21: Santa Misgivings

Question: We were wondering about whether it was possible / feasible /necessary to separate the secular parts of Christmas (Santa) from the true meaning of Christmas. We have a 15 month old and neither my husband nor I think highly of Santa. We are not doing Santa this year which has been hard for both of our extended families. (They think we are weird.) We have luckily made this decision before she has gotten any older. We are substituting the tradition of Santa with many other traditions to really keep the true magic of Christmas in our family.

Our question is:
how do you handle this part of Christmas and if there is a way to keep kids from obsessing over the commercialism that comes with Santa?

Response: You know, Santa “knows if you’ve been naughty,” and if he catches wind of this e-mail I wouldn’t expect a very pleasant visit from him this year. :-)

There do tend to be a lot of blurred messages in our holiday traditions. Hope (9) wondered this year why it was that if Thanksgiving was supposed to be about being grateful for what we have, then why did we have to go out and get more stuff. I told her to be quiet and mind her own business…just kidding of course. Instead I told her that Thanksgiving and the day after Thanksgiving were totally different days, and that technically I was therefore justified in buying a new laptop. Kidding again. I actually said something like, “Good point honey,” and went back to setting up the new laptop. Why is it that the culmination of the day of gratitude we have the busiest shopping day of the year? We are strange people indeed!

Anyway, back to Santa…

We personally don’t make much of a deal out of Santa. We tell the kids that he’s not real, but it can be fun to pretend that he is, but then we don’t do much in terms of having him visit, or leaving out cookies for him or anything. I guess what bothers me the most about the Santa thing is the deception of telling kids that he’s real and then the chance that you could lose some of their trust when they find out he is not.

(I do pretend that the tooth fairy is real, but we tease a lot as a family, and by the time the kids are old enough to lose teeth, they are also old enough to know (or at least suspect that) I am teasing).

You said you’ve substituted the traditions of Santa with other traditions. That sounds like a great way to refocus the holiday. You probably already have some great ideas. Here are a few ideas you may want to consider as well:

  • Volunteer at a soup kitchen, Salvation Army, Operation Christmas Child, or a similar charity.
  • Invite a friend or acquaintance over for the holidays, so that you can serve them instead of just being inward focused
  • Read the Christmas story (Luke 2:1-21) before opening presents
  • Sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus – cake, candle, and all!
  • Play a game where you and your kids try to stump each other with Christmas Bible questions.
  • Go caroling. (Not my cup of tea, but it might be yours!)
  • Take cookies to your neighbors.
  • Cut back on gifts or try to make more of the gifts meaningful and not just toys. If the kids get hundreds of dollars worth of toys each year, regardless of what other traditions you emphasize, they are probably going to focus on that as the significant part of Christmas.
  • Before opening new gifts give away some of your old toys.
  • Give to a family in need. Most churches get approached by people in need at Christmas.
  • Leave Christmas tracts at restaurants along with a generous tip.
  • Celebrate communion before opening gifts. Christmas isn’t really about gift giving as much as it is about our need for a Savior, and Christ coming to the Earth for that purpose.
  • Play Christmas music with meaningful words (vs. Grandma got Ran over by a Reindeer)
  • Have your kids put on their own Christmas play before opening presents.
  • Buy some gifts for other kids from a gift tree at the mall. You could even have your kids help pick those out, or even help pay for those.

Anyway, we don’t do all those things. Some are just ideas, and we actually do some of them. You may want to pick and choose what you think will work well with your family.

You may also want to read article #12- Halloween and the Store Clerk It deals with holiday traditions as well.

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