Advent: The right stuff

When Norma and John’s six children were small, the family received a letter from Santa sometime during Advent each year. “In the note, Santa would write that there wasn’t room in our home for more stuff,” says Norma. “He asked the kids to share their blessings with children who had little.”

Upon receiving the note, each child picked out several things to give to someone less fortunate and left them in a basket on Christmas Eve next to the cookies for Santa. When Santa came, he took the toys and left the family’s Christmas gifts. “The kids really got into it and didn’t just give their old broken stuff,” Norma remembers. “They gave things that they thought others would really enjoy.”

Helping children understand the meaning of the Advent and Christmas seasons amid the glitter and glitz of commercialism can be challenging. Add to that challenge parents who are pressed for time with office Christmas parties, cookie baking, Christmas card writing, shopping for gifts, and hosting holiday celebrations, and it’s no wonder some parents have decidedly mixed feelings about the coming of December.

While Advent and Christmas present fantastic opportunities to help children grow in their faith, children can also more easily be drawn into materialism and overconsumption during December than any other month. Parents who successfully help their kids avoid the “gimmes” during this season do it with intentional choices and planning.

Lean on church traditions. The nightly lighting of the candles on an Advent wreath is a good starting point to prevent Christmas hype from taking over in early and mid December. Many churches offer parishioners an Advent booklet so families can read a reflection each night as they light the candles.

“Our Advent wreath reminds us to pray and keeps us in touch with the true meaning of Christmas,” says Kevin, father of three.

For Joyce and Matt’s family December offers opportunities to highlight feast days: Whether it’s St. Nicholas Day (December 6) or the Immaculate Conception (December 8), Joyce and Matt make sure their children understand the significance of the day.

“The feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, December 12, is also our son’s birthday, so we have a real Mexican fiesta,” Joyce says. …continued next week

—by Annemarie Scobey, from the pages of At Home with Our Faith, Claretian Publications’ print newsletter for parents on nurturing spirituality in the home. Winner of the 2012 Best in Class award from the Associated Church Press, as well as a First Place General Excellence award from the Catholic Press Association for the past three years running. Here’s a sample issue.

We offer very low rates for parish use, as well as our free Moms’ Night Out monthly discussion guides.

And don’t miss our popular single-page parish handouts on handing on the faith, helping kids understand the Mass, Lent, and Advent.

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