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The charming Christmas tradition to get your kids to behave!

Nativity scene with animals approaching stable

John Touhey | Aleteia

Cerith Gardiner - published on 11/30/23

Popular in France, this ritual is a wonderful way to have your kids on their best behavior all of Advent.
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It’s often the case that parents will threaten to send a letter to Santa if their children get up to mischief. However, there’s a far more meaningful way to encourage good behavior that truly captures the Christmas spirit.

We’ve previously shared how many European Catholic families build their creche differently from Anglophone countries.

The main idea is to have an empty Nativity scene until Christmas day, with the different characters making their way to the stable slowly but surely throughout Advent. And this would make sense if we’re following Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem before Christ’s birth.

Some families will give the characters a veritable assault course to get to the manger — with figurines navigating the backs of sofas, and moving perilously along the edges of coffee tables until they arrive at their final destination.

Now many of us will appreciate that a creche is only complete if it’s full of the obligatory farm animals. Therefore, along with the religious figurines, the animals need to also make their way to the creche.

One step at a time

And this is where the good behavior comes in. While families want to ensure the key characters make it to the crib on time, it’s not quite so bad if a sheep gets lost en route!

You could therefore give each of your children a particular animal to get to the creche on time. Each day, if they’ve behaved well, your child can move their animal closer to the stables by a certain amount of distance. If they’ve been playing up, they don’t get to move their animal as far as they’d like.

(We don’t want to stop the animal from moving at all, as it is Christmas!)

Children will be desperate to ensure their animal gets ahead of their siblings’ animal, or if there aren’t any siblings, they’ll just be impatient to see their little sheep move along rapidly.

With all this in mind you should manage to have some beautifully behaved children — well, for at least a few days in Advent — and a Nativity scene brimming with farm animals.

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