Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Taking (some of) Christmas Back by Kaila Pettigrove

What is your reaction when you see Christmas decorations in the supermarket before October has finished? For some people, Christmas decorations/trees/stockings are what make the holiday season “feel like Christmas.” Merchandisers have definitely picked up on and exploited this. The sooner they get us into the Christmas spirit, the sooner we are ready to do our Christmas shopping! How do we keep our excitement and anticipation, without getting hijacked by the materialistic storm?

I am an unabashed enthusiast when it comes to celebrating. Silly hats, candles that won’t blow out and paper streamers are still not beneath me at the ripe age of 43. So when I married a man who runs the other way when he sees Christmas decorations and hides when the Christmas tree appears; we needed to do some compromising. When our children came along, there were Peace Summits held into the wee hours of the morning.

Over the years, I have gleaned from many sources ways to take back my Christmas Season and make time to reflect. Does that mean that on Christmas eve I am dressed elegantly, sipping sparkling grape juice and reading the Christmas story in Latin by candlelight? Hardly! I still experience all the stress of prizegivings, Christmas Pageants and end of year parties. However, our family has decided on two traditions that are non-negotiable and we make room for them. I’ve outlined these below in case you might like to give them a test drive this year.
The Progressive Nativity

Sometime before the beginning of December (hopefully) we gather together to unpack our nativity scene. I inherited this gem from my grandmother who spent years collecting the pieces. If you don’t have a set yet, perhaps your tradition could be to make/buy new pieces each year as presents for one another. (Kids Friendly has a great pattern for a knitted nativity for those who are handy with the needles!) Once all the pieces have been unwrapped and remarked over (Oh look, the little shepherd!!!) they are placed at one end of the piano top. The stable is placed at the other end. On the first day of advent, the Angel Gabriel is placed (by my son and youngest child, Gabriel) on his hook at the top of the stable roof.

My daughters then choose an animal or person to move closer to the manger. (Usually it is Mary and Joseph, but this varies from year to year as our animal-loving instincts sometimes win out and the sheep get first dibs.) Each day (or as often as we remember to do it) we take turns placing one or more creatures closer to the stable. On Christmas eve, Baby Jesus is placed in the manger with great excitement and panache. WARNING: For several years in a row I have had to HIDE Baby Jesus to keep excited people from plopping him into the manger (when no one is looking) before the Big Day.
The Modular Advent Calendar

Tiring of the “MAY WE HAVE OUR CHOCOLATE NOW?” routine that overtook our advent reflections, I finally prevailed upon a generous grandparent to bestow upon us a re-usable advent calendar. It is made of sturdy pressed cardboard and is shaped like a Victorian House. There are several numbered doors and windows which open into little boxes of varying shapes and sizes. If you have a woodworker in your family, this could be an excellent project! Sometime before advent I fill each box with one of the following: a scripture verse pertaining to the prophesy or Christmas Story, a small treat, one of our nativity characters, or a “challenge” for a family activity (e.g. tell each person in the family your favourite thing about them). Each day the children alternate who opens the Advent door to find the surprise. This is usually done just before dinner so we can talk about what was found and how it relates to Christmas. NOTE: This is a lovely ideal that actually ended up quite stressful in its execution. This year, my daughters (ages 10 and 12) have offered to help me prepare some of the boxes. This means one third of the boxes won’t be a surprise for them, but they are excited about coming up with new things to put in them and surprise their family. I am excited about only needing to come up with ideas for eight boxes instead of 24!!! Now, each day will be very different and each year will be too.

The best part: My daughters are taking ownership of a tradition and a faith that once only surrounded them is now a part of them. In the flurry and rush of the pre-Christmas season, they know there is a place of calm where they can celebrate and thank God for His precious Gift in their hearts. My prayer is that their brother will one day join them as he grows in his faith…and their father will no longer complain about the Christmas tree.

Kaila Pettigrove is a part-time Kids Friendly Coach in Auckland. She is married to the effervescent Glen and together they have three children. 

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