A few years ago, probably a lot more few years ago than I remember, we studied different Christmas traditions around the world. Some of them have become part of our own family holiday traditions. One that the kids love is celebrating St. Nicholas day. The modern legends of Santa Claus have become so entangled with the person of St. Nicholas that most people don't even realize he was a real fellow. Not the jolly old guy in the red suit nor a "saint" to be venerated as some religions teach. But a real every day man who tried to show Christ's love by reaching out to meet the needs of those around him.
If you ask my kids they will tell you Santa Claus is a fictitious character like Rapunzel or Pooh Bear. We don't have Santa Claus burnings nor do we ban anything Santa Claus from our house, but we do keep it in perspective for our kids.
They also know about the real St. Nicholas because he represents what I want them to take away from the Christmas season. That it is more blessed to give than to receive. That the whole idea of Christmas was about God giving something precious to us. And that it is our job, as Christians, to give of everything we have to reach the lost world.
I like that St. Nicholas day comes early in the season because all around us from Thanksgiving to Christmas are messages of greed and commercialism. But when we take a day out to remember the St. Nicholas's of life, it starts the season off focused on what is really important. It moves the spotlight from "what I hope to find in my Christmas stocking" to "What can I do for those around me this Christmas season."
In European tradition, we put a few treats in the kids shoes. Carmella loves chocolate and somehow her one truffle multiplied to two. If you ask her she will claim it to be a "miracle" of St. Nicholas and say it had absolutely nothing to do with Ellie's chocolate.
We read the story of St. Nicolas and made boot cookies
A jar full of beautifully sprinkled Christmas cookies.
The little girls really had fun with the sugar. I stole my friend, Jenn's idea, and use baking sheets as a work surface. This really kept the mess down, even working on the living room floor. (Yeah, I know you are wondering why we would do such a thing on the living room floor. That's so Addison can be with us, too. There's no place for him to play near the kitchen table.)
So we haven't had a lot of sun to watch them shine so we just put them under the Christmas tree to remind us the real gifts don't come in packages but come from the heart.
What unique traditions does your family have for the holidays? How do you help your children stay focused on Christ in our age of materialism?