Laura and I (mostly me) love the seasonal activities more than I should. To prove how much I love the season I took a picture of my first "Christmas cup" from Starbucks back in November. You can see it here.
We love the season and we love the seasonal activities but we are a little sad that we don't have any traditions so my wife and I are investing in either an advent wreath or an advent calendar so that we can make all our celebrations truly about Christ.
We believe that a tradition is more than a ritual. Not passing judgment but in most cases celebrating Christmas eve/day with your family is a habit not a tradition. Opening gifts is a custom not a tradition. Visiting grandma and grandpa and eating the exact same meal every year is a ritual not a tradition.
A tradition is a regular activity that purposefully helps adults and children know, love, desire and treasure God in the most real sense.
Now, just having an advent wreath or calendar doesn't accomplish this but, by as a family reading scripture and lighting a candle each Sunday of advent we are continually reminded of what this season of celebration and hope is all about. Having this as the regular and repeating focal point of the celebration helps everything else to fall in order.
Laura and I are also careful not just about what we do at Christmas but what we do not do at Christmas. We believe that Santa is too much of a distraction and competing force to the true meaning of Christmas so we don't "do Santa." You're not a bad parent if you do but we can't justify it to ourselves. Our fears and objections are not abstract. I have listed the reasons why as a family we chose not to "do Santa" as well as the two big objections we get and our response to them.
Why we don't do Santa
1) Santa adds the the already overwhelming attitude of consumerism and materialism our culture throws at our children. Santa's purpose is to bring kids the gifts they want. He is the focus and highlight of the season and we aren't okay with that. If opening gifts is the highlight of Christmas we have failed our children. Our God is a cultivator of new things not a consumer of created things. We don't celebrate him buying stuff.
2) Santa isn't real. Everybody likes fairytales and fiction but no one asks you to actually believe they are true. First of all, if I ask my kids to believe this fairytale and then they find out it isn't true there will be anger and distrust or at best, disappointment that I caused. Second, we don't really ask our children to believe in the boogieman, the Easter bunny, or leprechauns so why is Santa so important?
3) If we celebrate Christmas with Santa and elves as well as the nativity and maggai we are postponing our kids ability to understand the truth of what God has done. I heard a great quote to this effect: "Its very difficult for children to sort through the marble cake of part reality and part imagination to find the crumbs of truth." We want our children to understand God as much as possible at whatever age, we should try and avoid what could distort this understanding.
4) For an uncritical and easily convinced child Santa must be confusing. He is so much like what our kids are being taught at home and church that God is like all year long. Look at his attributes:
- Omniscient - See all that you do
- Omnipresent - or can be everywhere in one night
- Answers sincere petitions
- Gives you good gifts
- Rewards good behavior
- Famous "guy in the sky"
1) But Zach, Santa is good for kid's imaginative development. I agree that Santa-like figures may have the ability to make a child's imagination run wild with fantastic ideas and adventures. This is great. My question to you would be: what's wrong with my kids imagination the rest of the year? We don't talk about Santa any time during the year except December. (If you are the exception to that statement then you are probably using Santa as a bargaining tool to get your kids to behave and that is just wrong.) All year long children play with imaginary friends and dream up awesome adventures. They don't loose this ability because its Christmas.
2) But Zach, Santa represents love you say again with growing disdain. Perhaps this is true if that's what you have taught your children but couldn't we simply explain that God is love and he became flesh to prove it? And couldn't we say that we give gifts to show others how much we love them and to reflect that same love? Don't tell me explaining how a fat guy with reindeer can go to every house in the world in a single day is easier than telling your kids simply God loves us and this is one way we celebrate.
3) But Zach, don't you know the real story of "Santa" or "St. Nick"? I know the story of St. Nicholas and that's great but he is no longer the Santa that "visits" your children, he hasn't been for a very long time. Your children's Santa is a rewarder of works with high priced gadgets and gizmos that make them either boast to their friends about what they got or be disappointed it wasn't enough. The latter was my reaction until I out grew Santa. If Santa could give me what ever I wanted, why didn't he? Was I not good enough? Did he not like me? Knowing that my parents are the ones that buy gifts makes my expectations much more reasonable. I know my parents love me, they show me all year long, but I also know that money doesn't grow on trees because they tell me all year long.
I hope you establish some awesome traditions with your family and friends.