When my children were very young, we started a Christmas tradition that has lasted through the years. It was a countdown calendar with a Christ-centred twist. The feature, a simple 24-piece nativity set that I made from wood.
The manger on the mantle would start December empty. Each day the children would take turns picking out, and placing, the next nativity piece and eating the treat that went with it.
Every day, in amongst the hustle and bustle of Christmas festivities, we were reminded of the true meaning of Christmas.
Stretching a nativity scene to 24 pieces meant there were a few extra camels and sheep, but every significant piece had a scripture written on the back. The scripture was read and there would be a discussion around the significance of the figure chosen. The angels, the wise men, the shepherds the star and, of course, Mary, Joseph and Jesus Christ.
Putting up the nativity scene bit by bit meant that the story of Christ’s birth was shared throughout the entire month of December. Every day, in amongst the hustle and bustle of Christmas festivities, we were reminded of the true meaning of Christmas.
When Christmas morning did arrive, the complete nativity, and it’s full meaning, was there at the centre of our celebrations.
Our children do not outgrow these traditions. They stay with them into adulthood. They don’t reminisce on the presents they received growing up, but the time spent together as a family and the traditions they could count on every year. Because they looked forward to this particular tradition, I sent a smaller set to my boys while they were on their missions so that they and their companions could have a little bit of home at Christmas time.
My children have their own families now, and I have made an advent calendar for each of them so they can carry on this tradition with their children.
For children, Christmas should be fun. The gospel should be fun, full of joy and excitement. The Christmas traditions enjoyed by the world can be Christ-centred as we are creative. Giving and receiving gifts doesn’t have to be materialistic. It represents the gift given to all of us by Heavenly Father; the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ and everything that means.