Parents can strengthen their families by teaching the "higher way" to celebrate holidays. While studying and writing about Independence Day, I came to the conclusion that there are different ways or levels in how we celebrate holidays. Let me share a few of my thoughts with you about just a few holidays.
Thanksgiving: We can celebrate Thanksgiving by eating a lot of food and watching football games, or we can choose a higher way of celebrating this holiday. Even though there is nothing wrong with eating lots of food and watching football on Thanksgiving, we can choose to "feast" with an attitude of thanksgiving and gratitude. Every Thanksgiving celebration should include a history of the holiday and an opportunity to express gratitude for our current blessings.
Christmas: This holiday has a lot of different levels for celebrating. There is the lowest level of "what am I going to get" to a higher level of "what am I going to give" to the highest level of celebrating the birth of the Savior of the world who is Jesus Christ. There is the Santa Claus level to Christmas as compared to the story of the Nativity and the birth and life of Jesus Christ.
Easter: The fun part of this holiday is coloring Easter eggs and hiding them, filling Easter baskets for children and loved ones, and reading stories about an Easter bunny. We can choose to stay at this lower level or we can choose to teach our children that the reason we celebrate Easter is because Jesus Christ made His atoning sacrifice and then was resurrected.
Independence Day: We can go camping or to baseball games and never consider why the Fourth of July is a national holiday. We can pull our American flag out of the back of the closet and hang it in our front yard to show that we are true patriots and then forget about the patriotism thing. We can treat Independence Day like we do Christmas: We can fly our flag everyday as well as on Independence Day. We can play patriotic music both before and after the actual holiday. We can decorate our homes in patriotic colors. All these activities impress on our family and friends that this is an important holiday. We can spend some time with reading or hearing the history of why we celebrate Independence Day and the Declaration of Independence, patriotic music, parades, etc.
I was surprised and very pleased early on Independence Day when I received a telephone call from my daughter in Kansas. She and her family sang the national anthem (Star Spangled Banner) to me and then they took turns telling me that they had done the following things to emphasize the real reason for the holiday: They had a red, white and blue breakfast (red and blue pancakes with white milk). They said the Pledge of Allegiance and sang patriotic songs. They read about the Founding Fathers and other books about why we celebrate Independence Day. After building a foundation by teaching the real reason why we celebrate the Fourth of July, they planned to spend the rest of the day strengthening their family by fun activities such as swimming and going to a park. I could tell that their holiday celebration made a good impression on the children.
I personally started my celebration of Independence Day long before the actual holiday. I fly my American flag every day - and notice when any of my neighbors put their flags out. When I planted my flower gardens and pots for the front porch in May, I chose to plant red, white and blue flowers for a patriotic theme and added a patriotic door decoration. During the last week of June I set my Independence Day table with a centerpiece of Uncle Sam and red, white and blue placemats and napkins. I added other red, white and blue accents throughout the living area including some small American flags in the main bathroom along with a red clock and red linens. I attended Church on July 3rd where I heard testimonies of the importance of Independence Day and sang The Star Spangled Banner and other patriotic songs. I invited family members over for dinner on both Sunday and Monday so I could use my patriotic table setting. On the Fourth of July my husband and I watched the Independence Day parade and joined with many other people in hearing some American history recited, singing patriotic songs, saying the Pledge of Allegiance, and listening while the Declaration of Independence was read. Since Alaska became a state on July 4, 1959, we heard some history about how the Alaska State Song was written by a young native boy named Benny Benson and then sang the song. We had a real American dinner - on our fancy table setting - of hot dogs, potato salad, root beer floats, etc. Then we attended a double-header baseball game between the Anchorage Glacier Pilots and the Anchorage Buccaneers. We decided to come home at 10:30 rather than wait until after midnight to watch the fireworks. It was an extremely satisfying and enjoyable day!
There are higher and lower ways to celebrate other holidays such as Martin Luther King Day, Columbus Day, etc, and I encourage you to look for the higher ways. As we celebrate holidays in a higher manner, we can strengthen our families by teaching by word and example the important reasons why we celebrate our holidays. I know that the higher level is much more satisfying and enjoyable!
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