What do you remember most about your favourite childhood Christmases? Piles of presents and heaps of new clothes?

What do you remember most about your favourite childhood Christmases? Piles of presents and heaps of new clothes? “Of course not,” says France Paradis, mother of three and author of Fêtes & rituels : célébrer les passages de la vie, a parenting book on the importance of celebrations and rituals. “I bet your memories all have to do with the people you love and the time you spent together.”

Traditions contribute to a child’s well-being. “In addition to reinforcing their sense of family identity, Christmas rituals are reassuring for kids,” says psychologist Nathalie Parent. Her book La famille et les parents d’aujourd’hui : la communication entre parents et enfants looks at the challenges of raising children in the modern world. “It’s important for them to have things they can count on, such as knowing that Christmas will be celebrated every year, no matter what.”

The story behind Advent calendars
Advent calendars are a Christian tradition that began in Germany. To make waiting for the big day a little easier on impatient youngsters, some families began giving their children religious images throughout December—one each morning until Christmas Day. Calendars designed with little windows that opened to reveal illustrations were first commercialized in 1920. Over time, those images were replaced with chocolates and other treats. Although for many the Advent calendar no longer has any religious significance, its purpose remains the same: to build up excitement before Christmas.

Christmas: A universal holiday?

These days, Christmas is impossible to ignore. By November, decorations and marketing campaigns fill every street, store, bus, doorway—you name it. But many families in Quebec don’t identify with this Christian tradition. What’s the best way for parents to guide their children through a time of year when Christmas is the only thing most kids are talking about?

For Louis-Charles Gagnon-Tessier, who teaches at Collège Saint-Alexandre de la Gatineau, Christmas can be readily “adopted” by individuals from other faiths. “You don’t have to believe in Jesus to believe in concepts like love, family, sharing, and generosity,” he says. “These values are universal and rise above religious differences.”

“Preparations are also part of the holiday,” says Paradis. “The more children are involved in the preparations, the more excited they’ll be about celebrating. That doesn’t mean you need to have complicated rituals, however. Just keep reminding yourself that it’s the little things that spark happiness.”

Naître et grandir

Source: Naître et grandir magazine, December 2013
Research and copywriting: Marie-Josée Cardinal
Scientific review: Diane Dubeau, professor of psychoeducation and psychology, UQO