Christmas can be such a wonderful time of year. Yet there is also a lot of pressure. We write lists, search for those perfect gifts for everyone on our list (and that list seems to get longer each year!) , wrap, prepare packages to mail to those out of town, write letters, send out Christmas cards. We cook, bake, clean, decorate our homes (inside and out) plan outfits, prepare to entertain guests, family, house guests, Or, we are packing up for a trip to visit family. And, oh yes, we try to prepare our hearts for the birth of Our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Every year it becomes more of a challenge for us to focus on the true reason for Christmas-the birth of Jesus Christ. How can we help our families discover what Christmas is really meant to be? Here are a few ideas….you will think of many others.
Focus on the giving of oneself. Instead of exchanging presents suggest that each family member give a coupon for a service s/he could render “This coupon is good for a ride to school on a cold day” “This coupon allows you an extra half hour before you have to go to bed” “”Mom, I will help you put the groceries away” “I can read you your favorite story” (older sib to younger sib) “This coupon will grant you a batch of your favorite cookies (But you still have to share some with your family!)” The possibilities can be endless. Even little ones can get into the act. “I will hang the mitts to dry” “I will put the toys away” Coupons can be drawn by hand or on the computer. Get the kids to decorate them and also the envelopes.
Make a point of having friends and family over. Plan the food, but also plan some activities. Go caroling, make snowmen outside, go skating, plan a scavenger hunt, set up board games, or parlour games (charades, 20 questions) There are many great games out there. We enjoy Scattergories, Three for All, Cranium games. We often play the girls vs. the guys. Does someone play a musical instrument? Get a sing-song going, dance. We try to avoid watching TV.
Sometimes, everyone needs a quiet afternoon. Plan some quiet activities. Get some craft ideas together. Read a story together. (This is also a lot of fun at night. Put a fire in the fireplace. Light up some candles) Take a nap.
Take a night walk. The world looks a little more magical at night.
Do something for others. Is there a neighbour you can visit? Help shovel their driveway? Bring them some cookies. Is there a young family in the neighbourhood? Could you offer to take their children outside to play, or have them over to play to give that Mom a chance to get caught up on chores…or sleep!
Read the Christmas story together. Say evening prayers around the crèche. Try to visit other churches during the Christmas season, and pray in front of their crèches. If you have the opportunity, travel to Montreal, to St Joseph’s oratory. You can pray for your family (St Joseph is the patron saint of families) and visit the permanent display of crèches from around the world.
Decide what is truly essential. Do we really need to bake 30 different kinds of cookies and squares? No, of course not. Choose the absolute family favorites and work on those. Encourage everyone to pitch in and help because quite honestly, we can’t do it all alone. We need to let go of our perfectionism. Get one of the kids to help address Christmas cards. They won’t be done perfectly, but does it really matter?
We all get more tired at Christmas. If you are up late one night, try to get to sleep earlier the next night. It will make a huge difference. (The same rule for kids and spouses!!)
Cook together as a family. Everyone helps out. Same thing with the clean-up.
Try new family traditions. Pray together as a family each evening. If you are travelling, say a short prayer as you start. Give thanks when you return home safely.
Pinatas are a lot of fun at Christmas parties!
Exchange babysitting with another friend or neighbour. Your children have fun, your neighbour gets some help, and she can return the favour.
Play wonderful Christmas music. Invest in some good CDs.
There are some wonderful Christmas movies that can be a lot of fun to watch as a family. Perfect for a night when everyone feels the need to “veg”.
Plan menus ahead of time. It will make a huge difference (especially if you are expecting company!) You don’t have to agonize over what to serve for dinner. The needed supplies will be on hand. Try to cook ahead if possible. Make two meals together and freeze the second one for another night.
Smile. Don’t let little things get under your skin. Sometimes people say incredibly thoughtless things. Ignore it. Life is too short, and Jesus expects more from us. Help the others do the same thing.
Laugh! Be joyful! Our Saviour has come!