Turning an Old Holiday Threat Into a Healing Holiday Ritual

This is a Tuesday Tip related to: Why We Should All Ask for Coal in Our Stockings

Maybe we actually should put coal into our kids’ stockings…


Photo Credit: John Ashley (Creative Commons)

As Christmas Eve tick-tocks toward Christmas Day, with kids slumbering in their sugar comas, maybe we should slip quietly into the living room, a bag of charcoal tucked under an arm.

Let’s do it.

We’ll take several old socks with us—one for each child. And then fill each sock with five pieces of charcoal. Place the coal-stuffed socks right next to the pretty stockings—the ones stuffed with goodies and sweets. And then we’ll catch a few winks ourselves. Because on Christmas morning, we’re going to have some explaining to do.

The kids will be startled at first, of course.

But our ritual will clarify the matter.

We will start with the youngest. We will bring down both stockings and we will begin with the dusty-blackened one. We will look at our complicated little child—messiness and glory all mixed up in one little bundle of energy—and we will begin:

We will take the first piece of coal from the stocking and we will say, “There is no place for coal in your heart. You are a gift to me, exactly as you are.” We’ll walk the coal to the trashcan and throw it away.

Then we will take the second piece, and we will say, “I’m thankful for all of my time with you—the fun times and the hard times.” And it too will go into the trash.

Then the third: “There is only one of you and that makes you priceless.” And into the trash again.

The fourth: “You are mine, which means there is nothing you can do to make me stop loving you.” Trash it.

And the last: “No matter what happens in life, you will have a home here with us, a place to belong.” Trash.

And then we will turn to the next oldest child, and we will repeat the ritual. And so on, until each child has had the grace of Christmas spoken into their hearts and planted in their souls.

Can you imagine a world full of children eager for Christmas morning coal?

QUESTION: Do you have a special Christmas ritual that knits your family together. Share it with us in the comments.

Kelly is a licensed clinical psychologist and co-founder of Artisan Clinical Associates in Naperville, IL. He is also a writer and blogs regularly about the redemption of our personal, relational, and communal lives. Kelly is married, has three children, and enjoys learning from them how to be a kid again. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

3 thoughts on “Turning an Old Holiday Threat Into a Healing Holiday Ritual

  1. Years ago my husband’s parents started a beautiful Christmas tradition that has blessed our family’s life. They bought a white Christmas Tree & explained that it was symbolic of God’s love. They asked each family member to choose or make an ornament that was symbolic to us of God’s love or of something we had learned throughout the year. We each wrap up our ornament & write them a letter explaining the reason we chose the ornament & what it means to us. The Sunday before Christmas we have a special family dinner & then we gather in the family room where the white tree is, and from youngest to oldest, take our turns giving our ornament to them. The little kids sit on Grandpa’s lap while Grandma opens the small gift & hangs it on the tree. Grandpa reads the letter. Many sweet & beautiful insights are shared by each person…feelings of life’s experiences and lessons are expressed in these moments that otherwise would be kept silent. It’s a wonderful opportunity to look back over the year and recognize what I’ve learned & appreciate more fully, more consciously, how my life has been blessed. For everyone, it’s a special moment of connecting as a family and seeing the divine in each other a little more clearly. Although this year will be the last year we gift our ornaments to Grandma & Grandpa, the memories we have created over the years will last an eternity.

    • Jen, this is absolutely beautiful. Thank you for sharing it and giving us all some excellent ideas about how to deepen the experience of the season.

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