Christmas Can Be Magical – With or Without Santa

You know all those petty wars that tend to circulate and grow on the internet? – Moms bashing moms for everything under the sun, from parenting styles to play dates, food issues to fitness – you name it, there is probably a war on it. Well, Christmas hasn’t been left out, because there are wars on that too.

The topic? Santa, or more specifically, whether or not it is okay to teach kids to believe in him.

I read two posts on this topic this morning, and I couldn’t believe the comments! People who want their kids to believe saying those who don’t let their kids believe are ruining their childhood, and those who don’t want their kids to believe saying that those who let them believe are straight-out lying to their children, and ruining their childhood. Basically, either way you are wrong.

There were so many opinionated people saying everyone else was wrong because no one else agreed with their personal decision on how the idea of Santa was handled in their household that I opted to not say anything on those posts because I hate getting into such debates. But I figured it wouldn’t hurt to post my thoughts on the topic here on my own blog.

Here is what I feel: whether or not you teach your child to believe in Santa, either the idea of him or that he is a real person, is purely a personal decision. Your choice on this should be what you feel is right for your family, based on your upbringing and personal beliefs, not what the media, your neighbors, a stranger in the grocery store, or the blogosphere thinks you should do. And when you read a blog post or news article from someone who holds an opposing view from yours, you shouldn’t feel the need to bash them for it!

My husband and I were both raised knowing Santa wasn’t real, so for us it was natural to pass the same belief to our children. This doesn’t mean that they don’t know who Santa is. They watch movies and read stories with him in it like any other child would, but as they’ve  gotten older and began questioning if he was a real person, I told them he was like Micky Mouse or Winnie the Pooh – just a story character, and that he represents the spirit of giving.

Since we live in India and Christmas is not a major holiday like it is in other countries, there is no concern that they will blurt out that Santa isn’t real and ruin it for some other kid. I don’t think anyone here teaches their child that he is. I may be wrong, but I have yet to find someone here who believes in Santa.

This year I plan to take it further and find the story of St. Nicholas. I will let them know that Santa is based on a real person who lived long ago, and who’s secret giving helped those in need. I will also prepare them for when we move to Canada by telling them that some people do believe Santa is  a real person, and that if they should meet someone who does, it’s okay to pretend along and not ruin it for them. I think that is the considerate thing to do.

Of course, since we don’t believe in Santa, there is also no Elf on the Shelf, Easter Bunny or Tooth Fairy in our house. I don’t think my kids are missing out on the magic of childhood just because they don’t believe these characters are real.

So how do we make Christmas special without Santa? Well, we’ve created our own traditions.

– The first thing we do is to decorate the house and tree at the same time each year, either on or as close to the 1st of December as possible. A weekend is best since there is no school, and we can make a day of it if necessary. Of course, this was the first year they were big enough to truly “help”. I still did most of it.

– Another thing we do, that began the year Logan was 2, is to countdown the days until Christmas. The first few years we used a simple poster that we printed out from some website and put together. They loved pulling a number off each day and having a small chocolate.

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This year we made something new – a chart that has a Christmas activity for each day leading up to the 25th. Some of the things I put on the chart are making cards, baking, reading stories, simple craft projects, a treasure hunt, and watching Christmas movies. Some of the activities repeat, such as the stories and movies, but that way we can cover a number of different ones.

Eventually I want to make one of these in cloth so I can trade up the ideas every year, but I’m waiting ’till Canada where I can get a sewing machine. Hand stitching is a lot of work!

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– Another tradition my kids enjoy is opening their stocking on the 25th morning. They know they can open it right away without asking.  I make sure to include a toy or activity and some treats – chocolate, cookies, etc., – something that will keep them happy and busy until everyone is up and ready to open gifts. I hand-stitched our stockings 2 years ago. You can read about it here. (And now you know why I don’t want to hand stitch a countdown chart.)

– At least once during the season, I read them the story of the First Christmas from a children’s Bible or storybook. We also put out a manger scene of some sort. I’ve used the above flannelgraph (found here) a few years in a row, and this year we are making a paper one. (Still working on it – I have to do 99% of the cutting, gluing and folding. Next time I’ll just buy one.)

– I like to bake fruitcake, since I love eating it, so I make enough to give some as gifts. We wrap and deliver them to friends and teachers. (You can find my recipe here.)

The cakes I made last year.

The cakes I made last year. And here is the funny story of how I ended up with too many cakes.

– A new idea I had this year was to have a simple treasure hunt. It will be done as one of the countdown to Christmas activities and the treasure is a new Christmas story book, wrapped up, of course. If they enjoy the game, and I’m sure they will, I will make it an annual tradition.

I look forward to incorporating more traditions as my kids grow. Traditions are fun and important because they help build memories. I don’t think it is necessary to believe in Santa in order for Christmas to be special, but I also don’t think you are wrong if you do. Christmas is supposed to be about joy and peace, friendship and families, and creating magic for our kids, not fighting over who’s tradition is the right one.

 

Now that that is all out of the way, tell me what your favorite Christmas tradition is, or what your kids look forward to?

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