Creating Family Christmas Traditions

Christmas is a special time for children, and every parent wants to make it something memorable-something magical. That may seem like a tall order considering the seasonal hoopla and commercial excess that now associates itself with this celebration, but the magic can be kept if a little forethought goes into holiday preparations. This year's Christmas can be like those of yesteryear, the ones looked back upon with fond nostalgia.

What made those old Christmases so special? Traditions, some big and some small.

Big traditions are the ones that are shared with large groups of people, like going to midnight church services or visiting Santa at the local department store. Perhaps a special evening trip into the city to see the lights can be a centerpiece of the season.

Small traditions are more personal: the decorating of the tree, or the particular family rituals associated with Christmas Eve. Traditions can be built quite simply, and they are something that you and your children will enjoy sharing, both now in the doing, and later in the remembering.

To begin, slow down and make some time for shared activities. Make things together-decorations, gifts, foods-and hand-make some gifts to give to your child.

Gift making is area often overlooked these days. It's easy to shop, but you're just buying the same things everyone else is. If possible, try to make your children at least one handmade gift each year; it will bring back memories long after electronic games or TV-spinoff action figures have become broken or obsolete.

The least handy adult can turn out a product that looks great to a child. A couple of hints are: paint with bright enamels because a shiny paint job can hide a multitude of sins; and, when in doubt, think big. Big is impressive. Try making a simple dollhouse or a wooden boat for the bathtub. Whatever it lacks in polish and finesse will be more than compensated for in love and memories.

Children should be encouraged to make gifts, too. The key is not perfect quality, it's honest effort. A drawing or painting can be rolled up and tied around the middle with a ribbon. Also, a piece of paper can be folded in half to resemble a card. The child's artwork is done on the inside, and Christmas greetings are written on the outside.

Kids too small to write or draw can scribble with crayons. A parent can then ask what each scribble represents and write down the definition as a caption in pen or marker. Younger children also enjoy having their spread-open hand traced in crayon, giving them an interesting outline to color in. (A useful tip here is to trace with one hand while using the other hand's fingers to hold the child's fingers in place on the paper; otherwise, they are guaranteed to wander at inopportune times.) What's important is that the child have the pride of making and giving something of themselves.

Christmas decorations can be made together using construction paper, Elmer's glue (it cleans up with water), tape and imagination. Cut out a miniature tree and decorate it with colored scraps.

Remember paper chains? Narrow strips of colored paper are stapled or taped into interlocked circles, with the chain's final length determined by family perseverance. These chains can be looped around the upper perimeter of a room, and they can also serve as a colorful homemade garland for the Christmas tree.

Another old-time garland is made by stringing popcorn. Be sure to make plenty of popcorn for this project because most of it will be eaten during the construction process. Family members of all ages can sit at the kitchen table around the bowl of popcorn, using a needle and thick thread or thin string to impale one popped kernel after another. Incidentally, a more permanent garland can be made by substituting white styrofoam packing "peanuts" for popcorn, although it ruins the snacking potential of this project.

Reading Christmas stories aloud together is something memorable that parents should make time for. Young children always enjoy old favorites like "Babar and Father Christmas" or the timeless "-Twas the Night Before Christmas," written in 1822 by Clement Moore. This latter piece lends itself well to participation by the littlest kids:

Parent: "-Twas the night before Christmas and all through the....."

Child: "House!"

Parent: "Not a creature was stirring, not even a....."

Child: "Mouse!"

A real treat and tradition-in-the-making is reading Charles Dickens' classic "A Christmas Carol" aloud a bit at a time every evening before bedtime. The story is well-known and available on tape, in cartoons, and in several different movie versions, but there is nothing like listening to Dickens' way with words the way the story was originally presented. Older children who have already been exposed to later versions of this story will enjoy all of the detail the book provides.

And let Dickens' final words about Ebenezer Scrooge illuminate the way to a happy family Christmas, with a rediscovery of what is really important to us all, children and adults alike. Remember, " was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that truly be said of us, and all of us!"

God bless us, every one. Merry Christmas!

Article provided by Homesteader

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