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Wholesome Ways to Prepare for Christmas with Children

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Christmas is all about the journey, and here’s some daily rituals and activities to help bring wonder, patience and joy into your family home during the festive season.

Even if you’re not ‘into’ Christmas, it’s very difficult to avoid the busy energy and consumeristic onslaught that unfortunately dominates the Western culture in the lead up to December 25th. I think it was my own massive aversion to this unsavoury aspect of the season that inspired me to research and create wholesome ways to bring Christmas to my own children.

Children LOVE Christmas, and it just didn’t feel right to me as Mother to deprive my boys (or myself) of the wonder and joy and beautiful messages that can be found within the Christmas stories from around the world.

By consciously celebrating the lead up to Christmas in a meaningful way, I find it helps immensely in grounding and connecting our family at a time when packed schedules and neverending to-do lists can otherwise scatter all of our energies!

 

So, here’s a short list of some wholesome ways to prepare for Christmas with children. The traditions and activities have formed in our home over the years & I hope they spark a few ideas of your own for simple, fun and appropriate Christmas rituals!

*A note on Advent, the Nativity & Christianity: The festival we now call Christmas is based on the Christian story of the birth of Jesus Christ. I’m not particularly religious and I guess stories and rituals are what I use for spiritual guidance in the world. With this in mind, I love the archetypal pictures of Mary (the eternal mother) and Joseph (the kind & purposeful protector) and of course, baby Jesus (the miracle that each and every one of us is). But if the religious thing is just not you there’s also plenty of beautiful ways to celebrate the qualities of Christmas using other metaphors more appropriate to your beliefs and family life. The list below is definitely a mix of both of these approaches and especially honour Mother Earth.

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1. The Advent Candles

There are four weeks in Advent and each one celebrates the 4 kingdoms on earth. In our home we light the first candle during week 1 to honour the mineral kingdom. In week 2 we light 2 candles and especially honour the plant kingdom. In week 3 we light 3 candles and give thanks to the animal kingdom, and in week 4 we light all the candles with gratitude for the human kingdom. We light the candles before dinner each night with a simple verse and it’s a lovely way to stop and give thanks for our food, our day and our lives. 

2. A Nightly Verse

Find some words that are meaningful to your family life and say them together each night throughout December. They can be said while lighting the candles or just before bed, and it’s nice to write them together so that everyone feels a part of the ritual. Below is one of our verses which forms the basis of my latest Australian Christmas Story & Song called Finding Christmas (or click here for a free written version of the story).

“When the Summer Sun shines bright & high

In the long hot days of Christmas time

We thank the earth for the gifts she wills

For the rocks & the plants & the animals

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3. The Advent Table & Calendar

Given the ‘more is less’ approach most common to the ‘commercialised Christmas’, we try to keep our table & calendar as simple as possible. I know there’s a lot of very special Advent calendars with gifts and chocolates available from shops these days but I highly recommend taking the simplest option here to help maintain that attitude of purposefully preparing and waiting as we get ready for Christmas. Our calendar is a wet felted hanging with a large spiral that hangs above our nature-inspired Advent table.

The boys and I collect treasures from nature during December – crystals and stones in the first week of Advent; flowers, seed pods and special leaves for the second week; shells, feathers and snake skins for the third week; and wooden characters from the boys toy baskets for the 4th week. Each morning a golden star appears in our seedpod manger and the boys still get excited every single day (even at 7 and 10 years old!) before placing the star on the spiral felt hanging, each day getting closer to the centre of the spiral & Christmas day.

*A note on creating magic at this time of year: Whether it’s Santa Claus, St Nic or golden stars appearing from above, every parent needs to decide for themselves what they feel comfortable telling (or not telling) their children. A sense of wonder and ‘not knowing’ is absolutely essential in a young child’s life so they can dream and delight in the magic of the world.

 

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As adults we’ve often forgotten about this magic so innate and natural to children, that we get a bit lost in THE TRUTH which unfortunately can prematurely pop that bubble for our own children too soon. I really do believe it is magical that some divine force inspired my hands to create the star ritual for my children and it feels absolutely truthful to give this gift of wonder to my own children.

4. Finding a Challenge (aka Christmas Craft)

My boys are both enthusiastic sewers, so this year I ordered a lovely DIY Nativity Scene for us to sew together during the evenings of December. I wanted it just as much for me as for them, as I knew it would make me slow down and come back to myself at the end of each busy day.

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 The one thing I did forget in my enthusiasm, is that craft isn’t always easy with children, especially tired children (& parents!). Interestingly, although I am finding it really challenging to be patiently encouraging, I can see the benefit of us sitting with a ‘difficult’ task at this time of year. With 1 doll & half a donkey done so far, we’ve got a long long journey ahead of us and I think we’re all having to dig deep to find the patience and stamina to face it! 

5. Stories stories stories!

My most favourite activity during this time of year by far – sharing stories! There’s so many rich and wonderful stories from all over the world relevant to Christmas symbology & we share one a night usually followed by a simple song or carol we can all sing together by candlelight.


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6. Planting Christmas Seeds

What better way for a child to measure that idea of nurturing patience and preparedness within than planting a seed and watching it grow. You could even call them your Christmas seeds or plants and every morning make a ritual of checking on them. Again, getting those hands in the dirt and feeling the fresh dewy grass under my bare feet each morning has been an absolute life-saver at this busy time of year!

So I hope some of these ideas have inspired your own search for meaningful Christmas family traditions in your home & please do drop me a line below to let me know some of your rituals.

Wishing you all a calm, peaceful and joyous family time together this December!

x Annie

Annie Bryant is a storyteller & musician from Mullumbimby, Australia who loves to share her seasonally-inspired stories and songs for children at live performances and on The Seasonal Collection of Winter, Spring, Summer & Autumn recordings. Listen to a sample of her recorded stories and songs below or click here to find out more.   
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3 Comments
  1. I would love to know which kit you are making your nativity scene from please!

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    • Hi Rachel,

      I’m using a lovely DIY kit from Maria at Heartfelt (http://heartfelt.net.au). It’s not too big or too little in size – just perfect. 9cms high for each doll and includes 7 figures. We found a donkey and camel pattern to go with it and I also ordered a very beautiful DIY Angel too. Happy crafting! x Annie

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  2. I find your ideas inspiring, Annie, even just reading about them brings me a sense of calm and peace. I wish they had been available to me when my boy was young. Thank you for your Tales & Songs and blog!

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