When I was a child, we practiced the Christkindl tradition throughout Advent, as another way to prepare our hearts to receive Jesus. (The more secular “Secret Santa” tradition comes from this.) Christkindl literally means “little Christ Child.” I believe my parents found this tradition in the book Around the Year with the Trapp Family, by Maria von Trapp. This is an awesome book, if you can get your hands on a copy. In Austria, the Christkindl was said to be the bearer of gifts at Christmastime.
The way we incorporate this into Advent is to have each of our kids pick the name of one of their siblings out of a hat. This person becomes their Christkindl for all of Advent, so they must think of ways to treat this sibling as they would treat the Christ Child. In doing so, they begin to understand the concept of ministering to Christ by doing “unto the least of these,” and hopefully, become more like the Christ Child themselves.
However, it is supposed to be a secret, only to be revealed on Christmas, when each child will give their Christkindl a gift. But in the days leading up to Christmas, they sometimes leave little presents, or do their Christkindl’s chores secretly, or say special prayers for them. They have a ball trying to guess who has whom. And it’s another fun way to not only keep the focus of the season on Christ, but also to ease the frustration of waiting a little bit.
The little ones aren’t very good at keeping secrets, so sometimes I try to help them out by having one little kid deliver something for another, to confuse the older ones. This way, Mom gets to have some fun with it, too. And we get to spend some quality time with each child, taking them to buy an inexpensive present for their Christkindl, or helping them make something.
The other thing that’s so great about this is that every time we talk about this tradition by name we are saying the name of Christ. So His name gets spoken many times a day and is associated with fun, and loving behavior. I don’t know about you, but that’s definitely an association I want my kids to make!