Last year, on my old blog, I wrote a post talking about some of our holiday traditions and the way that we blend our faith with some of the other “secular” activities that surround Christmas today… The post got a lot of feedback, so I thought I’d share it again here today with some updates for this year…
At our house, we do both.
Jeff and I both grew up with Santa being a big part of our Christmas traditions. I have SO many great memories of mailing letters to the North Pole, sitting on Santa’s lap at the mall, leaving cookies (and reindeer food) out on Christmas Eve, and – of course – waking up to doll houses, bicycles, and new clothes on Christmas morning.
We did all those things and – you know what? – I still absolutely knew the TRUE meaning of Christmas. I don’t remember exactly when I figured out that Santa wasn’t ‘real,’ but my parents’ went on pretending well beyond the age that it was socially acceptable, and my sister and I happily obliged. I don’t have any harsh feelings about being “deceived” or anything like that. Our holidays were amazing and magical and SO MUCH FUN.
I want all of that for Sam and, so far, I have absolutely LOVED seeing him experience it all with so much wonder and be SO excited about lights and snowmen and reindeer and Santa. There is really nothing like Christmas with a child.
BUT, here’s the thing…
The Santa books and pajamas and decorations? Those things come out for about five weeks in the winter ONLY. Jesus is a staple in our home all year long.
When I remember that, striking a balance isn’t all that hard… All the fun and excitement that comes with Santa (and his sleigh full of toys) in December, is just the tiniest symbol of the real gift of Jesus.
Because God sent Jesus to be born a baby and live (and die) with us, we ALL have the gift of eternal life and freedom from our sins. (Now, admittedly that’s a little deep for a three year old – we are really just focused on Jesus being born at Christmas right now – but you get my gist.)
Our Christmas includes Santa, but it is about Jesus.
So… What does that look like tangibly?
– We have a nativity set for Sam and The Elf on the Shelf.
– We read Twas the Night Before Christmas and the story of Jesus’s birth.
– We sing “Oh Holy Night” and “Jingle Bells.”
– We get gifts and we give gifts.
– We sit on Santa’s lap and we visit a live nativity.
Do I think it should be a perfect balance of 50/50 between the two? No. Do we always succeed at making it MORE about Jesus? No. But, right now, if you ask Sam who we celebrate at Christmas, he will say “Baby Jesus.” If you ask him about Santa, he will say “Ho Ho Ho.” I feel good about that.
***Updated for 2014***
This year, we have incorporated the Mom Diggity Advent Activity Pack into our holiday traditions, and it has been SO great. The focus of the activities are on family time, Christmas fun, serving, and creating. In addition, it came with a simple reading guide that takes us all the way through Genesis up to Jesus’s birth in the Jesus Storybook Bible over the 25 days leading up to Christmas morning. We are ten days in now, and it has, honestly, been perfect… I was worried about it stressing me out trying to keep up with something else “to do” every day; but, most of the activities are very simple (last night was “let it snow” and we had a pretend snowball fight in the house, Monday was “have a mug of hot chocolate,” you get the gist…), and I organized all the cards ahead of time in an order that worked well for our family (saving some of the “bigger” things like “serve your community” or “make Christmas ornaments” for the weekends/days when I am off of school). Sam loves opening a card each day to see what we will be doing, and I love that it has helped me stay focused on what’s important this time of year. (See this post for more on that.)
So, what about you? What does the balance of Jesus and Santa look like in your family? What traditions help keep both spirits alive?
– Our nativity is the Fisher Price version that I ordered on Amazon last year, and we LOVE it.
– We own the Elf on the Shelf, but we don’t really “do” anything with him. He’s more a part of our decorations/ a toy for Sam right now. I have nothing against the concept, it just – honestly – feels like a lot of work and I’m not crazy about the whole “he is watching you” idea. Maybe one day we will get into it, but not now.
– In general, we use the three gifts (+ a stocking) rule with Sam for now. We keep it simple and don’t have any set formula to it, but if three gifts were good enough for Jesus, that’s more than enough for Sam. 🙂 (Also, and I credit this mostly to not having cable/no commercials and the fact that Sam goes to a church preschool where they really don’t emphasize Santa much, NOT anything that I have done – but Sam totally hasn’t gotten into the “spirit” of making a list and asking for tons of things at Christmas yet. I’m sure that day will come; but, when we went to see Santa last weekend I asked him what he wanted and he couldn’t think of anything so I suggested “a new game” and that seems to be good enough in his book.
– This year, we participated in Operation Christmas Child for the first time, and Sam really enjoyed picking out items and putting together a shoebox for “his friend in another country.” We also will shop for an Angel off the angel tree and (per the recommendation of our Advent activities) choose some old toys to get rid of/ donate as well. In addition, I hope to take a gift basket to our local fire department (since they have been so good to us this year) and deliver canned food to a food bank with Sam’s help. #fatchanceIgetallthatdonebeforechristmas #couldanyonereadthathashtag?
– Kendra wrote an excellent post (of course) on Santa on her blog this week with a little more “theology” and meat to it. You should read it.