By Stacey Monaco, Crosswalk.com
Twinkling lights glimmer from Christmas trees throughout the windows of my neighborhood, and a flurry of gift-wrapping and holiday planning is happening in homes near and far.
Just this morning, a petite child-sized tree was pulled from the box it was stored in this past year, an ornament or two still attached. Our youngest granddaughter is coming to stay for a few nights, and we are excited to go about the business of making merry. Last year the tree twinkled from a spot right within her not-quite-three-year-old reach, and she rearranged the soft ornaments every time she came to visit. The ornaments were chosen with intent, representing characters from stories we had read throughout the year or outings we had enjoyed together.
The sheer beauty of the Christmas holiday is that it calls out to our hearts with the mystery and love of the birth of Christ and offers us the creativity of our God, who would place his son in a manger and herald his birth to shepherds and wise men alike, through starry skies and angel voices. (Luke 2) He is the God of beauty, order, and every good and perfect gift.
As grandparents, we have the opportunity to infuse love and creativity into our grandchildren’s holiday season through a bit of planning, an attitude of joy, and the understanding that often, good memories are less about what we do and more about how we do it.
Here are five fun ways any grandparent can make this Christmas magical for their grandchildren:
1. Create an Environment of Expectancy
From paper Christmas chains of red and green to beautifully carved Advent calendars, there is a delight in counting the days down to Christmas. As a grandparent, creating magic for your grandchildren can be as easy as building anticipation into the season. Simple ideas include giving them their own miniature Christmas tree and wrapping small ornaments to be opened daily, counting the days to December 25th.
This year, I filled a traditional advent calendar with numbered drawers and filled each one with small chocolates. Any day my granddaughter visits, we joyfully find the treat and count the days until Jesus’ birthday. We then clip berries, greenery, or holly from the garden and fill the empty drawer with a treasure from nature. Advent calendars can be purchased already filled and mailed to your little loved one’s that are far, and calls or FaceTime can be a part of the opening when possible. The beauty of the Advent calendar is that you can be as creative as you like, all with the goal of building joy and excitement as you count the days to Christmas morning.
2. A Storybook Christmas
Every holiday season, we invite Christmas into our grandparenting story-time routines. Books such as the beautifully illustrated “Finding Christmas” by author Lezlie Evans based on Matthew 25:35-36 can awaken the imagination. A well-loved and oft-read book can become a script and backdrop for the sweetest of holiday magic with well-known storybook friends.
In our home, “Finding Christmas,” a tender story about sacrificially loving others, with whimsical tea parties, and animals giving up their own sweet Christmas gifts to help a needy songbird, became the inspiration for a holiday tea perfect for our youngest granddaughter. Coneflower tea was served on a little tea table, alongside cream and fresh hazelnut cookies, each an element from the book itself. Mouse, Hare, Squirrel, and Swallow stuffed animals were all present and accounted for at our storybook tea, and all who attended enjoyed magical moments rooted in Christmas love.
One friend of mine creates a special event each year from a story, with a menu and décor fitting the literary tale. Tales such as Polar Express or The Donkey Who Carried a King can be great inspiration for little one’s, where older grandchildren might be thrilled with The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, or even Little Women.
3. Wonder at a Savior Born in a Manger
“For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given….” Isaiah 9:6
A child is born. The truth that Jesus came as a baby is truly a wonder and one that we don’t often stop to consider or marvel upon. To our young grandchildren, this is perhaps the most relatable truth about him. He was like them, and they like him. This is the truth that God was always trying to drive home to us when he sent Jesus in human form, and children simply relate to the baby Jesus.
Many Christian homes love to display special nativities in their homes during the Advent and Christmas season, and while they may carry deep meaning and be truly beautiful, having a small unbreakable display for your grandchildren to interact with can engage them with the beauty of the story. You can read verses from Luke 2 or a simple children’s rendition storybook. My youngest granddaughter loves to hold the baby in the manger, and we talk about how he was born where the sheep and cows sleep. Some families set up their nativity scene without the baby in the manger, and on Christmas morning, invite the young ones to place him in the nativity.
Many communities offer live nativity displays or plays depicting the birth of Jesus. All of these, especially those involving live animals, can spark wonder in young and old.
4. Make Merry in Your Own Special Way
Sage grandparents around the world know the secret that creating magic and joy in any season begins right within our own hearts. When we approach every moment we spend with our grandchildren with a sense of enjoyment, gratitude, and wonder, our grandchildren are invited into our joy.
Share joy that gives your grandchildren the gift of you. For the grandma who lives in the kitchen, try dressing up in matching Christmas pajamas to mix and stir cookies alongside your grandchildren, or build a gingerbread house to a soundtrack of your favorite carols.
Shop, or make and wrap gifts for other family members together. Go to a nutcracker ballet, or decorate your car with wreaths and reindeer ears. Watch holiday movies and serve special treats from family recipes. Magic is simply in the making. When you share authentically with your grandchildren the things you enjoy, you make the holiday special and create a Christmas legacy that will carry on in their hearts for a lifetime.
5. Reindeer Ears and The Magic of Play
The beauty of creating a magical Christmas for the little ones you love truly starts right within your own heart. There is simply nothing quite as fun as a grandparent who brings with them a sense of play everywhere they go. We all enjoy the lovely photographs of our grandchildren dressed in matching outfits and posed in front of the perfectly decorated tree, but it is the grandma and pa who will don reindeer ears and romp in the snow with you that build memories. It has been said, “Grandparents are a delightful blend of laughter, caring deeds, wonderful stories, and love.”
Grandparents have the rich opportunity to teach the love of Jesus and the joy of his birth by showing how truly joy-filled it is to give and receive love. So be silly this Christmas. Trade expectations for expectancy. Let plans become playful, and make moments that are as simple as hot chocolate with a touch of whipping cream on every nose.
Stacey Monaco has been speaking and writing since her first unpublished children’s book in the fifth grade. Her journey as a writer has taken her from the depths of blue water exploration, to the simplicity of crafting words to encourage and educate in the areas of loss, legacy, leadership, and living life passionately with purpose. Stacey received her Masters Degree in Christian Ministry and Leadership from Talbot School of Theology, and has worked in many roles from slinging coffee to pastoring women. To find more on living the Christian life with intention, head over to her website at StaceyMonaco.com.