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Hi my name is Dr. Marian C Fritzemeier and I'm an education and child development specialist. I've accumulated many years speaking, writing, consulting and teaching both in the classroom and for parenting audiences. I believe the parenting process can be a fantastic and overwhelmingly fun journey with the right plan in mind. Need some help with that plan? Then you've come to the right place.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Changing Christmas Traditions, Part 2

Dr. Marian C. Fritzemeier, Ed.D., © 2012
Author, Speaker, Educator
The other day at the mall, before I retreated towards the ladies bathroom for a pity party, my thirteen-year-old son and twelve-year-old daughter insisted on changing some Christmas traditions. It was quite a shock. They both know how important holiday celebrations are in this family.

I've been pondering and I think I've got it. The kids, I guess they're not kids, but I can't quite say it, very young adolescents, already gave up sitting on Santa's lap. We're not celebrating Happy Birthday Jesus parties anymore. I can't snap photos in front of the tree on Christmas morning in their pajamas just before opening stockings from Santa. I noticed that they left "stockings from Santa" on the list. Since they don't believe in Santa anymore, maybe I'll remove that one myself. "No stockings from Santa" - delete. "That felt good," I claim.

Since I promised I'd listen to my kid's input, listed below are child-friendly Christmas traditions we've celebrated and how we've adapted them for adolescent-friendly traditions. Change is really difficult for me because I love all our family traditions. So why am I going to all this trouble? It's simple. I want my adolescents to hold onto our Christian beliefs, and learn that how we practice our traditions can be modified. These new age-appropriate traditions can assist them in expressing that Christ is Lord of their life. How could a mother refuse?

Family Traditions
Child-Friendly Traditions
Adolescent-Friendly Traditions

Happy Birthday
Jesus Party

Happy Birthday Jesus Birthday invitations are handmade or computer generated by children. Neighborhood children are asked to donate canned food "gifts" for the Angel Tree Project (families with incarcerated parent). During the party, read the Christmas story from the most age-appropriate book, sing Happy Birthday to Jesus, serve birthday cake, and play fun Christmas games.
Our early adolescents enjoy going door-to-door in the neighborhood collecting canned food as we tag along. They quickly discover they obtain more food than at the party. Bring along several double-bagged grocery bags. Finally, we deliver the groceries to our churches' Angel Tree Project. Note: Teens must be willing to articulate who food is for, i.e.: gospel mission, needy families, Angel Tree Project, etc.


New Christmas Ornaments


"Where did the years go?"

Beginning when each baby is born, purchase an ornament that is representative of the year. As ornaments are added, create a list for each child with the year, ornament, and who it's from. Store each child's ornaments in separate boxes. As children decorate the tree with their own ornaments, you can hear them recall, "Oh, I remember this one. That's the year I visited Grandmother in Kansas." These ornaments become family heirlooms when they move away, so buy yourself a new ornament or two every year or your tree will be empty along with your empty nest.
As your children get older, they can select their own special ornament. They'll have more life events to choose from, so help them recall some highlights. Some ideas include: 6th grade camp, babysitting, awards, sports teams, vacations, missions trip, or getting a driver's license. With the increasing price of ornaments, you may need to create a budget. Some adolescents can spend months hunting for the ideal ornament, especially with Christmas decorations displayed in July.

Christmas Cards & Letters
Some years we send a Christmas card, photo, and/or family letter that recounts God's blessings and highlights each family member. When purchasing cards, try selecting religious cards or cards from an organization you support.
Let your adolescents choose their own photo(s) for the card. Save time and ask them to create the family card. To avoid adolescent embarrassment, invite them to write their own section for the family's letter. Give them a word count and due date.

The Hallmark
Christmas Tree
My mother let us decorate our tree, but later she'd move the ornaments where she wanted them. She didn't think we noticed, but we did. Decide early on what's more important: the perfect tree or time together creating happy memories. If you treasure your "Hallmark" tree, provide a small tree for the children to decorate.
"What do you mean you don't want to get the Christmas tree this year?" Oh yeah, my adolescents want to include their friends. Encourage your kids to invite a friend or two to traipse along with the family. After choosing the perfect tree, let the young people decorate it, lights and all. Hang around while serving hot chocolate & treats. No, it won't be your Hallmark tree; it may be more interesting and definitely more memorable.

Photos with Santa & Gift for Needy Child


Note: If your family does not include Santa in your celebrations, follow the gift-giving part.

Dressed in new Christmas outfits, take pictures with Santa at the mall. Next, choose a child's name tag from the Soroptimist's Community Christmas tree for a needy child or teen. Use the money saved from recycling cans for purchasing the gift. Then children scour the mall for the best present. Finally, proudly return the perfect donation to the tree for wrapping.
Let your adolescents choose someone or an organization to help at Christmas. Maybe they know a family who needs food, a bed with a mattress, Christmas tree & decorations, or gifts for their children. Maybe they'd rather choose an organization their passionate about helping. They can still use the money from recycling. If the budget comes up short, planning how to earn the money or collecting donations becomes part of the project.

Coats for Kids
As children outgrow their coats each year, we donate them to Coats for Kids. Many different organizations sponsor this type o event such as firefighters or local news channels. Coats are typically distributed in January.

Adolescents can donate their outgrown coats and outerwear too. Additionally, they can collect coats from friends or youth groups to donate.

Sharing Clothes, Toys, Household Items

In anticipation of new clothes and toys for Christmas, supervise children cleaning out their closets, dressers, and toy boxes. Select items they no longer use or  fit. These items are shared with a younger sibling or given to someone else. Children can go through their belongings after Christmas during their school break. Since children learn from role modeling, this is a perfect time for parents to choose items to donate as well.
You'll notice that adolescents go through growth spurts just like when they were younger. Some years they'll have more to share than other years. They could donate video games, DVDs, and CDs. Let your adolescents choose the recipients. Our daughters know younger girls who love getting a "new to me" wardrobe and new games. The items might be donated to a family who's recently experienced a disaster, such as a fire.


Live Nativity and
The Journey to Bethlehem




Young children learn best through experiences. The story of Jesus' birth is no exception. Find a church that performs an outdoor live nativity. As children get older, find one that also offers a short narration. Bundling up in warm clothes with hot chocolate makes this a treasured memory and valuable way for learning the true Christmas story.
Adolescents can tire of the live nativity and may find more joy in bothering the animals. Perhaps they can become a live nativity performer or handle the manger animals. Many communities offer a more in-depth experience during The Journey to Bethlehem. Stops along the journey tell the story in an engaging manner. Encourage adolescents to invite friends so they'll visit during the long wait in lines. The lines and later evening times make this experience better suited for adolescents. Check your local newspapers or online early in the season for dates and times.

Christmas Morning Pics
What's a better memory than photos of little ones dressed in pajamas sitting before the lighted Christmas tree? Some years the siblings wear matching pajamas. Such sweet recollections of adorable children make this tradition harder to give up.
Take "Christmas" photos when adolescents are "dressed up" for a school event, like a winter formal, music or dance performance. Snap photos in front of the tree with their friends. They'll enjoy creating different poses and groupings. Let them use your camera.

Christmas Services
or Mass

Many churches offer Christmas Eve or Christmas Day services or masses at various times that work well for families with young children. As children get older, perhaps an evening service may work. If your church doesn't offer a service, locate one near you that does. Christmas services are usually advertised in the local newspaper or check online.
Many adolescents are weary of attending the same "old" Christmas service. Invite them to choose this year's Christmas service for your family. Maybe they know a friend who's in a Christmas program in another church. Perhaps they'd prefer attending midnight mass or a late service. If there are young children who can't stay up late, allow your adolescent to attend with friends' families. Mom and Dad, you can stay up extra late tonight!

Change is difficult especially when connected to emotionally-laden long-standing traditions. Begin making changes slowly as your children enter early adolescence and adolescence. Share this article with them. Ask them to choose one or two traditions. Maybe these thoughts will generate ideas for adapting your specific celebrations. Oh, and by the way, I decided to keep the Christmas stockings on the list as MY tradition. Undelete.

Images from: Stock.XCHNG www.sxc.hu/  Accessed 4/19/2014.


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