Last night I took a couple of the girls (the one’s who weren’t studying for finals…thumbs down to schools who are still in session even one day past December 15) and Granny to a local Christmas concert. It was a lovely evening listening to a youth chorale sing beautiful Christmas music in the majestic atmosphere of an old brick church complete with stained glass windows. As I sat there taking in the beauty all around me I realized how blessed I was to be raised in a home that appreciated culture and I am truly grateful for this influence from both of my parents.
Experiencing and appreciating culture adds great value to our lives. I can’t begin to imagine my life without art, music, theater, literature and life long learning.
Art is a work of creativity and God is the ultimate creator…all we need to do is look around at His creation to see the most amazing drawings, painting and sculptures. They have no rivals. When we see amazing art we are getting a glimpse of the creativity of God. When I see a thing of beauty it takes my breath away and causes my spirit to soar.
Music and poetry inspires us on so many levels…touching our heart and soul. It can cause us to rejoice and praise the Lord, dance, clap, shout, cry, laugh and sing. I am often transformed to an amazing place of complete joy, perfect love and glorious peace after listening to inspiring music. It moves me in a way that nothing else does.
Literature and theater can instantly place us into someone elses story…giving us compassion, insight and even vision and motivation that can change the course of our lives. Stories and plays can inspire and challenge me to do great things, take me on unbelievable adventures, touch my heart, teach me life lessons and bring me great joy and laughter along with tears.
Truly these things are a gift from God who is the creator of all things beautiful, awe-inspiring and good. I cannot imagine life without them.
It helped that growing up we often lived in large metropolitan cities where the cultural opportunities abounded. I, however, have raised my family in a place not known for it’s cultural opportunities and yet because I believe that the arts add so much value to life I have chosen to actively pursue these experiences for my children.
Christmas provides the perfect time to cultivate culture in our lives and to influence and teach our children to appreciate the arts. There are an abundance of cultural opportunities in even the smallest communities during this season. (and at this time of year there are many experiences that are free as well for those of us who have limited resources)
Some of the ways you can take advantage of these opportunities
- Find local Christmas concerts, ballets or church performances to attend…they are abundant
- Check out your local museum…they often have special Christmas displays or exhibits
- Call around to your civic theater, local high schools or colleges to see if there are any plays being performed (you can almost always find someone doing “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens)
- Churches often have “living nativities” or special art displays (not to mention if you can find any older more traditional churches to visit the architecture, stained glass windows and sculptures are a cultural experience in themselves)
- Christmas Home Tours are also prevalent at this time of year and are another great way to enjoy art, architecture and beauty
You can also create an atmosphere of cultivating culture in your own home. We have been very purposeful with our children in bringing cultural experiences to them (it is also very helpful when your kids are small and may not be able to sit through a “live” performance or production)
- Listening to classical Christmas music! While contemporary seasonal music is the mainstay of our Christmas season we are sure to also include classics like The Boston Pops Orchestra. Their rendition of a Christmas Festival is a staple in our home, in fact it is the first official Christmas song to be played after Thanksgiving. I love it that my 3 year old son heard the opening strands in the car last week and enthusiastically shouted out – “Mommy! It’s Christmas!”
- Reading Christmas Classics! I don’t know why but it always seems so much easier to read books out loud at Christmastime. I guess the combination of the cozy living room complete with a fire in the fireplace, twinkling Christmas lights, hot cocoa, cold weather that invites you to stay home and the extra family time without the pressure of school and work. We have an entire box of Christmas books that we have collected over the years that only come out at Christmastime.
- Watching Christmas Classic Movies! Again the new Christmas movies are great for family movie night and we enjoy them immensely but there are a few “must watch” movies that are full of value and culture – White Christmas, A Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol, The Nativity, Miracle on 34th Street and Little Women (ok so it’s not specifically a Christmas movie….but I have decided that it is for us).
- Watching Inspirational youtube videos! Even if you can’t get out to a concert or live in a remote area without access to much culture, thanks to the Internet it can be brought right into your own home. Every time I find an inspiring or excellent youtube I make my kids sit down and watch it. Here are some of my favorites this year:
- Encouraging your children to put on a Christmas play of their own. There are so many great Christmas stories to choose from or they could write their own. Tell them that they can perform it as a Christmas gift to the family on Christmas day or other larger family get together. Help them create costumes, gather props and any other support they need but let them create and perform. Besides adding culture and creativity to your life it will be some of the most memorable moments of their childhood.
- Another easy way to add some art & creativity to your lives is through making homemade Christmas ornaments, Christmas cards and even decorating Christmas cookies.
- Hosting our annual Mother Daughter Tea is one of our favorite Christmas traditions. We have been hosting this tea for my girls friends and their mothers for 12 years. Besides being a lot of fun for everyone it is a fabulous chance to add beauty and culture to our lives. The fine Christmas china, setting a decorative table, dressing up, practicing etiquette and table manners are all great cultural experiences. We also give the guests an opportunity to share their talents by singing, playing a musical instrument, reciting a poem or scripture, dramatic reading or signing to a musical selection. It is fabulous!
- Memorizing the Christmas story from the Bible. Most every year we take some time in the fall to memorize the story of Christ’s birth out of the book of Luke. The younger school age children recite it on Christmas Eve.
- Family Christmas Caroling Night, another family favorite tradition. Each year we go out and sing Christmas carols at the doors of our friends & family members. It is a great chance to learn classic Christmas carols (and we sing all the verses…as my Mom would say…a song is like a poem and of you don’t sing all the verses you miss the entire meaning), learn to sing and a wonderful family bonding time. If you did not want to trek all over the city singing you could simply sing around your fireplace, piano or Christmas tree or even go to a few rest homes, hospitals or children’s homes.
It’s not too late to add some culture to your Christmas this year. I would love to hear your ideas for cultivating culture both at Christmas as well as throughout the year.
PS – Tonight we will dress up and head out as a family (minus “the littles”) to a nice dinner and to see the Nutcracker Ballet compliments of my mother. (aka: Granny). May I suggest that if you are a grandparent looking for a valuable gift to give your grandkids that will last a lifetime (rather than a few weeks or months)…give them a gift of a cultural experience! And if you can go with them…even better yet!