The celebration of Christmas has really been, and still is, a journey for me. When Brian and I got married, Allie and I believed in Santa Claus and really worked up the whole thing of Santa for the entire season leading up to Christmas morning. We set out the cookies, we listened for reindeer's hooves, we sent a wish list to the North Pole weeks in advance. Sure, we also set out a manger scene and read the Christmas story on Christmas Eve. But honestly it was more about Santa than Jesus. And I was okay with that at the time.
But that first Christmas together, I was also pregnant with Maggie, and Brian told me that absolutely we would never tell our children that Santa Claus was real. He wasn't comfortable with the fact that we were "lying" to Allie about Santa. So, before Christmas that year, I told Allie the truth about Santa- that those presents under the tree on Christmas morning were really from me- and while we were at it, we went ahead and talked about the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny. She took it really well and seemed unabashed by it. But I still went to great lengths to make sure she had plenty of presents under the tree on Christmas morning and that her stocking was no less full than the year before. Almost as an apology. "Sorry Santa isn't real, but here's a bunch of stuff to soften the blow." :)
By the next year, God had convicted me that the overwhelming amount of "stuff" we were giving our two girls was silly. We had more toys than they could play with as it was, and we were stretching our dollars to buy them more out of an obligation we had put on ourselves. I was pregnant again and thinking how much we would be spending on three children next year if this continued. We decided to scale back a lot that year. We stressed less, the holidays were more enjoyable because we weren't out shopping all the time to find that "perfect" gift, our budget remained intact, and the children were fine. They still got plenty of loot from the grandparents.
Each year we have sought a little harder to make Christmas less about the gifts. We do less decor, more manger scene. Less Rudolph, more Joseph and Mary. We have made the commitment to find some people we particularly love as a family each year and do something special during the season for them. We make efforts to have a little more Jesus, a little less Santa. But this year in particular, God has really challenged me with allowing the holiday season to be about anything other than Him. I've been examining if Christmas for me and my family is "Jesus plus" something else. When God gave out the law to Moses on Mount Sinai, the very first commandment He gave was to have no other gods. That was His first commandment! And when Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, it was to love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. Can we truly follow those commands at Christmas if we are more anxiously awaiting Santa than the Savior?
So, as for our house, there is no talk of Santa and lots of intentional talk about Jesus. Which is really the way it should be year round. Every time Santa comes into the conversation, we remind our children that Santa isn't real but Jesus is. So I shouldn't have been surprised when I went to pick up Maggie at the YMCA childcare on Monday and the teacher was reprimanding her about telling the other children that Santa wasn't real. Maggie was in tears. She couldn't understand why telling the truth would get her in trouble. A little embarrassed, I told Maggie that she can't spoil it for other children so to keep it to ourselves about Santa. I was relaying the story to Brian that evening and shouldn't have been surprised at his reaction: "I will not punish our children for telling the truth! Isn't our Family Mission Statement about standing for truth??" :) Wow. I was convicted. Even I had been like, "Now now Maggie, don't spread the truth; perpetuate the lie" without realizing it. Of course, we have talked to all our children about being kind and not rude or loud about Santa. But what are we saying to our children if we say, "Stand for the truth!" and then "But don't spoil the fun for others; they don't need to know." ?? Our goal as parents is to arm them with truth from God's Word and the courage to share it. If that is our aim, we can't make a practice of telling them to keep the truth a secret. So we decided not to punish Maggie nor applaud her, just to remind her to be kind and patient with others who don't believe as she does.
Also this year, it has become clear to me why gift-giving is always so stressful to me. Because I wait until the last minute, then make my list and get overwhelmed at the long list, short budget, then end up getting each person something that has no thought or meaning behind it. It's frustrating. This year we are only giving one or two gifts to each child, but making sure they each have significant thought and meaning behind them. I am determined not to give any gift to family members that does not inspire, encourage, or uplift in some way. And I've realized you can do that without spending much money at all! So as not to spoil it for anyone who might be reading :), I'll share some of the gifts I've come up with after Christmas.