Celebrating the True Meaning of Christmas With Our Children (Plus TV & Movies!)

charlie-brown-christmasWith the secular world appropriating so much of Christmas, how do Catholic parents make sure their children know the real reason for the season?

My twin boys will be two-and-a-half at the end of this month, so this is the first Christmas that they’re old enough to really understand the holiday and enjoy the season.

Shortly after Thanksgiving, “Santa Claus” entered their consciousness because Santa is pretty much everywhere this time of year. I didn’t have too much explaining to do on that front, because every television show they watch has a Santa-themed episode. But because I want them to understand the true meaning of Christmas, I began thinking about how I would talk to them about the birth of Jesus and what traditions we can cultivate to keep “Christ” in Christmas.

A few ideas…

  • Put your Nativity set up together and tell the story: Just as decorating the Christmas tree is a family event, putting up the nativity set can be given equal—if not more— importance. For the youngest children, there are even miniature nativity sets that can help facilitate telling the story of Jesus’ birth. Books like The Nativity Story are also useful in illustrating it.
  • Attend Christmas Eve Children’s Mass and pageant: Many Catholic parishes designate a Mass—often around 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve — as the children’s Mass and will invite young kids to participate in a portrayal of the Christmas story. If you’re away from home, click here to find Mass times in the area.
  • Make use of media: Christmas Eve and Christmas Day provide a wonderful opportunity to watch movies together with our kids. Of course, you can watch films like “The Nativity Story,” that stick close to the Biblical story (even if it deviated too much from the Catholic view for some), but there are other movies that capture the spirit of the season. Here are a handful of options.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” – Fans of C.S. Lewis’ “Chronicles of Narnia” know that the books were based heavily on Christian themes and are filled with biblical allegories, including the Crucifixion, Resurrection and Christ’s atonement. The 2005 Walt Disney Pictures movie, which follows four young children as they enter the magical world of Narnia, is as well. The kids discover a land where it is “always winter, but never Christmas” and must face their fears to help restore Narnia to its rightful state.

Yellow Day” – Released in 2015, “Yellow Day” was made with children and families in mind as it is part animated and part live-action. The film chronicles a young man’s life-changing and inspirational journey through the mysterious Yellow Day. To many, the Yellow Day is simply a fun day celebrating outreach at a kid’s camp, but to some, God bestows visions and miracles, transforming their lives. For this young man, the Yellow Day becomes an imaginative adventure, showing him true heroes, challenging him to face his fears, find love, and inviting him to accept grace, so that he can be shaped into who he is meant to be. The storyline illustrates how physical disability, sickness and emotional pain cannot hide the light and joy that God has placed within each of us. It is available to watch on YouTube and to stream online.

Believe” – A new film, in limited release in theaters now, “Believe” tells the story of the annual Christmas pageant in the small town of Grundy, Virginia. The town has always relied on the Peyton family to put it on and this year, when Matthew Peyton (Ryan O’Quinn) inherits the family business, the responsibility of the pageant also falls on his shoulders. But when financial hardships hit Grundy, Matthew finds himself overwhelmed. As his business profits plummet and his workers begin to strike, Matthew is forced to make a decision between selling the family business and cancelling the beloved pageant or sticking out hardships despite his rapidly declining popularity in the community. Through chance events, Matthew meets Clarence (Issac Ryan Brown), a boy who believes in miracles, and his mother Sharon (Danielle Nicolet). His newfound friends impact Matthew’s life in a way he never thought possible and teach him to believe and give faith a chance.

A Charlie Brown Christmas” – The 1965 classic will air on ABC on Thursday, December 22nd and can be viewed online in its entirety here. It is tough not to get chills when Linus gives his speech, reading from the Gospel of Luke to tell Charlie Brown and all the children what Christmas is really all about.

A Merry Christmas to one and all.

In the words of Tiny Tim …

Image: Courtesy NBC

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