Sunday, December 1, 2013

Keep Christ in Christmas - Blog Link-up 2013

"I’m participating in the KEEP CHRIST in CHRISTMAS Blog Link-Up 2013, hosted by
We'll be sharing different ways, tips, stories and real-life experiences that will help us focus our Advent and Christmas on JESUS!
I find, in my life anyway, failing to plan means running around and not getting as much done as I would like. I don't stress that much these days, a wonderful grace I've been given, but I do feel badly when days go past and I know that I could have done more. The stress reduction is largely a result of a conscious choice I've made with my husband to do much less. My calendar is still too full for my liking but at least I know I won't be running around doing things that I feel pressured into and not what I have actively chosen.
That's a long-winded way to say that during Advent and the Christmas season, I work really hard to say "no" to all the society-imposed standards so that my family can say "YES" to the eager anticipation that comes from quietly, consciously awaiting the birth of our Savior. Here are a few ways we are KEEPING CHRIST IN CHRISTMAS.
I should add, for those who don't know, we have five kids, aged 8 years to 20 months. That fact effects much of what we do and don't do every day, including Advent and Christmas.
1. Get the other stuff done early.
I know that there are people waiting for our yearly Christmas card with the latest picture and I know there are presents expected to come on December 25th. To make sure this is not something hanging over my head during Advent, I get it done early. Advent starts tomorrow and my Christmas cards and shopping are done (the wrapping will come along when I have time - I'm not that good!). Completing these two things make me happy that family and friend bonds will still be tended to but not at the cost of something more central in our family.
2. Get to the important stuff.
We try to keep our Catholic faith in the center of our family life every day. This is even more important when society bombards us with non-faith messages about the Christmas season (now this begins even before Thanksgiving? Ug). We try, first of all, to not watch network TV. The commercials are just too much for the little people around here. Watching a Charlie Brown special resulted in a house full of self-centered children with the gimmes. I even caught myself daydreaming about all the great things I could ask for this Christmas. So, even more now, we try to keep Christ as our focus. (Please don't think we avoid gift-giving in this house! We have just chosen to emphasize the joy that comes from giving as opposed to receiving - see "VeggieTales" below.)
* Family Activities - Lighting the Advent wreath with prayers at dinner, hanging the Jesus stocking (the kids take turns suggesting good deeds that they or their siblings have done which are then written on a slip of paper and placed in Jesus's stocking as our gift to Him) and family rosary every Sunday afternoon all add extra moments that help bring us back to what is important - the gift of Christ's birth. We haven't been able to make it work as a family yet but our eldest has had the opportunity to serve once monthly at a local soup kitchen. Her tales of service have made it something the little ones look forward to joining in one day. They all enjoy participating in Operation Shoebox and the Angel Tree at church. For family movie night, I suggest The Toy That Saved Christmas, a VeggieTales classic!
* Decorating - This is still a work in progress. For the last two years I have gotten a good deal on a delivered Christmas tree so it's usually up by the first week of Advent. This alone can be an opportunity to shift the focus away Christ and back to gift-getting. So, last year and hopefully from now on, we will take our time. The tree is put up when it arrives but it stays bare until, little by little, in conjunction with other religiously-based activities, we add decorations. Usually it ends up with the family decorating it a few days before Christmas. That works for us. Then, of course, it stays that way until at least Epiphany so that we can enjoy it for the entire Christmas season.
The undecorated tree and Jesus stocking
* Keeping it centered on the faith - We are blessed to have two family birthdays in the house during Advent so we have a few opportunities to celebrate and break up the quiet waiting (little kids are impatient, have you noticed?). We are trying to instill the importance of waiting to the kids but it's also fun to mark the great celebrations that happen throughout the Advent and Christmas seasons. Here are a few big ones around here...
  - Happy New Year! - Each year we have a New Year's party on the first day of Advent (or on the Eve, depending on what works) to celebrate the beginning of the Liturgical Year.
last year's "Advent Eve" party - we made our Advent chain and had a celebration :0)
- St. Nicholas Day - Every year on the evening of December 5th the kids line up their shoes by the front door. We spend the evening watching videos and reading books about St. Nicholas. This is an excellent opportunity to teach the little ones about the importance of giving. It's also a good way to bridge the gap with Santa. This year my 8-year-old is making a list of "St. Nicholas Around the World" which tells his name and the traditions in various countries. We don't emphasize Santa and we don't ignore him. He is part of society so the kids may as well know the link so that they can educate their friends ;0) (not sure if it's good or bad but it usually ends something like "Santa comes to our house on December 6th...we call him St. Nicholas).
After St. Nicholas made his stop
- Feast of the Immaculate Conception - We make sure to discuss the meaning of this Feast and spend the day talking about Mary and her important part in the birth of Christ. This is such a great way to reinforce the importance of saying "yes" to God! I usually give the kids their nativity sets so that they can start thinking about the journey to Bethlehem. They enjoy moving the pieces around and playing with everyone (Jesus, of course, isn't there yet)
We also try to visit the Nativity downtown on or around this day...our own journey to the manger and a nice way to spend a day with the family.
- St. Lucy Day - This is the day we put the lights on the tree and learn all about the life of St. Lucy. There is usually a wreath of monkey bread with candles as well ;0)
I think that is the color and hug St. Francis hanging...St. Nicholas gift!
- Christmas Eve - I am of Slovak ancestry and this has always been a big day in my family. We have a traditional meal of Slovak foods and talk about the symbolism of different traditions (like leaving the lights off during the day so that we are very literally "waiting for the Light"). I am so thankful that we are able to pass these traditions, this family-centered, non-commercial time, to our children. So many fond memories of my childhood revolve around this day.
- Christmas Day - We typically start our day at 7 AM Mass as a family. It is early but the kids know that we always begin by greeting Jesus (it's His birthday, after all!) and giving thanks through the Holy Mass. After we share that time, they are free to come home and open their gifts. We also bake bread as a family that day and generally relax and celebrate the Birth of Our Lord!(I put away two or three gifts per child to open during the 12 days of Christmas, one specifically on Epiphany, after our house blessing).
- Epiphany - We always go from room to room and bless our house after Mass on this day. The kids have been dressing up as the Magi and it's a great tradition that teaches them that Christmas lasts more than a day as well as the importance of using our gifts to please Jesus. This is the day that all the slips are taken out of the Jesus stocking and read aloud as an offering to Him.
We also had Jesus and the Blessed Mother that year ;0)
3. Doing what works for your family - There are so many wonderful ways to keep Christ in Christmas. Sometimes so many that it is overwhelming. Part of keeping the stress level low is saying "no" to some of the possibilities. We haven't yet done a Jesse Tree, though I can imagine adding that at some point. This year we won't do an Advent calendar but instead stick with only the countdown paper chain that has a bible verse or prayer idea for each day. I am looking at my Jesse Box that arrived today and I know that I will save that for Easter this year. I try to add one or two new ideas each year. Sometimes they work and become traditions and sometimes they don't. Regardless of what we choose, as long as we concentrate on prayerfully waiting for and then celebrating the miracle of Christ's birth, we consider it a success.
Wishing you all the joy of this wondrous season. We are blessed!
Question - for all of you here for the "frenzy" - if you have or had little ones, what was the best Advent tradition you've kept through the years?
Visit these participating blogs for awesome posts about Keeping Christ in Christmas!

 Equipping Catholic Families: Keep Christ in Christmas
Coffee Moments with Sam         The Light of Hope
Faith Filled Freebies: Keep Christ in Christmas
Written by the Finger of God: Not Christmas as Usual
On the Way Home:  Keep Christ in Christmas
Sue Elvis Writes: Bring Christ to Others
Mommy Bares All         Why Celebrate Christmas Even After #YolandaPH
Canadian Catholic Mom            Keeping The Little Ones Focused: An Advent Link-Up
Mountain of Grace Homeschooling      Keep Christ in Christmas
Embedded Faith               Boldy Be the Christ in Christmas
City Girl, Country Home            Emmanuel Is With Us. Are we WITH HIM?
Journey to Wisdom: Trusting in your Awkward Fiats
Campfires and Cleats     How We Keep Christ in Christmas
Home to 4 Kiddos            Keep Christ in Christmas
Homeschooling With Joy        Keeping Christ in Christmas
Mrs Domestic Bliss     Gingerbread Nativity
The Chic Traveller      Keeping Christ in Christmas
California to Korea     Keeping Christ in Christmas
Dominique’s Desk       Keeping Christ in Christmas
Our ABC Life:  An Advent Update


  1. Nice post. I like the "Advent Eve" party. My wife and I are always looking for ways to bring the liturgical year into our "domestic church." Thanks for the tip!

  2. The Advent Eve celebration is a great idea! I would like to incorporate that in our CCD program...

  3. What a wonderful post! There are many great ideas included but my favorite is the Advent Eve party! Will have to add that next year!

  4. Love the shoes. My kids feet are so small so I just use the traditional stocking. Maybe when their older, eh?

  5. Nice post! I like how your tree gets decorated over time, with your Advent program! Wow...I'm impressed that your Christmas Cards are already done! Enjoy Advent!

  6. Wonderful post! We are big fans of Veggie Tales in our house too, and they have so many great Christmas movies to pick from! I also like the idea of gradually decorating the tree. In past years I have put it up, and put the lights on, but we also waited until right before Christmas to decorate it.

  7. I love the idea of an Advent Eve/New Year's Eve -- I think that celebrating Advent as the start of the New Year is one of my favorite things about being a Liturgical Christian! Such a great opportunity for a spiritual recharge :)

  8. Every year I try to do my shopping and cards before Advent begins but I always fail. So impressed with your planning and success. Yes, with those out of the way there's more time to focus on what is really important.

    It's interesting to hear different family's traditions. I like your idea of gradually decorating your Christmas tree!.And celebrating the start of the new liturgical year. I'd love to adopt that one!

    God bless!

  9. Wonderful post! I really like the idea of the Advent Eve party. What a great way to celebrate the beginning of the new church year!

  10. We, too, do a new liturgical year celebration. Isn't it fun? love how many activities you incorporate into your Advent season!

  11. I like how you handle the St. Nick/Santa thing with your kids. I'm still very much pondering this issue!

    One of my big questions these past couple years has been, "how would my family ideally celebrate Advent and Christmas if we had no family or societal 'obligations's?" Surely, it would be simpler and more about spending time together as a family. It can be so hard to say "no," though, to my own parents and extended family who expect our presence at so many gatherings and parties that just serve to make the season a little too crazy.

  12. How neat that you focus on hue feast days throughout advent. what is that st. Lucy's wreath all about? And I am inspired to get any necessary shopping done before advent since it frees up so much time for all the activities that you've shared here. Oh by the way, we gave up TV for one lent and realized how much better life is without it. so we have been TV less for 5 years!

  13. I love the idea of the Jesus stocking. what a wonderful way to concentrate on His birthday!

  14. wonderful post and thanks for sharing your ideas... my son loves Christmas and like most kids, he is looking forward to his gifts... my husband and I taught him to write his Christmas wish to Baby Jesus (instead of Santa) and whatever gift he will receive this season, he knows it came from the infant Christ. This has been a tradition for 2 years now. Wishing you a blessed Christmas!

  15. Love all of these ideas. Our very favorite advent tradition is the Jesse Tree, we've been doing this for several years now and all my kids youngest to oldest (1 - 17) love this tradition! :)

  16. My children are grown up, but I do have 24 kindergarten kids that I sing, dance, and pray with five days a week. I agree with your idea of letting children set up and play with the Nativity set. I used to buy one new Nativity piece for my children each year. Now that they are grown, they each have a complete set.

  17. I learned about some great new ideas with your post here! I love the Advent Eve party! That makes perfect sense and looks like fun! I'm envious that you are organized enough to not have to deal with Christmas cards and shopping during Advent. That will be a goal of mine! Have a blessed Advent!

  18. Thank you for this. My wife and I are starting our own Christmas traditions and some of these are really good ideas.

    And we do love VeggieTales :D

  19. Thank you for these. My wife and I are starting our own Christmas traditions, and these are some good ideas!

    And we love VeggieTales, of course. :D