It’s hard enough for us adults, surrounded by all that is Christmas-y for weeks before the big day, but for children, it can be really hard. Everything is hyped in order to lead us all into the greedy indulgence of Christmas Day. Too many children are focused on bigger, better toys and games, many of which are very expensive, often beyond their parents’ means. There is pressure on parents to produce electronic game sets, phones, designer clothes and accessories. Yes, it’s ridiculous, and yet we want Christmas to be exciting and joyous for our kids, and many of us get drawn into the frenzy.
Keeping our focus on Jesus is our first step out of crazy. Santa Claus may very well be part of the scene, but he should be kept in his place. Santa’s generosity stems from his love of Christ and the children understand this very well. We still put out a little statue similar to the one pictured above, but of course, there are other ways to tell the story. Perhaps Santa can visit the crèche under the tree… I’m sure the children’s imagination will fill in the details.
There are several crèches that are intended to be hands-on for small children. Familiar figures such as Playmobil, Little People and the like can be purchased for children to immerse themselves in the story of Jesus’ birth, no doubt with some interesting and comical embellishments. Another exercise is to have the nativity “characters” move toward the crèche throughout Advent. For example, Mary and Joseph might move from bedroom to hallway during the first week, through the dining room the second week, and so forth, arriving at the crèche on Christmas Eve. Bring in the shepherds. The Wise Men can arrive a few days later. Like an Advent Calendar or even an Advent Wreath, these activities build up anticipation for Christmas in a more measured way.
As children grow, we can encourage them to look towards those less fortunate. As discussed the other day, involving kids in our charitable giving helps them to grow in the virtue of charity. We help them understand the link between sacrifice, kindness, love and the Incarnation, and that our good acts are motivated by our responsibility as Christians. (In fact, as I’m writing this, there is a story on TV about a psychologist offering Millennials courses in “adulting.” It seems we must be more proactive in teaching our children how to act as adults.)
I must admit, I also love a big blowout Christmas Day. Perhaps we all still have a bit of the kid left in us! It’s the Nativity of the Lord! It is a big deal and cause for great celebration. Certainly, children should not be encouraged to be greedy – but it is a joy to lavish our loved ones with special gifts and treats. If we remember the “reason for the season” it seems to me that genuine festivity is surely in order.