After my Christmas Questions post, which included this excerpt:
28. Age you discovered who Santa was? I never really remember believing in Santa. My parents did a really good job of telling us the truth while still allowing us to enjoy the imagination of Santa Claus.
I got several responses and replies, asking me to explain further.
I must admit. I have been somewhat (OK, maybe a lot) procrastinating my further explanation of said topic. Not because I don't want to share, and not because I didn't have anything to share - Lord knows THAT is never my problem - but it required me to take some time to think about how to explain our ideas, and I mean, who has time to do that? I know I certainly don't.
But I will try.
Ellie Kate was 10 months old when we celebrated our first Christmas as a family with children. Even though she was obviously too young to understand anything about Christmas, it was the very first season that Ben and I began to discuss our ideas of Santa Claus and how we wanted to go about it with our children.
We didn't know much. But we knew that we didn't want her to turn out like this little girl...
That just seemed wrong.
But we also didn't want this...
We wanted something in the middle. Someone like...
We wanted to have children like Linus. Not necessarily a child addicted to his blanket and sucking his fingers - although communication must have gotten a little twisted during that request, because we did indeed GET a child addicted to her blanket and sucking her fingers.
But that's beside the point.
The important part is that wanted a child who thought like Linus. Children who celebrated the season without forgetting the true REASON for the season.
We wanted our kids to grow up with a love of Christmas, a love of presents, and a joyfulness for stocking, Christmas cookies, and yes, even Santa Claus.
We wanted to take our kids shopping, and have them participate in charity toy drives.
We hoped to have nights filled with visiting Santa, falling down on the ice skating rink, and stringing stale popcorn.
We wanted all those things, but we also wanted more...
We wanted a child that truly understood the meaning of Christmas and appreciated the birth of a little baby boy that would change history, and hopefully his/her own life someday.
We wanted to instill a respect for the sacrifice God gave on that fateful night in Bethlehem.
And we wanted to raise a child who could share this amazing story when others were too busy to notice or to those who had simply forgotten.
Sounds simple enough -right?
Its hard work to achieve these things in harmony, especially amidst a culture that idolizes Santa Claus, but completely forgets the baby.
Oh, sure, we may light a candle on Christmas Eve and sing "Silent Night," but that isn't the extent that I so desire for my children.
And more can be done.
Yes, our children our young, and yes we are still mastering our explanations to them about all things Christmas, but we ARE raising three children with an understanding of the true meaning of the holiday.
So how do we do it?
Our solution started two years ago, when I began praying about how to adequately explain Santa Claus without being a kill joy and a Christmas Grinch. And God answered my prayers through a Mark Driscoll podcast, in which he explained his theories of Santa with his own children.
He and his wife decided that they had three options when explaining the truth about this Christmas symbol. They could
1. Reject it - They could tell their children he wasn't real, he is only a myth. They would have no Santa decorations, no Santa cookies, no Santa Christmas paper. Santa would be officially banned. Seems pretty unpractical in a culture inundated with this harmless figure.
2. Receive it - They could tell their children that Santa is real. Santa loads up his sleigh, slides down the chimney, and brings all the presents your little heart desires. Driscoll went on to bring up a good point - if we as parents use this option we run a very dangerous risk. If we insist that an unseen figure that we are to trust, although unseen, is 100% reliable, and then are later told that information was just a myth, we run the risk of our children doubting Jesus Christ. A figure we are also asked to trust and have faith in, although unseen. This was a risk Ben and I were not willing to take.
3. Redeem it - They could tell their children that Santa was a real person, with the name St. Nicholas and he did great things for people in need a long long time ago, just as Jesus did. As the years moved on, people have added their own stories (flying reindeer, Frosty, big red suit) and so the story of Santa is a combination of both truth and imagination. Driscoll goes on to say that he explains to his children that people liked to dress up like Santa Claus, for fun, and we can and should use the imagination God has given us. Gift-giving, carol-singing, and cookie-baking can all be a great way to celebrate the birth of Jesus, something that should be celebrated a remembered.
We obviously have chosen the third option.
And so far, there have been no shrieks of horror or emotional stunting due to our desire to go against the status quo. In fact, all of our intentional truth-telling is reaping great rewards. I hear Ellie Kate tell her sweet friends about the birth of "baby Jesus in a barn, sleeping right next to a cow!" I love watching Peyton pick out presents for "the wittle girl who doesn' have any pwesents under her Smismus Twee." And I love watching their little hands play with a plastic nativity, and act out their ideas of what happened on that fateful night.
And who knows? Maybe one day little Stoney will get on that stage and perform a Linus re-enactment.
Whether my kids get the chance to shout it from the rooftops or not, I want them to know it in their hearts. The story of the first Christmas was the first step in a beautiful story of redemption and love, and I hope their knowledge of it is the first step on Ellie Kate, Peyton, and Stone's personal road to salvation.