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Christmas

I tucked tiny trinkets deep into the stockings and checked my hubby’s progress on putting the bike together. I couldn’t believe it was finally Christmas Eve! We grew up with our parents playing the role of Santa and Mrs. Claus and we chose to carry on the tradition. So we were hidden in our bedroom, knee-deep in last-minute holiday happenings.

It was nearly midnight and I was so tired. The busy days leading up to this moment had worn me out. I double-checked to make sure the kids were asleep and carefully laid out the bulging stockings. Then, I quietly nibbled on Santa’s goodies. I even gnawed a carrot for Rudolph. Being Santa was hard work!

I turned around to hurry my hubby along but instead found my daughter (who would turn ten two weeks after Christmas) standing there watching me.

Um. That’s not supposed to happen.

I racked my brain and tried to remember what I learned in Santa School and all I could come up with was I never went to Santa School! I was so busted.

She faked a yawn, and I just motioned to her room. Because that’s what you do when you’re shocked and speechless.

Once she was up the stairs, I ran into my bedroom and whisper-screamed: “SHE KNOWS! SHE KNOWS!”

And then I tried not to fall apart.

When she knocked on our door five minutes later, I let my hubby answer it. I’m brave like that.

She asked. He told her everything. Questions led to answers and very early Christmas morning, she knew the secret happenings of Santa. I bit back tears. So did she.

Christmas still happened. She held her new secret close to her heart and gave me a knowing smile throughout the day. She was excited to start the new chapter. But a sadness I couldn’t explain still clung to me.

It’s not the Santa-myth I missed. It was her believing. It was proof she was growing up.

I found contentment in knowing she believed in Jesus. It’s really about all Him. He’s not pretend or make-believe.

Days after Christmas, I wrote her a letter about how we are called to believe in things we can’t see.

It’s good to believe in things we can see. It’s better to believe in things we can’t see but know are real: our dreams, faith, hope. Jesus.

She put her letter in her special box.

And in the two years since, I have refocused my efforts to make Christmas about Jesus. We still add a dash of Santa to the fun, but you can find him kneeling at the Nativity, worshiping Jesus with the rest of us.

Because I realized the Santa fun will fade, but this house will always believe.

Hebrews 11:1-3 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

Tangible Ways to Keep Christ in Christmas:

1. Wrap baby Jesus in your Nativity and let that be the first gift opened on Christmas morning.

2. Limit the gifts and remind your kids it’s not their birthday. But His.

3. Celebrate with a birthday cake for Jesus.

4. Count down to the Christmas Day with an advent calendar that focuses on Christ.

5. On Christmas Eve or Day, read Luke 2 together.

This Christmas, I pray you will make it about Him.

by Kristen Welch, We are THAT family

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  1. 1

    In our home we make a point to make all our advent activities reflect Jesus’ birth. Most of our traditions, stories, and activities are brought back to the gift of Jesus (even some that are Santa-themed).
    However, I am so glad to hear of others still perpetuating Santa-so many these days have decided to completely let go of him. The big red man still brings gifts to our home and our girls still believe in him. I am hoping that when the times comes I too will be able to explain how our “collective santa clauses” are tangible evidence of a very real Love that God has given to us.
    Thank you for sharing :)

  2. 2

    This year my ten year old broke it to me gently that she didn’t believe it Santa anymore. She actually thanked me for trying but she knew we were buying her gifts. She then said that she was glad Santa was out of the picture as she wanted to think of Jesus at this time. It was Jesus birthday and that was enough to celebrate. I confess I was struck dumb but so very proud.

  3. 3

    What a neat perspective on the whole Santa idea! How amazing to watch children grow and mature in their Christian faith. Can’t wait to experience this with my own kids someday.

  4. 4
    Melissa says:

    Kristen-

    Thank you so much for your words this morning. I needed a dose of reality as I busy myself with the job of Santa. Thank you for helping me remember.

    Melissa

  5. 5

    This was a great blog post, I enjoyed it. My children are teenagers but I think I will make a cake and read Luke!

  6. 6
    Carol Darden says:

    When your child realizes or finds out about the truth of Santa, use it as a teachable moment to reinforce God’s grace. Think about it. Santa says you have to be good ALL year or you don’t get anything. Who’s good ALL year? You KNOW you haven’t been, and yet, on Christmas morning, the gift appears. You KNOW in your heart you don’t deserve it, but there it is. He gave it anyway. Isn’t that the truth of the gospel? We know in our hearts that we don’t deserve His love, but it’s there anyway. Always. Use Santa to point to Jesus, just as everything else during this Christmas season!!

    • 7

      Love it. I will definitely be using this idea when the time comes to reveal “the truth about Santa.”

  7. 8

    Kristen,

    I so much loved this post of yours! Especially this:

    “It’s good to believe in things we can see. It’s better to believe in things we can’t see but know are real: our dreams, faith, hope. Jesus.”

    I love how you write notes to your daughter and tuck them away. I’ve thought of doing that, too.

    You’ve encouraged me. So. Much.

    We don’t entertain Santa in our house, but we don’t discourage our little guy’s believing, either. I’ve always had a smidge of fear over how to explain Jesus…yet, just what you said is the truth.

    Amen!

    Rich blessings this Christmas. And especially with all you’re doing with Mercy House! (I still want to get involved…some. how.)

    Amy

  8. 9

    This makes me think of my husband, he was very sad that he had to tell our daughter there was no santa. The kids on the block and the kids at school told her there wasn’t..she begged us to tell her if there really was or not. Now she knows..

  9. 10

    One of my favorite parts of our Christmas Tradition is making a birthday cake for Jesus with my girls. It’s a reminder to them that the day is about Jesus and the gift that He is to this world. I’m glad you gave us a list of other tangible ways to keep Christ in Christmas! Thank you!

  10. 11

    My oldest once asked me, and I replied to her “Do you need me to tell you the words or will that be harder to hear than to keep playing along and enjoying?” She decided she didn’t want me to say it. She is now a college freshman. She asked me at Thanksgiving if Santa would still come for college freshmen. I told her he most certainly would.

    The biggest thing at our house on Christmas morning isn’t Santa though. It is the reading of Jesus’s birth at 5 in the morning and our prayer of thanks, then placing baby Jesus in our nativity set.

    I have a 19 month and 3 year old as well as 2 teens and my college girl…we will enjoy keeping Christ at the center this year, as well as enjoying the magical appearance of presents under our tree. I try to ask “what do you want to give?” instead of “what do you want to get?” and we are giving lots of love this year!

    • 12

      At my parents’ house, if you don’t “believe” in Santa, he doesn’t bring you anything. So of course, all of us kids still “believe”–even though the youngest is a high school freshman (I’m the oldest, 6 years out of college). I don’t remember a point in my life at which I suddenly knew the truth about Santa, but decided to play along anyway, but for families that go the Santa route, I like that way of handling the inevitable questions.

  11. 13

    Ahh, it’s so bittersweet isn’t it?
    It’s not like you want to deceive them….but the fun of the surprise is part of the journey.
    My kids are all big now (17,18 &21) and they still love to play along regarding Santa.
    Thankfully, they understand the real meaning is Jesus Christ.

  12. 14

    What an incredible post! And I appreciate it because, this year, our funds are a little tight. And we were worried about how to prepare our kids because, ya know, Santa ain’t supposed to be broke…right? {lol} So I told them we ‘help’ Santa because Santa works with parents and when money is tight, Santa limits the gifts so it won’t be hard on the parents. {Not sure if it’s working. We shall see….}

    And I LOVED the idea of them unwrapping a Nativity set first. What a great way to remind all of us what the true meaning is.

  13. 15

    We never did do the Santa thing with our kids. We had tons of other traditions and customs like everyone else, but always really tried to keep the focus on Jesus’ birth. We recently asked our kids (now in their 20′s and teens) if they feel like they missed out on anything by not doing Santa, but they said it was never a big deal to them as long as they got presents!

  14. 16

    As I read your blog the memory of days long ago with our children flooded my mind and heart. It has been almost 15 years since anyone still believed in Santa at our house. But still the spirit of Santa is still here. I love that Santa leads to Jesus, everytime.Santa in his red suit, pure white beard, giving ways, in the ways he forgets if we have been naughty, and the love for life and children all point one way-right to the Christ! Merry Christmas! Thanks for giving me the gift of Christmas revisited.

  15. 17

    Thanks for the reminder to put Jesus first at Christmas! I sometimes forget this with my Grandchildren together, but this year I am thinking that we will start a new tradition! Merry Christmas all and thanks again!

  16. 18
    Subi Wilks says:

    I chose to present the concept of Santa to my sons as make-believe – something that it was fun to pretend. I simply wasn’t comfortable with all of the little lies that were made necessary to keep the illusion alive. I figured that when they were older and learned the truth, they would have reason to question what else we parents might have lied to them about. Not presenting Santa as reality to them did not spoil the fun OR the mystery. The fact that when they went to bed on Christmas Eve the stockings were empty and nothing was under the tree, and the next morning everything had appeared was still magical and enthralling to them! They loved Christmas and I never had to face that moment of being confronted about the reality of Santa’s existence.

  17. 19

    Thanks for this post. I have a 17 year old but I still remember the year Santa was no longer real to him. However even when he did believe in Santa before toys could be played with or stockings looked through and the other presents opened we always begin the morning with the story of the birth of Jesus. We started that tradition right after my husband and I were saved when my son was only 1.

    Still to this day we fill the stockings the presents are all from us or other family but the stockings we laugh and say they are from Santa (by the way we all 3 have a stocking filled.). We do this just because its fun. I even put some sort of food that my son and husband do not like (thats there lump of coal) for when they were bad. Then we sit there and just laugh.

  18. 20

    This made me feel a bit like weeping, as I’ve grown ever-uncomfortable with my five–year-old’s belief in Santa. I want her to trust that I tell her the truth, and I want her to trust that what I teach her about Jesus is TRUE! Will she still believe me when she learns Santa, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy are all fictitious?!

    I’ve started to break it to her Gently…”There are too many kids in the world for Santa to get to them all; that’s why we have to help by sending toys to kids who he might not be able to get to…” “The Santa at the mall isn’t really Santa, he’s just a helper…”

    Just the same, I’m dreading that day she finds out we haven’t been telling the truth. : (

    • 21

      There is a great book for kids called – Santa Claus, Are You For Real? by Harold Myra — We purchased our copy in 1977 and it seems the newer edition is abbreviated. The original is great for 8 years and up and it is a bit longer and I am told the newest one is better for 4 – 5 year olds. The focus is on St. Nicholas and the fact that he was real mam, a Christian and the legends that grew around stories about his generosity. There is excellent balance between this and the true story of Christ’s birth. One is left to enjoy the fun of St. Nick and know the truth of Jesus’ birth.

  19. 22
    Beth WIlliams says:

    My parents tried the Santa thing, but I never really believed in it!

    My hubby & I almost cringe at the thought of the holidays coming–Not because of the significance of Jesus’ birth & giving thanks on Thanksgiving. It’s the whole worldly idea of buy, buy buy, get this that, whatever, hurry, hurry , hurry–even hurt people doesn’t matter! Can’t stand it!

    I just want to stand on a high ladder in the middle of Wal-Mart & say Merry Christmas & enjoy Jesus’s birthday–It’s not your day it’s HIS special day!!!!!!!!

    • 23

      Beth
      I know what you mean sometimes it just seems so commercial. I went into a store yesterday and there was no Christmas cheer it was heart breaking.

  20. 24

    Beautiful post. I love your perspective!

  21. 25
    Emily Joyner says:

    Thanks so very much for this blog!
    It puts everything at Christmas in the right perspective, with Christ in the center!
    Will remember these thoughts as my little great-grands grow up (as the grands already have)>
    Christmas Blessings from my home to yours!

  22. 26
    christina says:

    Thank you for this! I had already planned to wrap baby Jesus from our Nativity as our first gift this year! We have had the Nativity up since Thanksgiving night minus baby Jesus (that has been tough for me) and when the kids asked why, my daughter answered her own question by telling us He comes on Christmas night!!
    I can’t wait for them to unwrap the most important gift!
    They are 8 and 3.5 and this is our first Christmas doing this.

    Merry Christmas!

  23. 27

    What a wonderful story…I think most of us parents have gone through that with our children…now as a grandmother my 10 year old grandson announced he knows there is no Santa! My heart sank…the fantasy and surprises that goes with a child that believes he is real is so beautiful…But, he knows he is getting that X Box 360…so all is well….

  24. 28

    We never “did” Santa with our kids, and always focused on a Happy Birthday Jesus theme for the holidays, to the point of doing service projects that day as the kids grew up. Our reason – honesty. We never wanted the kids to remember the lie of Santa (or that it’s ok to lie about anything!) and that Jesus is ENOUGH reason to celebrate. Oddly enough, it was our unbelieving parents that protested “not getting to do Santa” with their grandkids. We dug our heels in deep.

    We realize that others, even other Christians, choose to celebrate with Santa – and the “real” Saint Nicholas WAS a wonderful man of generosity….so we shared the real story of why he is included in the holiday.

    Having grown, married kids now, we were curious what they would do with their own kids…so far they are choosing to do no Santa with their kids! They appreciate that we respect their freedom to create Christmas to be the way they want to make it for their kids, but also love the fact that we don’t over indulge them, keep it realistic on the financial meter, and can make memories together without all the consumerism.

    It’s a day about a baby, savior of the world, born in a manger…the simplest of circumstances…we can celebrate in many ways to honor Him, to show appreciation to God for giving us a Savior, to make memories that generations to come can reflect on in truth and wonder of a REALLY amazing time…the manger, the savior, the stars, shepherds, angels…THESE are the things of Christmas….

    (ps- check out the website for The Advent Conspiracy for ideas and reasons to do Christmas “differently” this year, and in the future. NOW is the time to lay the groundwork for your families future Christmas’ Celebrations…talk at the table and commit to changing things next year. Ask how much debt they racked up this Christmas – or ask in January when the bills are coming in! – and commit to doing a debt-free Christmas – with or without Santa!!)

  25. 29

    Kristen, I just love this. My 16yos (Christian) realized I was a little stressed last night and came up and hugged me and said, “Mom, you’re the best Santa in the world.” :)

  26. 30

    Yesterday I bought a Santa Claus statue for my 1 y/o grandson. I’ve never bought a Santa Claus in my life. I was brought up to not believe in Santa.

    This Santa had removed his hat and was beside the manger holding the baby Jesus. It was just beautiful.

    I loved your post. Just beautiful.

  27. 31

    No more Santa? O my..that would be like saying there is no hope,no wind,no joy in seeing the unseen..we never told our two little boys,and to this day,at 19 and 18, they still sign gifts from “SC” and laugh all day. We have rung bells and run from homes as people opened their doors to fun gifts. What joy! We love our Lord and think He loves the fun and joy that surrounds the season! So make the cake,sing the wonder-filled songs and be Santa to someone today! :)

    • 32

      No, no Santa doesn’t mean that AT ALL.

      No Jesus would mean no hope no joy in the unseen but sorry–no Santa doesn’t suck the sparkle out of life.

  28. 33

    Wonderful openness, Kristen. Yes, the signs of growing up constrict the heart of moms. I completely understand your feelings. I love how you turned the situation into believing in the unseen– Jesus. Great suggestions! Wishing you a blessed Christmas.

  29. 34
    TracyDK says:

    Learning there was no Santa was sort of traumatic for me. My brother broke it to my Mom. I now have a 3 year old. He’s aware of there being a Santa, and actually “met” and sat on his lap for the first time this past Saturday. We want him to trust that what we say is true, especially about things he cannot see. So we chose to not include Santa in our personal traditions. He will learn about Santa and St. Nicholas and his importance to the Christmas traditions. However, we want him to grow up knowing that we’ve been honest with him about all things that he can and cannot see to the best of our ability.

  30. 35

    we never have pretended that santa was real with our kids. honestly, it is very sad to me that many believers make the holiday in all practicality more about a fictitious fat man in a red suit than about the true Savior of all mankind. while i enjoy presents and we even hang stockings, my kids are fully aware from the very start that mommy and daddy and other family are the ones who give the gifts and we try to focus both on the incarnation as well as the true virtue of giving. they use some of their own money to buy gifts for each other and we sing worship songs and read the nativity story all month long during family devotion times to purpose all our hearts on what really matters. i agree that the important thing is instilling a faith in Jesus in our children and helping them realize that He isn’t pretend like super heroes or santa claus – teaching them the value of true faith. your ideas to keep Jesus central are great ones.

    my recent post: 12 tips for saving money on good food

  31. 36

    There is a great book for kids called – ‘Santa Claus, Are You For Real?’ by Harold Myra — We purchased our copy in 1977 and it seems the newer edition is abbreviated. The original is great for 8 years and up and it is a bit longer and I am told the newest one is better for 4 – 5 year olds. The focus is on St. Nicholas and the fact that he was real mam, a Christian and the legends that grew around stories about his generosity. There is excellent balance between this and the true story of Christ’s birth. One is left to enjoy the fun of St. Nick and know the truth of Jesus’ birth.

    Harold Myra also followed this up with 2 other great books: Easter Bunny, Are You For Real? and Hallowe’en, Is It For Real?

  32. 37

    We are taking a cue from Ann Voskamp this year, and we will present a gift to the Baby Jesus on his birthday. We also give three gifts to our sons, just as Jesus received three gifts from the Magi.

    This post is lovely, and the comments here continue a wonderful dialogue. As a Christian mother with very young children, the ideas about Santa here have given me much to consider! Thank you, all!

  33. 38

    I can imagine it was scary being “sprung” that night!

    We don’t “do” Santa, for a few reasons:
    1. The premise of Santa giving presents to “good” children (works-based), is so opposed to the way that God operates with us (based on grace, mercy, love – not on merit).
    2. We are uncomfortable with lying to my children – when we work so hard to teach them that they can trust & obey Mummy & Daddy because we always tell them the truth.
    3. It is confusing to tell kids that Santa is real (but then they find out he is not), and at the same time tell them that Jesus is real (and them expect them to believe he is true).