I have this conversation every year, and I feel like I need to do it again. As the Christmas season is upon us, I would like to remind my readers that not everyone celebrates the same way. Just this morning I was reading an article about how differently Christmas is celebrated in America than it is in England, which was mildly interesting.
I always wondered what Boxing Day was all about.
What I want to discuss, however, is how differently we all handle "the Santa question". Some families are incredibly into Santa. They take their kids to the mall for pictures every year, sharing with others about where the "best Santa" is. The kids write letters to him with all of their wish lists, which can be easily intercepted so that parents know what the actually want. They leave cookies out on Christmas Eve and carrots out for the reindeer. When I was a kid we were always away at my grandmother's house, and I remember making "reindeer food" to attract the sleigh because we weren't home. I seem to remember that it was a crazy concoction of brown sugar, oats, and glitter, and we spread it on my poor grandmother's lawn. Looking back, it still didn't solve the problem of how Santa should know we weren't home, but I guess I was a kid so I let it slide. More glitter!
First, let me start by saying that I have no problem with folks who love getting their kids uber-excited about Santa. I don't. You do you. If going and taking those pictures at the mall is a Christmas tradiion your kids love, then I'm glad they love it. I truly mean that. All I want is for you to acknowledge that not everyone is the same.
If your family isn't really into the bearded man in the red suit, (or the green suit, as my American/British article informed me) I want you to know you are not alone. We have never done much with Santa in our house. Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, not Santa Claus. That is how it has always been in our family. Yes, my kids know who Santa Claus is, but they have always known that he is a character. They can smile and enjoy watching the claymation Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, but have always known that the presents under the tree are from mom and dad. We have books in our house about St. Nicholas of Myra, and will happily read them to my boys. That is the Santa Claus I want them to learn about.
For the record, we feel the same way about Easter. Yes, my kids get a basket of fun little surprises, but a bunny didn't deliver it. Once again, that day is about Jesus.
It wasn't that my husband and I had this grand conversation about religion and the secular side of Christmas. Our focus has always been on the manager and not the North Pole, and that organically translated to our kids. We never did anything with the kids with Santa when they were babies, and when my oldest was three years old on Christmas morning he looked in his stocking and said, "You put this in here, didn't you, Mom. Thank you!"
And that was that. In that moment, I could have said, "No, honey. Santa Claus showed up on our roof with flying animals and snuck in the house to leave you that." But I didn't. If he had figured that out at three years old, I let it go.
The problem is that EVERY SINGLE YEAR I have to navigate a world where everyone assumes Santa comes to our house. Now that they are ten and twelve they have known for a few years now just to hold their tongue when one of their friends goes on about Santa, but when they were smaller I would have to quickly and quietly steer them away from other kids before they said something. The last thing I want is for my kids to ruin the ruse for your kids, but I've had my sons look at me and ask, "Why does he think that the guy at the mall is the 'real' Santa?"
Often the most awkward moments are on Christmas Day or the few days after when people ask them, "So what did Santa bring you?" These adults are always incredibly excited and well meaning, and by now my kids are pros at just smiling and rolling with it. If the questioner notices their hesitation, I triple check that no other children are in earshot and kindly inform them that we really don't do the Santa thing. Some completely understand, others are a little baffled. Again, you do you, and we'll do us.
There are actually fantastic perks to not making a big deal about Santa Claus. My husband and I aren't losing our minds on Christmas Eve, trying to get all of the presents out of hiding places all over our house that we are terrified the kids will find. All of the gifts have been under our tree for a while by then. When the kids know they are from us, there is no reason not to put them out. They have actually become part of our decorating.
We can spend Christmas Eve at church and with family. One of my favorite things is to actually put my boys to bed, including my husband, then go back for the 11pm service. Even then, people are often amazed that I'm there and not at home wrapping last minute gifts from Santa Claus. When I inform them of how we have chosen to do things, and how it is actually a lot less stressful, many folks say, "Oh my goodness, that must be so nice."
Yes. Yes it is.
You can always find me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I love hearing from you! #LoveMyReaders