I read somewhere once that there are three phases to enjoying a happy event: anticipation of the event, savoring the event itself, and then reflecting on the event once it is in the rearview mirror. The more we can pay attention to and cultivate each of these phases, the more we will enjoy an experience overall.
For instance, we can maximize our anticipation of a family vacation by making the planning of the trip an event itself (think: pour yourself a glass of wine while you research accommodations and activities); then we can savor the moment of the trip by taking care to remain present within it (not checking work email while in the hotel; keeping your phone stashed away while visiting museums and attractions); and finally, we can heighten our reflection by engaging in activities that focus on remembering the trip (making a photo book, talking with your kids about their favorite memories from the trip).
I love this model, and ever since learning about it, I try to be very intentional about enjoying each phase of the happy event.
One way that I do this is by completing most of my Christmas shopping in the month of November.
This practice functions to heighten my enjoyment of the Advent season and Christmas in a few different ways. First, I’m able to actually enjoy the process of Christmas shopping (without it feeling rushed and stressful) because it’s not last minute. I know that I always have December to finish odds and ends if I don’t complete all my gift-giving preparations in November.
I never actually need December… but knowing that it is there gives me a sense of spaciousness and peace. Secondly, I’m able to joyfully anticipate the act of giving meaningful gifts to family members and friends for a whole extra month. And last — and perhaps most importantly — I’m able to check off this major component of Christmas preparation before lighting the first candle of the Advent wreath, thus freeing up my heart and mind to prepare spiritually for Christ’s coming during this important season of the liturgical year. I can commit December to reading my Advent Devotional in free time instead of browsing retailers’ websites.
With all of that being said, early November feels like a great time to share with you House of Joppa’s first Catholic Christmas Gift Guide of the season. Since children are such a huge part of my gift-giving circle — and I suspect many of yours as well — I’m starting with a Christmas Gift Guide for Catholic Kids.
Here are four ideas of faith-filled gifts for your children this year.
Okay, this is a bit of a cheat, because it isn’t a Christmas gift and won’t bring you any closer to checking children off your list for under-the-tree completion. However, this Jesse Tree Sticker Kit is too good not to include on a Catholic gifts for children list. If you aren’t familiar with the concept of the Jesse Tree, it is, in essence, an Advent Calendar. With 25 symbols — one for each day of December leading up to Christmas — the Jesse Tree tells the story of God's redemptive plan of salvation for the world. This sticker kit includes a paper tree, 25 beautifully illustrated stickers, and a sheet explaining the meaning of the 25 symbols (and their corresponding scriptural verses). This gift is a fun and educational way to celebrate Advent with your family, and as you celebrate Advent, build anticipation for the coming of Christ on Christmas Day.
My children have no shortage of books, thanks to living down the street from the local library, having four grandparents and many aunts and uncles who are generous readers, and passing several “Free Little Libraries” on our daily walk route. Even still, I find myself buying books for them because there are just certain books that I want them to have that have not yet been gifted or found for free. The Rise Up children’s devotional is a perfect example of that kind of book. This little devotional — ideal for children ages 8-12 — includes chapters on fifteen virtues, all inspired by Saint Thomas Aquinas’ writings on virtues. Each chapter includes an introduction to the virtue, Scriptural connections to the virtue, and spirited and age-appropriate reflections on the virtue… as well as beautiful prayers and illustrations woven throughout.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: I love giving gifts to my children that will withstand the test of time and likely still matter to them years from now. Sure, I think it’s fun and important to give them gifts that they will love in the moment, but I like to accompany that play-do hair salon kit with a classic book, or an art print, or a piece of jewelry that they will appreciate more and more as time passes. For Christmas, a piece of art like this Away in the Manger print perfectly fits the bill.
I can’t remember how old I was — maybe in middle school? — when my godparents gifted me small statues of Mary, Joseph and Jesus: the beginning of what turned out to be a decade-long and ongoing gift, my first nativity. I knew to expect from that year on a new tiny figurine to be added to the collection each Christmas. One year, a wise man, the next, a shepherd, the next, an angel. To this day, it continues to be one of the most meaningful gifts I’ve ever received, and I cherish pulling out the nativity each Advent season. Starting a tradition like this with your child — or godchild, or grandchild — is a wonderful way to remember and honor the Holy Night on which Christ was born. This and this are both beautiful nativity options.