Why We Don’t Do Santa

I’ve been planning to write a post on why we don’t do the “Santa thing.”  I was going to explain that Drama Queen and Mr. BANG are very interested in differentiating reality from make believe.  For every book we read, every story I tell, every show we watch, they ask at least once, “Is this real?”  They also love pointing out make-believe things themselves, with the joy of being able to show that they know it isn’t real.  It would be rather odd to then convince them that this fictional gift-giving magical man (and his colorful, short, toy-making helpers) are real.

I was going to describe that we don’t ignore the Santa items all around during the Christmas season.  I have cheerfully pointed out to them the enormous inflatable Santa that we regularly drive past.  We read “Twas the Night Before Christmas” as well a few other stories involving Santa.  (Given to my kids by others, incidentally.)  When Drama Queen and I were in a mall recently, she asked “What’s that?” as we passed the “sit in Santa’s lap” area.  I said with enthusiasm, “Oh!  It’s a man in a Santa costume!  Children are taking turns sitting in his lap and talking to him.  Would you like to go sit in his lap and talk to him?”  Not surprisingly, she answered, “No.”  Sitting in the lap of a strange man who isn’t a friend of Mommy’s or Daddy’s?  Awkward.

(Can I add a little side-note here on behalf of young children?  Forcing children to sit in Santa’s lap when they don’t want to is quite selfish.  Just because a parent cherishes this annual cutesy photo, even thinking it’s funny when the child is crying in it, she demands that her young child sit in a stranger’s lap when he wants the comfort and security of Mommy.  I encourage you to please think about it from the child’s perspective.  And, yes, the child’s perspective does matter.  Even at one year old.  But I digress.)

I was going to share that, as a Christian, I really want to keep Jesus’ birth at the center of all the fun and celebration of Christmas.  We read about his birth daily and the children repeatedly act out the story with our nativity set.

    

As God generously gave by allowing His Son to leave the wonders of heaven to come down to our screwed-up world for the sake of us, I teach Mr. BANG and Drama Queen to be givers.  They’re continuing to pile up toys to give to other children.  They’ve been making Christmas cards and ornaments to take to a local retirement home on Christmas Eve day.  They’re practicing wrapping presents, and excitedly declaring who each one is for.

    

So I was going to write out full descriptions of all that.  Then articles and videos started popping up on my facebook feed.  As I read/watched them, I became increasingly challenged.  Am I really making Christ the focus of the season?  Am I teaching my children to be materialistic?  I’m still sorting through the thoughts that these articles and videos have created in my mind.  I don’t know yet how my own family’s Christmas experiences will be shaped by these people’s experiences.  I haven’t even shared the details of the articles/videos with The Brain yet.  But they’ve definitely got me thinking.  In case you’re interested in taking a fresh look at what the holiday is about and how to express that as a family, I want to also share some of them with you.

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The Rich Family in the Church

Apparently this one has been circulated quite a bit, but I had never read it before.   It’s the story of a widow and her three daughters.  In 1946, despite getting by eating only potatoes for a month and wearing cardboard in shoes to cover the holes, they were told they were poor for the first time.  They had never thought of themselves that way, and it stunned them.  It’s a powerful look at what being “rich” and being “poor” truly mean – and what importance material possessions really hold.  If you decide to read this one, also read “Update on the author’s life” in the blue box on the right.  Amazing!

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When Christmas Gets Radical:  Whose Birthday Is It Really?

(Warning:  this site has continuous music in the background.  If that drives you crazy, as it does me, be ready to push the pause button in the top middle or go ahead and mute your computer now.)

This is from the blog of Ann Voskamp, author of the much-talked-about and incredibly-loved “One Thousand Gifts.”  Which I haven’t read yet.  But I WILL!  I promise, at some point I will!  For now, though, I am absolutely loving her blog.

In this particular post, Ann receives a challenging question from her five-year-old son:  “What does Jesus get for his birthday?…Why don’t we give things up so we can give to Jesus for his birthday?”  From that Christmas on, ten years now, they have given gifts to Jesus instead of each other.  They flip through catalogs, selecting things such as milk, blankets, or mosquito nets for the needy.  “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

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The Christmas Conundrum

This blog is by another author, Jen Hatmaker.  I don’t know anything about her books, but I found her ideas to help “pull out of the system” to be very powerful.  Early in the post, she writes, “What happened to Christmas? What on earth happened to it? When did it transform from something simple and beautiful to what it is now? How insidiously did the enemy work to slowly hijack Jesus’ birth and hand it over on a silver platter to Big Marketing, tricking His own followers into financing the confiscation?”

The bulk of the post focuses in on five ideas for making the Christmas season more meaningful.  I’ll share with you the main points of those ideas, and let you read the full explanation on her page:

1)  “We’ve pulled out of the Santa charade.”

2)  “Spending.  Whatintheworld?”

3)  “Let’s MAKE DADGUM SURE the products we do buy don’t come to us courtesy of slave labor.”

4)  “On the other hand, we can do so much good with our dollar!”

5)  “Instead of just pulling old habits off the shelf and leaving a vacuum of void and guilt, let’s replace American practices with – and I mean this in the most sincerest sense – Christian practices.”

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What Mark Driscoll Teaches His Kids About Santa

This article contains historic information about Saint Nicholas and origins of the legends of Santa Claus.  This part in particular was interesting to me:

“In Germany, Martin Luther replaced him [Nicholas] with the Christ child as the object of holiday celebration, or, in German, Christkindl. Over time, the celebration of the Christ child was simply pronounced Kris Kringle and oddly became just another name for Santa Claus.”

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What about you?  What is your approach to the Christmas season?

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6 thoughts on “Why We Don’t Do Santa

  1. I turn American Christmas traditions into lessons about the meaning behind our celebration. Christmas trees = discussion of the trinity, Jesus pointing toward the Father, etc; Christmas colors = symbols of Jesus’ blood, purity and eternal life; baking = reminder that Jesus is the bread of life; gifts = an expression of love and an imitation of the Father who gave us His son.
    We do Santa, but I only participate out of submission to my husband 🙂 I could totally live without Santa. I put very little emphasis on him, don’t use him to try to make the kids behave (as if we are really going to deny our kids gifts if they are naughty!), and resent him getting any credit for the gifts I carefully picked out and my husband worked hard to buy. I’m growing increasingly uncomfortable with Santa after a few things I’ve heard this year …
    As far as materialism, a few weeks ago on FB I shared an image containing a picture of a malnourished child lying in the dirt next to a pic of a living room bursting with Christmas gifts. The image had the words “Define Necessity” and I challenged people to not just look at it and think “good point” but to do something about it, like cut their kids’ gift budget in half and use the other half to help others. I was disappointed to only get one response to that. But I was challenging myself to – would I be willing to do that? I’d like to do something along those lines, as a family, in the future …
    Anyway, there’s my two cents 🙂 BTW, am I allowed to write comments this long on someone else’s blog? 🙂

    • Yes, Pascha, write away!! 🙂
      I will encourage you that part of the reason you didn’t get many responses to your “Define Necessity” post is that lots of people have been posting it. I think I posted it myself a few months ago. I think it’s good that so many people are posting because each time we see it, it has a chance to dig a little deeper into our souls.

  2. I think I agree with you on all points. We’ve eliminated nearly all of our Santa Christmas decorations, and three different nativity sets (one which the children can play with) have filled their places. We’re really enjoying going through the Jesse Tree Journey from Ann Voskamp (www.aholyexerience.com) with Adrianna, as a way to continue reinforcing Jesus’s birth each day of Advent. Per your ideas, I think I’ll work with the kids on reenacting the nativity story with our set!

    • I’ve never done the Advent thing before, but I’ve been paying attention to friends who do it so I can be ready next year. (With Thanksgiving, Mr. BANG’s birthday, and early December being boom-boom-boom, I was not prepared to start an advent project this year, since I hadn’t planned it prior to T-giving.) I’m thinking I may do Voskamp’s advent next year.

  3. This story has been playing on our local radio this season and I’ve enjoyed being reminded of who the ‘real’ St. Nick was and how he shared love and charity with poor children. I wouldn’t mind ‘Santa’ being a role model if we could follow the real St. Nick’s example: Giving to poor children (or maybe those around us who have lost their jobs, etc) and giving anonymously when applicable. The part I dread about our cultural counterfeit of the real thing is all the chaos and stress that ensues over “gotta get this, gotta get that for so-and-so” and so many of us don’t really NEED any of it anyway. Here’s the link to the story of “The Real Magic of St. Nick”
    http://wgts.org/2011/12/01/the-real-magic-of-st-nick/

    • I saw one blog, and I wish I remembered which one, where the writer is planning to buy only what her family NEEDS for the first 11 months of 2012. Of course, she’s encouraging others to join her. I’ve been thinking through that and realizing how VERY, VERY difficult that would be for me! That would pretty much mean no restaurants. No new books. No chocolate. No vacations away from home. Probably no new clothes or shoes. I really hope to find that blog again, so I can follow it – and continue to be challenged by it – throughout the year.

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