How We Keep the Christ in Christmas

We celebrate Christmas a little differently than most. For one, we don’t do Santa. I decided before my kids were born that I wasn’t going to tell them about Santa. I’ve taken a lot of flack for that one. People have actually gotten angry at me. So I decided against naming this post, "Santa's Not Coming." :) 

Maybe it’s partly because of my childhood memories of Santa. I was the youngest of four so I had heard all the rumors that Santa might not be real. But, my parents and older brother insisted that he was. I was told all year round that I needed to be good or else Santa wouldn’t bring me any presents. I didn’t buy it. He always came through.

When I was about 6, I made out my list and left it in my stocking for “Santa” just to appease my parents. Then I decided I was going to stay up all night on Christmas Eve and catch my parents in the act and prove them wrong once and for all. I hated being lied to. Of course I fell asleep before "Santa" came.  

So, I decided at some point in my life that when I had kids I wasn’t going to lie to them and tell them about some fat man that was going to come down our chimney and bring them presents if and only if they were good. That’s a big fat lie. I can’t expect my kids to believe me when I tell them about God and Jesus if they find out I lie to them purposely. How will they know that I’m not lying when I tell them that they can pray to a God that they can’t see and that He will watch over them and bless them if they follow His ways? Sounds a little too similar to Santa Claus.

Now I’m not a total Scrooge. My kids can watch Santa Claus specials on TV and we even have a really cute Santa decoration of Santa eating McDonald’s. I do tell my kids about the history of Santa Claus. I tell them that Santa “was” a real person – was being the key word. And that he was a really nice person and gave presents to poor kids, and that he was a good example. 

What I don’t push however is that he is going to come down our chimney on Christmas day and bring them presents if they are good. I tell them that the presents they get are from Mommy and Daddy, but ultimately they are from God because He gives us everything we have.

When my daughter was 4, she was in the Early Childhood program through the public school. She didn’t talk very much so we didn’t have many discussions about Santa. However, they were doing a whole unit about him at school. One day, she came home from school and said very angrily, “Jesus isn’t real! Santa is real!” Ouch! Gotta love public school. 

So for a year or two, she would fight with her older brother about whether Santa was real or not. I didn’t push it since she would get very upset if I told her Santa wasn’t still alive. But, I didn’t lie to her either.

I tell my kids that we celebrate Christmas because it was the day Jesus was born. We make a birthday cake with candles for Jesus and sing Happy Birthday. I ask my kids what they think Jesus would want for his birthday. We talk about how Jesus wants us to show love to others and to take care of the poor.

They have asked before, “If it’s Jesus’ birthday, how come we get the presents?” I’m not sure exactly what to tell them. This part has gotten a little out of control in recent decades due to consumerism. I just tell them that that’s how we celebrate it. We give to others. I make it a point though to make sure that we are not just giving to our family and friends but also to those who are really in need.

Last year, I had my older kids look through a World Vision catalog and decide what kind of animal they wanted to buy to donate to a child in another country. My older son decided on a goat. My 5 year old son had overheard him talking about buying a goat and said, “OK, just don’t let your goat go in my room!” J

I just don’t want my kids to get too focused on Christmas being all about them and what they’re going to get. Now that they’re getting older, I have them buy gifts for their siblings with their own money.  We've switched that to online shopping though as it's too hard to take a 2-year old into a toy store and tell her the toys are not for her.  

We’ve also scaled back in recent years on Christmas gifts - could have something to do with the fact that we had toys coming out our windows. My neighbor told me she couldn’t keep her son out of our house because it was like Toys R’ Us. I’ve gotten rid of mounds of toys and I don’t want to bring them back. Between birthdays and Christmas with four kids, we’ve accumulated a lot of stuff.

We were also spending more money in the month of December than we were bringing in. It was the only time of year that it took us two months to pay off our credit card instead of paying it in full every month. I got sick almost every year because I would be out in the cold and snow shopping the weeks before Christmas.

I’m also not good at buying gifts for people and it just became a big stress for me. I began to dread Christmas. December 26th was my favorite day because it meant it was all over.

I had to ask myself, “Is this really how Jesus wants me to celebrate his birthday?” For other people, shopping isn’t a big deal and they enjoy it. I’m not against giving gifts, but for me, I needed to make a change.

My siblings and I decided to just do a grab bag instead of buying for all the kids because our kids had too many things to begin with. We opted out of the extended family grab bag. Instead of spending money on gifts for everyone and their mother, we mainly buy for our own immediate family and then also are purposeful in giving to those less fortunate.

It’s not the most popular decision to opt out of family gift exchanges, but it made my life a whole lot less stressful, and I feel I am now better able to focus on the real meaning of Christmas – Christ. I now love Christmas because it’s not all about shopping. I do most of my shopping for my kids online. I don’t have to get a babysitter and leave my kids at home while I’m out shopping during the whole month of December. I can enjoy Christmas alongside of them.

I’ve tried to find other ways to celebrate Christmas that have nothing to do with shopping and getting more stuff. I’ve been more intentional about making traditions and memories with my kids. I want them to remember the times we had together more than the toys they got for Christmas that are played with today and tossed aside tomorrow.  Below is the post I did recently on the specific ways we celebrate Christmas.

I want to teach them the value of spending their money on things that will have an eternal impact, instead of on things that only entertain them for a season. I want to teach them to be selfless instead of selfish. And I want to teach them that Christmas and Christianity is about relationships. I want them to remember Christmas as a time of peaceful, family togetherness, not frantic frenzy. 

So, that’s how we celebrate Christmas! I hope you and yours have a wonderful stress free, dye free, Christ-centered Christmas!