Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Keeping Christ in Christmas


There are so many things that we can do to make sure that our children are well aware of the "reason for the season," and I do think that we need to work hard on this, daily, throughout December, because the material side of Christmas is so well marketed! Have you noticed that Santa is everywhere? After giving it a lot of thought, we do include Santa in our celebration, and we also have strong emphasis on family traditions including baking, singing, and decorating our home. Most importantly, however, I try to make sure that throughout Advent my children really learn the biblical story of Christ's birth.

I volunteered a bit in a Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Atrium, this is a Montessori-model religion program for preschoolers, and there I learned that children really respond so well to hands on activities. In the Atrium, they have a "work" for all of the Joyful mysteries of the Rosary, and inspired by this I created a Nativity work, which you can easily reproduce at home.

We use a Fontanini plastic Nativity set. This is an Italian one which looks like carved, painted wood, ours was a wedding present and I have added pieces to it over the past few years, and I prefer that it is not cartoonish. It is very Montessorian to let children use real things, rather than toys. Even though the set is plastic, we talk about how special the figures are and how we carry them with care. You could use any that you have that is not breakable. (Using a ready made Nativity set was a breakthrough for me since most of the works in the Atrium are hand made, but really if I waited until I made my own figures I would be doing this with my grandchildren!)

Anyway, along with the Nativity set, we use a simple narration of the Christmas story, ours comes from a board book called The Story of Christmas. As I read about each character, I hand the figure to a child and she places it in the stable. One thing I really like about this particular book is that it includes the Annunciation and the angel's visit to St. Joseph. The children are welcome to choose this "work" during choice time in school, and we also do this a few nights a week as a bedtime story. By the end of Advent a three year old child can tell the story himself!

We have tried some other Advent activities over the years, but this is one that has really stayed with us, perhaps because it is really so simple. I would love to try some new things, especially simple crafts, that keep the focus on Christ, if you have any suggestions!


11 comments:

Kat said...

This is a great idea, MA! I like the idea of our children memorizing a version of the Christmas story. C memorizes plenty of other things, so why not try to teach him the Christmas story! I remember memorizing the Christmas sequence as a child (In those days, a decree went out from Caesar Augustus...), as I'm sure that many of you did. I also remember memorizing the Night Before Christmas (Twas the night before Christmas when all through the house...)

Blessings to you today, MA, and for a quick and healthy delivery!

Right Said Red said...

Great Idea. We also have a very nice "advent calendar" with magnetic wooden pieces. Each morning, we open one door, take out a nice painted wooden piece of the nativity story, talk about that piece, and say our morning prayers. I invested in a nice calendar last year--and it was a GREAT decision. Here is our calendar:

http://www.catholicsupply.com/CHRISTMAS/advcal2.html

It is presently on sale for about 1/2 price.

Elena said...

What a great idea. I will definitely use this method when setting out our creche this year. I just want to thank you all for such a wonderful blog. I have been a faithful follower since February and you have all become like old friends even though I don't know your first names! You provide a holy type of peer pressure. My husband even asks for updates on MA's pregnancy and what the times were for the Thanksgiving 5-miler. By the way, those sub-40 times were impressive. God bless you all from a faithful Canadian follower.

Stephanie said...

Usborne books has a great Nativity Advent calendar. We read a brief version of the Christmas Story every night and pop a piece of the nativity right out of the book each night. It's great. If interested in where to find out...send an email to: berndtfamily01@gmail.com

B-Mama said...

Elena, your thoughts and comments are so treasured! We cherish you as a fellow Catholic and reader! Thank you! I will second the notion that these ladies challenge me on my daily journey as well...

Thanks MA for this great suggestion!! Along the same lines, using a felt board and appropriate felt pieces would achieve the same effect. I remember this approach bringing stories to life so well for me as a child.

margaretjdmom said...

We really emphasize that Christmas is the biggest birthday party ever! What little kid doesn't love a birthday party? My children love having a birthday cake for Jesus at Christmas dinner and we all sing Happy Birthday and blow out the candles!

Right Said Red said...

Elena,

Thank you for your kind words! We started this blog to encourage other women. The positive peer pressure you speak of is exactly what has helped all of us in our vocation as mothers. We wanted to share this gift with all of you! Thank you for encouraging all of us. It really means A LOT.

God Bless all of you wonderful women. Thank you for reading and thank you for being an encouragement to all of us. Happy Advent!

Mary Alice said...

B, I love the idea of a felt board, are there ready made ones for other bible stories? As I mentioned, not waiting until I can make it myself means that it actually happens around here...

Simple Joys said...

Heather has a delightful countdown Christmas idea at her blog: http://marriedtorich.blogspot.com/2008/12/advent-reading.html. Good books are always a good idea!

texas mommy said...

We've been trying to convey a sense of waiting and preparing for Jesus' birthday. I rolled up a piece of yellow paper with a name on it in our advent calendar squares and we offer prayers up for that person at family prayer time at night. Then the boys take turns placing the piece of "hay" into our creche to make a soft bed for baby Jesus when he comes. I think this ties in well with the fact that there was no room for Mary and Joseph, so we have to be very diligent in preparing a place for them. I thought this concept should be accessible to our 3 year old. They also add a piece to our felt nativity board (homemade...I may still have the templates, though) except I lost the pieces a few days ago. Yikes!

We also add a purple (and will add pink) ornament to our advent tree each day, again, emphasizing the waiting and preparing. I bought them, but older kids could make pink/purple ornaments. On the Christmas Eve I plan to swap them out with silver/white ones while the boys are sleeping.

texas mommy said...

MA,

I love the hands on nativity story, but when we try to do it, it is total chaos! Our almost 2 year old moves things around or pushes them off the table, which incenses our 3 year old who may or may not be trying to do it nicely at the moment. Did this work for you when the twins were 2 and the older kids wanted to play nicely? Are my expectations too high? Do I need to wait until they get older? I don't want to be yelling at my kids during the nativity story!