As parents and believers, we all make different choices, some we live by and some we adjust. This is just the way our story has been written:
As children growing up, we hung stockings on the mantle. When we got married we hung stockings on the mantle.
In my family, Dad would read “‘Twas, the Night before Christmas” by Clement C. Moore; ‘visions of sugar plums, on Comet, on Cupid, on Donder and Blitzen, shook when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly, right jolly old elf.’ The story was nostalgic, brought about memories of my childhood- memories of Christmas’s past. So, my sweet husband read Clement’s poem to our children on Christmas Eve.
As children, both of our families had pictures taken with Santa every year. Some were funny with a screaming sibling. Other photos were extremely awkward. The collection of photos served as a photo album timeline. It was tradition. Honestly, a harmless tradition, which also served to provide us with laughter after we had grown. So, as we started our own family, we followed tradition.
And we started some of our own. In order to make sure Christmas wasn’t JUST about presents, and was not focused on Santa, we began a few traditions. I love nativity scenes, so I focus on decorations with the we three kings, and the little drummer boy, the angels we have heard on high and the sweet child is this from that silent night. Scripture is read before the presents are opened. Santa always brought three gifts, to remind us of the three wise men bringing gifts to baby Jesus.
It all began so innocently.
As the sweet, innocent children grew, they blossomed into contemplating little souls. They were growing up into free thinkers and decision makers. Praise God! They were developing into thoughtful little people. And then they became classmates, and fellow bus riders, and sneaky ‘mom and dad watchers’ and present finders. This caused questions, questions about “Santa.” Questions asking, “Is Santa real?”
I would answer, “What do you think?” and would say “There was a man named St. Nicholas and he believed in Jesus, and gave to the poor.” No lies. And then…I became the perfect subject changer. I just didn’t want to ruin it for the youngest, or I just didn’t know what to do. Just one more Christmas. How did I get here? Why did I go along with this?
If Christmas really is all about Jesus, why isn’t it all about Jesus?
I knew we needed to have a conversation…eventually.
And then, when I went to kiss sweet, youngest boy’s sleeping cheek at 1:30 am on Christmas Eve, I found him wide awake. “What are you still doing up, sweet boy?!”
“I have to prove to brother that Santa is real!”
Oh dear. Sigh.
I knew it needed to end.
Leading up to this, I spent an entire evening researching “Santa”– the history of Santa Claus. How did it become like this? St. Nicholas was a good man of God. He was blessed with a heart for the poor, and blessed with the riches his own family left him. There were stockings that were just socks set by a fire to dry, and a poor man’s daughters secretly received dowry money in their stockings. Generosity in the name of Jesus. That is who St. Nicholas was. But commercial companies, and likely some “Wormwood” or similar being twisted and turned that man’s good intentions over time. The real “St. Nicholas” drifted away. He became a coca-cola can holding, American white-bearded man in a jolly red suit. Europeans tried to keep his ‘death date’ of December 6th separate from the Birth of Jesus, but time and again, something pushed out the real Savior of the world.
So I prayed and finally, this fall, sat the young, contemplating, question asking, answer seeking souls down.
“I want to tell you the story of St. Nicholas…” (http://www.stnicholascenter.org/pages/who-is-st-nicholas/)
“…and then, he died.”
Eldest echos for the youngest, “He died!”
And we explain, he WAS a real man. He loved Jesus. He gave to the needy. He died. He is no more.
Did we disappoint? Did I ruin Christmas?
They were almost relieved. They knew in their hearts already, or at least suspected.
And we will still give presents, and we will still have joy! But it will ALL be in the name of Jesus.
And we will start new traditions. Youngest says our Santa notes in stockings should now be prayer requests put in our stockings that we write to God.
At the start, the idea of including Santa– maybe it was not the right thing to do. I am not sure… But God showed up and the kids are happy and relieved.
“One request,” says the middle one. “Can we please not get those stupid pictures with the fake Santas?”
We all laugh. We compromise. We will document our family when we cut down the tree.
Then I will have my photo album timeline. And they can still have nostalgia.
With Santa kneeling over a baby Jesus, he says:
Lord, You know that You’re the reason
I take pleasure in this season
I don’t want to take Your place
but just reflect Your wondrous grace.
I really believe that’s what the real St. Nicholas would say.