As December flies by, I have been thinking a lot about how we celebrate Christmas. Now that we are parents, Christmas has taken on a whole new meaning and I want to teach our boys the right way to celebrate from the beginning. I have always LOVED Christmas. I was that frustrating child who would find my presents before they were wrapped and then be able to tell what they were before I unwrapped them. I would beg to open presents early. I grew up hearing about Santa and Jesus at the same time. I don't know when I found out that Santa wasn't real, but I don't remember being overly concerned that he wasn't, and I think that's because we were taught that Christmas was a celebration of Jesus, not Santa. We always had stuff in our stockings from "Santa" even after we knew that Santa wasn't real. We read the story of the birth of Jesus every year and we went to Christmas Eve services, and always had nativity scenes out for us to play with.
Fast forward to today. Christmas has become so secularized I wonder what Mary, Joseph, the wise men, shepherds, and especially Jesus would say if they went into a mall right now. Would they even recognize it as celebrating Jesus birth? I doubt it. I read headlines of atheists who want nativity scenes to be taken down because it violates the 1st amendment. As I was looking for photo Christmas cards online, it seemed like 98% of the cards had Santa or reindeer or snowmen or pretty scenery and 2% had nativity scenes or wise men or verses from the Bible. There are parents who get their kids all dressed up to go sit on Santa's lap to get their picture taken but don't go to a church service to hear about the best present of all...Jesus. Not to mention that it seems like there are more "Happy Holiday" greetings and signs than "Merry Christmas."
Because of all this, Garth and I made the decision to not celebrate Santa. We have told our kids that Santa is not real and he is loosely based on St. Nicholas. Why are we not letting our kids believe in Santa? Well for one thing, Santa is a lie. We have been working with the boys about telling the truth in ALL situations...good or bad. What are we doing by saying that Santa will be coming to put presents in their stockings? Lying to them. So when we hung the stockings up on the fireplace mantle and the boys asked what they were for, we told them that on Christmas Eve, Mommy and Daddy would put little presents in there for them. We also told the boys that other parents do tell their kids about Santa and they were NOT to be the ones to inform them otherwise. For another reason (if the lying aspect wasn't enough), Santa detracts from the real reason we are celebrating...Jesus. I mean really, if you got a group of 4- and 5-year-old children together and asked them whether they would like to visit Santa who brings you presents or Jesus who is lying in a manger, who do you think they are going to choose? The guy with the presents, of course.
The other thing we are doing is getting them only a few presents (like 3 or 4 each). When I was growing up, I would count how many presents I got and how many my brothers got. I would get very distressed if they got more presents than I did. It didn't matter if my presents cost about 3x more than theirs did, I wanted to have an equal number of presents if not more. So we are going to start early and only get the boys no more than 4 presents. They will, of course, get presents from Grandpas and Grandmas and cousins, etc. so don't feel too sorry for them. One thing we will NOT be getting them is toys. We have more toys around here than we know what to do with. In fact, since we just spent the weekend cleaning up the house and putting things in their place, we have informed the boys that if there are any toys left on the floor when they go to bed, those toys will be put in a big box to either give away, take to Goodwill, or take to our local Nifty Thrifty store to resell. Harsh, I know. If my parents had made that rule for me, I would have lost a lot of toys over the years. I am not a tidy person (just ask my parents, my college roommates, and anybody who just "came over" without giving me at least 30 minutes notice)....but I'm trying to be better.
Anyway, back to Christmas. The other reason we are only buying a few things is because we don't NEED to spend very much money on ourselves. As far as I'm concerned, we got the BEST gifts ever on March 10, 2011 when the Ethiopian judge uttered the words "Congratulations, they are yours." Keep in mind that this is coming from the person who LOVES presents. I would be perfectly happy not to spend any money this Christmas so we can start saving up for the next international judge to say those exact words again.
I also want to start early to teach the boys that the spirit of Christmas is to show the love of Jesus. God loves us so much that he sent Jesus to save us from our sinful nature and live with him forever in heaven. What are we doing to help others in our neighborhood? In our city? Are we spreading God's love or are we pushing and shoving our way through the shopping lines wondering when it will all be over? It seems like everyone is so busy getting ready for Christmas that we forget who it is we should be celebrating. Would Jesus want us to be rushing around, going into debt, and just gathering more stuff that doesn't remind us of Him? Of course not! This is the season to demonstrate who God is to the people who need to hear it most (some of whom might be sitting next to you in the church pew). So slow down. Enjoy this season with those friends and family around you. And remember the reason for the season.