When I was a little girl I remember every year being excited to sit on Santa’s lap, tell him what a good girl I’d been and ask for something special for Christmas. I loved watching Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. My parents didn’t make a huge deal of Santa but he was still an integral part of our Christmas celebrations. When I was in fourth grade my friends started to tell me that Santa Claus wasn’t real, that it was just my parents who bought the gifts. In all honesty, I think I knew logically by then that was true, but it didn’t bother me too much. I still loved the idea of Santa Claus and chose to keep believing anyways because he was part of the magic of my Christmases and I didn’t want to give it up.
Now, a full two decades later I find myself on the other side of the Santa Claus celebration. Instead of believing in Santa Claus – I am Santa Claus for my three sweet children. I love that part of Christmas where I now have the chance to prepare surprises for Christmas morning for which I will not take credit. I love trying to find something that will make my kids eyes light up on Christmas morning and bring joy into their hearts. Even though I want their Christmas to be Christ-centered, I feel like the tradition of Santa Claus can turn their minds, and mine to the Savior.
However, I have been troubled by the first question that my kids are asked this season by almost every adult they see at this time of the year, “What’s Santa bringing you for Christmas?” Since I’ve already claimed that I really do love the tradition of Santa Claus so much, how can this bother me? It’s an innocent question and it is fun to see the things that kids are excited about for Christmas morning. But I feel like it places too much emphasis on the wrong part of Christmas for young minds.
Earlier this week a friend posted this article by Jen Hatmaker called The Christmas Conundrum. In it she describes her experience as a pre-teenager being totally disillusioned by finding out that the presents she received on Christmas morning weren’t what she expected, and how it ruined her whole Christmas. She goes on to say how sad it is that her Christmas was completely defined by material things with no actual thought of the real meaning of the season – the birth of Christ.
I don’t think we’ll be going to her extreme of cutting out Santa from Christmas entirely, but I do want to help my kids from a young age be more aware of the real meaning of Christmas, rather than the consumerism aspects. While I like knowing what my kids want for Christmas I’ve never had them sit down and make Christmas lists, or badgered them for what they want most. We’ve gone to visit Santa Claus (although with very little success getting our boys to sit on his lap so far) and we’ll talk a little about things they might like, but I really try to focus on other parts of Christmas. I try to find ways to read Christmas stories with them, or sing songs, or serve others, rather than expending too much of their energy on what they want to get from Christmas. In addition to taking the focus away from Christ, I think focusing on what you’re hoping to get sets kids up for disappointment. If you have high hopes of getting the 5 things on your Christmas list and you only get 4 of them then you’ll be sad. But if your focus is on other things than yourself then anything you get is just a sweet surprise. I would like to suggest some alternate questions that we could pose to young children that would help bring the focus back to our Savior and less on Santa Claus.
- What are you going to give this year for Christmas? I will never forget listening to this inspired talk by President Monson back in 1995 called Christmas Gifts, Christmas Blessings which he gave at the Christmas Devotional that year. He suggested rather than asking what someone got for Christmas we should ask what they gave for Christmas. Quite often we put a lot of thought into what we’re giving different people for Christmas and it’s much more exciting to focus on how we’re hoping to make someone else’s life brighter. I think if we try to ask this question to kids it will help them to want to do things for other people and be a little more selfless rather than selfish.
- Do you love the Christmas music at this time of year? What song is your favorite? Yes, you might still get answers that are more about presents and snow and jingle bells, but the music at Christmas time is inspiring to the soul. There is a joy in that music that helps bring in the spirit of the season better than almost anything else. You can even take that chance as an opportunity to share your favorite Christmas song too, maybe one that bears a small testimony of the Savior.
- Who are you spending Christmas with? I’ve heard people say before that the meaning of Christmas isn’t to be with family, but I think that’s baloney. Our Savior died so that we can be with our families forever, so what more fitting way to celebrate His birth than by spending time strengthening those family relationships? Children will get excited at the thought of grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, or even just having a day or two extra at home with their mom or dad off work.
- What is your favorite part of Christmas? I’m sure many children will respond with an answer of Santa Claus or presents, but it opens the door for you to include your favorite part of Christmas too. Whether that’s serving others, or the love people show at this time of year, or Christmas music. Even if their initial answer isn’t part of the real meaning of Christmas I think it’s a good way to at least suggest to their minds that there’s more to this season than just presents under a tree or in a stocking.
- Does your family have any Christmas traditions that you love? When I was growing up my family had the tradition that on Christmas Eve we would all get a new pair of Christmas pajamas that we would wear to bed that night and then we’d stay in them all day on Christmas. For whatever reason that always seemed like such a treat to me when I was younger, and that day spent at home, with my family, in our PJs is still one of my favorite memories of Christmas time.
It takes a little creativity, but I think we can find ways to help our kids turn their focus from Santa to Christ. I’ll try to post some more traditions and suggestions to help your family’s Christmas be more Christ-centered this year. But for now I’ll leave you with this one challenge – as you try to engage the kids you see in talks about Christmas, will you try to find ways to bring their focus away from Santa and towards our Savior?
What other questions could we be asking our kids instead of Santa questions? I’d love to hear your suggestions! Leave them in the comments below 🙂