Having a baby changes everything. I’m not just talking about the fact that we get less sleep or that my laundry load has doubled. The way I think has changed. I’m starting to realize that parenting is basically a lot of small decisions stacked upon one another to create a big picture. Most parents don’t start out by deciding to spoil their children, instead they simply give in to tantrums one too many times. They make small decisions with big consequences. Likewise, I don’t think raising healthy, God-fearing children is a matter of one big decision. It’s the product of many small decisions made throughout the course of a day and a lifetime.
This is why Evan and I have been giving a lot of thought to our family Christmas traditions, because we believe that even the small decisions are important. We’ve recently become convicted that lying to children about Santa Clause, Reindeer, and Elves is wrong. Is it fun? Yes. Is it convenient? Yes, if it gets children to behave. But is it still lying? Yes, a big one!
I recognize that this opinion isn’t one shared by many of my friends and family. That’s okay with me. I believe most Christian parents have a desire to see their children follow and serve the Lord, and those parents make their decisions in light of God’s grace and teaching in their lives. I am absolutely not one to judge.
That said, I’ve been faced with an important question this Christmas. How do we maintain the fun holiday spirit without relying on Santa Clause? I’ve given a lot of thought to what I want our family Christmas traditions to look like, and I’ve come across several great ideas! (I think Google might be my new best friend). Here are a few I wanted to share with you.
1. Christmas Tree- Why not make your Christmas ornaments more meaningful? You could make orname(nts using the names of Jesus or my favorite idea is to make ornaments that represent different stories in the life of Christ. Each day during the month of December kids could go pick out a different ornament from the tree and you could use that story or that name of Jesus as the starting place for family devotions. You’ve turned what was before a pretty decoration into a meaningful reminder of the life of Christ!
2. Moving Nativity- I know one of the popular things among our friends is the “Elf on a Shelf,” where one of Santa’s elves moves around your home to see if children are being good or bad. The fun part of the game is that children get to play detective and try to find their elf friend each morning. Why not take the same idea and use a nativity? Have a nativity set up in your home and hide Mary and Joseph, the Shepherds and the Wise Men in various places around your home. Tell the children that they are all making their journey to Bethlehem. Each night move the characters to a different place in your home, slowly getting closer to your nativity. Kids can enjoy waking up each morning eager to find the nativity characters. This can be done without lying to children. Simply tell them it’s a fun game they can play to get ready for Christmas.
(Both of these ideas were inspired from this blog here.)
3. Stockings- One of the fun traditions of Christmas morning is having stockings filled with goodies from Santa. Instead of forgoing this tradition, why not focus on the real story of St. Nicholas?
The following is an excerpt from "Who is St. Nicholas?" by the St. Nicholas Center:
The true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara. At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus' words to "sell what you own and give the money to the poor," Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to the those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.
One story tells of a poor man with three daughters. In those days a young woman's father had to offer prospective husbands something of value—a dowry. The larger the dowry, the better the chance that a young woman would find a good husband. Without a dowry, a woman was unlikely to marry. This poor man's daughters, without dowries, were therefore destined to be sold into slavery. Mysteriously, on three different occasions, a bag of gold appeared in their home-providing the needed dowries. The bags of gold, tossed through an open window, are said to have landed in stockings or shoes left before the fire to dry. This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas. Sometimes the story is told with gold balls instead of bags of gold. That is why three gold balls, sometimes represented as oranges, are one of the symbols for St. Nicholas. And so St. Nicholas is a gift-giver.
St. Nicholas was known for giving money to truly poor people.In true remembrance of St. Nicholas why not fill stockings with fruit, candy, and useful items such as socks, toothbrush, lotions, and soaps. Use stockings as a reminder to children about how blessed they are to have the things they need and use the story of St. Nicholas as a springboard to encourage children to give to those less fortunate than they are.
4. Christmas Breakfast- My favorite idea for a fun Christmas tradition involves a “Happy Birthday Jesus” cake. Most families I know have some sort of traditional Christmas breakfast after opening presents, so why not start the day with a birthday cake for Jesus? I love cake! Kids love cake! Jesus loves cake! (Or he would if he were here to eat some, and when else is it appropriate to have cake for breakfast?) What a fun way celebrate the birth of Christ and start a fun (yummy) family tradition in the process!
I hope these ideas inspire you to think of fun ways to keep Christ in Christmas in your home. You may not decide to avoid Santa entirely, but remember that there are many fun ways to teach kids the true meaning of Christmas. If you have any good ideas you want to share, please leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you J