Move in reverse 5 - 10 years, and I had dreams and aspirations of being a mom and enjoying the holidays with my kids and my husband some day. In that dream was this shiny figure of the 'Santa Claus' I would one day get to be for my kids. I never had any second thoughts, any reservations, or believed that anyone anywhere might do anything else for the holidays. I guess it's the mindset that comes with living in a small town and having a very narrow view of what really happens in the world, and that other people might do things differently, have other traditions and other customs.
It wasn't until I really began talking to people and allowing myself to 'entertain' other ideas, that I realized that Santa Claus wasn't something done in every household. In fact, there were some families I admired who loved one another, and their kids grew up well, and they were close, who didn't do the Santa Claus thing.
I won't lie. At first I was appalled, "I know you love Jesus, but seriously, that's pushing it a little too far. What is Santa going to hurt and what does he have to do with your faith?" I'll admit, I thought this for a long time. Then, I met yet another family in our little small town that didn't do Santa, and I began to wonder why. What was their reason? So I asked.
Family 1 decided early on that it would be impossible to do Santa Claus / Easter Bunny / Tooth Fairy without consistently lying to their kids for years upon years. They also knew that eventually there would be a time that they'd have to 'come clean'. Trying to raise children of integrity and trust, they didn't know how to balance the years upon years of teaching their kids to be truthful and honest, and then spring on them one day that they'd been lying to them for possibly the past decade of their lives.
Hmmm... I never thought of that.
Family 2 just decided that if Christmas was, indeed, about Jesus (and, it is, indeed about Jesus, solely, completely, whole-heartedly, Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ) then why would or should another 'man' share in the glory that is rightfully God's? Hmmmm, another true statement.
And I'll admit again. I was not convinced at this point, but I did now have some legitimate information in my head to allow myself, if I so chose, to step out of the traditional 'box' and change things if I wanted to.
Then Aaron and I got married and believe it or not, long before Bryton was on the scene we had 'the talk'. In his single life, as well, he had experienced the same battle, the same thoughts, the same debate. So we decided we would both continue to pray about it, think on it, and when the time came, we'd make a decision.
And the time came... kind of. Bryton was born in November and Christmas was right around the corner. We talked about what we'd do about 'Santa', but decided he wasn't going to remember that Christmas anyway, and though we didn't buy any 'from Santa' gifts for him, we didn't make a decision not to at that point, either.
The next year was relatively the same, still too young to have any memory of Santa, or to have any memory of what he really 'got' for Christmas even, so again, we moved the decision a little further down the road.
And that brings us to today. It's doubtful that Bryton will remember much about Christmas this year, either, but he is definitely alert enough and understands enough to know who presents come from, etc. That meant it was time for us to make a decision. And this decision was hard. Here's what we were dealing with:
Pros (of not doing Santa) -
- We never have to feel as if we've 'lied' to our kids about a fictional character being real.
- We can concentrate completely on Jesus as the number 1 and only reason that we celebrate Christmas.
- Our kids eventually learn the sacrifice and effort put out by their parents and relatives to provide for them gifts that they not only want, but reflects our care and interest in them. Those gifts won't be coming from a man they've never met before. And frankly, I'll be honest, I think it'd peeve me off a little bit for some fictional guy to get all of the credit for the hard work put into the Christmas gifts Aaron and I get for them! (P.S. - I hope this is clear, our kids will still get gifts for Christmas.)
- The 'sneakiness' is a whole lot easier when you are just trying to hide gifts from yourself, and not get Santa gifts wrapped, hidden, and not under the tree until Christmas eve after kids go to bed.
- The grandparents love it. My mother in law has experienced Santa with an older grandson, and I'm not going to lie, being around for part of it, it was fun watching his eyes light up when he thought Santa was flying over head.
- (And probably the biggest) I don't want my kids to ruin it for other kids. This was obviously a difficult decision for us to come to as a family, so we cast zero judgment on any family that would decide to do Santa. In our opinion, this really has a lot to do with preference, and our kids should not ruin the preference that another family has about whether to do Santa. I assure you now, if my child is in your child's class in school, I will do my very best to make sure your child doesn't come home and say 'Bryton told me there's no Santa Claus'. We figure we have some time to work those kinks out.
- And how's this for a random one. I cannot wait to pack our kids up someday when they are old enough and take them to Disney World. It's such a magical place for everyone, but especially to kids! So... how do we address the characters there? Technically they are just that, characters... people in costumes. So how to deal with this: well, I don't think we'll hype up the characters a whole lot. I don't ever remember a time in my mind when my mom had to tell me that Mickey Mouse didn't really exist. I mean, seriously, I'm pretty sure I figured that one out on my own. If they get to Disney and run into Mickey and it excites them, we'll go along with the excitement, take a picture and move along... no words from mom or dad about it. If I was going to oust all characters we'd never watch tv or go to a movie either. More about this in relation to Santa in a minute.
- Santa is not prohibited. No. Santa will be taught about (St. Nick) and our kids will know who he was historically. There's a lot to be learned from the story of St. Nick about our caring about others (as Jesus would), and the Christian characteristics he displayed. So our kids will recognize a picture of Santa, or Santa Claus hats, or will be able to talk about him like they know something about him. We won't take our kids out of school for 'Holiday parties' (though I may be tempted to send my kid in with a shirt on that says "Christmas is about Jesus" :) And I won't get angry or upset, or even flinch if my kid colors or makes something Santa related in school. This will not bother me at all. Frankly, Santa just won't bring gifts to our house on Christmas eve, and he won't be talked about as if he's a real person that still exists. Jesus is a real person that still exists, so we'll talk about Him conquering death, not Santa Claus.
- Instead of gifts from Santa our kids will receive gifts from us. Amongst those gifts we'll include a 'gold gift', a 'frankincense gift', and a 'myrrh gift'. (Thanks Files for this idea!) Their gold gift will be something they really really want. The frankincense gift will be something for them spiritually (Bryton's getting a toddler Bible this year). The myrrh gift is something for their body (clothing or cologne / perfume, etc.) They'll get other gifts besides these, but these will be their special gifts. (Also a side note: our kids will still receive Easter baskets... from us... and we'll do fun things in place of the tooth fairy - how about an DQ ice cream cone each time a tooth falls out ;)
- Each child will get a stocking each year. The goal with the stockings is to do a secret delivery (like a Secret Santa), where we all choose names between the four of us and that person fills the stocking for the person they choose. I think this could be a fun thing to do, and a way that we could include grandparents in on the 'Santa-like' fun. So Aaron and I don't know each year who all has whom, we can equip each set of grandparents with the stocking 'budget' and a kid, who can relay to them who their 'person' is. I hope this is something our kids get excited about someday. I really want them to appreciate the joy of giving. They may even be required to 'earn' their stocking money... though it won't require much ;)
- Lastly - I'm excited to have family traditions that allow us to think of others more than ourselves in the holiday season. More to come on this later!