Christmas Decorating and Mystagogy

By Phillip Garside

As a Christian parent, one of the stressors of Christmas is helping children distinguish between the cultural holiday and the religious import. For young children, cognitively explaining the distinctions may simply sow confusion.

An alternative is to play on their artistic intuition and utilize a sense of decorative development.

Here is how it could work:

  • From the afternoon of Thanksgiving Day to the first day of Advent the domestic church decorates with secular decorations (Secular Santa, Snowmen, Reindeer, holly, Christmas tree etc.)
  • From the First Sunday of Advent to the Fourth Sunday of Advent, slowly put up CHRISTmas decorations: an Advent wreath, nativity scene, sacred images, sacred candles, etc.
  • From the Third Sunday of Advent ‘til Christmas Eve, slowly diminish secular decorations.
  • On Christmas Eve, add baby Jesus to the manger and replace the Advent candles with a center white candle.
  • On the second day of Christmas, put away the few remaining secular decorations and, from then until the Epiphany, slowly diminish CHRISTmas decorations
  • After the epiphany, solemnly deconstruct the nativity and put up Epiphany (Mardi Gras) decorations.

This transition strategy is effective in three ways. First, it capitalizes on continual revelation to constantly re-invest the children in the spirit of Christmas – but with a trajectory from secular to sacred. Second, it helps the kids share the season with their secular friends, but also gives them a subconscious sense of motion from simply mundane things to elevated mysteries.

Lastly, the transition is a lesson of motion as applied to their souls, but also applicable to the world because it is our job to bring the sacred to the secular.

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