fact, his birthday. Additionally, you can bless your nativity scene by using this from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Celebrate St. Stephen’s Day (December 26)
St. Stephen is our first martyr, who was stoned for his faith. The hymn “Good King Wenceslaus” tells the story of how King Wenceslaus went out on St. Stephen’s feast day on December 26. He helped the poor. In your household, how can you help others in need during the Christmas season, especially on St. Stephen’s feast day? You can find the lyrics and listen to the tune here. Feel free to sing along. December 26 later became known as “Boxing Day” because masters filled their apprentices’ boxes with monetary gifts in the spirit of St. Stephen’s charity.
Celebrate the Entire Liturgical Season of Christmas
In the Catholic Church, the Christmas season isn’t over until the Baptism of the Lord. To help children realize we are still celebrating, leave your Christmas tree, Christmas decorations, and nativity out throughout the season. We also make a point to drive around and see Christmas lights during this time so our children know the Christmas season is still going on. We point out Father’s vestments at Mass, and remind our children that he is wearing white vestments because it is still Christmas time.
Celebrate Epiphany with a House Blessing
The feast of the Epiphany is traditionally celebrated on the 12th day of Christmas (or January 6). However, in the United States it is celebrated on the Sunday between January 2 and January 8. On this feast, we celebrate the manifestation of Christ as the Son of God. The fact the wise men came to visit baby Jesus in the manager shows that Jesus came to save all people, not just the Jews. The children are finally able to put the wise men near the crèche. This reminds them that it was awhile before these very important visitors came. One can also bless their home on Epiphany according to the rite found on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop’s website.
Pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary
The Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary reflect on the events of Jesus’ birth and childhood. While generally prayed on Mondays and Saturdays, the celebration of Christmas makes a perfect setting for reflection on the joyful mysteries. The mysteries include: 1) The Annunciation, 2) The Visitation: Mary visits Elizabeth, 3) The Birth of Our Lord, 4) The Presentation of our Lord in the Temple, and 5) The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple. Click here to find useful meditations and how to pray the rosary.