Children are very impressionable, and Christmas is an incredible opportunity to maximize your child’s spiritual growth in an informal, intimate and natural way. Children love the excitement and fun that accompanies the Christmas season, so it is extremely memorable for them. That is why it is the perfect opportunity to ensure that your child is learning valuable spiritual, moral and family lessons along the way! Here are 5 lessons I learned from observing Christmas in the Godzich family:
1. Christmas starts with Christ.
Every Christmas morning, before opening our presents, my dad read the true meaning of Christmas directly from scripture. The Word of God and the Christmas story penetrated deeply into my heart from a young age. This was an intimate family memory –my sisters and I would be in our matching pajamas, mom and dad would be gripping their coffee ready for the big day ahead, and Jesus would be in our home, front and center. Christmas always started with Christ, and He is the reason for the season.
2. Home is not just for family.
On Christmas Eve, we had a beautiful tradition to leave one place setting open in case someone were to come in looking for a place to eat and stay. There was no room for Joseph and Mary at the Inn, but there was room in our home. While of course, no one ever walked in from off the streets. We were intentional about inviting others to be a part of our celebration. There were a couple different years where we invited lonely people over who had a tough year to enjoy Christmas dinner with us. As Christians, we should be hospitable to bless others.
3. Giving is truly a greater joy than getting.
All kids understand that getting new toys is really fun, but giving needs to be made fun, too, and that needs to be taught. My dad used to videotape our exhilarated little faces as we excitedly rushed down the stairs to see the mounding pile of presents under the tree. He told us he liked to watch our faces light up with excitement. My parents wanted us to experience the joy of watching others receive gifts too. From a young age, I would pick and wrap toys for the toy drive. My parents would also drive us to the dollar store so we could pick out our own thoughtful gifts for each other to open on Christmas morning.
4. Gratitude is the most important attitude.
Kids inevitably at some point get presents they don’t want. I have watched some parents excuse rude behavior. “Well, why in the world would someone get a child that for Christmas anyway?” While that may be a valid query in your head, your child should learn how to thank and be respectful about any and every gift they receive. I was never allowed to say, “ugh, puzzles” or roll my eyes when I got socks. It was drilled into me that we are always to be thankful and grateful. There’s no better time to teach this lesson when a weird extended family member or long lost family friend brings odd gifts for Christmas.
5. Love unites, heals and sows family together.
Our family has a beautiful Polish tradition that we take part of every Christmas Eve, oplatek. During oplatek, each family member hold a wafer and you break off a piece of each others wafer. After breaking a piece, you forgive one another for past wrongs during the year, you admire one another’s growth and accomplishments, and then you tell them what you hope for them in the coming year. Then, you both accept and eat the wafer. This is often a time of heartfelt words and tears. After oplatek was over, I always knew unquestionably that I was loved and appreciated by my family. From the eyes of a child, I understood that love made our family strong.
There are many more lessons I learned, lessons that shaped me, and I will carry these with me for the rest of my life. Sadly, my father died, but his lessons still live in me. And they will live on in my future children. Parents, Christmas memories will always stay with your child for years. Do you want them to remember a time of stress, anger, and discord? OR do you want them to remember a time that revealed the uniting love of Christ in their family and showed them the true meaning of Christ on this earth? Love, thankfulness, generosity… these are not natural to children. They have to be taught and nurtured. What better time to focus on these lessons than this glorious Christmas season?
We want to hear from you! Comment below to tell us how you intentionally teach your children during this time of year!
Written by Emily Nilsen, Director of Communications at NAME.