Christ-focused Christmas

I love that Christmas in Russia, it its purest form at least, it is reserved exclusively for celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. Santa Clause, Christmas trees (Yolki), and presents, along with fireworks and a big feast, are instead all a part of the New Year’s celebration. (It’s kind of like if you took all of the major American holidays and crammed them into one. Amazing!)  As far as I know, there aren’t alternate options for the meaning behind Christmas like we have in our culture. (And we’ll ignore for the moment that they do, however, do the equivalent of trick-or-treating on Christmas!)

As a mom with young kids who wants to help my kids focus on joyfully celebrating Jesus during the Christmas season, I kind of think it is great to have a sort of natural delineation marked out. Russian kids have all the fun of the gifts, and giving, and Father Frost, as well as a whole separate day to celebrate Jesus’ birth! Of course the rather significant problem with this equation is that most people here don’t really celebrate Jesus at all,  so Christmas is hardly even noticed,  but for believers, what great potential to still enjoy all of the other special festive holiday traditions without inadvertently pushing Jesus to the sidelines on Christmas day!

I’m not saying that I’m ready to forsake my beloved American Christmas traditions that also can be such great opportunities to show love and generosity as a reflection of Christ, but it definitely has crossed my mind as I see toys and gifts vying for my children’s heart over Jesus. Whether or not we ever decided to go with Russian tradition in this way, it keeps me thinking of how we can enjoy the season’s festivities and spirit of generosity while never loosing sight of the central meaning and joy of Christmas… Jesus Christ!!

What are some things that help your family keep the focus on Christ during the Christmas season? Is there anything about the culture where you live that makes it easier or harder? And just for fun, if you were our family, would you keep the holidays according to American tradition, or would you celebrate the Russian way with gifts, trees, and Santa on New Years? 

(Post by: Ashley)


8 Responses to “Christ-focused Christmas”

  1. 1 Laura from Pruning Princesses December 18, 2011 at 9:06 pm

    I love that Christmas is all by itself in Russia. I live in the states, so you know what Christmas looks like around here. It is so miscelebrated that sometimes I wonder if we would celebrate it all. As you you and the crazy hodgepodge of holidays for New Years. I don’t know what I would do for certain, probably participate in everything except the lying to my kids about Santa part. The trees and folklore and gifts seem much more innocent and fun when they aren’t done falsely in the name of Christ. Hope that makes sense.

  2. 2 Cynthia December 18, 2011 at 11:01 pm

    We are in the states getting ready to go overseas for the first time. December has brought an unexpected blessing this year in the mitst of internerating, we got to stay home the whole month without traveling. That alone has made the season wonderful. We have been able to focus on the advent season of preparing our hearts for christmas as we enjoy the simplicity of staying home this month. Precious memories with our kids especially our 3 year old as she “gets” christmas for the first time.

  3. 3 Phyllis December 19, 2011 at 6:53 am

    And when do you celebrate Christmas? 🙂

    I love the way it is here, too. We do a family celebration of Jesus’ birthday on the 25th. Presents, fireworks, parties for the New Year. And then church celebration of Jesus birth on and around the 7th. That will be a little different this year, with the 25th being a Sunday. I know it’s only a week away, but I haven’t quite decided what we will do.

    Are people doing that “trick or treating” more now in Russia? It is very old tradition, but I only ever really saw it once before we left. Here in Ukraine, everyone wants Christians to go around on Christmas and sing for candy and money. The other teenagers do it on the night of the Old New Year, not Christmas. I read a lot about it last year and was fascinated. Ukraine has actually kept more of the ancient traditions than Russia did. I don’t really like the idea of caroling for loot (I’d rather do it just to bless the babushki), but our little Sunday school class did finance their special events for the past year with what they got last time!

    By the way, our pastor in Moscow always joked that it was a Biblical mandate to celebrate both Christmases: “rejoice in the Lord, and AGAIN I say rejoice.” 🙂

  4. 4 Erin Shakhmayeva December 19, 2011 at 10:21 am

    We’re also missionaries in Russia, and we usually celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25 as Jesus’ birthday. We give gifts and have a birthday cake for Jesus. We celebrate New Years’ Russian-style, but we don’t give gifts in our family. The kids get gifts anyway at church and school. Then on Russian Christmas (Jan. 7) we do Christmas outreaches in the city and surrounding villages–putting on Christmas dramas and giving out gifts. We’ve found that most people here don’t celebrate Christmas at all, and many children don’t even know what it is.

  5. 5 Ashley L December 19, 2011 at 7:29 pm

    It’s fun to hear about some of the ways that you’re able to celebrate and keep focused on Christ this Christmas! Yes, Laura, I definitely know what a battle it is in the States to keep Christ focused during Christmas! I admire all of you dear families who strive to stay focused on Jesus when the culture is so loud about its emphasis on other things. That is one way that I think we have it much easier (far less commercialism here). And Cynthia, how special to have such a peaceful Christmas season! What a blessed time it sounds like you guys are enjoying!

    Erin and Phyllis, I love hearing how you guys celebrate Christmas in the same/similar culture that we’re in! Isn’t Russian culture great with all of its holidays? Like I said, I like the way that Christmas and New Years spread out some of the festivities. Phyllis, I haven’t seen a ton of Christmas “trick-or-treaters,” but we definitely have had some (especially during our 3 years in Krasnodar… our first year I had no idea why little kids were knocking on our door and saying little poems. Now I know to give them candy!). And my Ukrainian teammate told me about the caroling thing in Ukraine. How interesting! That is so amazing that it ended up funding all of your Sunday school special events for a whole year! Wow! Oh, and yeah, we celebrate as a family on the 25th, but we have done ministry things at various times in Dec. and early January since there are both dates.

  6. 6 Shilo December 20, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    We’re in the states this year and it’s the first time my kids have been surrounded by Santa. Everyone asks “what’s Santa bringing you?”, etc. I personally love that overseas my kids don’t hear about Santa (or Halloween), it makes it a lot easier to keep it focused on the true meaning…but we’ve had some good conversations and hopefully they’re still catching the message that it’s all about Jesus!
    Merry Christmas everyone!

  7. 7 jolenesloan December 22, 2011 at 8:39 am

    Here in Ukraine, we are having a teen class party in our home tomorrow to celebrate Jesus’ birthday! We will be having a birthday cake (like Erin mentioned) and will be talking about what gift WE can give HIM for the year 2012. Typically, our teens don’t do anything to celebrate Christ’s birth, so we have opted to just celebrate during our own “regular” time (Dec. 25)…. makes it easier to get their focus on 2012 BEFORE New Year’s and the January 7th holiday this way, too.

    Merry Christmas, missionary friends!

  8. 8 Book apartment in Moscow December 29, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    In you can find superb holiday place in Moscow, just checkout the site and reserve, no surprises.

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