Archives: Whose Birthday Is It, Anyway? #15
A Simple Christmas
Calendar for Advent and Christmas
As a family, select a cause or organization to support with money you collect. Choose a percentage early in the season (from 25% to 100%). Then give that amount every time you spend any money for Christmas... in addition to the amount you normally give away. Decorate a can to hold the money. Put it on display. 20 bucks on a tree? Then $ __ goes in the can. This money is not a penalty but an aid to our need to help others. Your family donates the money on Epiphany, the day the Magi offered their gifts to Jesus.
Oct. 1 or Nov. 1 - At a family meeting talk about Christmas expectations. What do each of us really want? Who is going to do what? What is really most meaningful? Are we willing to spend less on ourselves and give more to the needy? Write down and post decisions and changes to consider.
Nov. 28 - Thanksgiving Day (USA)
29 - Participate in International Buy Nothing Day on this, the biggest shopping day of the year, by doing no shopping, by writing a letter to the editor promoting sustainability or by mocking overconsumption with street theatre. Information at 800-663-1243.
30 - Advent Eve. Here is a daily spiritual activity chart* for your family to use. It includes readings and activities that will help focus your attention on the real reason for the season. It has a special theme for each week. These weeks can shape our attitude and response to life throughout the year. Pick and choose the daily activities you think your family would enjoy most, and think up others, too.
Dec. 1 - Sunday, Advent 1. Read & meditate on Isaiah 64:1-9; 1 Cor. 1:3-9; &/or Mark 13:24-37. Share the reflection for this day in "Whose Birthday Is It, Anyway?"
2 - Creativity for a Week: Make decorations (garlands of cranberries and popcorn, paper snowflakes, Scriptures written on ball ornaments, etc.) and symbolic tree ornaments (star, cross, manger, lamb).
3 - Read the Christmas story together from Luke 2:1-20. Have everyone draw pictures of different scenes from the story on a long piece of shelf paper. Or try retelling the story in modern-day terms.
4 - Make creative gifts, such as redeemable chore or hug coupons; a promise that someone else can run the TV remote control or sit in the "good" chair; homemade tickets for a trip someplace special (the zoo, a concert, an art museum, etc.); activity kits such as a counted cross-stitch kit, tackle box filled with lures and hooks, or a tool box with unique tools; subscriptions to magazines; and so on.
5 - Decide how you can make Christmas music a creative part of your celebration. Let each member choose a favorite album to play; write new lyrics to familiar carols; have a family sing-along around a piano or with someone accompanying on a guitar; have a family music recital or a time of reading about the background of carols; pick out Scripture verses about music and make posters with those verses on them; have a music-making contest where everyone has to make an instrument out of a household item (such as glasses filled with water, spoons, rubber bands, etc.).
6 - St. Nicholas Day. Act out a favorite simple Christmas book or story. Have the whole family, even pets, take part in acting out your play.
7 - Choose a Christmas color (green, gold, red, white) and make one day Red Day or Green Day. Fix meals where everything must be that color, either naturally or with the help of food coloring. Wear clothes in the appropriate color, and play I Spy to see how many Christmas items and/or decorations of that color your family can spot.
8 - Sunday, Advent 2. Read & meditate on Isaiah 40:1-11; 2 Peter 3:8-15a; &/or Mark 1:1-8. Share the reflection for this day in "Whose Birthday Is It, Anyway?"
9 - Caring About Others for a Week: Discuss ways your family can help a lonely person feel better. Do you know anyone far from home this holiday? Someone single or alone for the first time this Christmas? You can invite such a person over for dinner. Is there some special gift of time or talent that you can share with another to brighten the holidays?
10 - Prepare a take-out party to share with somebody homebound. Put hot chocolate mix, cookies, napkins, cups, a book, a game, a video, etc., into a creative package (baskets work well for this). Then take the party to the person's home and spend the evening enjoying it together.
11 - Ask each child to select and wrap a good used toy as a gift given in Jesus' name. Then donate it to a mission or children's home.
12 - Talk about our responsibility to care for animals. Discuss things you do to take care of any pets you have. Can you do something special for the animals outside your home? How about decorating an outside tree with goodies for the birds: hang seed balls on branches; string cranberries, popcorn, raisins, or peanuts on heavy thread and drape on branches; hang pinecones spread with lard and rolled in birdseed. Cut an orange in half, then peel carefully to keep the rind intact. Next, hang half orange rinds filled with suet, sunflower seeds, and bread crumbs on trees or railings.
13 - Put a jigsaw puzzle out on a table. Invite some people over to help you put it together. Serve hot chocolate and healthy treats you've made.
14 - Have your family take ten minutes to find as many Scriptures as they can that talk about caring for others. Read Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol or watch it on a video or in a live play. Discuss ways you can share the Christmas spirit by anonymous gifts: food, toys, books, furniture, clothing, etc. Consider giving the gift of your time to someone.
15 - Sunday, Advent 3. Read & meditate on Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11; 1 Thess. 5:16-24; &/or John 1:6-8, 19-28. Share the reflection for this day in "Whose Birthday Is It, Anyway?"
16 - Sharing the Good News for a Week: Discuss how you can witness to others through your preparation and decorations this year. Decide to be kind and encouraging to clerks in stores. This year give only homemade gifts and donate the money you save. Write your mail carrier a note of thanks for all the hard work and for taking part in helping you stay in contact with those you love.
17 - Read Luke 2:13-14, then make a "Share the Good News Paper." Make up imitation ads and articles, such as an ad for hay to fill the mangers and feed for the animals in the stable; a birth announcement for Christ; an interview with the Wise Ones or with King Herod; pretend you are a shepherd and tell about a concert given by Hark and Herald's Angels in the pasture near Bethlehem, etc. Invite anyone to contribute a brief article that shares the joy of Jesus' coming.
18 - Ask someone who may be lonely to go out with your family to look at decorations and window displays. Talk about which displays best communicate the true meaning of Christmas. Sing carols as you go from house to house.
19 - Designate one meal as the Good News Meal. Only good news may be shared!
20 - Do something unexpected for a neighbor. For example, shovel their walks, bring them a tray of homemade Christmas goodies, walk their dog, offer your services to help get the house cleaned and ready for Christmas visitors, etc.
21 - Memorize Luke 2:1-14, with each member doing a separate part. Recite it for guests at Christmas.
21 - Read and meditate on Luke 1:47-55, the Song of Mary.
22 - Sunday, Advent 4. Read & meditate on 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16; Romans 16: 25-27; &/or Luke 1:26-38. Share the reflection for this day in "Whose Birthday Is It, Anyway?"
23 - Coping with Christmas.* Try to relieve kids' stress by planning one simple celebration to please them for each of "The Twelve Days of Christmas," from Dec. 25-Jan. 6. Festive days might include: Day to Polish the Silverware; Day to Bake Fruitcakes; Day to Decorate Your Clothes (Kids cut out holly designs from felt and help sew them on dresses, shirts, slacks, and socks to make them real holiday standouts); Day for Christmas Carol Listening (Mom plays Christmas music on the stereo from breakfast to bedtime). More given below.
24 - Christmas Eve. Read & meditate on Isaiah 9:2-7; Titus 2:11-14; &/or Luke 2:1-14 (15-20). Share the reflection for this day in "Whose Birthday Is It, Anyway?"
25 - Christmas Day. Read & meditate at dawn on Isaiah 62:6-12; Titus 3:4-7 &/or Luke 2: (1-7) 8-20. Later read & meditate on Isaiah 527-10; Hebrews 1:1-4(5-12); &/or John 1:1-14. .
26-Day to Stay Up as Late as You Want
27-Day to Hear as Many Stories as You Want
28 - Holy Innocents Day. Day to Take Turns Riding in the Front (car) Seat
29, Sunday - Christmas 1. Read & meditate on Isaiah 61:10-62:3; Galatians 4:4-7; &/or Luke 2:22-40. Share the reflection for this day in "Whose Birthday Is It, Anyway?"
30 - The Family at New Year's.* New Year's is a time to assess the past, then look ahead and begin again. A family can thank God for times when they have lived up to their own expectations, and dream new dreams when they have not. Planning together, even informally, for the upcoming months adds a new dimension of expectation to days ahead. Below are the ideas that others have used successfully to enhance family togetherness and extend the spirit of Christmas into the New Year.
31 - New Year's Eve. Looking Back. On New Year's Eve, create an atmosphere of togetherness by abolishing bedtime rules and having a treat. Plan a pizza supper for the family, and serve it in front of the fireplace or in the living room around eleven o'clock. If you don't want to fix a whole meal, brew hot spiced cider and have the teens make popcorn balls as everyone gathers to talk about events of the past year.
Listen empathetically to each other and "encourage one another" (Hebrews 10:25). Tell your family that no blaming or judgmental comments are allowed: "Do not judge, so that you may not be judged" (Matthew 7:1). To do this, appoint someone as gatekeeper, alert to quickly rule any such expressions out of bounds. Spark the discussion by asking:
- What has been the high point of the year for our family?
- What is the best thing our family did together this year? The worst?
- What is the best thing that happened to you personally? The worst?
- What is your biggest disappointment?
- How have you changed?
- Who was the most important person in your life this last year? Why?
- What is one thing you wish you had done differently?
- What are you most thankful for right now?
Encourage gratitude for things everyone tends to take for granted, such as music, eyesight, hearing, or Christmas trees and cranberries, or eggs and toast for breakfast.
My family laughed together as we remembered four rained-out camping trips. We cried a little as we reminisced about our beloved Kitty, who died in September. This kind of sharing stirs the warmest of memories and brings a family close together. At midnight, bring in the New Year by holding hands and saying the Lord's Prayer aloud.
January 1 - New Year's Day. Maybe an adult or teenager can be enlisted to begin a family diary to record small and large happenings, celebrations, personal thoughts, opinions overheard, and changes around home during the coming year. Then read the accounts when the family gathers next New Year's. The writing will likely stir a good time of conversation, when almost-forgotten events are relived.
2 - Sunday, Christmas 2. Mom's Day. Read & meditate on Jeremiah 31:7-14; Ephesians 1:3-14; &/or John 1: (1-9) 10-18. If you celebrate Epiphany today, share that reflection in "Whose Birthday Is It, Anyway?"
3 - No-Chores Day
4 - Day for Not Having to Get Dressed All Day Long
5 - Day for Kids to Choose the Menu
6 - Epiphany. Read & meditate on Isaiah 60:1-6; Ephesians 3:1-12; &/or Matthew 2:1-12. Share the reflection for this day in "Whose Birthday Is It, Anyway?" Offer the money you have been saving to the cause of your choice.*Nov. 30-Dec. 21 are based on pp. 26-30; Dec. 23- Jan. 5 on p. 201; Dec. 30-31 on pp. 155-156, all in A Simple Christmas by Alice Chapin. Used by permission. ©Herald Press, Scottdale, PA
©Creative Commons (originally 2002 Alternatives for Simple Living)
Make as many copies as you choose on a not-for-profit basis.
This Advent/Christmas calendar - based on liturgical Cycle B (Mark) - is appropriate as bulletin inserts and in Spanish.
Art by Erin Kennedy Mayer used with permission: Seeds of Hope (Information: 254/755-7745).
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