keeping Christmas where it should be

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I’ll say upfront, that I would really like all parents (regardless of how young or old your kids are) who are reading this to comment on this post because it’s something I think we all deal with or have dealt with, and I would love to hear others’ ideas here. 

Two questions have been in discussion quite a bit at our house this Christmas season:

  1. How do you balance the fun of Santa with the reality of Christ as the reason for Christmas?  Does Santa have to stay out of the picture to truly keep the focus on Christ?  (Luckily Nate is still young enough that he won’t remember next year if we didn’t do Santa stuff this year.)
  2. How does your family keep control on buying presents for the kids?  Or do you?  (Our kids are getting one outfit and one toy from us this year b/c that along with everything they will get from everyone else will be more than enough.)

I’m just truly curious other mom’s and dad’s thoughts on these things.  Please, please, please share your thoughts!

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10 responses »

  1. Andrea,
    I just can’t in good concious take the Santa out of Christmas. It’s everywhere and it is fun. What I have done this year is just really emphasize all the Nativity scenes and Baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph. All the kids point each figure out on their own, now and are excited about it. I think the Nativity scenes are an excellent teaching tool. We talk about Christmas being Jesus’s birth, etc. Plus, we sing lots of religious Christmas songs. The kids love the chorus to “Go Tell it on the Mountain”, because there are not very many words and the tempo is upbeat. I am surprised, though, at how many words they now in “Away in a Manger” and “Silent Night”. They ask for these songs by name.
    I guess my feeling about it is that we share Jesus with the kids 12 months a year and pretty heavily at Christmas time. Santa only comes into play for about 3 weeks, in which we are also emphasizing Jesus’s birth. Santa will be all around them as they grow up. It would be hard not to include him somehow. My kids are very excited about Santa bringing presents to good little girls and boys.

    As far as the presents go, we have not been big spenders so far. They are too young to know the difference, anyway. They are not going to be comparing notes with anyone! 😉 From us they are getting a few small toys and a book each. Their “big” gift is a $15.00 keyboard, each. Other than that, they are getting new comforters, which are practical and not fun, but they didn’t have them, so I thought I’d stick them under the tree!
    I guess what I’m trying to say, is don’t feel like you have to go buy everything. Back to your first question, I honestly think there is more competition from presents than Santa!!

  2. Thanks Katie!! I really appreciate all your thoughts on the issues!

    Just so everyone knows, I’m not anti-Santa, but I’m wondering how big/small of a role he should play. Until we figure out the right balance for our family, he just doesn’t play much of one.

    Although the bargaining power of presents for good boys makes Santa sound pretty good to the mom of my toddler! 🙂

  3. Hi Andrea! Ours are still young, so we haven’t come up against the Santa machine yet. I know we’ll celebrate with Santa, but I think he’ll bring each child one toy.

    Last year we didn’t buy the twins anything! I figure, a year of very expensive formula and diapers was enough. 🙂

  4. This is a tough question. I’m struggling with it as well. Here are my thoughts so far. I think that you can have a balance of both Jesus and Santa just like your first replier said. As the saying goes “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” and teaching kids that we are celebrating the birth of Jesus is whole point of Christmas. I also think that Santa can play a roll as well because you are teaching the true meaning. In our house Santa brings one gift to each kid(usually a bigger gift) and puts a small gift in their stocking. I LOVE seeing the face of my son(my daughter is too young to know) when he gets up on Christmas morning and sees that Santa has been here!!

  5. I agree with your responders so far. We have also celebrated with Santa at Christmas for years. My kids are all at the age where they don’t believe in Santa but they do know the real reason for the Christmas celebrations. It might help to find a book to explain exactly who and what Santa is when the time comes that they can understand. I love reading the Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve after attending 11pm candlelight services at church. Plus there is hardly any greater magic than seeing a child’s face on Christmas morning when they see what’s under the tree!

    As far as gifts from Santa, I do one or two for each child from him but they are unwrapped. Then they usually receive 3-4 more from Mom and Dad that are wrapped. Plus Santa leaves all the goodies in the stocking. After all Santa couldn’t possibly carry more than one or two things for each good boy and girl because his sleigh would be too heavy for the reindeer 🙂

    I hope you enjoy these magical memories, as I’ve said before they simply go by way too fast!

    PS. I still crack up thinking about Jesus and his too mommies!

  6. I really think it is a balancing act and children learn from our example. If the your focus is on Jesus (all year round) then your child will follow suit. So at Christmas we do both. We read lots of books about Jesus’ birth, watch Very First Noel over and over, listen to Christmas music, and have a birthday cake for Jesus on Christmas Eve or Day. (We started that last year and it was a great way to bring the focus. What child doesn’t love a birthday party and it brings Jesus’ arrival to a level that makes sense.) We also spend lots of family time and try not to get wrapped up in the hustle and bustle.

    But Santa is visiting our house. Four is proving to be a magical age for Santa. Camryn’s face is aglow as she watches the Polar Express this year. She enjoys seeing Santa and hearing about how it all happens. Every child needs magic and make believe in their life- without it the imagination might be squelched.

    Presents are not the focus. Camryn is not a “gimme” kid. She is pretty easily satisfied. This year her one request was bigger, but it was the only thing I can remember her actually requesting in a long time. So Santa brings the big unwrapped gift and stocking. Then we add an outfit and a couple items. As far as the rest of the family- their hearts are generous- I let them do what makes them happy and with our family that never interferes with the reason for the season.

    Above all I think Christmas is a time to strengthen the relationships with those close to us and if you do that you honor Him.

  7. I’ve actually thought about this a bit. Especially with my family situation.

    I grew up with Santa and loved it. But I always knew the true meaning of Christmas. Amara and Asa went to visit Santa (again) because I wanted a picture of them on his lap. Asa was sick and then asleep during Amara’s other Santa visits. I have a picture of me with Santa from many years when I was young. I also have a family picture of us all dressed up for Christmas Eve service each year. They will each get a fun gift from Santa and stuff in their stockings (still working on what to put in Asa’s) on Christmas morning-which is what I got as a child. We will be at John’s sister’s house on Christmas and they do Santa then too.

    We have focused on the Christmas story since Thanksgiving. As has Lambs class, my parents, service today, etc. Amara plays with our nativity and one at my parents. We have lots of books we own and from the church library. We also sing and listen to lots of Christmas music. We’re focusing on giving rather than receiving. Amara has yet to really ask for anything, but has great ideas about gifts for others. She seems to think everybody needs stockings or cookies. So as you know, we made cookies and gave them to lots of her friends. We’re making more today. She’s been busy helping me wrap and label gifts to others. She even already gave Winston his gift.

    Both our kids will get three gifts from us because Jesus got three gifts. They will get a “gold” gift-something they really want or will enjoy. Amara will get some doll clothes and Asa will get a ball pounding toy. They will get a “myrrh” gift-something to wear. Amara will get slippers and Asa will get some feeding bibs. They will get a “frankincense” gift-something for spiritual growth. Amara will get some religious music CDs and (this is a stretch) Asa will get a thermometer. We just really need one that works and he’ll benefit from Amara’s CDs. So I read about the 3 gift idea in Wonder time and loved it. I probably would go way overboard without some guidelines. Of course they don’t get the 3 gift thing yet, but I plan to explain it to them as they get older (and greedier).

    So this is how we are trying to balance all aspects of Christmas-Jesus vs Santa, giving vs. receiving, etc.

  8. Love the gold, myrrh and frankensence idea! I’m hoping to do a better job next year. I’ve picked up a few things here and there, but you’re right, it seems like every year when gift giving from the family is over, Isaac has too much. For him to understand the giving side, I plan to take him to the dollar store with his piggy bank tomorrow. But he doesn’t really get it. I read a great article about putting back garage sale items bought earlier in the year and giving them on Christmas. Much more affordable. Last year’s gift was a playhouse I got for 15 bucks. He loved it all summer. I try to buy kinda educational stuff, but I’m sure that’s just the teacher in me. He really needs to work on strengthening his fingers for writing so I’m going to get some playdough, paper and pencils to work with him (he’s been switching back and forth, but he’s a lefty).

  9. thanks everyone! i’m loving reading the responses. those of you just reading these, please feel free to also share your thoughts.

    ginny – i love the birthday cake idea. i remembered hearing you talk about this previously, and we (i) planned to do that this year.

    jenni – funny you should mention the gold, franincense, and myrrh idea. i read the same article in wondertime, and mentioned it to brad. we both thought it would be a great thing to do. in regards to that though, if santa were to bring a gift, i assume he would have to bring a smaller toy so he doesn’t one-up the gold “baby jesus” gift. 🙂

  10. Not much new to say. We will definitely support both Jesus and Santa in our home. I agree with Charlie Brown that Christmas is so commercialized but as one of your friends said, Santa is everywhere and it’s fun. I love Miracle on 34th Street and the lesson it imparts; the wonder that “believing” inspires is a part of childhood, and experiencing that wonder through my child is a part of parenting that I don’t want to miss out on. Santa also teaches a child to believe in something or someone they can’t always see (aside from at the mall), the essential element of faith.

    This is Trevor’s first Christmas but in future years I think we’ll do one gift from Santa and a few small ones from us. If the following years are anything like this one, grandmas and aunts and uncles and cousins provide more than enough fun stuff.

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