How on earth do we make it work?Well, it's not easy, I can tell you that. Especially when we are battling well meaning teachers and child care workers who love to insist to our kids that Santa is real. And it's not just at school or daycare, I am somewhat surprised at the "Santa education" that goes on in church. Everything from coloring pages to Santa appearances at parties and asking the children what was on their Christmas list. In the grand scheme of things, those few activities may seem completely innocent, but when you are trying to lay a groundwork of faith and trust in a child, there is little room for out right lies just to encourage a little imagination.
And what about imagination?
The biggest concern that is expressed to me regarding our choice to skip Santa is that my children will not be able to develop a healthy imagination. Let me assure you, they are not hindered in that at all. My children love to play dress up and pretend with their toys, and we've even had visits from two imaginary friends when my daughter was two (a rabbit and a baby grob (frog) haha) While we're talking about Santa, I may as well let you know that we skip the Easter Bunny too for the same reasons. We do however play around with the idea of the tooth fairy and have some fun with her, and I have been reading up on Mini Mocha's idea of a Christmas Mouse to spice up our Christmas tradition. I love having fun with my kids, but I really think that allowing them to play with a story I have just read (extend it, act it out, etc) is a better way to cultivate their imagination.
Well how do you avoid Santa?
Now this is a tough one. The most obvious way we avoid Santa is by not allowing our children to sit on his lap in the mall or at Christmas parties. I'm not completely blind. I've seen the way our kids look when they wish they could go sit on his lap, and it breaks my heart. But I also know that it has a lot to do with wanting to be like everyone else. Here's the thing though, we've got to be careful how much we encourage fitting in, and how much we encourage standing out. I don't want to be a contradiction; one day my kids will notice. Like most families, we display a nativity scene in our home, but I go one step further and do not put out traditional images of Santa. My one Santa indulgence is on mine and my husband's stockings. His is a Woodland Santa, like this, and mine is a White Christmas stocking like this. I feel like these two images give us a chance to tell our children about who Santa, the man, really was.
But Saint Nicholas WAS real!
A wonderful part of our family tradition is discussing who Saint Nicholas actually was. I like to refer to the Saint Nicholas Center and other resources for the real story on this treasured part of human history. I choose a few age appropriate facts and tell my kids that he lived at one time and did many good things for adults and children. Some of that involved giving gifts. But the fact is, just like any other human, he lived and he died. Now to keep his memory alive, parents tell stories to their children about him and people like to pretend that he is real. Then I ask them why we celebrate Christmas and go into the story of Jesus' birth. I feel it is my responsibility to be careful not to attribute eternal life to any man other than Jesus. Teaching my children to believe in magic as anything other than an optical illusion or interesting diversion is a slippery slope as well. Here is a list of children's books that talk about who Santa actually was. I have not reviewed them all, so it would be wise for you to do so before you read one of them to your children.
Your kids are missing out on childhood memories!
Maybe one or two, but that really depends on what age they are when they discover that Santa is not real. Frankly, my only memories of Santa are making a couple of lists, opening a few presents, and finally when I found out the truth. He wasn't a BIG part of my childhood as I recall, and if he was, it happened before the youngest age I can remember. So I don't really see this as being a problem for my kids. Besides, we create many other lasting memories for our kids that are just as sweet. One more thing about this particular protest; would someone ask the same thing of a Jewish family or one who celebrates Kwanza instead? Few seem to be worried about them missing out on Santa... or Jesus for that matter.
But finding out the truth is a Rite of Passage!
Seriously? Now that's just cruel. I don't have much to say about this one because I am not terribly interested in watching my kids' childhood beliefs get crushed by some older kid or crazy uncle for sport.
What if your grandkids are taught to believe in him?
First off, that is far too many years away to be worried about it now. Secondly, my grand kids will not be my kids. I will share responsibility for their spiritual up bringing with my children, but in the end, their parents are the ones who get to make this decision the same way my parents have graciously allowed me to make this decision now. Finally, no, I will not be a grinch and dash their hopes and dreams about Santa. Instead, the focus when they come to my house will be right on Christ where it belongs. I promise you, I am not trying to single handedly kill Santa. I couldn't do it even if I wanted to. However, it's important to note that folks got on just fine celebrating Jesus' birth before Saint Nicholas came along.
In the end, the reality is we spend way too much time criticizing people for their choice in Christmas traditions. We are called to be fishers of men, not Santa's helpers. There are so many people who need God's comfort and we should be focusing on reaching them with love and compassion all year, not just at Christmas.
So there's my two cents, and for what it's worth, I hope it maybe got you to thinking about ways that you can shift the focus of Christmas away from Santa and presents and back onto Jesus who really is the reason for the season.
-AdrienneHere's what you missed!