Friday, December 15, 2006

The Tradition of the Straws

Each year I purchase a Christ centered Christmas book to add to our collection.  Beginning with the evening we finish decorating for Christmas, I read a book out loud to the boys after dinner. I do this through the Christmas season.  Many years ago I found a little book called The Last Straw by Paula Palangi.  I believe it is out of print now which is a shame.  Although there were aspects of the story that I was not pleased with,  this book has impacted our family more than any other Christmas book.  This book introduced us to the Tradition of the Straws.  This is far and away my boys favorite Christmas tradition!

You do not need the book to add this to your celebration of Christmas...let me share with you what it is all will need a tray, some straw, a manger and a baby.  This is the concept....Jesus is coming!  We must prepare a place for him and we will do that by loving and serving each other for His sake.  Beginning the fist night, the names of all the family members are written an scraps of paper and placed in a bowl.  Each person draws a name, checking to make sure they have not drawn their own. This name must be kept secret! The goal for the next week is to secretly do acts of loving kindness for that person without getting caught.  For each secret act of love, you may place a straw in the manger.  The idea is to build a soft and comfortable bed made from love for the Christ child who will arrive on Christmas Eve.


This is a picture of our manger.  Josiah made it several years ago.  The book actually came with a heavy cardboard manger in the back to punch out and put together but after many years, no amount of tape could hold it together.  So, Josiah blessed us with this wooden one and I will always treasure it!

As you can see we have been busy filling the manger this season.  Each week, the names go back in the bowl and everyone draws again.  Parents will need to help younger ones with ideas and sometimes with practical help.  I have kept many a boy busy so his brother didn't get "caught in the act". And often you will have to turn a blind eye so a little one can bless you with an act of love!

Because we do not have network T.V., cable or satellite, and we aren’t in the stores a lot, (and I throw all of those gift catalogs in the trash as soon as they arrive....they tend to give my boys a terrible case of I want-itis!) my children are not exposed to all the brainwashing that goes on trying to sell them the latest useless toy. But their focus still tended to be on “what will I get” instead of “what can I give”. The manger certainly helped to realign their priorities. Bickering seemed to take a back seat to loving kindness - everyone was thinking of the Christ child and how they could serve Him through kindness to others.

It is amazing how this simple tradition changed our focus and the atmosphere in our home. Sometimes a child will find their bed made, their chores done or their laundry folded. I have found dishwashers emptied, or filled, clothes folded, my bed turned down with a cookie left on the pillow, a wildflower in a vase on the kitchen windowsill,  animals cared for and the list goes on. Arguments stop before they really start and everyone seems to be thinking of others first.

Secret acts done for neighbors, church members and others outside our family circle earn fatter straws, or multiple straws. Hands are constantly testing the manger - is it soft enough for Jesus? On Christmas Eve day the pace for loving acts really picks up….who will place the last straw?

On Christmas Eve, if the boys determine that the bed is ready, they must search for the baby, just as the Wise Men searched for the Christ child.  Whoever finds Him gets to place Him lovingly in the manger that was filled with hundreds of straws, each one representing an act of love to others.

My prayer for you this season is that you too find the Christ child who was born crucified for you.

Merry Christmas!


  1. Ohhhh, that is so beautiful. I will definitely have to start that up next year!

  2. Cheri,

    What a fabulous idea! Thanks for sharing it with us.

    grace andeace,

  3. I love this idea! My son is almost 17 now, but I sure would have used it with him when he was little! We did buy or receive a new Christ-Centered Christmas book every year though. We also used an advent calendar. We have an advent wreath as well, but our church uses the wreath each season, so we haven't used it at home as much.
    Think I'll pass this idea along to some of the younger parents I know!

  4. I think this is such a wonderful idea. Thank you so much for sharing it. We have done different things with our nativities through the years - wrapping baby Jesus up as a gift, having a scavenger hunt to find the baby Jesus, etc..., but I LOVE the idea of making his manger with your gifts of serving others. That is so awesome!

    I shared your wonderful idea on my blog and pointed readers here to see your pictures. :o) I would love to find a copy of that book sometime. Maybe I'll stumble across it somewhere...

  5. Ladies,
    Thanks so much, I hope it blesses your home as much as it has ours.

  6. I came across this idea and was searching the web for a sample manger which I could build. Yours is so darling and so is the baby Jesus. I wondered if you would mind asking Josiah to briefly tell me how he made it, size and materials? Do you remember where you got or how you made the baby Jesus for it?


  7. You can find the book again--possibly different pictures than before, it looks like a different publisher. I found it on Paula Palangi is now Paula McDonald. If you have a pattern for your manger that you wouldn't mind sharing, that would be wonderful!

  8. Hi Paula,
    We don't have any plans, however, if you think it would help I would be glad to post some up-close pictures...

  9. Thank you for your post. I had heard of this a long time ago before I had kids. This year I really wanted to start it with my kids, they have been fighting sooo much lately. So I was glad to hear your wonderful explanation of it. I couldn't remember haw it went or if there was a story that went with it. You answered all my questions, Thank you again!!

  10. How precious. I think we may do this next year. So simple and centered on Christ.
    by the way, I love the raised beds in your header... are those yours?


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