Happy feast of St. Nicholas! We’ve landed on a pretty decent Santa/St. Nicholas hybrid in our family that leaves me satisfied that we’re walking the fine line between outright lying to our kids and destroying holiday magic. This morning found every member of the family awake before 6 AM; suffice it to say the combination of boots + chocolate for breakfast has cemented a deep devotion to St. Nicholas in their tender souls. (I’ll report back in a decade or two and let you know how well smooshing together Santa-from-the-North-Pole and the pugilistic bishop from Myra worked out spiritually for my darlings.)
Each year as Advent approaches, I tell myself I’ll get all my shopping done and then spend the liturgical lead up to Christmas reflecting in somber silence and quiet hope.
Then I remember I have 5 kids, 11 nieces and nephews, 3 godchildren, a smattering of December birthdays in the mix, along with a limited budget, and I snap back to reality.
We are doing a simpler Christmas this year, just a few gifts apiece plus a bigger family gift for our kids to share. We’ve always tended toward this model of Christmas, but I will admit that when I am pregnant during the most wonderful time of the year, I tend to go overboard. Not bike and pony overboard, mind you, more like“one more trip to Goodwill ohhhhh, look at that new-in-box-still-has-Target-tags!” overboard.
This year I’m feeling much more hormonally stable, and so the presents accumulating in my various caches throughout the house are modest in number and kind. But a simple Christmas can still be really lovely. Here are a couple gifts I’ve either scooped up/am contemplating pulling the trigger on/ have given in the past.
(FTR: my kids are almost 1(sob, how??) 3, almost 5, 6, and 8.)
I introduced my 3 and 4-year-olds to this little guy via his EWTN Youtube channel after being tipped off by the wife of the creator. They are great sort of Gumby-esque short episodes perfect for tapping “autoplay” on and slipping away for a quick shower. Three-year-old Luke is getting the stuffie for Christmas and, I suspect, will be thrilled.
I was thrilled with the stack of 4 new children’s books Ignatius sent over for us to review. I was less thrilled when Luke found the defenseless package on the porch and freed them all before I could spirit them away to be gifted. Counting on his still developing short term memory being spotty when I reintroduce these beauties under the tree, though I’m holding back one for a new nephew:
Mary Stories from the Bible: my favorite of the lot. Sweet, reverent and engaging imagined accounts of what Mary’s childhood and motherhood might have been like, drawn from Scripture, history, and Catholic tradition. Earmarked for Evie.
The Gospel Told By Animals: a fun, beautifully illustrated retelling of the greatest story ever told from a furry, four legged perspective. Luke is going to love/has already loved this one.
Watch Over Me Little Angel: Sweet and simple explanation of the Catholic understanding of guardian angels.
My First Prayers for the Whole Year: Of the list of 4 books, this was the one I was most excited for, if only for the illustrations. It’s going to my little nephew, and I suspect his big sisters will be the ones to enjoy it. I’m completely smitten with Maite Roche’s illustration style; we have half a dozen of her books already on her shelves. A board book featuring her art is my go-to gift for baptisms/baby’s first Christmases. This title is my all time favorite.
My kids have been playing nonstop with these Fishing for Saints and Fishing for Bible characters card decks. They use all 3 decks (there are 2 different sets of Bible characters) to play Memory with, mostly, which the 6-year-old especially loves, and it has been cool to familiarize them with more obscure/Old Testament characters. One of them piped up in Mass a couple Sundays ago when they heard the name Elijah, which was really cool.
The Jesse Tree activity has been a bit fraught with sibling fisticuffs, so maybe next Advent I’ll order more than one…
A sweet gal from to our parish started this gorgeous subscription service that you can customize depending on the liturgical season, your family size, and the price. (They’re sold out of the Advent crate, but this would be a very cool gift from grandparents or godparents which would delight on a recurring basis throughout the year.)
I have a beautiful, hand lettered poster featuring a different Catholic prayer (Hail Mary, Magnificat, Our Father) in each of the kids’ rooms. We also have the grace before meals print in the dining room. Dave says I’m cut off from any more lettered wall art, and I promise, I’m done. I think. Unless we have more babies….(psst, you should totally order yourself a liturgical year planner while you’re on the site. I love mine so much.)
Our parish actually purchased a subscription for the whole church, which is awesome, so we have a treasury of Catholic content for kids and adults at our fingertips. My personal favorite is the library of CCC movies (80s and 90s kids represent!) and the Br. Francis movies. Bonus: you can watch Nicholas, the Boy Who Became Santa tomorrow and feel like a liturgical boss.
We first encountered Cat Chat when someone swiped a CD from a back of the church kiosk and turned up with it in the car (sorry, whatever parish that might have been. I’ve put $3 of reparation into a random kiosk for our sins) and my kids, from the toddler up to the 8-year-old, are all obsessed with them. 2 summers ago I think we listened to The Mass Comes Alive more than 50 times. My only complaint is that there are only 4 episodes in CD format! Help a minivan driver out, Cat Chat.
We have the “what’s in church” magnet set and the St. Joseph apron + tools, both of which I love, and both of which my 3-year-old have tested to the breaking point. I would reserve the magnet set for older kids in the future, because a certain someone may or may not have bitten the head off of magnetic Fr. Juan Pablo. Which will make for an excellent story at his ordination party one day, should that day come… (p.s. He didn’t swallow it)
I hope this is a helpful jumping off point for someone! We definitely don’t limit our gifts to Catholic themed toys and books, but I do like to have a smattering of faith based presents under the tree or in the stockings in addition to what I pick up thrifting or from Amazon.
Wishing you a blessedly peaceful and healthy Advent.