NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Do you need ideas to help start your own Christmas treasures of the heart? Try some of the following family traditions.
These traditions focus on doing things together; giving rather than receiving; preparing your heart for Christmas; and building relationships with your child, family and friends (including new ones). Consider adding some of these to your list of old favorites.
CHRISTMAS ALBUM — Making a Christmas photo album helps you keep years of holiday memories in one special book. You will love looking back at baby’s first Christmas or Grandpa setting up the train set. To get started, cover a standard-size photo album in bright holiday fabric. Insert any holiday photographs you can find from past years. Add more photographs after Christmas this year before they get stored in a drawer. Add pictures of people who visit your home during the holidays, school or church programs and those who send holiday cards with photographs.
Although our children are grown and have their own families now, the Christmas album is one of the first things they look for when they come home for the holidays. They love to show their own children pictures of their childhood holidays.
CHRISTMAS ACROSTIC BOOK — Let your child make up her own alphabet book of Christmas. For each letter of the alphabet, include an illustration, photograph or magazine picture. A is for the animals in the stable; B is for the baby born in the manger; C is for the Christmas tree shining with lights; and so on. Encourage your child to make the cover. Add this special book to your Christmas book basket.
CHRISTMAS STRAW — Encourage kindness and selflessness in your family by first collecting some straw and placing it in a basket by the side of an empty cradle or basket representing the manger. On the day you begin, draw names. During the days before Christmas, each person completes an act of kindness without the recipient knowing (such as making his bed while he is in the shower, putting a flower at Mom’s place at the table, making a treat, or leaving a note of encouragement). When a family member does this act of kindness, he gets to place a bit of straw in the “manger.” By Christmas Eve, you will have a cradle full of straw.
CHRISTMAS CLASSICS — At the beginning of the Advent season, put your family’s favorite Christmas books in a basket tied with a red or green bow. Set the basket by the Christmas tree or fireplace. Enjoy a story each December evening. Your local Christian bookstore and public library are good sources of Christmas books. Try the following:
— “Oh Holy Night” by Tracy Harrast (Concordia Publishing, 2006)
— “Merry Christmas” by Susan K. Leigh (Concordia Publishing, 2006)
— “From Heaven Above” by Martin Luther (Concordia Publishing, 2006)
— “The Polar Express” by Chris Van Allsburg (Houghton Mifflin, 2005)
— “A Cup of Christmas Tea” by Tom Hegg (Waldman House Press, 2005)
SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS — Lift your spirits as you and your child learn the value of helping others:
— Visit someone in a hospital or nursing home.
— Make something for a child in need (a wooden toy, for example, or knitted gloves). Deliver the gift personally.
— Ring the bell for the Salvation Army.
— Invite a single neighbor or college student to your home for dinner and to a Christmas event at church or school.
— Offer to drive a homebound person to see holiday lights with your family.
— Gather blankets or gloves to donate. Deliver them before Christmas.
— Have each member of the family save a portion of the money they were planning to spend on gifts. Donate it to a charity that helps the homeless.
STORYTELLING STOCKING — Make or purchase a medium or large stocking. Sew 24 thin ribbons on the outside of the stocking. Inside, place mementos such as your child’s first rattle, a souvenir of a trip or a special photograph. Each day during December, let your child draw one of the items out of the stocking and tie it to one of the ribbons while you tell its story.
CHRISTMAS MOVIE NIGHT — Gather your family and order pizza or Chinese food. Gather quilts and sleeping bags. Serve popcorn and cider. Enjoy a favorite Christmas movie. You will not want to miss the following holiday movies:
— “Meet Me in St. Louis”
— “It’s a Wonderful Life”
— “Miracle on 34th Street”
— “A Muppet’s Christmas Carol”
CHRISTMAS LOVE — Write a letter on holiday-bordered paper to your child, noting her personal growth and changes during the year; what you are grateful for about her; and the virtues, personality and character qualities you admire. Put the letter in an envelope and stick it in her stocking.
— Gather recipes from grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles and siblings and make a family recipe collection. Let your child draw the cover picture and staple or bind it together.
— Make a video history of an elderly member of your family sharing about her memories of childhood, adolescence, courtship, marriage, war experiences, joys and hardships.
KEEP HUMOR IN THE HOLIDAY — Avoid the expectation of a perfect holiday. Instead try the following:
— Designate an hour or two in which the whole family pitches in to clean and shine everything in the house that is visible. Save the deep-cleaning for a rainy January day.
— If you cannot fit in time to write a Christmas letter, write it for Valentine’s Day instead.
— Maintain your energy and cheer by exercising. Take a brisk walk or exercise daily.
THE LITTLE THINGS — Do not forget to enjoy the little things this Christmas. Someday you will realize these were the most important things about the season:
— Enjoy a late-night cup of hot chocolate with your spouse.
— Put out a puzzle on a card table for family and friends to work on together.
— Take a walk with your child in the snow.
— Light a candle and read aloud the Christmas story.
CHRISTMAS PRAYERS — After the holidays, place the Christmas cards you received in a basket. Each night, choose a card from the basket at dinnertime and pray together for that family. Keep stamped postcards available in the basket as well. After you have prayed, send the family a note saying you prayed for them. One family who does this found that many of their friends and loved ones have been impacted by this kindness and their children are developing a heart for ministry and evangelism.
SAYING THANK YOU — Writing thank-you notes for gifts received is almost a lost art. Revive the tradition and help your child develop a spirit of gratefulness. Put a package of colorful notes and stamps in your child’s stocking. Then schedule a time your family can sit down and write notes expressing appreciation for gifts received.
Cheri Fuller, on the Web at www.cherifuller.com, is the author of “Christmas Treasures of the Heart” from which this article is adapted. Reprinted by permission of ParentLife, published by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.