What does Christmas mean to you and how you can make that meaning have spiritual resonance with your family? A friend of mine who is a busy single mother says, "I try to tone down the commercial messages about Christmas that seep into my daughter's consciousness. We have come up with our own rituals that include a Christmas Eve gathering of friends with candles, simple foods and lots of singing. We make a gingerbread house for the party, and on Christmas Day my daughter and I take it to the woods and leave it under a tree for the fairies to play in and enjoy."
Here are seven ways you might create a simpler more soulful Christmas:
1. Encourage family spirit by creating opportunities and rituals for sibling collaboration. Maybe the kids are in charge of planning a party for their friends at your home, decorating a small evergreen for the kitchen, making secret gifts as a team or concocting a festive breakfast menu for Christmas morning.
2. Don't forget the critters. Make ornaments for the birds using pinecones, peanut butter, and birdseed. Leave a few carrots for the bunnies, a salt lick for the deer. There's an old legend that says you can communicate with animals at midnight on Christmas Eve. When I was a little girl we trundled through knee-deep snow to the barn to visit with our horses. Ask your kids how they might give to the animals this year.
3. Shift your holiday thinking to how your family can give to others from the heart. Is there a way you can reach out in your community? Ask your priest, rabbi or school principal if they know of a particular family that is in need. Find out the ages of their children and with yours, create a holiday box full of prizes to be delivered anonymously. There are many families outside the "system" whose spirits would be lifted by your generosity and creativity.
4. Encourage your kids to give themselves a gift this Christmas by setting a personal goal, rereading their favorite holiday book, or soaking in a long hot bath with red and green candles lighting the room. Self-care begins even with our youngest spirits.
5. If you attend a particular church or temple, arrange to take your child there when there is no service. In the quiet sacred space talk about how it feels to be there, explain the symbols, and talk about the upcoming holiday and it's significance in your religious tradition. Hold hands and feel the energy of those who have prayed in this holy space.
6. Many Christians light weekly Advent candles symbolizing hope, peace, joy and love. Perhaps you could discuss each quality while lighting the candle it symbolizes. Or, your family might give the candles different meanings. They could represent the light of God that surrounds us, the love of God that enfolds us, the power of God that protects us, the presence of God that watches over us.
7. Make decorating the Christmas tree a soulful event. Play music that sets a serene tone, put some cider on the stove to warm, and let the answering machine pick up calls. When you string the lights, talk about the power of light in our lives and how we are beacons of God's light in our world. You might even roll out your sleeping bags and sleep snuggled under the newly decorated tree.
Award-winning author Mimi Doe is the founder of SpiritualParenting.com and the author of Busy but Balanced: Creating Calmer, Closer Families (St. Martin's Press) and 10 Principles for Spiritual Parenting (HarperCollins). Her newsletter, Spiritual Parenting Thought for the Week, has thousands of subscribers from around the world.