Those who know me understand that I love the Christmas season. I like the little things, like hot chocolate and Christmas music. I love the family traditions, the decorating, and taking precious hours to connect with people we love. I also love the more profound ideas of Christmas; giving and caring, and celebrating faith. Honestly, from stockings to snowflakes to family dinners, I love it all.
Together with all this Christmas joy, is Santa Claus. As the displays in all the stores are telling us, it is about to be Santa season again. Depending on your age, you may be thrilled, stressed, or experiencing one of many other reactions to the time of year when many children expect the people they love to deliver on a huge promise our culture has been making for generations.
When our own children were small, we had a different take on the big man in the red suit; we simply told them Santa was a fun tradition but the gifts under our Christmas tree were from mom and dad. Now that our children are grown, they have decided that they may want their children to experience the Santa story like many other children do.
We are supportive of whichever path they choose. Every family makes their own decision about participation in customs and holidays, and we feel certain that they will all be able to transfer the wonder of Christmas to their own children, even if folklore about a happy and generous man in red is along for the ride.
If you do not celebrate Christmas, or if you do not include Santa, no doubt you have your own strategies for navigating the Christmas season with your children. If your family is one that includes Santa Claus as part of your tradition, here are a few suggestions that have come from years of working with young children and hearing what they accidentally say from the heart.
“My mom said if I get bad grade on my report card, Santa won’t come this year.” If indeed the Santa ideal our children understand is making a list and checking it twice, a double-checked list can't make Santa into the behavior police for every infraction. Reinforcing the idea of being a nice kid is great, but actual parenting is probably more than Santa can really accomplish.
“I think Santa likes my cousin more than he likes me, cause he got lots more toys that I did.” We should try to keep in mind that some of our kids’ peers have a more modest Christmas than others. Maybe attribute one or two gifts under the tree to Santa and the make the rest from others who love our children.
“I musta been really bad last year cause Santa didn’t even come to my house.” Yes, there are many children who do not wake up to reindeer tracks in the snow on the roof of their dwelling place. It is hard for them to hear about is a long list of stuff someone else received. Let’s teach our children that part of true thankfulness for gifts is not bragging about what we receive.
“I don’t care about all the other stuff, I just want the presents.” Be sure that Santa is not the only part of Christmas that is awe-inspiring. The real magic is learning about giving and building traditions and memories, and the gift of time together
Perhaps we even teach our children to help Santa with the gift-giving by placing a few gifts under the tree that we can deliver to someone in need. What a great tradition to start, delivering a gift on Santa’s behalf, to be opened under someone else’s tree. A gift, from a legendary giver, delivered with loving hands, offered to someone who can never repay the cost of the gift; now that is a Christmas ideal to live and learn.
If your Christmas tradition includes milk and cookies for jolly ole Saint Nick, remember to be kind about the view from someone else’s chimney.