I know it is still a bit early but December is next month (and next week) which means Christmas will be here before we all know it. And no, I am not trying to rush past Thanksgiving – I would never dismiss a holiday where it is permissible (and even encouraged) to break out my maternity jeans one more time and wear them for a day so that I can ride the gravy train all the way to turkey town. But Christmas has always been my favorite. My absolute favorite. Everything about it – the lights, the decorations, the music, the shopping, the giving, the family time, the story. The Christmas story – the one written in the Bible. Not any of the ones about a frosty snowman or a red nosed reindeer or a plump man in a red suit.
It is going to be my daughter’s second Christmas. The first one was great – special in the fact that it was her first. But I am much more excited about this year, with her being older and being able to know more of what is going on. She will be able to truly express how she feels and thinks about Christmas morning and all the new gifts she will open. She will have full motor control and be able to rip the paper off within seconds – instead of one tiny strip every 5 minutes and then inserting them straight into her mouth. She will be able to say “Woahhhhhh!” and “Oh my goodness!” and “Thank you!” to everyone who spoils her. But one thing she will not be able to articulate is an answer to the question “What did Santa bring you this year?”.
You see, we don’t do Santa in our house. Okay, I’ll pause for your gasping to be over.
We don’t do Santa. It is something my husband and I talked about long before kids and we always agreed it wouldn’t be something we would incorporate in our home. Not because we hate Christmas – but because of how much we love it. For what it truly means. I am not bashing Santa, nor am I bashing any family that celebrates and encourages him in their home. It is simply a choice every family makes for themselves. And this is how/why we’ve made ours.
Santa promotes the idea that you’re only rewarded/loved if you are good.
If there is one thing I want to teach my kids about God – it’s about his love. An unending, unconditional, unrelenting love. A love that will never leave you or forsake you. A love that is independent from all your thoughts and actions. I want them to understand (at some point) that God’s love is because of Christ’s good works – not because of theirs. I never want the thought on their mind to be “Have I been good enough to get that toy I want this year?” – “Aw man, I really messed up this time and all while one of Santa’s elves were watching”. I want my daughter to know that on her worst days, I love her no matter what – and most importantly there is nothing she will ever do that will make God add her to a “naughty list” or make him love her any less.
The line between fantasy and fact becomes really blurry.
I love reading the Bible to my daughter. She has a very abbreviated version of the Bible with some of my favorite stories summarized down to her short attention span. I can’t wait for the day where her face lights up with as much awe and wonder as mine did as a child when she hears about Noah’s ark and how God fed 5,000 people with a few fish and loaves of bread. My heart simply cannot bear the thought of throwing Santa into that mix. The mix of things that seem way too amazing to be true. The things that seem miraculous. And one day, when she would happen to find out that everything Santa was a total fraud – what would she think of God when he shut the lion’s mouths to spare Daniel. Or when he parted the red sea and saved his chosen people? “Is Jesus just some religious wizard??”. “Were all those stories fake too?”. I want the categories of truth and fantasy to be clearly divided. I don’t want her to think that characters get to jump back and forth from one category to another.
I don’t want to spend a single second trying to cultivate a belief that some big chubby man in a red suit visits our house (and every other single household in the entire world) every year on Christmas Eve. And then try to tell her that she can trust me wholeheartedly when I tell her miraculous truths about Jesus.
Santa feels like a distraction.
Think about when Christmas rolls around – how many kids fantasize about Santa. They spend so much time looking for signs of him. Writing letters to him. Going to visit him so they can sit on his lap and tell them their ultimate wish list. Baking cookies for him so he can fuel his belly for his long trip around the world in one night. Tracking his trip around the world before bedtime on Christmas Eve. It’s also a lot of work for parents. They have to keep up with this “lie”. They have to hide the elf the night before. They have to write letters back from Santa. They have to cover up and hide Christmas presents so as not to spoil the idea. They have to field question after question – as the lie grows and grows. All of this is time that my family and I would much rather be spending concentrating on the TRUE meaning of Christmas. Reading the Christmas story. Learning about baby Jesus. Teaching them ideas about kindness, and selflessness – that it is better to give than to receive. I want them to know how truly blessed they are – and that there are too many little boys and girls out there that won’t get presents under a tree. Not because they were bad during the year – but because their parents had to choose groceries or new toys that month. I want them to be inspired by God’s love and the miracle of Jesus’s birth. I want them to participate in helping to pick out toys in the store for the less fortunate kids that mommy and daddy buy presents for every year.
So for those that are just shaking their heads in complete disagreement right now; thinking things like….
“But you’re stealing the magic of Christmas from them”
The magic – the true magic – happened thousands of years ago in a manger. The magic carries forward to every single day the rest of the year.
“Your child will ruin it for everyone else”
The entire belief of Santa is like a house of cards. Built so fragile that one card, one family, out of place – will crumble the entire belief system. Do you know anything about kids? Have you ever tried to tell a 4-year-old that there is most certainly not a monster under their bed? Were they instantly convinced and immediately no longer scared?? I’m betting not. At some point, every kid finds out that Santa isn’t real. Usually from another child who just came to discover the myth – not necessary from someone who never believed in the first place. If you are so nervous about your child finding out about Santa, you should probably just lock them up and make sure they don’t see or speak to anyone else around Christmas. The world is full of people with different beliefs and opinions – that is what makes it so great. And it is our responsibility as parents to explain that to our children – and to teach them the difference between belief and fact.
“My kids believed in Santa, and they turned out fine”
Congrats. That’s great. You made the best choice for your family and children. And I am making the best one for mine. And guess what? My family was raised to never believe in Santa – and we turned out just fine too. My choice to not push Santa in our home doesn’t make your choice to believe in him wrong. It just makes it different.
“So are you never going to mention him then? What are you going to do when your child sees Santa at the mall? “
Of course we are going to mention him – he is everywhere at Christmas time. I can’t even drink a can of coke without holding on to Santa’s face as I am taking a sip. We aren’t going to “hide” the idea of Santa from our kids. Nor are we going to tell them they cannot partake in any Santa related thing. Our kids will most certainly know who he is – a character of Christmas. Just like the Easter bunny, and Snow White, and the three bears. All characters in a story. So when we see him in the mall, I am sure we will all smile and wave – “Hi, Santa” – just like we all do to Mickey and Minnie Mouse at Disney World.
My wish and my prayer for you this Christmas season is to enjoy it. Whatever your tradition or beliefs may be – be present; soak it all in. May you not get so caught up in the rat race of shopping and searching for sold out toys and lines and stress and traveling and traffic. May you spread kindness and cheer. May you feel the love and magic that make this holiday so very special.