Thursday 1 December 2011

Christmas Traditions

Making Christmas real to our Children.

Psalm 77: 11—12
I will remember the deeds of the Lord, 
I will remember your miracles of long ago.  
I will meditate on all your works, 
and consider all your mighty deeds.

As I read my bible and journeyed through  the Old Testament I noticed that every time the Lord did something great for his people He created a memorial for them to remember.  Memorials are reminders of God’s faithfulness, His sacrifice, His leading, His provision etc which in turn became traditions practiced for generations.

  • The passing down of elements of a culture from generation to generation,
  • A mode of thought or behaviour followed by a people continuously from generation to generation, 
  • a custom or usage. 
  • A time honoured  practice

Dr. Dobson says:‘The great value of traditions comes as they give a family a sense of identity, ‘belongingness’. All of us desperately need to feel that we’re not just a cluster of people living together in a house, but we’re a family that’s conscious of its uniqueness, its personality, character and heritage, and that our special relationships of love and companionship make us a unit with identity and personality.’

Traditions can be created on purpose or evolve over time, they create our family identity and teach our children something of the reality of God in our lives.  Special moments don’t just happen they are planned on purpose.  Consider creating links between generations so that our children understand the heritage that is theirs.  The Lord says I will bless the righteous unto a thousand generations.

So what does Christmas really mean?
The Collins Concise Dictionary defines Christmas as:
1-a. The annual commemoration by Christians of the birth of Jesus Christ on Dec 25
  -b. also called Christmas Day, Dec 25, observed as a day of secular celebrations when gifts and greetings are exchanged
2- Another name for Christmastide (Old English Christes Maesse MASS OF CHRIST)

It is interesting to note here that even the dictionary makes a distinction between the Christian commemoration and the secular celebrations that take place on Dec 25.

Some Ideas for you to choose from:

Nativity Trek. A friend of mine shared this idea with me. They have a nativity calendar made of a square of material with 25 pockets on that have the numbers 1-25 on them. Each morning they take turns removing a cardboard candy cane from a pocket and reading the instructions written there.

Most of the instructions pertain to their homemade Nativity Set (a knitted one made over several years!). On Dec 1st they set up the manger where the tree will be, put the shepherd and sheep in a nearby ‘field’, and place Mary and Joseph somewhere ‘far away’, and the Wise Men somewhere equally ‘far away’ but in the opposite direction! Most days there are instructions to move a figure(s) somewhere, e.g. ‘Move Mary and Joseph from the piano to the TV.’ Other days there are things like ‘Make Christmas biscuits for the neighbours’.
Whatever journey the participants take, Jesus does not turn up in the manger in the stable until Christmas morning. This way the children’s attention is not so much on “What did I get?”  but on “Is Jesus there yet?”.

Setting up the tree :We also talk about what Christmas means to us with the children and specially how the symbols we have today can point us to Jesus.  I do this every year.  This tradition is especially dear to me as I know no matter where my children go in the world each time they see any of these colours they will think of these things. 
Eg: Christmas tree-
  • Evergreen to symbolize the eternal life we have in Christ and God’s eternal love for us demonstrated in sending His Son
  • Red—represent His blood shed for you and me. The price He paid.
  • Gold—This is His crow in glory as the Son of God
  • Purple- His royal robe.
  • White - His purity.  The Lamb without blemish.
  • Star- the star over the manger
  • Lights- stars in the heavens at the time of His birth or He is the light of the world.
  • Angels- for the heavenly host who sang
  • Silver—His promises fulfilled
  • Blue– Creation In the beginning He made the heavens and the earth
Advent  means ‘coming’ and the activities are a time of preparation for the coming of Christ. We use a series of Advent story books as the centre for our advent celebrations. They are complete with instructions and historical notes and calendars to know when to start Advent each year. The first book is called ‘Jotham’s Journey’ by Arnold Ytreeide and is available in most Christian book shops. Generally an advent wreath is used which basically has five candles and you light one a week and burn it each night as you read the story.

Other people burn a dated candle (one section a day), read a bible passage and sing/pray together each evening as a way of preparing the stage for Christmas Day

Hand Wreath You can also make a Christmas Hand Wreath. Keep red and green card handy by the front door and have every guest who visits your home over the month trace and cut out their hand and label with their name. You can then put them all together!
Or… keep a jar of jaffas and spearmint leaves by the door for friends to have when they leave

Christmas Cards Keep all the Christmas cards you receive and then start to pray for each family one card at a time from New Year on! Once you have prayed for a family put the cards in a box for the children to use for Christmas craft the next year

Jesse Tree The Jesse Tree is a centuries-old family Advent devotion that has enjoyed a resurgence of popularity in recent years.  It has particular value since it helps both the children and adults a like to locate Jesus, the Messiah, within the lineage of the shepherd boy who became King of Israel--David, son of Jesse.

 The whole idea of the Jesse Tree comes right out of a classic Advent passage from the prophet Isaiah: "A shoot will sprout from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit" (Is 11:1).  The Jesse Tree is hung with ornaments representing Old Testament people and events and lead up to Jesus.  The traditional symbols hung on the tree are based on the genealogy of Jesus as recounted by the first chapter of the Gospel of St. Matthew

Set up a tree or branches with or without leaves.  For the ornaments, you can either buy a Jesse Tree kit or just craft them yourself.  Traditionally, there is one ornament for each day of Advent.  You start at the base of the tree with Adam and Eve.  At the top of the tree at the very end of the season comes a crib representing the baby Jesus.  There's a brief scripture reading for every symbol (see below).  If you read these readings and contemplate them and the symbols to which they are linked, by December 25th you and your family will have a much deeper understanding of the history of salvation and the meaning of Christmas.

 The World is Created – Globe – Genesis 1:24-28
Adam and Eve – Snake and Apples – Genesis 3:1-24
Noah and the Flood – Rainbow – Genesis 6:11-22; 86-12; 9:11-17
Abraham – Camel – Genesis 12:1-7:13:2-18; 18:1
Sarah – Baby – Genesis 18:1-15; 21:1-7
Isaac – Ram – Genesis 22:1-14
Jacob – Ladder – Genesis 27:41-28:22
Joseph – Multi-coloured Coat – Genesis 37:1-36
Moses – Burning Bush – Exodus 3:1-10
Miriam – Tambourine – Exodus 15:19-21
Samuel – Lamp – 1 Samuel 3:1-21
Jesse – Branch – Isaiah 11:1
David – Harp – 1 Samuel 16:14-23
Solomon – Crown – 1 Kings 3:3-28
Isaiah – Throne – Isaiah 6:1-8
Jeremiah – Tablets of Law – Jeremiah 31:31-34
Angels – Angel – Hebrews 1:1-14
Malachi – Trumpet – Malachi 3:1-4
Zechariah and Elizabeth – Baby - Luke 1:39-45
Mary – Angel – Luke 1:29-35
John the Baptist – River – Matthew 3:1-6
Joseph of Nazareth – Hammer/Saw – Matthew 1:18-25
Bethlehem – Star – Matthew 2:1-12
Birth of Christ – Crib – Luke 2:1-7

** I am in the midst of making a couple of Jesse Tree's and will be posting another post with links for you to make your own.  I will update with a link here soon.

Box of Blessings The original idea for this came from a Focus on the Family magazine. Each day, Dec 1st through 25th, the children open a small gift.  There is a spiritual gift attached to each item that should be mentioned. Sometimes this leads to a good discussion, sometimes not, but it will give opportunity to think about what we are really celebrating.  There are many variations you can do with the “Box or Basket of Blessings”. The original one is to use common household objects to illustrate things we can be thankful for example:
  • penny—God’s provision, 
  • Photo of the family—Our family, 
  • plaster—our health, 
  • small doll—our friends etc.
A variation is to use the attributes of God:
  • heart—love, 
  • glasses—omniscience, 
  • watch—eternal, 
  • scales—justice etc.
Or you can use the story of Christmas:
  1. Angel—Luke1:26-29 Gabriel's appears to Mary,
  2. Crown—Luke1:30 prophecy of Jesus as king, 
  3. Earring—Luke 1:34-38 Mary the bond slave of the Lord, 
  4. Ring—Matt 1:18-21 Joseph trusts the Lord and marries Mary, 
  5. JESUS—Matt1:22-25 Meaning of Jesus name, 
  6. Tax Form—Luke 2:1-5 Trip to Bethlehem for census, 
  7. Clothes—Luke 2:6-7 Jesus born and wrapped, 
  8. Sheep—Luke 2:8-9 shepherds are frightened, 
  9. Hay—Luke 2:10-12, Fear not,
  10. Music tape/Gloria—Luke 2:13-14 Angels praise God, 
  11. Map—Shepherds find their way to Bethlehem, 
  12. Heart—Mary treasures these things in her heart, 
  13. 2 doves—Offering made for Jesus, 
  14. Glasses—Simeon has watched for the Messiah,  
  15. Sword—Simeon’s prophecy, 
  16. Perfume—Anna prayed and fasted, 
  17. Horse—Magi search for the king, 
  18. Crown—Herod threatened by Jesus the King, 
  19. Calendar—Herod determines when Jesus will be born, 
  20. Star—shows Magi where Jesus is, 
  21. Gold—Gifts given to Jesus, 
  22. Pyramid—Joseph takes his family to Egypt, 
  23. Home—Joseph takes his family home to Nazareth, 
  24. Tape Measure—The child grew strong, wise and in the grace of God, 
  25. Candle—Jesus is the light of the world.
Other Ideas
  • Photo’s of absent family members put them on your tree, pray for them
  • Watch family movies, look at family albums
  • Have communion on Christmas Eve / Morning
  • Read the bible account  in Luke 2
  • See the lights in your neighbour hood ( You could make it extra special by sending your children to bed at the normal time then surprise them when it is dark and get them up and follow it with a special Christmas supper and hot drink when you get home.)
  • Write a Christmas prayer as a family to read before opening presents on the day. Have it focus on thankfulness.
  • Donate Toys to a charity every year
  • Bake for your neighbours,
  • Have a special ornament for each child that they put on the tree each year.
  • Get dated ornaments
  • Go carol singing around the block or at a local Retirement Village

The lists are endless and you could feel very over whelmed by what others around you are doing. We do NOT do all the things on this list.  These are ideas I have gathered through the years.

The thing that is important is to find what works for your family and do that well.

It is far better to choose one or two things and do those things with excellence and passion than to do ten things with mediocrity and no passion.

May you be blessed this Advent season


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  1. Beautiful post! Our Jesse Tree is coming along well - the included devotions are beautiful, and a wonderful way to keep focussed on Christ. We're also learning about some of the symbols, using a project pack from 'Hands of a Child', to create a lapbook. Thanks for this post. God bless,

  2. Thank you Linda. I will take a look at Hands of a Child. Would love to do a Lap pack / note book with Sir N.


  3. Hi, Chareen! Thanks for your kind comment on my blog...thought I'd stop over here to visit you, too! :)

    I enjoyed reading this post, you have so many lovely ideas! I'm always looking for new ways of celebrating the Christian Year with my family.

    We use the Advent wreath and the Jesse Tree, too...I agree it sure helps make the Christmas/Advent season meaningful!


  4. Hello Collette

    Welcome to my blog. These ideas are not all my own but ones I have gathered over the years. We don't do them all but I like having a stash of ideas I can pick from.


  5. some good ways to remember the true meaning of Christmas


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