Christmas with Children: What Children Need to Know About Orthodox Holidays?
Do I need to talk with children about religion in general, and how to celebrate Christmas with them, so that the holiday for them is filled not only with fun, but also with meaning? Let's try together to understand the moral and spiritual aspects of the upbringing of the younger generation.
Christmas and Easter have long been marked on the calendar as weekends and holidays, along with other holidays and significant dates in the history of the state. But since the formation of the USSR, when the church was separated from the state, the atheistic upbringing of the younger generation has become a serious counterbalance to religion. Adults, continuing the traditions of their ancestors, have been widely celebrating religious holidays for more than a century. At the same time, children, from an early age, mainly see only the "secular part" of the celebration - a feast, gifts, festivities, and the religious meaning for them "remains behind the scenes."
Splitting in half
Under the revolutionary slogan "we will destroy the old world to the ground" in October 1917, religion and the church were declared by the Bolsheviks "atavism" and "relic of the past." Priests were persecuted, and temples and small churches were turned into barns, stables and clubs, or simply destroyed.
The builders of the "bright communist future" with reckless enthusiasm smashed the foundation of the Russian state, erasing the history of its formation. A story in which it often happened that it was the Orthodox Church that became the spiritual bond that aroused the Russian people to fight an external enemy. The most famous example of the feat of the saints is Sergius of Radonezh, Peresvet and their participation in the Battle of Kulikovo, which children get to know in history lessons at school.
Each battle for the Russian land was blessed by the church, and the soldiers went into battle "for the faith, the Tsar and the Fatherland", and a little later - "for the Soviet Motherland, for Stalin." Many soldiers during the Great Patriotic War secretly prayed and kissed the cross before the battle, because the Motherland and faith remained the most powerful spiritual bonds, for which it was worth going into battle and dying. But then it was possible to speak openly about the Motherland, but faith remained intimate, and even more - forbidden.
In the last years of Soviet power, believers continued to secretly attend church on holidays, baptize children, and the party leadership pretended not to notice this, and continued to shyly hush up the facts of persecution of priests and the fact that it was not possible to destroy the centuries-old Orthodox traditions, despite repressive measures.
Now Christmas, Easter and Trinity are marked on the calendar as weekends and holidays. Live broadcasts of divine services these days are conducted by central state channels, new ones are being built and once destroyed churches are being restored. People, as before, visit churches and take their children to them, without explaining to them the meaning of what is happening - they are silent, apparently, out of an old habit. Of course, the unsaid and incomprehensible causes misunderstanding, but children like it when adults tell the truth, when their words do not diverge from their actions, and when they are not considered small and stupid.
Religion and secular education: "for" and "against"
Technologies have invaded not only our daily life, but also the world of the clergy: religious ministers on their websites have long been discussing the idea of introducing the foundations of Orthodox culture into school curricula as the basis of spiritual and moral education in secular educational institutions, promoting their vision of the system of educating schoolchildren in missionary -apologetic project "Towards the Truth".
Why can't this project be implemented in a secondary school? Based on the examples given above, and the role of Christianity in the history of the formation and development of Russia, the Orthodox faith can be considered the fundamental beginning of the cultural and historical code, the spiritual and moral foundations of the development of society, which do not contradict universal principles.It also cannot be denied that at a certain stage in history, parish schools also performed educational functions.
However, at the present stage, when a multinational and multi-confessional Russian society has already been formed, there is compulsory secondary education for all, the subject "Fundamentals of Orthodox Culture" in the school curriculum can become a "bone of contention", because in secondary school children are educated not only from families professing orthodoxy. Therefore, the principle of equality of cultural and religious traditions should remain an unshakable basis in the system of compulsory public education.
In this part of the spiritual and moral education of children, the school must demonstrate restraint. Although, extra-curricular work, as an event dedicated to the celebration of Christmas, in order to expand the horizons, acquaintance with folk traditions, which are also closely related to Orthodoxy, are carried out in schools. But the main role in the formation of attitudes towards religion is assigned to the family, and only parents decide how and to what extent to develop a child's interest in Orthodoxy or other religions, or in atheism, without imposing, however, their own convictions, leaving the child the right to choose.
How to celebrate Christmas with children?
There are plenty of tips on how to spend your winter holidays and Christmas with your family. But now we are not talking about gifts and a festive menu, but about some details of this special holiday, which has a religious meaning, because children are a reflection of our thoughts and actions. The spiritual and moral component of the holiday is much more important than the New Year's tinsel and fuss, so the child, at least, needs to be told what its main meaning is.
How to do it:
An introductory conversation on a biblical plot should not look intrusive and edifying, but arouse the child's cognitive interest: a sense of tact helps to strengthen the spiritual connection with children; Kids can be offered a joint viewing of a cartoon of the corresponding content (older children - reading thematic literature), followed by discussion and answers to questions; The conversation with the child should be extremely frank; it is desirable to focus on the general human aspects of the biblical story, without delving into religious details; In general terms, explain how and why people had faith in God, pay attention to the fact that other nations have similar stories with faith in miraculous salvation, the victory of good and justice; Find out what feelings the story of Christ's life evokes in a child, focus on the fact that every person has feelings, regardless of religion, and that they need to be treated with respect (tolerance), that only in this way a multinational people can live in peace, and country to flourish; If a joint visit to an Orthodox church is planned, which is permissible even for educational purposes, and not for familiarizing with religiosity, then children must be familiarized in advance with the rules of conduct in the church; The words of adults should not diverge from their actions - children notice this immediately and cease to trust, listen to the opinion of their elders; At least on Christmas days, adults will have to watch their behavior, not turn the family Christmas dinner and lunch into a banal party in front of children.
A conversation in such a way is quite acceptable for the formation of the first idea of religion in children, an understanding of the system of spiritual and moral values, under the influence of which national identity was formed.
Popular wisdom says that one does not choose one's homeland, mother and faith. Faith, in this case, is historical experience, memory and respect for the history of one's people, and this does not run counter to the essence of Orthodox culture. The child does not need deeper religious knowledge.Even the Orthodox Church recognizes that each person chooses the “path to God” independently, and, therefore, it cannot be imposed on a person who is not fully strengthened, not fully formed. It cannot be hushed up and denied that the emergence and existence of religion was due to civilizational development, as a form of permissible spiritual and moral norms of human behavior.
If you look at Christmas through the eyes of the smallest, then a kind, bright holiday is like a fairy tale that will forever remain in the most vivid memories of childhood, along with the faces, words and actions of loved ones, as a life guide.
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