Shopping and gift-giving and events and parties with friends and family are all part of the joy of the Christmas season. But, when the busyness of wrapping, baking, shopping, decorating, partying, planning and entertaining threaten to overwhelm me, I have to take a step back and remember Jesus and how he came into the world. He was born in a simple barn with few possessions. I’m reminded that it’s often the simplest Christmas traditions that leave the greatest impact and have the most meaning.
Attending Midnight Mass at the beautiful St. Catherine’s church in Indianola with my grandparents is one of my favorite childhood Christmas memories. I could barely keep my eyes open in the dimly-lit church on Christmas Eve, but I can still picture the majestic altar surrounded by soft white Christmas lights. And, I can still feel the love of family surrounding me as we celebrated the real meaning of Christmas.
In my own family, one tradition that we now cherish is Sharing a Meal at our house with our sweet neighbor. This tradition started the year her husband died. Although she is an active 80-something gal and regularly enjoys the company of friends and family, we know that mealtime can be lonely. We enjoy this chance to visit with her and get caught up.
I have recently learned of other tips and ideas from friends and family who also strive to Keep It Simple at Christmas. Here are a few of my favorites:
Nativity Play: My friend Amy said her kids and their cousins reenact the story of Jesus’ birth each Christmas at their grandma’s house. They simply grab a few sheets, belts and other scraps of fabric, and the kids play the roles of Mary, Joseph, Jesus, the Three Wise Men and the Angel.
Straw in a Manger: My friend Becky has six children, and one way she encourages good behavior for her kids and keeps the focus on Jesus is through the straw-for-good-deeds tradition. Throughout the Christmas season, she keeps a basketful of straw near the nativity scene in her house, and the kids place one strand of straw in the manger each time they do a good deed. “Thanks for helping mom without being asked! Go ahead and put a strand of straw in the manager,” she tells them. By Christmas, baby Jesus has a full bed of straw, and she can reflect on the joy that her kids have done some good deeds this year.
Give to a Charity: My friend Kristina recently told me about an annual tradition that she shares with her twin 8-year-old daughters. She encourages her children to manage their money throughout the year by separating it into spend, save and give jars. At Christmastime, the girls each take the money from their give jars and enjoy purchasing gifts for children at a nearby homeless shelter. I am also impressed that she and her husband have never hooked up a cable or satellite service to the one television in their house. They do have Netflix, but they don’t have commercials. That means her kids aren’t bombarded by the latest fads in toys, which also helps keep Christmas simple.
Christmas Star From Afar – This is a great alternative to Elf on Shelf. The set features a book with daily readings and a wooden nativity scene. It encourages children to hunt for their Star in a hide-and-seek game. Once they find the Star, they move the Three Wise Men figures to the star’s location. On Christmas morning, the Star is moved to the stable with the newborn baby Jesus, and the Three Wise Men reach their final destination. Affliate link: http://amzn.to/2ySUWms
Thank you for reading, and may you and your family have a blessed and simple Christmas!