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Christmas crackers

To look at the story and true meaning of Christmas.

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)

Aims

To look at the story and true meaning of Christmas.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need a box of cheap crackers. Take out the toy, hat and joke and replace them with items linked to the Christmas story, as in the list below. Leave in the bang apart from 9.

  • Number the crackers clearly so you can easily find them in the box. Label the box: SPECIAL CHRISTMAS CRACKERS
  • Contents for crackers:
    1.  Plain cardboard undecorated Christmas bauble
    2.  Feather (angel’s visit to Mary/Joseph)
    3.  Coin – foreign or chocolate (taxes to Caesar – need travel the Bethlehem)
    4.  Straw (only the stable left)
    5.  Strip of cloth (baby was born and wrapped in swaddling bands)
    6.  Sheep’s wool – or cotton wool (shepherds)
    7.  Small pot of ointment or Germolene (Magi)
    8.  Normal Christmas cracker, all intact
    9.  Empty cracker
  • You might like to get volunteers up to pull the crackers.
  • The full version (see below) was prepared as a Christmas service in church and each ‘cracker pulling’ was interspersed with readings, poems and hymns. Read through the service carefully and choose suitable readings, and readers. There could be Christmas poems as well as readings from the Bible.

Assembly

  1. Welcome the children and introduce the theme of crackers. Talk about the anticipation, excitement, disappointment, pleasure, bad jokes, laughter and the fact that most times, straight after the meal all the cracker ends up in the bin.
  2. Talk about your SPECIAL Christmas crackers. Pull the first cracker – a plain bauble. Disappointment – expected something shiny and glitzy?
  3. Continue to pull the crackers and talk to the children about what is inside and how it links with the Christmas story. Intersperse the cracker pulling with readings, hymns and poems as appropriate to the time available.
  4. When you get to the last two, pull the eighth cracker and explain how the ‘normal cracker’ is important as it is part of the fun and excitement of Christmas.

Time for reflection

Christmas crackers, Santa, sweets, parties, stockings, the tree, the dinner and all the things make Christmas exciting, fun and something to look forward to all year. But without the true meaning of Christmas they are rather like this last cracker.

Pull the final cracker – no bang, no hat, no toy, no joke. It looks pretty on the outside but there is no bang, no surprise and it’s quickly forgotten.

But with the true meaning of Jesus’ birthday at the centre of Christmas it truly is a very special time.

We finish with this prayer to help us seek the true meaning of Christmas throughout the year and our lives.

Prayer

If you seek a special gift
The greatest gift of all
Don’t look beneath your tree
It was never there at all
The greatest Christmas gift
Was given to us all
The Christ child in a manger
In a lowly cattle stall.

Amen.

Song/music

Sing some of the carols your school has been practising.

FULL VERSION

Christmas Service

Welcome and prayer to start the assembly/service. Introduce the theme of crackers: anticipation, excitement, disappointment, pleasure, bad jokes and laughter.

Song ‘Silent night’ (Hymns Old and New, 580)

Cracker 1

Child pulls the first cracker and finds an uncoloured decoration; perhaps they show disappointment. Ask them to decorate the bauble – perhaps some children can go to the back to decorate plain baubles and bring them back at the end of the service.

Reading

Song
‘Go, tell it on the mountain’ (Come and Praise, 24)

Cracker 2

The feather reminds us of the angel that came to tell Mary that she was going to have a baby.

The angel Gabriel visited Mary and told her that she was to have a very special baby and his name would be Jesus and he would be the Saviour of the World.

Reading

Song ‘From the darkness came light’ (Come and Praise, 29)

 

Cracker 3

The coin reminds us that Caesar Augustus had the plan to make sure that everyone paid their taxes in full and Mary and Joseph had to travel to Bethlehem to register in a census. It was a long and tiring journey especially as Mary was due to have her baby. They travelled on a donkey

Reading

Song ‘Little donkey’ (Hymns Old and New, 397)

Cracker 4

Find the straw and discuss with the children what it could remind them of, eventually getting to the stable with the animals.

Reading

At last Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem. It was crowded with other people who needed to pay their taxes. Mary was very tired and needed a place to stay. At each inn, the story was the same. There was no room for them. Eventually, one kind innkeeper said he had a stable where he kept his animals. They were welcome to stay there.

Poem

Song ‘Unto us a boy is born’ (Hymns Old and New, 687)

Cracker 5

The piece of cloth: again use discussion to discover what it could be – baby in the manger wrapped in swaddling bands.

And so it was that a few hours later, Mary gave birth to her son in that stable. She wrapped Jesus in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger full of hay.

Poem

Song ‘Away in a manger’ (Hymns Old and New, 53)

Cracker 6

Find the piece of wool and talk about the shepherds.

Reading

At the same time, on a hillside overlooking Bethlehem, some shepherds were watching over their sheep. A bright light appeared in the sky. They were very afraid. It was an angel sent by God. The angel told them not to be afraid, because he had some good news. He said that the Son of God had been born and they would find him in Bethlehem.

The shepherds wanted to go and see the baby. When they arrived at the stable, they were filled with joy at seeing Jesus lying in the manger. They knelt down and worshipped him. They told Mary and Joseph how the angel had appeared in the sky and told them that Jesus was to be the Saviour of the world.

Poem

Song ‘It was on a starry night’ (http://www.joystrings.co.uk/Singles/Onastarrynight.html)

Cracker 7

Pot of ointment/Germolene. 

Reading

Far away in the East, wise men saw a new star shining high in the sky. These men studied the stars and they knew that this was a very special star. They studied their scrolls where it said that whenever a bright new star appeared it meant that a great ruler had been born.

The wise men decided to find this new ruler. They went to Jerusalem to see King Herod, as they thought the baby would be in the palace. They asked to see the child that would be King of the Jews. The king was troubled. He thought that this new king might take away his throne. He told them to return when they had found the baby so that he could worship the child himself.

The wise men set off to find the baby. They were guided by the star to the stable in Bethlehem. Here they knelt down and worshipped Jesus. They gave him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. That night, the men all had the same dream where an angel warned them that King Herod wanted to kill Jesus and told them not to go back to his palace.

The wise men went back to their own country without calling to see Herod. Mary thought about all the things the wise men, angels and shepherds had said about her baby son and treasured all these thoughts.

Song ‘We three kings of orient are’ (http://www.carols.org.uk/we_three_kings_of_orient_are.htm)

 

Cracker 8

A normal Christmas cracker. Everything to do with Christmas reminds us that the celebrations – the Christmas cracker, Santa, sweets, parties, stockings, the tree, the dinner and all the things that make Christmas exciting and fun – are something to look forward to all year. But, without the true meaning of Christmas they are rather like this cracker –

Cracker 9

Pull the ‘no bang’ cracker. No hat, no toy, no joke, looks pretty on the outside, but no bang, no surprise and quickly forgotten.

With the true meaning of Jesus’ birthday at the centre of Christmas it truly is a very special time. 

Song ‘Come and join the celebrations’ http://www.songquery.com/html/song/c/come_and_join_the_celebration.html

During the song, children return with their decorations and put them on the tree.

We finish with this prayer to help us seek the true meaning of Christmas throughout the year and our lives:

If you seek a special gift
The greatest gift of all
Don’t look beneath your tree
It was never there at all
The greatest Christmas gift
Was given to us all
The Christ child in a manger
In a lowly cattle stall.      

Amen.

Song ‘Love shone down’ (www.youtube.com/watch?v=83tRxjPj5bo)

Publication date: December 2009   (Vol.11 No.12)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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