“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Ecclesiastes 3:1.
By Beth Pinyerd
“It is Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas” in Opelika, Alabama, in 2021! Lights and decorations everywhere reflect the excitement and joy this season brings to our families. A seasonal Railroad Town Welcome of the Christmas season cannot be found anywhere else.
Children raised in this area are so fortunate to have parades; Victorian Front Porch tours; holiday movies; Christmas band concerts; municipal parks decorated in the Christmas spirit; neighborhoods that come together to spread Christmas cheer; schools and libraries that have special events. The Opelika Community is so fortunate that our town and surrounding areas still thrill children with our Christmas traditions. Raising children in our family-friendly town is very special.
Creating Christmas memories for your children is often found in doing simple things for others. Something that families can do for young children is create and explain Christmas traditions in the stillness and love of our homes.
As you begin to decorate your home this holiday season include many child-made decorations to put throughout the house. These build memories for your child.
In my early childhood classes, I have always included a simple advent calendar as the students count down the number of days leading up to Christmas. The word advent means “to come” which refers to the coming of Jesus. I have usually purchased an inexpensive calendar with numbered doors that the children come and open up during morning classroom exercises. I assign one child per day to come and open up the numbered door and share with the class what the picture is behind the door. Families, you can also make your own advent calendar. Many families celebrate by doing the advent wreath which can be made from evergreen boughs formed into a circle of love and candles according to their faith and family traditions. Both ways of doing advent can be done as a family activity.
Include your children in the tradition of mailing Christmas cards. In the early childhood classroom, I have had my young students make Christmas cards for their parents by drawing or gluing pictures on a piece of paper then enclosing their cards in an envelope. We work together on addressing our Christmas cards, stamping them and mailing to the students’ homes. Imagine the delight when these young students see their parents receive their homemade Christmas cards. Englishman, Sir Henry Cole is credited for making the first Christmas card which he mailed to a friend right before Christmas. Englishman JC Horsley viewed this as a very good idea and he was the first to sell Christmas cards in 1843. Hugs and love are sent near and far in a simple Christmas card.
As families, include your children in putting up your Christmas tree. An English missionary in the seventh century, Winfrid, is credited for using the Evergreen tree as a symbol for God. He presented in an object lesson that with the triangular tree, each point represented a different Person of the Holy Trinity which is God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit. Point out to your young children that the tree points up to our Father above, God, who is LOVE.
One activity I love to do with preschoolers is to make Christmas Cone-ifers. This is such a fun, family activity. Go to the grocery store and find sugar ice cream cones with the pointed end. If you cannot find these, any ice cream cone will do. Pick up green cake frosting and miniature candies to stick on the tree. It makes a delicious family treat.
In my little kindergarten class each year, my young students would decorate a tree outside our class window as a “Bird Christmas Tree”. We would make birdseed bells out of empty toilet tissue rolls by smearing peanut butter on the roll and sprinkling birdseed on top of the peanut butter. If your child has peanut butter allergies other foods are berries, popcorn to string or pieces of bread to poke onto the branches. Children will love to see the birds come and go to gather food and eat off the tree for themselves and their babies in a nest. Again, point out to your young children our God is LOVE and that HE does provide all that we need.
As you are putting lights on the Christmas tree, remind the children light reminds us of God’s love. We are to extend that light to others. The history of lights on the tree comes from a professor Martin Luther in the 1500’s who was walking through the dark forest on a December night trying to make his way home to his family. As he looked up through the cold rustling branches of the trees in the forest, he looked up at the bright stars and truly it seemed like the twinkling stars were dancing.
This gave him the idea of putting candles on the branches of the family’s fir tree at home. What an object lesson the young Luther children received of God’s love. Families you can do the same with your young children as they look at lights on the tree equaling love. As children ourselves we can remember squinting at the beautiful lights on our Christmas tree in dancing around with excitement and joy. As families, have your children make their own simple ornaments out of paper and children love to make dough ornaments. There are several suggestions online that you can quickly search for no-bake or bake ornaments.
We do not want to forget to put a star on top of our tree. Again, point out to your children the miraculous star shining on where the Christ child lay thousands of years ago. Making simple tagboard stars or paper stars will do with glitter sprinkled on top.
Just like Love and Marriage go together, the season of Christmas and baking definitely go together. The town of Bethlehem means, “house of bread” and this is where Jesus was born. Include your child in your traditional holiday baking. Make it simple with young children, don’t stress out. There are so many prepared dough and holiday cookies. To sharing our baked goods with neighbors and friends teaches your child that sharing is love for others. Smelling cakes, bread and cookies in the air is such a warm, loving memory planted in our hearts of a home of love.