Christmas: What I Want My Children to Learn

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Versión en español disponible aquí.

Christmas is my favorite time of the year! I enjoy every aspect of it. From the holiday pajamas to the food, the music, everything! Spiritually speaking, I celebrate the season with a joyful heart because our Savior was born. Culturally speaking, it’s when my Venezuelan heart connects me with my roots and brings back cherished childhood memories.

With two little ones, things get even more fun every year since they have a better understanding of the season. I can’t begin to tell you how delightful it is to enjoy this time through their innocent, tender eyes. With them, we are rediscovering the beauty of the simple and are learning to appreciate what matters most. Because they are both still in a stage of life when gifts and material things don’t matter much, the moments we spend together are the ones that draw the biggest smiles on their faces.

This is why we started seeding in their hearts, since they were very little, the truths and principles that will make this season even more meaningful for them in years to come! These are the things I want my children to learn about Christmas.

The reason for the season

The colorful lights, our imperfect, incomplete Christmas tree (because my children are very young and feel compelled to mess with the tree ornaments all the time!), the food, the music, our family traditions, the gifts, the gatherings–everything we do is to celebrate that our Savior, Jesus Christ, was born to give us hope and eternal life (Isaiah 9:6). The most important truth behind this season is that miracle that took place in Bethlehem.

This is what my husband and I are seeding in our children’s hearts. How do we do it? This month we have focused our Bible reading time at nights on the story of the birth of Jesus. We make it a point to talk about it frequently and we reinforce it with the music we play and sing at home and with great support resources we have found engaging and fun for them. My favorite are: The Star (click the link to watch the trailer, it’s our favorite Christmas movie and I’m sure your family will love it!) and The First Christmas Gift, a series of 30-min fun videos from a Christian church’s children’s ministry, with music, storytelling and visual learning props perfect for young children! 

Christmas: What I Want My Children to Learn Valerie Barbosa Contributor Miami Mom Collective
My husband took this picture when our son was a year old. Fours years later we still have this cute nativity set. We use it to tell our children the story of Jesus’ birth and they enjoy playing with it.

To enjoy each other throughout the season

In the busyness of the festivities, it is easy to get caught in the stress of the errands and preparations. Especially if, like me, you are a full-time working mom with short spaces in your day (or late at night) to do all the shopping and planning. It is easy to forget the importance of enjoying this time together as a family. I want our children to enjoy not only the celebrations but also the time leading up to each special moment during the holidays.

Whether it’s making the food for Christmas Eve dinner, prepping the house to host, buying gifts for family and friends, or mailing our Christmas cards, I always make sure our family enjoys the anticipation of the holidays while keeping in mind that we already have the most important gift we could have ever wished for: each other.

How do we teach them this? Doing our best to lead by example. Our actions are louder than our words. Our kids need to see us enjoying each moment and appreciating that we are together, as a family, rather than placing unbalanced importance on everything else.

Christmas: What I Want My Children to Learn Valerie Barbosa Contributor Miami Mom Collective
This one of my favorite pictures of this year’s Christmas shoot by Hazel Photographers. Since this was a year we spent at home most of the time, wearing pjs and comfy clothes, I thought this was the most representative scene of the 2020 holiday season.

To enjoy and love our own multicultural traditions

Christmas traditions are beautiful! I enjoyed growing up in a home where faith, music, and food played a huge role in creating unforgettable memories. Just the smell of the Venezuelan pan de jamón and baked sugar cookies in the oven, a simple Disney holiday tune or a gaita venezolana, or even hanging our own stocking on the wall, have the ability to take me back to wonderful childhood moments many Decembers ago!

I want my children to experience the same kind of joy! I want them to look forward to us doing many fun things together. So my husband and I are taking what we love from our childhood traditions (that are culturally relevant because we grew up in Brazil and Venezuela respectively) and mixing it with American elements that we love, to create our own multicultural traditions for our family.

I want to fill my home with the smell of the turkey, hallacas venezolanas, and pao de queijo brasileiro. Want my little ones to look forward to special moments such as putting up the tree and setting up the nativity while we talk about God’s love for us and worship him together! I want us to sing our favorite holiday villancicos in Spanish, English, and Portuguese. I want my children to grow up loved and feeling proud of their Hispanic and Brazilian heritage. To create unforgettable memories. And traditions are one of the best ways to do so!

This year we decided to do hallacas for the first time.

Well my husband who is a talented cook, is the one who did the heavy lifting. It’s a 2-day process that involves a lot of work. But it ends up being enjoyable when the whole family is involved. I love this video because it shows how the kids were a part of such a meaningful Venezuelan tradition that as of this year, became our family’s tradition as well!

Christmas: What I Want My Children to Learn Valerie Barbosa Contributor Miami Mom Collective
As part of the hallaca-making process, we invited my parents and sister over. We ended up baking Christmas cookies with the kids as part of another sweet little tradition we started last year. We all had tons of fun together!
Valerie Barbosa Contributor Miami Mom Collective
Captured this moment of daddy and son in the kitchen, taking care of the hallacas and cookies respectively

The importance of helping others

Although this is something that I want to cultivate in them throughout the year, I believe Christmas is a beautiful time to go back to this basic principle. I don’t want my children to grow up focusing on getting gifts and on the material side of things. I want my children to understand that they are tremendously blessed in every sense. That there are many children and families in financial, emotional, or spiritual need, and we can do a few things to bring God’s Word to life and be that good neighbor He expects us to be.

So, first, we are teaching them how to pray for others. Especially for families going through difficult times in this season. This is the easiest, most powerful way to help anyone! Secondly, we are teaching them to share. One way we do this is having them choose the toys they haven’t played with in a while, so we may give them to children in need.

I want my children to learn that with a little or a lot, what matters is what we have in our hearts: the understanding of why we celebrate Christmas and a grateful heart, acknowledging everything we have. Having God in our lives and having each other is what it means to have it all.

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