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Preparing for Christmas in the family

30 November, 1999

Declan and Sarah O’Brien from Prosperous in Co. Kildare share a novel and simple way of preparing for Christmas with their children by building an atmosphere of love in the home. In the beginning of Advent we try to build an atmosphere of love in the home for Christmas. We always put it to the […]

Declan and Sarah O’Brien from Prosperous in Co. Kildare share a novel and simple way of preparing for Christmas with their children by building an atmosphere of love in the home.

In the beginning of Advent we try to build an atmosphere of love in the home for Christmas. We always put it to the children that that is the best thing we can give to Jesus.

So, we try and make our night prayers special. We put up a piece of black chart – black because of the night – in our kitchen. Then we draw an empty crib with a white chalk in the bottom right hand corner, In the top corner we draw a big white star, the star of Bethlehem. This chart would be two sq. feet – or bigger if we can get it. Sometimes, we put it behind an actual crib rather than drawing a crib on it. Then, every night we gather around and light a candle and say a few prayers near our crib. We start with the sign of the cross and say a few simple prayers and remember to pray for different people. Then we might sing a carol.

At a certain stage everybody gets a chance to draw a star in the sky with different coloured chalk if they have concretely tried to love during the day. One of us adults might say; “I tried today to love so and so today. I was really busy and didn’t have time but I knew he would like me to stop for a brief chat and I did it. That was my act of love.” Then they get to draw a green star in the sky. One of the children might say; “In school today at break Mary or Joe was standing on their own with nobody near them. I went over and talked to them.” They get to do a red star. And so on.

The children, particularly as they get older, are very taken by the Golden Rule which comes up in all religions. “Treat the other person as you would like them to treat you.” We often make that the rule that we are going to try and live by during the day. Then, at night we share how we got on. Some night one of us will be able to draw a few stars. Maybe another one – sometimes it’s us parents – have to admit that we didn’t do so well and so we don’t draw a star that night.

At the start of Advent the crib is empty, with an empty manger. As the days go by, if somebody did a really big or difficult act of love they might get to draw in one of the characters, like Mary or Joseph or one of the shepherds.

Of course we don’t force this on any of the children. Sometimes one or other of them will slip off or sit apart, but it’s usually a lovely happy time and it’s attractive to them.

By the end of Advent we have a sky full of stars. Each one stands for an act of love. That’s our Christmas gift to Jesus.

by Sarah O’Brien | mother of four,Co. Kildare

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