|Our homemade stockings. Sandra's and both Bill's made by Gammie. Nate's made by Sandra to match.|
Major spoiler alert. Children, look away.
"We don't do Santa." Four simple words. The power they hold is astounding. To utter them aloud is to roll the dice, never really knowing what will come. (To type them in a blog...very similar.) Usually, the payout is a very uncomfortable conversation.
We aren't grinches. We don't say it with our noses in the air. We don't scream it like a battle-cry. We certainly don't throw it in people's faces on a whim. The only time it comes up, really, is when people ask the kids what they asked Santa for. We respond with those four words, usually quite sheepishly, because we just don't know how they will react. They may want to talk more about it, as though we are merely mistaken, and just need a good talk to be convinced. They might shift uncomfortably, as our checkout-line-neighbor conversation vanishes into thin air. It's just plain awkward.
Likely, people assume we have some sad Santa-shaped scar in our childhood that we are trying to hide from. We don't. We both grew up with the Santa traditions on Christmas, and both of us absolutely loved it. In fact, if you had told me, five years ago, that we wouldn't be including Santa in our Christmas celebration with our kids, I never would have believed you.
My wife and I discussed it for a while. A few years back, she told me she wasn't sure she wanted to do Santa when we had kids. I thought she'd lost her mind. How could we not do Santa? It's what parents do. It's a vital, meaningful tradition filled with joy and wonder! Not only that, it was something I had always looked forward to doing with our kids! She was more worried that our kids would be completely crushed by the truth...like I was (I had to spend quite a while curled up in Mom's lap, having a good cry.), and wanted to make sure we kept Christ as the central reason and teaching for Christmas. I told her that was just me, at the time: rather a crybaby. I had no reservations about letting our kids believe in Santa, and I maintained that both Christ and Santa could coexist on Christmas morning. Christ is the reason for celebration, Santa would just help us celebrate. Done.
One day, a couple of years later, it came up again. The thought had resurfaced, unprovoked, several times over those years, but I quickly brushed it aside, telling the issue "Look, it's all good, we've already talked about this." I was thinking about all the things I would miss out on if we didn't do it with the kids: the leaving out cookies (and a carrot for Rudolph, of course), the writing letters, the eating cookies and leaving a trail of crumbs behind as evidence, the wonderful stories I used to receive from my Uncle about the elves who were keeping an eye on us (he knew them personally), and so many other fun things. I love Christmas, and I wanted it to be as special for our kids as it is for me, and these things made it more special. Wait...more special? Then, a quiet voice inside that I've gotten a little better at listening to said "So, you're almost thirty, and not having all these traditions is going to ruin your celebration of the birth of Christ?" I realized that I was a grown man, convinced that if my children didn't believe in this fantasy, it would ruin my celebration. The celebration of my Lord's birth. A Lord who came to this world for the express purpose of giving up his life for mine, so that I could be with Him. Could anything in this world truly make that more special?
Then, I realized just what Santa was: an appetizer; an opening act. The problem is, he's the appetizer we gorged ourselves on until we spoiled our dinner. He's the opening act who got everyone to dance so hard that they couldn't enjoy the headliner. Sure, you can say it's all in how you present it, but let's be realistic. Does a child have more interest in celebrating a Savior who came to this world and died for their eternal soul, or someone who magically flies around the world and brings them lots of toys? Please, they're kids. Santa's going to steal the show.
Does our 3-year old recognize Santa? How could he not? He's everywhere. How do we handle it? The same way we would handle any other fictional character. He's there. He's got a name. He's not real.
Things just don't seem as harmless today as they did when we were kids. We caught the movie Santa Buddies a few years back while we were hanging with some younger cousins. The Buddies movies were huge back then, and beloved by kids everywhere. What could be cuter than finding a way to combine talking puppies and Christmas, right? There is a scene toward the end where it shows various children around the world praying to Santa for him to come. I kid you not. Kneeling at their bedsides, eyes closed and everything. They managed to turn Santa from a myth into a deity. That's a perfect example of the kind of confusion that is being created in some kids today.
Sure, we do a tree with tons of other decorations, presents in the wee hours (which will only get wee-er as the kids get a little older), stockings (as awesomely displayed above), trips with family and friends to look at lights, etc. But, through all of the holiday traditions that we hold dear, we keep our focus on the Savior who voluntarily became the greatest gift we could have ever received, and can't be taken away.
I promise, we are going to do everything we can to make sure our kids don't stop you from celebrating Christmas in whatever way you have chosen. They'll be instructed on how to go along with things without destroying the holidays of children everywhere. For our little family, this is how it's going to be done. As for you and yours, that's totally up to you.
Thanks for reading.
With love, joy, and peace to all,