Well, here we are in the first half of November. This is the perfect time to begin discussing holiday traditions and how they influence a child’s education. I wanted to bring this up early so you have a chance to plan ahead if you would like to use some of these ideas in your holiday celebrations or if you would like to research your own…
Holidays are very important to my family. We enjoy all the trappings of the winter holidays- red and green, ribbons and bows, trees, holly, candles, lights… These decorative changes in our home mark this time out as set apart- holy… We are a liturgical family- that means, for us, that we always look for ways to use symbols and cyclical traditions to reinforce Biblical/Spiritual truth. Here’s how we use the winter holidays to point our children toward Jesus…
Thanksgiving- This year, it seemed good to Brian and me that we celebrate a whole season of gratitude. Having only one day of the year in which we purposefully give thanks to the Lord just seemed- well- weak to us. We wanted to find a way to point our children toward counting blessings and remembering to be thankful on a daily basis and to celebrate gratitude. Of course, we can give thanks every day (and we do), but using a season/holiday to focus on this aspect of our relationship to the Father will, we hope, show our children just how important gratitude is to us.
So this year, on November 1st (All Saints Day for those of you who follow traditional liturgical calendars), we created a ‘Thankful Tree’. It’s a very simple creation- a basic tree shape cut out of foam board and colored brown with crayons. Then we cut leaf shapes out of construction paper. Each night, at dinner we talk about what we are grateful for and we write this on a leaf. The leaf is then taped up (using painter’s tape) to the tree.
To give us some direction, we decided to have a different focus each week. Week 1 was ‘People we are thankful for’. Options in the category included family, friends, influential Christians from the past & present, Apostles, professions, etc. It was sweet to me when Fae answered our “Who are you grateful for?” question with, “God and People”. Amen, baby…
Week 2 has been focused on ‘Bible verses/history we are thankful for’. I’ve been focusing on Romans, first being thankful for the book and then selecting specific verses to highlight for my children. Brian noted his thanks for the Sermon on the Mount. Alex has been thankful for the Bible history Noah’s Ark and Daniel in the Lions’ Den. Fae was thankful for “animals” in scripture, which I think is totally valid (grin).
Week 3 will have us thanking God for ‘Answered Prayers & Unexpected Blessings’ and week 4 will focus on ‘Dreams, Abilities, and Callings’.
Each evening our tree grows and it is really wonderful to have a visual testament of how our Jesus has been good to us.
Advent- After Thanksgiving, our Advent celebration begins. Several years ago, my sister-in-law gifted me with a pewter Advent wreath. This is a ‘Jesse Tree’ Advent wreath which recalls visually the historic lineage of Jesus showing how God worked so carefully to bring our Savior into the world. There is a different engraved picture for each night that represents various stories about Jesus’ ancestors. Advent is so special to me- to walk through the season remembering how God has acted in human history to save us– to save me- is just humbling, wondrous and joy-inspiring all at once. I love, love, love Advent…
Each evening, Brian leads our family in lighting the Advent candle (one candle per week with a new candle added each Sunday), singing our Advent hymn- O, Come, O, Come Emmanuel and reciting our Advent verse “The people who walk in darkness have seen a great light; Upon those who live in a land of gloom, The light has come.” (Isaiah 9:2). We then have a reading from Scripture, a memory of how God moved throughout the history to bring Jesus for us. This generally takes about 10 minutes and as we blow out the candles, we remind the children how the smoke rising from them is like our prayers rising before our Father.
This year, I want to begin a new tradition and actually create a ‘Jesse Tree’ to go with our wreath. As I mentioned above, our Advent wreath has many little pictures engraved on it, each of which represent a significant person/event in the historic lineage of Jesus. I want to help the children create actual ornaments to hang on a tree. This year, they’ll likely be paper, but as the children grow, I hope we can make more permanent ornaments. I imagine the children hanging the ornaments & discussing the meaning of the symbols.
So what do the holidays have to do with education? Well, in our family holidays are used as spiritual and scriptural lessons. We have tons of fun and enjoy many ‘non-religious’ activities like attending the annual Christmas tree lighting at our local Township park, watching Rudolph and Frosty and the Grinch, making peanut brittle and chocolates, working at local food pantry and caroling whenever we have the chance. However, the heart of our celebrations, the place where we rest during the holidays, is in our focus on Jesus’ coming.
There is no more important fact in our lives- no more important truth to be communicated to our children- but that Jesus, God become God-Man, took upon Himself our sins so we have hope of being with Him and the Father forever. We, therefore, have the joyous privilege of pledging our affections and our actions to serving Him all the days of our lives.
I am so excited for this upcoming season- and for the blog posts I’m working on! I have several on the burner and will be sure to let you know when they’re ready for tasting!