Friday, December 2, 2011

Christmas traditions and what we do about Santa

 This year feels different than the rest we've had so far as a married couple.  I think it's because Parks is finally old enough to understand things and this year we will be staying in our own house for Christmas.  So, basically, it's time to start our family traditions and create the Christmas "magic" on our own.  When I started to ponder all this I do what I always  I read everything.  Books, blogs and more blogs about other families' Christmas traditions.  I knew I wanted to blend Jackson and my's favorites from our families but I wanted to create some new traditions just for our family.  After a few days of researching I became convicted that above all, I wanted to make Christmas about Jesus's birth.  That is easier said than done these days.

Almost everything about Christmas as presented in our culture emphasizes gifts, commercialism, consumerism and Santa.  Almost nothing presents Christmas as the birth of our Savior.  I asked Parks out of the blue a few weeks ago "Why do we celebrate Christmas?"  His answer shocked me and humbled me, "Santa Claus!" he said.  This is coming from a child who has had minimal exposure to Santa.  I couldn't believe the pervasiveness of our culture! Jackson and I realized, if we really wanted to teach our children that Christmas is about Jesus, we would need to be very purposeful and intentional about the decisions we made regarding Christmas.  This includes our home decor, holiday outings, the books we read, the stories we tell etc.  We want it all to point to Jesus' birth.

I personally, think it's rather confusing for a small child to tell them "Christmas is about Jesus" and then from every other angle they are learning that Christmas is about Santa Claus bringing them presents.  So, what's the Andrews Family doing about Santa?  I'll tell you.

We are choosing to tell our children Santa is a fun make-believe character (like Barney or a disney princess) not a real live person who comes down our chimney on Christmas Eve.  We do not tell our children that gifts are from Santa, they know (or will know) that gifts come from us.  We also do not decorate with or have books that emphasize Santa.  It's really not because we hate Santa.  I don't turn the other way if I see a Santa in the mall or gasp in horror if someone gives us a Santa ornament.  I just want my children to have a firm foundation in the real meaning of Christmas, one that isn't cluttered with competing messages from "Santa".  I think it's naive to think we can combat an entire culture of "Santa" with a couple "Christmas is about Jesus" phrases thrown in every now and then.  So, we pretty much go without Santa, elves and things of that nature.

We do have nativity sets, a Christmas tree, stockings, angels, books about the real Christmas story, etc.  Here are a few things we are doing this year that I think will be good reminders of the real meaning of Christmas for all of us:

  • Have a Jesse Tree.  This is an advent celebration that traces the lineage of Jesus and God's redemptive story through the Old Testament.  You get a special tree and hang an ornament every day after your bible reading and devotional.  Click the link for a free download and more info. 
  • Let your child pick an Angel Tree gift.  Talk about giving to other children out of the abundance God has given us.  
  • Give a "gift to Jesus" for his birthday.  This can take on many forms.  It can be a gift caring for the "least of these" in your community or it can be an offering to your church or other Kingdom work. 
  • Read books about Jesus' birth and talk about what Jesus' birth means to us as Christians.  
  • Teach the Christmas songs about Jesus to your child.  Most of them have very powerful lyrics like "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" and "Oh Holy Night". 
  • Make a birthday cake for Jesus on Christmas.  
Another important thought: we don't do any of this to be kill joys.  In fact, it's just the opposite.  We have the REAL joy...Jesus!!! And he is worth celebrating big time!  He is a bigger joy than Santa and that's what we want to leave our kids with.  Not a gloomy, boring, "we don't do santa" Scrooge/holier-than-thou mentality. Hope that helps! 

For more info on creating Godly traditions for your family, I highly recommend the book, "Treasuring God in Our Traditions" by Noel Piper, wife of John Piper.  


Julie said...

Mallory, Not sure if you remember me from NCH (my parents also go to your parents church). Anyway, I have been following your blog for a while and I really appreciate all that you share on here. I have two daughters similar in age to your kiddos - one is 3 and the other is almost 8 months old. I just love this post about Christmas. I have been telling my husband since we got married 8 years ago that I want Christmas to be focused around the true meaning and not what our culture has made it into. I have found it even MORE important this year to focus on the birth of Jesus with my 3 year old and have been looking for ways to incorporate it into our traditions. Thanks so much for all of your thoughts, I really enjoy reading them.
Julie (Evans) Mills

mallory said...

Hi Julie,

I do remember you! I always knew all the older people, probably because of Mrs. Royster! Haha. Thanks so much for your comment. I do not take credit for these ideas, most of them I've gotten from other blogs and books. I always find it helpful to look at lists of ideas from other people so I'm glad this helped spark some thoughts!

Stacey Werly said...

I totally agree with you. We don't have kids yet, but when we do, I want to do something similar to this.

Mama Bear said...

Good for you! It's better to decide what you believe now, rather than I did :) Still trying to correct my mistakes!

Mary Elizabeth said...

You go girl! I couldn't agree more! Thanks for sharing.

Sarah said...

An idea from your friendly blog stalker,

You should check out They have great ideas that explain the background of santa/ St. Nicholas and traditions you can incorporate into your home. Last year, we had our first St. Nick party on Dec. 6 and will do another this year. Here is my blog entry from last year on St. Nicholas day


mallory said...

Thanks Sarah! That's a great idea!

Megan said...

Have you found any good kids Advent devotionals?

mallory said...

No, not for children specifically. But I haven't really looked into that. We're doing Ann Voskamp's jesse tree devotional every night, but it's usually above a 3 year old's head. But we figure there is benefit to just doing it together as a family and whatever he picks up is good. I'll let you know if I find anything.

Megan said...

Dee showed me a really great Advent Devotional for kids. Its called "Just 25 Days Til Christmas" by Rebecca Bauer. It has a song and a bible passage and an activity for each day of December.

Megan said...

I'm so glad we're friends. #1 because I love being friends with you and #2 you do so much of the parenting research that I can just feed of off you. Blaze ahead siesta!