Much as I love beautiful Christmas decorations, I strongly believe that Christmas should be a hands-on experience for children. The last thing I want is for my children to get the message that Christmas is a “don’t touch” event. Most Christmas celebrations center, really, in childhood and all it’s magic.
Every December I know that my Christmas tree will be un-decorated and re-decorated dozens of times. I know I’ll find random toys in stockings and that Christmas quilts will be forever on the floor. I know that dolls and playmobil toys will be hidden in the tree and among the gifts, that some gifts will be torn open by babies, and that generally it will be almost impossible to keep the house clean for a month.
But it’s totally worth it. They’ll only be little for a short while and then I’ll have my perfect tree and will miss finding the ornaments in the bathroom or strewn about the house. No one will want to use the advent calendar anymore or fight over my lap for our bedtime Christmas story.
Because I feel this way about the holiday, most of what I provide for my little ones is centered in the story of Christ’s birth.
Years ago I purchased the Little People Nativity Set from Fisher Price. I clear off a table in the family room and set it up there for the younger crowd to play with it. This year it has been especially popular with my one year old who climbs up on the table to sit with all the pieces. It warms my heart to see them play with these toys with such fascination and to listen to my baby try to say the names of all the pieces.
Over the years our Mary has gone missing, but it doesn’t seem to inhibit their play at all. As I watch moments like this unfold, I tell myself, “THIS is Christmas.”
Another purchase I made a few years ago was a rough hewn manger that stands about 18 inches high. It is large enough for a doll. We fill this manger with soft blankets and place it at the foot of our Christmas tree, a reminder of the true gift of Christmas.
This year I was impressed by the excitement the manger caused when I carried it upstairs. I watched all my children gather around it excitedly as we placed the baby in it.
There was so much excitement, in fact, that I had to get out a second baby Jesus to pacify everyone. I know the next two pictures are a bit blurry, but their sweetness induced me to include them anyway.
And so the manger sits with two babies in it this year, babies who are loved and carried around and played with dozens of times each day.
As I tried to express here, all I really want this Christmas is for our family to have experiences that draw our hearts to the Savior of the World. Everything else I am willing to do without, if necessary, for none of it has meaning unless we’re spending time in the stable. I hope that the time spent cuddling little dolls and playing out the manger scene with little plastic figures can help fix in the hearts of my little ones a love for the real meaning of this holiday. I also think it’s healthy for my older children to see the little ones so captivated by the story. We all smile with joy as the one year old runs across the room to hold “bebe seeses.” I am grateful, once again, for little ones in my life.