Want to make Christmas season even more meaningful for kids? Adopt these rituals from around the world, like Elf on the Shelf, Reverse Advent Calendar and Carolling for a Cause, for a truly fulfilling festive cheer. We also asked some moms to share their favourite Christmas rituals.
By Zofeen Maqsood
What is it about the Christmas month that the air gets laden with joy? Everything from the sight of children slurping on candy canes to the smell of hot chocolate brings a smile and warms up the soul. Needless to add, that Christmas is also one of the most awaited holidays around the globe because of its emphasis on kids. From Santa showering kids with gifts to parents stuffing stockings with goodies; for kids, there can be scarcely any other time more enjoyable than this.
But just before you get into the frenzy of decking up the trees and giving in to the excessive commercialisation the festival has also come to entail, have you for a moment paused and tried to go beyond the gift receiving charade we unknowingly reduce the festival to?
How about we make the holiday also a lesson in giving, sharing and fostering – especially for impressionable kids? The good news is, if we were just to scratch the surface behind the marketability of the festival, there are in fact many traditional rituals that go a long way in imparting long-lasting and important lessons for our kids.
Here are some of the fun Christmas traditions from across the globe that are worth bringing home.
The Elf on the Shelf
Suitable for: Ages 3-6
A cute American household tradition, The Elf on the Shelf involves bringing home a toy elf who sits on a shelf each day preceding Christmas and quietly watches the kids. The elf supposedly flies back each night to report to Santa if the kids in the household have been naughty or nice. Of course, since Santa has a soft spot for kids who are nice, they are expected to behave their best. The tradition is based on a 2005 children’s book written by Carol Aebersold and Chanda Bell.
What it teaches: Through a make-believe story, the tradition teaches little kids the rewards of being nice. It also has small but significant rules such as the elf is not supposed to be touched or else its magical powers to fly back to the North Pole would vanish. Believe us, the rule of not touching a cute toy until Christmas can be the best test for a five-year-old to learn a thing or two about patience.
Reverse Advent Calendar
Suitable for: Tweens, teens and everyone in between
Children in Europe and America have traditionally been following an advent calendar which they generally receive before Christmas as a countdown to the big day. They also get to unwrap little surprises along the way in anticipation of what may be in store for them. But a delightful twist is now getting added to this ritual, where children are encouraged to contribute to a greater good every day before Christmas instead of expecting to get something. You can start by listing the things kids would do each day before Christmas such as baking cookies to donate to an orphanage, wrapping blankets for a night shelter or feeding milk to stray puppies or kittens in the neighbourhood.
What it teaches: The joy of giving and not necessarily receiving. Also, it builds compassion towards the less privileged. It is important for kids to also understand that while leaving carrots and cookies for Santa and his reindeers may be a mythical fun activity, if Santa is watching he truly would love the kid who feeds a stray kitten!
Carolling for a cause
Suitable for: Ages 4 and up
In ancient England, after the Victorian period, the custom of singing carols in the streets became popular. The engaging ritual is still practiced in the western world fervently, where families knock on doors and sing carols for strangers. While it may be a delightful idea to bring this holiday spirit to your neighbourhood, what can also add meaning to the tradition is asking your local age-old homes if they would let you come and sing carols for the elderly. Pack up your kids and have them sing along for those who may be feeling lonely and left-out this family holiday season.
What it teaches: Virtues such as fostering are best imbibed when young. Children also learn to cherish and be thankful for the families that they have while bringing smile to others’ lives.
Some real moms share with us the Christmas traditions they have adopted and why it works for them
Letters from Santa
“For my young boys aged 6 and 10, I stay up on Christmas eve to write them letters from Santa. Every year, Santa praises them for good things they did and also gently reminds them about the naughty things they indulged in. If Santa has more good than bad to say, Mom showers them with an extra present. In my home now the countdown to impress Santa begins months in advance!”
– Shalini Sharma, Life coach
Honouring those who help us
“A few days before Christmas, I take my kids to choose presents for our household help. It is a way of teaching them to be thankful to those who help us on a daily basis and also inculcating equality.”
– Malvika Kukreti, Teacher
Christmas bake shop
“We spend a lot of the holiday season baking. Since last year, we make gingerbread houses and sell to local bakeries and whatever money we make we donate it to local charities. My kids are now baking more than ever, which is so gratifying.”
– Madhu Sabharwal, Homemaker
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