The week of Christmas is upon us! I have been a busy little elf (away from my writing desk) and immersed in making fudges, cookies, wrapping gifts and making sure our cottage styled home looks magical and cozy for Christmas and Winter. I am sure you all have been busy too and have barely noticed my little elfish hiatus ;). As we celebrate this sacred season together, I thought I would share a little piece of what Christmas was like for me as a child. Mom instilled the spirit of Giving in us from the time we were small. She came up with the coolest way to keep the reason for the season at hand, and I thought maybe it would inspire some of you parents out there who practice Christian traditions with your children this time of year.
When my brother and I were little, we had the joys of celebrating all of the wonder and “magic” and miracles of Christmas-from Santa Claus to the Real Reason for the Season. While we loved the excitement and fun of Santa, Rudolph, and all of the typical things that children like, Mom made sure to keep the Christmas story and the birth of baby Jesus at the forefront. She had a really clever way of doing this.
She took an old empty Christmas card box ,covered it in decorative paper, and cut a small opening in the top of the lid. It’s been several years since I have seen that old box with the blue paper covering it, but she wrote something on it to the effect of ” a Gift for Jesus” (some variation of that!). This box was placed under the tree long before any of the other gifts were placed there. It sat there the whole month of December (the season of advent, although I am not sure if it was intended as an advent practice) , until Christmas Day. Just as the wise men brought gifts to the baby Jesus, this was our Christmas gift for Jesus! It helped to teach us the true, non commercial meaning of Christmas and was also a good lesson in learning to give what we have and not be selfish.
She explained what the box was for and encouraged us to give whatever we felt we should give during the month of December. Little brother and I would put coins in there from our allowance and Mom and Dad would put money in there too. Sometimes they would help us earn money to put in there. On Christmas we would open the box and see how much money we had collected. Then we would decide as a family what to do with the money as a gift to Jesus. The money was always used for some type of charity purpose-usually a family or a person in need , as I recall. It could be used to buy food for a poor family at Christmas, provide clothing for the cold weather months, or toys to children who wouldn’t get any for Christmas otherwise. There were many other uses as well (It would be fun to ask her if she remembers all of the things we did with that money because she probably remembers more of it than I do).
We also were not allowed to open gifts Christmas morning until Dad had read the Christmas story from the bible. I remember doing this at Christmas at one of the grandparents houses also. I must admit, as a child I found that part of our tradition sort of boring, as children have a hard time with their attention span when presents are staring at them! Now looking back on it though, I appreciate the values it instilled in me, in making sure that us children didn’t only recognize the material aspects of Christmas.
The box under the tree was something that I truly enjoyed all throughout my growing up years and a tradition I would like to pass down someday when I have a child. Maybe it is a tradition you would like to start as well! You can make your own box out of any type of small box you have lying around. You could even get the kids involved in decorating it with you. :) I like that Mom got us kids involved by deciding as a family who we wanted to give the money to.
While we haven’t used that box as a family for years, we still give back in some way every Christmas. Some years we have donated a turkey to a needy family, and some years we have sent out a shoe box of toys to a child. Many years we have bought things for local children in need from the Salvation Army’s angel tree. As I got older , I also started doing something each year as an individual. I tend to keep eyes and ears open for whatever God brings my way (in the way of people who are ill, poor, alone, etc.) It brings my spirit joy to bring joy to another!
I wish I had a photo of the box to share here, but Mom says it is put away some where and hard to get to. Sometime in the future!
Questions for my readers: Do you have any Childhood memories of ways you celebrated the meaning of Christmas? Do you do any charity type things this time of year?
I always love hearing your stories and traditions too!
In the Spirit of Giving,