I have so many memories of growing up and going to church on Christmas Eve and closing the service with candles and singing "Silent Night." But then that's when the baby Jesus talk stopped. We'd rush home to find that Santa had already visited our house. (Santa came early for us, thanks to my neighbors, since my Mom always worked on Christmas morning.)
But now that I'm an adult, and have an entirely different view on things (Santa is not the center of my world come December every year) I'm not sure I want to push Santa. I've always tried to figure out what words to say to explain my reasoning. Then, one of my good friends, Dez, posted her thoughts on the very subject matter, and it was almost the same thing in what Mike and I had been thinking. I'd like to share her thoughts with you:
"Now that I’m a momma, I’ve been asked by quite a few people how Christmas will be celebrated in my household. Obviously, we believe that Christmas is a holiday celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Christmas fun and traditions come in to play once you have children. Santa, Elf on the Shelf, naughty or nice lists… you know the other side of Christmas. A recent online convo between friends has helped me put words to how I’ve always dreamed Christmas in my family would be. Read on if you care… **Soap Box Warning**
The reason we celebrate Christmas is to remember the birth of Jesus, the greatest gift of all. God gave Jesus to us and, I think, that’s where Christmas gifting traditions come from. A mommy writer (link below) put it perfectly, “God gave us that gift when we didn’t deserve it. Not a signal person was ‘good’. We were all on the naughty list. He didn’t tell us there was a wonder gift coming on December 25th, but maybe we wouldn’t get it if we didn’t shape up, so we better all watch out.” God’s gift was coming despite our behavior. His gift is unconditional love.
And, as parents, don’t WE have unconditional love for our children? I rather my children know constantly (to the point of annoying them when they're teens!) that I love them no matter what and nothing they can and will do will EVER change that. I want to spread that LOVE all the time, and especially at Christmas. My children will be getting gifts because I love them, not because they’re naughty or nice.
Using Santa as “the bad guy” just doesn’t seem fair. I don’t want to preach and teach, “If you’re good, THEN you’ll get stuff.” Children- at the age of believing in Santa- are not ever bad. If they’re at the appropriate age to believe in Santa, they’re never “bad enough” to never get gifts. Let’s face it- even if your kid is the biggest trouble maker, you’re STILL going to buy him gifts. Why waste your breath for 25 days, essentially, bribing your children? “If you’re good, then…” (This same theory can apply to dessert after dinner. No dinner, no dessert. You’ll eat when you’re hungry. I’m not going to coax you… I digress.) Can you imagine the uproar if parents really stuck to the “If you’re bad, no gifts” idea? Santa would be boycotted.
When I was a kid, Santa didn’t come either. Why? Cuz being a single mother, Ma simply couldn’t afford piles of gifts to split between “from Mom” and “from Santa”. Ma worked very hard for the gifts she was able to provide for my siblings and me, so she should get the hugs, kisses and thank yous, not Santa. I do remember one year when I was in junior high where I would’ve sworn Santa was real. It was a very rough financial year in our home and there weren’t many (if any?) gifts under the tree. Christmas morning we were all just being quiet when someone knocked on the front door. By the time we could answer, whoever knocked was gone but there was a ginormous bags of gifts left on the stoop. I remember Ma crying; she didn’t even know who it was from. After we opened the wonderful blessing, Ma made sure we knew that this was an act of kindness and generosity from someone, not Santa. Someone in our community (church? School? Neighbors?) gave us these gifts and we should thank God for them, not Santa. Christ’s love shown through the gifters and He deserved the glory. To this day, we only have guesses as to who the gifts came from.
So, Santa won’t be visiting our house. There won’t be presents under the tree from Santa. Now, don’t call me Scrooge or “that crazy Christian lady.” I don’t think Santa is a bad word or a metaphor for Satan. Santa will be fun, magic and make-believe, no different than Frosty the Snowman, Mickey Mouse or Super Heroes. Kids can grasp that those are fun and pretend, so why not Santa? (Note: The Easter Bunny will be the same. Except Tumnus will give RJ a basket.) We will take our kids to visit Santa and they can chat with him and take pictures. They’ll do the same thing with Mickey and Princesses over the years. If they can just love the fun, excitement, playfulness and pure childhood joy of those characters, Santa can be just the same. He doesn’t need to be the bad guy always watching them and taking presents off their stack if they misbehave. Santa can be a delightful part of Christmas instead of a cop. Mickey would never deny my child a high five if he just smacked his sibling. A Princess would still hug them if they threw a fit not 5 minutes ago. A superhero would still rescue them from a burning building even if my kid started the fire. Santa would still fill their stocking on Christmas Eve even if they cried all the way home from the church service.
Now, please hear my heart here: If your family does Santa or even that Elf on the Shelf thing, I’m NOT judging you. As Miley says, “Only God can judge us.” My friend Heather said it nicely, “The fact is that families are different. People are different, act different, think different and believe different things… these differences don’t make anyone right or wrong, just different. The difference of how Santa is treated is one great example of teaching kids how to respect the differences in others.” From the earliest age, my children may view Santa as pretend, but they’ll also know love, tolerance, respect, acceptance and friendship to all types of people no matter gender, race, orientation, and religion, Santa or no Santa.
And isn’t LOVE the point of this whole big holiday anyways?"