Christmas is a special time of year, but for many people the meaning has been lost and it has just become over commercialised with a frenzy of present buying, eating and drinking and little else. Creating a soulful Christmas in your family can involve many things – from making special foods and crafts, to sharing stories and heartfelt gift-giving.
Over the years I moved away from the Christian and Catholic traditions of my roots to explore my own spirituality. I read widely and studied a range of traditions from Buddhism to yoga and new age ideas. It took me many years to feel that I had a cohesive and personal understanding of spirituality and along the way realized that most traditions have the same message at their core anyway. Honouring the beauty of the natural world, the cycles of nature and the seasons has always been meaningful to me and so has been incorporated into our spiritual tradition. So at Christmas we like to include lots of nature time, making presents and cards, baking special festive foods, singing carols, playing music and reading books.
I have reconciled the Christian message over the years as well, so we incorporate Advent into our Christmas preparation. Advent starts the fourth Sunday before Christmas and is a great way to build anticipation and a bit of reverence into the lead-up to Christmas. While I am not a ‘practicing Christian’, I am happy to celebrate the birth of Jesus, who in essence was a special person who came to earth to bring humanity a message of love, hope and kindness. These are qualities that we want to foster in our kids – so celebrating his birth (much as we do with celebrating Buddha’s birthday) is to honour the highest qualities in us all.
So we have a simple nativity scene that grows each week as Mary and Joseph make their way on the rocky road to Bethlehem. The first week is the when the mineral kingdom of rocks and crystals is honoured and we add that to the table. The second week we bring in the plant kingdom and the children love finding special gifts from nature to add to the scene. Sometimes things magically appear which keeps them excited and interested. The third week of advent is when the animals arrive! Here the sheep appear in the fields and the ox appears in the stable. Finally in the last week the humans appear – with the shepherds and the kings. The slow building of the scene each week is something I recommend, as it is a living process that build anticipation and interest.
The backdrop is a simple design which starts out with just the one guiding star, but each night we stick a small silver star into the sky – so by Christmas eve the sky is filled with lots of little stars. Also by Christmas Eve, Mary and Joseph have finally made it to the stable after their long journey. Everything is in place, we just have to wait until the baby is born.
Albert Einstein once said “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”
With this in mind, I thought I would share some of my favourite Christmas books and stories for the kids. Making Christmas a soulful time can involve many things, and reading is one of our family’s treasured past times. We have a special box of Christmas books that we store away and get out with the Christmas decorations. The kids have a great time going through them, and each year we normally add one or two new ones. We also like to tell the story of Saint Nicholas as well, to give the Santa Claus character more meaning. We keep the gifts from Father Christmas very special and magical and fairly minimal rather than junky and abundant.
So here are some of my favourite books. Some of them are a little hard to get at the moment, but you can possibly find them secondhand.
NB: If you click on any of these links and purchase from Book Depository, a small commission will be earnt, all of which will be donated to the charity I support, Permaculture Research Institute – giving resources and skills to poor communities around the world to enable self sufficiency, health and happiness.
So I hope this gives you some inspiration for a more soulful Christmas in your family this year! Wishing you a very merry Christmas!