Thursday, December 17, 2015

12 Gifts that Keep Christ in Christmas

I love giving religious-themed gifts at Christmas. It's a great way to evangelize and keep Christ in Christmas. And if some people on your gift list are your godchildren, then giving a religious-themed gift helps you fulfill your promise to educate them in the faith. Here are our top picks from the past several years.

1. Vatican Videos: The Vatican has come up with a list of great movies in the categories of religion, values, and art. We're giving a bunch of them as Christmas presents this year. Many of the films are on the older side (great for classic movie lovers), and some are more recent like Schindler's List, Gandhi, and The Mission (a personal favorite!).

2. Mass Bag for Little Kids: If someone on your list has toddlers and is new at the parenting game, they may not know about the Mass bag trick to keep their kids quiet in church. One Christmas, we bought all our kids these awesome Quiet Time Church Kit bags, easy to carry and filled with wooden rosaries, a prayer bear stuffed animal, holy cards, and a tiny kids missal to follow the liturgy. The kids loved carrying around the bright red bags and we did get some quiet moments out of them!

3. Donation to Charity: For the person who has everything, you can donate to a Catholic charitable organization in their name. My dad suggested that we buy a sheep for an African family (yes, that's a thing). But we have a local group, run by a friend of mine, which sends money to children in Kenya to help them get a private Catholic school education. Since my dad is a professor, we figured he'd like it if we helped poor children get an education instead.

4. Icons: One year, we bought icons for every kid in the family, since they were all named after saints. The artwork is beautiful, and kids are amazed to see their name on a gilded plaque with a picture of a supernatural super-hero. Icons can provide a cultural education as well -- one of our nephews belongs to the Coptic Orthodox church even though he's named after a popular Spanish saint, St. Francis Xavier. When we gave him his icon, he realized that the East and West both have a tradition of iconography.

5. Rosary Rings and Bracelets: Little girls (and big girls!) love jewelry, so rosary rings and bracelets are a great gift idea. You can include a tiny pamphlet on how to pray the rosary.

6. American Girl Doll - Catholic Edition: As each of our daughters got old enough,we bought them one American Girl doll from the historical collection. We bought our daughter Maria the Native American doll named Kaya, and Maria promptly renamed her Kateri after St. Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American saint. There are also many other dolls on the market meant to resemble certain saints in the first place (no renaming required).

7. The Princess and the Squire books: Author Jennie Bishop wrote a beautifully illustrated book called The Three Gifts of Christmas about a spoiled princess who took Christmas gifts for granted until she learned that it's better to give than receive. The same author wrote excellent modern fairy tales for both boys and girls about guarding our love and remaining pure. The books are also available in Spanish, and some come with an audio CD. Although they impart Catholic values, they do it in a very non-obvious way, so they're a good choice for non-Catholics on your Christmas list.

8. Gifts from the Holy Land: One Christmas (probably the same Christmas we gave rosary jewelry) we gave all the boys on our list  gifts from the Holy Land. You can find carvings from olive wood, or vials of dirt and water from different places in Israel -- believe me, boys love dirt. Buying these gifts supports Christians in an often-violent area of the world, where they are frequently persecuted and struggling to survive.

9. The Weight of a Mass: The Director of Religious Education at our parish always recommends this book to First Communion parents. Similar to the Princess and the Squire books, it's a fairy-tale-like story, this time about the value of the Holy Eucharist. Spoiler alert: at the end, all the baked goods in the kingdom couldn't balance the baker's scales when a tiny scrap of paper with a Mass intention was placed on the other side. You can give the book together with a Mass card from your parish or a religious order.

10. Saints Biographies and Movies: Ignatius Press has a huge selection of saints biographies and movies. Besides plenty for adults, there is also a terrific series of saints biographies for children and cartoon movie versions of classics like Ben Hur and the life of historical figures like St. Bernadette and Christopher Columbus.

11. Gift Subscription: My husband Manny has an adult goddaughter named Helen, who converted when she was older. When Helen moved out-of-state, still as a newly-minted Catholic, we wanted to find a way to keep her grounded in her faith. So we bought her a subscription to the weekly newspaper, the National Catholic Register. You can also buy gift subscriptions to publications like the Magnificat, which has prayers and readings for every day of the month, or MagnifiKids, which is what it sounds like -- the Magnificat for kids.

12. JPII Paraphernalia: Thanks to Kendra at CatholicAllYear, I just found out about the JPII shop at Printable Prayers. It has quotes from St. John Paul II as framed artwork and on t-shirts, keychains, mouse pads, and even drinking glasses. I haven't gotten anyone something from this shop yet. And no one's gotten me anything from this shop yet, either. Ahem. Anyone?

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