Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Creating our own Christmas Santa or not to Santa?

Pin It Long before our girls arrived, Patrick and I would sit and discuss the Christmas traditions that we grew up with and dream about how we would make the season special for our children. Our common wish was that we remember the true reason we celebrate and not get too caught up in all of the glitz and glamour.

Our most current family photo

We both grew up believing in Santa. We remember the excitement of setting out cookies for Santa and waking up to a bunch of presents around the tree and filled stockings. Our relationship with Christ did not suffer as a result but personally, we struggle with the idea of telling "white lies" to our children. Maybe it's a little bit selfish on our part because we don't want to deal with the guilt or maybe it's that we don't want to have to explain why some things we've asked them to believe in are true and other's are not. We even have a sweet little book (A Special Place for Santa) that my mom found for us. The book includes the history of Santa (his Christian roots and origin). In the story, Santa is concerned about taking away from Christ at Christmas: but, when I read it to the girls, I feel as though I could be leading them astray.

Admittedly, we're still on the fence about our "Santa" decision.

We have come to some conclusions:

-we're not telling the girls what they can and can not believe in

-we're going ALL OUT with Christmas decorations

Elena adding her 4th year ornament to the tree
Kate getting a good look at her 2nd year Christmas ornament

-we're hanging stockings as part of our decorations

-presents will still "appear" on Christmas morning
(though we're not telling them they are from Santa)

-traditional movies and "stories" are still O.K.
(as we're finding them very hard to avoid)
Sipping Hot Chocolate while watching the Polar Express
-most importantly, activities that focus on Christ and the Nativity are at the forefront every day

For now these activities are out:

-letters to Santa

-scheduled pictures with Santa

-cookies and milk for Santa

-purchasing an elf

We don't want to be scrooges or have children who are "know-it-alls;" who go telling all the other children in their classes that there is no such thing as Santa. We don't want to take the "magic" out of Christmas for our girls either. For the time being, we are just allowing them to assume that there is a Santa but we are not confirming that it's true. One of my dear college friends told me that is how her parents handled it. They never once told her there was a Santa but always stressed that she was allowed to believe in whatever she felt in her heart to be true. I always admired her strong family ties and most importantly, their family's devotion to Christ.

It is increasingly a challenge to avoid Santa when other children and adults are constantly asking that age-old question, "What is Santa bringing you for Christmas." When Elena says things like, "Santa is going to bring me a train set!" We reply with, "Do you think so?" and "Is that what you believe?" Ultimately our goal is for our children to be excited about CHRIST, always put HIM first, and remember that it was the tiny baby in the manger that gave us all we have.

Last year, I stumbled upon a book at Publix, Christmas Stories for Bedtime. I loved the way it took a new verse each night, explained it simply, and included a prayer and a song. It is a wonderful, sequential and Biblical way to share the Christmas Story (I hesitate to even call it a story when it is absolute TRUTH). This year Patrick and I sat down and picked out 25 of the 31 devotionals that we felt would have the most impact on our girls and I made ornaments to go with each one (I got the idea for the ornaments I made here).

Each day of December leading up to Christmas, we read the verse and lesson, pray the prayer (but make it our own) sing the song, and place our ornament on our special little tree. The book is designed for children ages 5-8 and even though Elena is only three, the Biblical truths are explained so simply that even she is able to understand. Elena LOVES putting the ornaments on the tree each night and we all enjoy singing the songs together as a family (and again throughout the next day).

I also found a wonderful FREE pre-school nativity pack. Elena (and eventually Kate) will do some activities during the day that relate to the evening lesson. As the girls get a little older, I would love to incorporate giving to others in need or an outreach activity for every day as well. Another fun tradition that we learned from a former Sunday School teacher of ours is purposely keeping the baby Jesus out of all of our nativity scenes (we have a few around the house) until Christmas morning. The first thing we do on Christmas (even before presents and breakfast) is read My First Story of Christmas which ends with the following powerful statements:

"Each year we remember that first Christmas, when Jesus was born in a stable. We give each other presents, just as the wise men gave presents to Jesus and just as God sent Jesus as the best gift of all."

After reading this and praying together, we place the baby Jesus in the manger scenes as our first "gift" of Christmas. Then we begin the fun of opening presents and playing together as a family.

Here are some other great ideas I have found for keeping Christ the center of Christmas with your kids:
Daily Scriptures and Crafts
Gingerbread Nativity
Similarities between Santa and Jesus
Online Christmas Coloring Book

Some great links my dear friends and family sent my way after I posted this:
FREE Jesse Tree Family Devotional-if I had seen this before making my ornaments, I think I might have gone this route instead. I love how there is an "outreach" included in every day's activities. We will probably be doing this devotion when our kids get a little older!
Who is St. Nicholas?-a great online resource that explains the Christian origin of St. Nicholas.

I would LOVE to hear other believers' Christmas traditions. Please share your ideas, suggestions, etc.