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.