Monday, December 20, 2010

the santa thing


it all happened quite by accident, i assure you. when tristan was nearly 1 he enjoyed celebrating his first christmas with us and we enjoyed celebrating our first christmas with him even more. after opening a few presents at home as a family of 3, we packed the car up and drove to sis and rob's house to spend the rest of the day with josh's family. as we pulled up to their house, kaylee and johnny, then 5 and 3 (in adorable matching red plaid pajamas) bounded out of the house so eager to show us that "santa came!!" the evidence was clear: a large bite taken out of each of the 3 cookies left on the plate, almost an entire glass of milk emptied, and pieces of carrot strewn about the backyard leftover from the reindeer's snack. not having grown up in a home where santa was a real, live, magical person, i wasn't sure what i thought of all the hubub. sure, it was cute to see the wonder and genuine belief in their little eyes, but it sort of seemed rather misleading to me.

the following christmas, tristan was nearly 2. we flew up to canada to spend a wonderful white christmas with my family and i doubt the name "santa" came up at all. then, last year happened. tristan was nearly 3 and the perfect age for starting to "get" the whole idea of anticipation and surprises. i had no intention of promoting the whole santa thing to him, but my old beat up copy of "rudolph the red nosed reindeer" became his favorite show, and so he learned pretty much everything he needed to know about the jolly old elf. seeing his eyes light up when we'd pass an inflatable santa in somebody's front yard only fueled my desire for him to experience a bit of childhood magic, and so i started telling him things now and then about santa which eventually led to sitting on santa's lap (his eyes closed tightly shut because he was so shy) and whispering into santa's ear that he wanted a "buzz with wings" for christmas. on christmas morning, his own face filled with awe as he saw big bites taken out of the cookies he had left the night before and the glass of milk almost empty. and then when he opened the one gift for him that was from santa.....well, there was no turning back after that.

i've never had anything against santa at all. the real saint nicholas was a wonderful man who did a lot of good and i think its wonderful to remember such generosity and celebrate it. what i do have a problem with, however, is how santa and his reindeer and the presents are so exciting for children that it can all very easily overshadow the real reason we celebrate christmas: the manger. this is why my parents never pretended with us that santa was still alive; they knew we'd hear a lot about santa from everywhere else, but they wanted us to hear and learn about the true meaning of christmas in our home.

this year, i've spent much more time talking with tristan about the christmas story and helping him to understand the importance of the event of Christ's birth. i still read "twas the night before christmas" to him when he wants me to, but the majority of christmas books in our home are retellings of the nativity. instead of sitting on santa's lap this year, the boys tied their christmas lists to helium balloons and let them sail to the north pole. each boy will get 1 present from santa, wrapped special in an enormous bow and we will definitely set out cookies and milk on christmas eve. i don't feel guilty at all for make-believing with my kids something that many parents in the Christian community tend to shun. neither do i feel like i missed out on something in my childhood and need to make up for it with my own kids.

how do i know that the excitement of santa isn't overshadowing the humble babe in the stable? well, for one, i can't seem to keep the various nativity sets in my home nicely displayed. the ones that are within tristan's reach have everyone clumped together with their backs turned to the room. he explained to me, "but mommy, the shepherds and kings aren't supposed to look at us; they all came to see baby Jesus, so they have to look at him!" which is very true. the other hint was when we pulled up to the christmas tree farm last week to cut a tree down. tristan was expecting an inflatable jumpy to play in since they had one last year, but there was no jumpy to be seen. "its okay, tristan" i told him, "we still get to go pick a tree and cut it down and that's the best part!" "no it isn't, mommy!" he said earnestly, "the best part about christmas is baby Jesus; not christmas trees." oh, right. my bad.


12 comments:

Thoughts on Life and Millinery. said...

Two thumbs up on managing the cultural traditions so well. Tristian is such a tender soul! We down played Santa with our kids, but still had stockings from Santa on Christmas morning. They are grown up and each have their own stockings now, which will not be filled I suppose since I am not there to do it.
Wonder if our kittens would be interested in finding a stocking filled with catnip on Christmas morning?

Leanne said...

I was going to write a post on this too! The only issue I have with Santa is that he brings presents, sometimes big and expensive presents, to the rich kids and doesn't bring anything to so many other kids. You know what I mean? So I think it's equally important to teach our kids that the spirit of generosity lives in all of us - we are all responsible to BE "Santa" or St. Nick or whatever tradition you follow. I completely disagree with the commercialized Santa (perpetuated by Co*a C*la) that brings out the greediness in kids. But the GIVING part of Santa, that I can buy into. That's magic - when we wrapped all the gifts for the families in our community and we talked about how we were pretending to be Santa, and how Jesus came into the world to help everyone, well... those are the kind of lasting lessons I want to instill.

Oops, sorry for the long comment, guess I should have blogged about it instead. Tristan sounds like SUCH an amazing little boy with an incredible mother, and it sounds like a magical time at your house. You're an inspiration :)

Megan said...

Nicely done! I love the focus and balance.

Grandma J. said...

Good job Heidi and Josh. It is actually very fun to see how your own kids parent - even though it is different than the way you decided to do things.

sedachfamily said...

I think that's perfect Heidi! Merry Christmas!

christine said...

tristan has such insight for an almost 4yo... what a great kid he is if i say so myself! can't wait till christmas!

Neha said...

Tristan said it so well...hats off to you...you got things perfectly right :)

Merry Christmas :))

villagegirl said...

Ok. I have to de-lurk. :)
I've been enjoying reading your blog. I had to comment on this post and say that I hear exactly what you are saying. My kids do think Santa is real (althought probably the last year for my oldest) but I've never let it be the important thing. And never the biggest present. I want credit for that! ha ha
We have nativity sets and Christian books and my boys know what Christmas is really about. That being said, I know that there's nothing wrong with a little make believe. Is it any different than them pretending to be Batman and Robin?
Anyhow, I guess all that to say that I agree with you and it's nice to know there are others that think the same way!

Fiona said...

I also need to blog about this! I wasn't sure how we were going to find a balance, until Geoff told me that when they were kids Santa ONLY filled up their stockings, all the presents were from their parents and each other etc. That way Santa didn't even get credit for the 'best' presents, and they kept their focus on what Christmas is really about. His parents had a slight advantage, since the boys were all home-schooled until they were too old to believe in Santa anyway, they never knew what other kids got from him. I think at our house Santa will do stockings, and I did label the one big present from Santa... but Liam will never know if Santa doesn't do the same next year!

Mark said...

I love this picture. Is this available in a print to purchase?

Jennifer said...

I have just stumbled on your blog from Pinterest, the photo with all the sandals drew me in...just love this post about Santa and am looking forward to reading more.
Jennifer (in Ireland)

Anonymous said...

I wonder if maybe the high suicide rate around the holidays has something to do with the santa story... after all, he is only an illusion, and once disillusioned, Christmas can never really be the same. However, the manger will always be there, and will not disappoint.