December 25, 2019

It's All About a Birthday

When my children were little, I pondered how to teach them that Christmas isn't just a children's fun holiday for receiving candy, toys, and gifts. Sure, there are books, DVDs, and Sunday school lessons emphasizing the reason for the season, but I wanted something that would be tangible to a small child. A real life experience.

My kids have birthdays close to the holidays. My daughter's birthday always falls on or a few days before Thanksgiving, while my son's is five days after Christmas. To explain Christmas, I told them that a birthday is a celebration of a person. On their birthdays we celebrate them. They receive gifts as we give thanks for their birth. Christmas is a birthday too, so on Christmas we celebrate Jesus. It's a celebration of His birth. Instead of asking "what do you want to get for Christmas," the question was, "what are you going to give for Christmas?"

At the beginning of Advent I would ask, "what are we going to give Jesus for His birthday this year?" I pointed out Scriptures that focus on giving, especially to the poor and needy. When the kids were little, we participated in things like caroling at retirement homes and Operation Christmas Child. As they got older, we continued to focus on helping others, especially the elderly and those in need. We hand made gifts for those we wanted to encourage and say thank-you to.

We never did Santa Claus. We started Christmas morning by lighting the Christ candle in the center of our advent wreath and singing Happy Birthday to Jesus. Then we exchanged presents as a family, but everything was small and inexpensive. Everyone got their "big" gift on their birthdays, and learned not to expect large or elaborate gifts on Christmas. Our other traditions revolved around special meals and food.

Not focusing on ourselves helped keep Christmas low key. No fuss or stress. And it meant no post-holiday let down. All of that enabled us to keep our focus where it belongs.

So, in keeping with our Christmas tradition:

Merry Christmas to All
Happy Birthday Jesus!

It's All About a Birthday © December 2019


Michelle said...

What a lovely tradition you had with your kids! I hope they have continued it with theirs. Merry Christmas to you, Dan, and all the critters!

Fiona said...

Thank you more than you will ever know. I have been so frustrated with what Christmas has become and your post just touched my heart. Thank you and God Bless you both on this very very special Birthday.

Frank and Fern said...

Blessings to you and yours, Leigh.


Cockeyed Jo said...

Hallelujah! He is born!

Unknown said...

Hallelujah! So nice to know there are other people who don't buy into the commercialism and frenzy. Thanks for teaching your kids to be considerate, kind, and giving. Those are wonderful attributes to have and last far longer and serve better than any mound of presents ever would. AMEN!

Goatldi said...

Blessed Christmas Leigh. Wise words to share for those who may be at a crossroads. It is such a difficult path to walk for many parents.

Florida Farm Girl said...

Merry Christmas to you and Dan. Hope the coming year is filled with wonderful things and good health. It's nice to be reminded what Christmas is all about. Wish so many more people remembered.

Kelly said...

What lovely traditions you established for your family! We did Santa, but we also stressed doing for others. My kids always enjoyed choosing a child from the Salvation Army Angel Tree and shopping for them. It helped put life in perspective for them.

Happy Birthday Jesus, and thanks be to God!

Sam I Am...... said...

Where were you when I was raising my children? My parents really didn't celebrate Christmas religious or otherwise and I definitely spoiled my children. My in-laws weren't so religious as they were materialistic. I think your traditions are the best I've ever heard. Merry Christmas!

Quinn said...

Good for you! I love anything that teaches kids to think of others, often enough for it to first become a habit and then a natural way of being and growing.

Cozy Thyme Cottage said...

Hi Leigh, I started the tradition of having a cake and singing Happy Birthday to Jesus when my oldest grands were little. Now our daughter carries on the tradition with different ones reading the verses. Sounds like you did a great job with your Christmases. Nancy

wyomingheart said...

Perfect post, Leigh! Merry Christmas, indeed!

Ed said...

Although we do the Santa Claus thing, at least for a couple more years, with our kids, we also separate time out of the day to celebrate Jesus's birth. This year, we delivered Christmas meals to the needy. They are always so appreciative when we knock on their doors with arms full of food. Another tradition I've been doing for a couple years that was started by my mom is to give a waiter/waitress a very large tip. We generally try to do this at smaller less fancy establishments that don't pay their staff well. My oldest said it well as we walked to our vehicle after doing that last one this year. She said, "giving money to others sure does make me feel good."

CityCreekCountryRoad said...


I loved the simplicity and sincerity of your celebration, which gets to the heart of it.

As a non-believer, I've struggled with how to celebrate Christmas. It doesn't feel right NOT to celebrate it, since it is part of my cultural heritage and my most of my family believes.

This year I focused on baking cookies and giving them to people who were working on the holiday to thank them for their service. Also, I pause by the Nativity scene my father built to think about what the phrase "no room at the inn" means.

Happiness to all,

City Creek Country Road

Leigh said...

Thanks Michelle! My son and DIL are doing a really fine job with their kids. I hope the way he was raised contributed to that. :)

Fiona, you're welcome! It's really sad that Christmas has mostly become a retailer's holiday. :(

Fern, thank you! And to you as well!

Jo, Amen!

Unknown, I don't buy into commercialized anything, lol. My blog readers probably get tired of me ranting against it. :)

Goatldi, Merry Christmas! Yes, I'm glad to not have little ones to raise now. The challenges are so much steeper than they were in the past.

Sue, I wish that were true as well. Still, it's nice to have people speak out here. :)

Kelly, that's another good idea. Thank you for sharing it!

Sam, it comes naturally go focus on self, so children don't have to be taught to be selfish. It's much harder to focus on others, but it's a challenge to teach.

Quinn, thanks! Thinking of others is the first step toward respect. That's something the world needs badly nowadays.

Nancy, that's another great tradition! Helps them associate with the real reason for the season.

Wyomingheart, thank you!

Ed, excellent suggestions, both delivering meals and leaving nice tips. The rationale for paying servers less is that the tips are supposed to make up the difference for minimum wage. Of course, now they have to share it with others. Your oldest is so right. It's a joy to share what we have with others.

City Creek Country Road, I appreciate your honesty and insight. I think celebrating Christmas is a struggle for a lot of people nowadays, both believers and nonbelievers. I think what I'm trying to say in this post is that Christmas is not about religion. It's a personal acknowledgment for something that never ceases to amaze me; that the Creator chose to become human. To me, that is a phenomenal thing.

I think you made a good choice for acknowledging the holiday. I'd be curious as to what you pondered about no room at the inn.

CityCreekCountryRoad said...

Hi Leigh,

For me "No Room at the Inn" is about my negative feelings (anger and fear) regarding the homeless population/professional panhandlers in my city.

Let me explain that when I was a young girl 25-30 years ago, there were homeless in my city but the population was different. Most were older male alcoholics. They slept on benches in the park and would say "Can you spare any change?" outside the convenience stores. They didn't bother anyone and I don't remember ever feeling afraid of them.

The homeless population has changed, it is much larger and more ragged. I guess due to drugs and broken families but I'm really not sure. It is more diverse: younger, whiter, more female. It has become more violent and more demanding, almost like "You have money, I don't, give it to me." There are people begging on every corner and no one seems to feel any shame about not looking for work; some of the same people I have seen for years. Probably most are unemployable due to criminal records or drugs. I know there has been some effort by the city to engage them in day labor.

Part of my negative feelings are due to the fact that I work an early shift. I go into town at 7 a.m. which is when the transit police wake the homeless up. I've heard them speak very disrespectfully and curse at the transit police. When I mention this to people who don't work in town, they think the people shouting at the police are mentally ill. But they're not. The mentally ill homeless are usually just babbling to themselves.

So my heart has hardened a lot against them. I try to use "No Room at the Inn" to remind myself that no one knows what someone else has gone through/is going through but it's not easy.

Leigh said...

City Creek Country Road, that's profoundly thoughtful. I guess most people try to use the holiday to forget things like that, but then, humankind tends to focus on the wrong things anyway. I think this is exactly what the Birthday Boy would want us to think about. I appreciate your sharing your thoughts with me. It's given me something to think about as well.

The Wykeham Observer said...

Good simple traditions based on human interaction and togetherness, not gifts. And no post-Christmas regrets. Merry Christmas. Phil

M.K. said...

I agree. What a beautiful way to celebrate CHristmas.