Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Controversial Christmas

Jen Hatmaker - The Christmas Conundrum

In the above link, you will find an extremely compelling article detailing what exactly is wrong with the consumer Christmas, and what she suggests to do about it. I agree whole-heartedly.

As married college students, we often engage in this conversation with other Christian couples, "What are you going to do about Santa?" Now that we are actually parents, the importance of this question is much weightier. Granted, Roman will only be 1 this Christmas 2013, but we want to be prepared. We want to be grounded in our beliefs before the chaos of traditions set in and we end up feeling like we can't go back.

As an older, unmarried teen, I didn't like the idea of Santa at all. I told my parents I didn't want my children believing in Santa because it is pointless to lie to your children, even if it is intended for good fun. I felt like the Santa-myth bred so many points of gluttony and greed in children and I detested the song, He sees you when you're sleeping, He knows when you're awake, He knows if you've been bad or good so be good for goodness sake! The idea that our children would value Santa over God is appalling. We shouldn't be threatening our children that Santa won't bring them any gifts if they aren't good throughout the year. We should train them to be obedient because God has called us to do so.

Similarly, the lengthy letters to Santa with item after desired item written inside puts children in a position of expectation. They may understand their parents' financial situation, but Santa is magic. He and his elves make the toys (that you somehow also see identical replicas of in the stores...? How did this not occur to me as phony as a child?) so they can afford to give you whatever you ask for. When Christmas morning comes, and under the tree is a modest assortment of things your parents can afford, disappointment sets in instead of joy.

The author touches on this bratty greed by remembering Christmas 1985 when she was mortified to discover one of her sweatshirts was a $3 sale item at Walmart. Have I been this child? Absolutely. Do I want to see this in my children? Absolutely not. This isn't about my children simply respecting the means we have (or don't have) as parents to provide for their wants, but it goes further -- into their hearts. I want my children to have nice things, but I don't want them to be defined by nice things.

Even more important than the depth of my children's character regarding gifts, is the notion that if you lie to your children about something so intrinsic to our lives and culture, such as Santa, how then are you supposed to gain and maintain their trust when it comes to crazy integral parts of our faith -- like, hey, the existence of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit...or the validity of the Bible...or anything else we hold so near and dear?

There are many other extremely worthwhile points in the article, but the one that struck me with the most resounding impact was the issue of Santa. This is a completely attainable way that I can show my children what Christmas is truly about to me. This is a way to bring my focus and my heart back to what matters.

With that being said, we are saying NO to Santa. We are telling our children the story of Santa, just like you may tell many beloved fairy tales, Disney stories, or other Christmas tales like Frosty or Rudolph. We will tell them about St. Nicholas and his love for Christ that led him to give. We will talk about the wise men who brought gifts of frankincense, myrrh, and gold to baby Jesus. We will talk about how our gifts (both physical and gifts of our time) effect others. We will hold these stories in our hearts and cherish them as fond Christmas fun -- but they will not be our focus. Our children will know the story of Santa, and they will understand that your children think he is real. If the school takes a picture with Santa or colors a Rudolph picture, more power to them. I won't interject. These things are all good fun, but we won't make Santa an idol in our home.

I understand that many people, family included, may think I am sucking the fun out of Roman and our future children's Christmas season. You may see a belief in Santa as harmless fun, but to me, this is an assimilation into the consumerism that we are all entangled in so deeply. I want my children to know the truth. I know we will receive judgment, but I will never put my faith aside to make you more comfortable.

It's an issue that has been nagging at me since before I was a parent, and now that I have a chance to mold the life of someone so precious, I want to make sure I train my child up in the way he should go -- starting with celebrating the birth of our Savior the way it should be celebrated.

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