Sometimes it seems like the work for Mom is never ending in our large Catholic families. By Thanksgiving, the first quarter assignments have been completed and the homeschooling is clipping along nicely.
Then Bang! Along comes the Christmas season, doubling the work load but halving the class time! It’s more than a little discouraging!
I struggle each year to keep Christmas a joyous and holy season, and not just another reason to work even harder than usual because of shopping and entertaining. Here are some ideas I have tried to ease the stress during the Christmas season.
1. Family Togetherness
A big part of Catholic family life is family togetherness. Christmas is an ideal opportunity for families and friends to share good times and to build lasting memories. On the other hand, we moms dread the very thought of having guests visit because we lack the time to clean the house or cook the food for company.
Although I give public lectures on home management, I still say that we Catholic homeschooling moms must put the physical state of our homes in proper perspective. I have often remarked to my husband on the way to a visit with family or friends: “I just can’t wait to see John and Mary and catch up with their family events. It’s been such a long time!” I have no memory of ever saying, “I am so excited to get a chance to check under their couch for dust bunnies!”
Our guests come to see us and our children, not to look critically at the state of cleanliness or neatness of our home. Just do the basics: Straighten up, mop, vacuum, dust, get the kids to help with the surface cleaning. I have found that one of the few times my kids are enthusiastic about cleaning is when company is coming. Often they are actually excited to polish up and set a really formal table with cloth napkins.
2. Children Decorate
Let your children plan and put up the holiday decorations. They may surprise you with the lovely job they do, and are far more likely to keep the house tidy if their own handiwork is being showcased.
3. Holiday Menus
Holiday menus do not need to be a big deal, and need not involve planning and cooking a sit-down dinner. A terrific and relatively inexpensive way to entertain is to host a late morning brunch after Mass. Buy some bagels, muffins, or doughnuts; add a fruit tray; serve coffee, tea, and juice. If friends and relatives offer to bring something, agree immediately. Most people, including me, tote only their best baked goods, so generally these offered foods are a real treat.
4. Pot Luck
Friends and relatives can plan a pot luck dinner so that no one household must bear the financial or work burden of hosting a large get-together. As most families supply only one or two dishes, and moms make their best recipes, the holiday spread will be top shelf! Consider hosting an after-dinner wine and cheese or veggie platter party, with families each bringing their own favorite crackers, chips, and dressing dips. One family planned such an event and the children performed by playing musical instruments, as well as singing Christmas carols and reciting poetry.
5. Buying and Sharing
Here are a few other ideas:
- Order Christmas gifts on the Internet to save time traveling and shopping.
- Purchase tickets for the family to local Christmas productions, sometimes homeschooling families.
- This promotes seeing friends during the holidays and encourages family closeness through shared experiences.
- Consider giving shared family gifts, such as a short family trip to a museum with special Christmas decorations.
- Buy gifts that encourage family members to do things together, such as playing board games or basketball in the driveway!
Consider buying how-to books for children, such as a cookbook or a sketch book or how to celebrate religious feasts with special home-made decorations. You might consider making an Advent Wreath with your family that can be pulled out every year. Consider other projects for the whole family, such as making a stable for the Nativity figures, and adding to it each year.
6. Nativity Set
The most important thing to remember is that Christmas is primarily a religious celebration. Let’s make sure that we give the Nativity set a place of honor and even say the daily family Rosary and other prayers near it. As we shop and make plans for family and friends, let’s remember to give to those less fortunate. Most parishes have projects to help the poor in the community.
Scripture reports that when the pagans saw the early Christians, they marveled and said, “See how they love one another!” This Christmas, may the same be said for each one of us!
Merry Christmas to all our Seton families!