In our household, November is a very busy month for celebrations. Three of our five kids have birthdays. This year, because of the pandemic, our celebrations looked different. Our kids couldn’t celebrate with friends and family, and we stayed home instead of going out. We baked our cakes and created homemade meals. Our family members dropped gifts off at the front door. They sang happy birthday from afar and FaceTimed the kids blowing out candles and opening gifts.
In some ways, even though it was only a fragment of what “normal” November should have been in the Chow household, there were some beautiful moments in our birthday celebrations that I think will help us prepare for Christmas.
Because we knew we couldn’t celebrate in the way we had before, we were way more intentional about making the celebration personal. We asked each child what they’d like for their birthday meal and how they’d like to celebrate. We reached out to family members to see how they would like to celebrate without gathering.
It can be easy to take for granted family gatherings when we could plan them, but the intentional act that our family members took the time to drop by just to see us at the door made the visit feel more intimate.
The season of Advent is meant to be a preparation period to welcome Jesus in our homes, and even though the pandemic has limited us in attending mass or gathering with family, we can take the time to be intentional about what makes this season meaningful for us.
Focus on The Person
Our November birthdays during this pandemic gave us a chance to focus more on the child, rather than on the gifts, parties, and other things that are meant to celebrate birthdays. It’s easy to forget that at its core, birthdays are about the person celebrating the milestone. We focused on how they’ve grown in the past year, their interests, and their personality. We focused on the person first.
There’s a lot of things people like to make Christmas about”. Fill in the blank with “family”, “giving”, “hope”, “magic”, “gifts”, “Santa.” We’ve come to see Christmas through the lens of our own experiences and what’s hopeful about this pandemic Christmas is that we can get clear about what it really means to us.
For our family, the birth of Jesus is what Christmas is all about. God’s gift to us. With this starting point, we can craft our pandemic Christmas around celebrating Him. For example, baking a cake or special treat to celebrate His birth. Your kids could write cards to Jesus about what they find special about Him or how grateful they are. Find ways to honour the person of Jesus.
Embrace the Beauty of Digital Mass
Mass is not the same celebrated at home and the difference in experience Mass online is going to be elevated for Christmas Mass. The choirs won’t be filling our house, there won’t be kids animating the nativity scene, and we won’t be cramped so closely together in pews amongst family and strangers.
But we can still make it special. Dress up yourself as though you were attending a live Christmas mass. Light as many candles as you have. Set up a small prayer space in front of the screen with candles, place some images of the Nativity or a Christmas scene. There’s something intimate about candlelight that can elevate an experience.
We have an opportunity to make it unique to our family too. If your kids like it, allow them to dress up as characters in the Christmas story. Choose a family member to read the Christmas prayers (maybe someone on FaceTime to make it feel like a unified experience) or choose your own Christmas song to sing before or after mass. Readings can be found here.
Celebrate for Eight Days
In the Catholic Tradition Christmas lasts for 8 days. It’s called the Christmas Octave. Each day is celebrated as though it were Christmas Day! Plan something special each day—a small gift, a special meal, or something that isn’t part of the normal routine. If a Livestream mass or visit to a church can’t happen on the 25th, you can plan your visit anytime in the Octave.
Choose Joy In the Simplicity
I’ve heard so many say through this pandemic that it has given them a moment to pause and be together in way that they never would have had the chance to experience otherwise. For those that are safe at home, we are experiencing more intimate time with our family and with God than we might ever have again. This perspective can help remind us that while Christmas might not be surrounded by all our loved ones, it can be a time to reflect on the simplicity, intimacy, and rawness of the first Christmas. We may get a small glimpse of the humbling that Mary and Joseph had in a barn, offering only what they had to Jesus as He entered the world.
Christmas will look different in the home this year. However, it doesn’t have to be a letdown for our families. We can take advantage of this intimate and simple celebration. We can still rejoice in our King and make meaningful memories. It starts with taking the time to think about what makes Christmas special for us. How does it bring us hope and joy? How does it bring happiness? How does it celebrate the birth of Jesus? How would Jesus want His birthday celebrated? Keep these important questions in mind and create meaningful memories as you celebrate Jesus during this pandemic Christmas.
You can check here for all Mass Livestream times for parishes in the Archdiocese of Vancouver, as well as more resources for Advent.
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