Canfield Christian Church will counter the overexposure of Santa Claus with an alternative activity focusing on the Christmas story of the birth of Jesus.

Brenda Hernan and Jan Pumphrey, committee members, both said there’s plenty of the secular side of Christmas in children’s lives. And though it’s part of the season, it’s not the reason.

“We want children to have the opportunity to hear the true story of Christmas,” Hernan said.

“We’re hoping to make a difference,” Pumphrey said. She noted many children aren’t familiar with well-known Bible stories.

“If we start young, the stories can help them understand love, caring and kindness.”

The interactive Christmas program will be offered Dec. 8 and 15 at the church. It’s limited to 20 participants at each session.

Pumphrey admitted the church borrowed the idea from a theater group’s similar activity.

“We’re putting the religious side to it,” she said.

Adult church members will be garbed as an angel, shepherd, Mary and a king (wise man). Each will be at a table and children will rotate among the stations. At each, they can make a related craft.

“They’ll have something to take home ... like an angel they made,” Pumphrey said.

The characters also will talk to children about their roles in the Christmas story. The crafts will help children remember parts of the story, Pumphrey said.

“We hope they take away some part of the message.”

Hernan said Santa, mass marketing, shopping and toy advertisements capture children’s attention.

“They need to know there’s more to Christmas than the secular version,” she said.

“We want to make sure children are engaged,” she said, adding that why the committee decided on the interactive approach.

“We didn’t want them to just sit and watch; we wanted them to participate.”

Hernan said the committee hoped that the message from the characters, supplemented by the crafts, would help children “retain what they hear.”

The program is geared to 3- to 7-year-olds. “We know they can sit only so long,” Hernan said.

But it’s also for parents, who also can get caught up in searching for “the toy” of the season and overlook chances to talk to children about the meaning of Christmas.

The program also will include a kids-oriented lunch including cupcakes to underscore that Christmas is Jesus’ birthday.

The program will address gift giving, Hernan said, focusing on God’s great gift to humanity — His son.

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