'Tis the season . . . for parents to decide if they will tell the truth about Santa.
When it comes to cultural issues like Santa, Christians have three options: (1) we can reject it, (2) we can receive it, or (3) we can redeem it.
Since Santa is so pervasive in our culture, it is nearly impossible to simply reject Santa as part of our annual cultural landscape. Still, as parents we don't feel we can simply receive the entire story of Santa because there is a lot of myth built on top of a true story.
So, as the parents of two children, Scott and I have taken the third position to redeem Santa. We tell our kids that he was a real person who did live a long time ago. We also explain how people dress up as Santa and pretend to be him for fun, kind of like how young children like to dress up as pirates, princesses, superheroes, and a host of other people, real and imaginary. We explain how, in addition to the actual story of Santa, a lot of other stories have been added (e.g., flying reindeer, living in the North Pole, delivering presents to every child in one night) so that Santa is a combination of true and make-believe stories.
We do not, however, demonize Santa. Dressing up, having fun, and using the imagination God gave can be an act of holy worship and is something that, frankly, a lot of adults need to learn from children.
What we are concerned about, though, is lying to our children. We teach them that they can always trust us because we will tell them the truth and not lie to them. Conversely, we ask that they be honest with us and never lie. Since we also teach our children that Jesus is a real person who did perform real miracles, our fear is that if we teach them fanciful, make-believe stories as truth, it could erode confidence in our truthfulness where it really matters. So, we distinguish between lies, secrets, surprises, and pretend for our kids. We ask them not to tell lies or keep secrets, but do teach them that some surprises (like gift-giving) and pretending (like dressing up) can be fun and should be encouraged. We tell them the truth and encourage them to have fun watching Christmas shows on television and even sitting on Santa's lap for a holiday photo if they so desire. To date, neither of our children have wanted to sit on his lap. For parents of younger children wanting them to learn the real story of Santa Claus theVeggie Tales movie Saint Nicholas is a good choice. This year, my son saw Little Drummer Boy Veggie Tales style also.
The larger-than-life myths surrounding Santa Claus actually emanate from the very real person of Saint Nicholas. It is difficult to know the exact details of his life with certainty, as the ancient records are sparse, but the various pieces can be put together as a mosaic of his life.
Nicholas was born in the third century in Patara, a village in what is now Turkey. He was born into an affluent family, but his parents died tragically when he was quite young. His parents had raised him to be a devout Christian, which led him to spend his great inheritance on helping the poor, especially children. He was known to frequently give gifts to children, sometimes even hanging socks filled with treats and presents.
Perhaps his most famous act of kindness was helping three sisters. Because their family was too poor to pay for their wedding dowry, three young Christian women were facing a life of prostitution until Nicholas paid their dowry, thereby saving them from a horrible life of sexual slavery.
Nicholas grew to be a well-loved Christian leader and was eventually voted the Bishop of Myra, a port city that the apostle Paul had previously visited (Acts 27:5-6). Nicholas reportedly also traveled to the legendary Council of Nicaea, where he helped defend the deity of Jesus Christ in A.D. 325.
Following his death on December 6, 343, he was canonized as a saint. The anniversary of his death became the St. Nicholas holiday when gifts were given in his memory. He remained a very popular saint among Catholic and Orthodox Christians, with some two thousand churches named after him. The holiday in his honor eventually merged with Christmas, since they were celebrated within weeks of one another.
During the Reformation, however, Nicholas fell out of favor with Protestants, who did not approve of canonizing certain people as saints and venerating them with holidays. His holiday was not celebrated in any Protestant country except Holland, where his legend as Sinterklass lived on. In Germany, Martin Luther replaced him with the Christ child as the object of holiday celebration, or, in German, Christkindl. Over time, the celebration of the Christ child was simply pronounced Kris Kringle and oddly became just another name for Santa Claus.
The legends about Santa Claus are most likely a compilation of other folklore. For example, there was a myth in Nicholas' day that a demon was entering people's homes to terrorize children and that Nicholas cast it out of a home. This myth may explain why it was eventually believed that he came down people's chimneys.
Also, there was a Siberian myth (near the North Pole) that a holy man, or shaman, entered people's homes through their chimneys to leave them mushrooms as gifts. According to the legend, he would hang them in front of the fire to dry. Reindeer would reportedly eat them and become intoxicated. This may have started the myth that the reindeer could fly, as it was believed that the shaman could also fly. This myth may have merged with the Santa Claus myth, and if so, explains him traveling from the North Pole to slide down chimneys and leave presents on fireplace mantles before flying away with reindeer.
These stories of Santa Claus were first brought to America by Dutch immigrants. In the early twentieth century, stores began having Santa Claus present for children during the Christmas season. Children also began sending letters to the North Pole as the legends surrounding an otherwise simple Christian man grew.
In sum, Saint Nick was a wonderful man who loved and served Jesus faithfully. So, we gladly include him in our Christmas traditions to remind us of what it looks like for someone to live a life of devotion to Jesus as God. Our kids thank us for being both honest and fun, which we think is what Jesus wants.
Image by Patrick Mahoney
Well, I'm back. Not that I really went anywhere, I just haven't been here on my blog in a while. I promised to return in December and I made it into the first half by just a hair! I have most of my Christmas shopping done, most of the gifts are even wrapped (Thanks to no good places left to hide them!) and I've also managed to make some gifts for the teachers, helpers and other miscellaneous people that we give small gifts to this time of year. It's a low budget year for us, but at least I managed to get Christmas cards made. Still waiting on delivery of said cards, hopefully they will get out before Christmas!
Anyway, there are so many things I've been thinking about for the last few weeks; what to post, how to post it, what to say about it, so on and so forth. I don't really have any new super cool ideas, but I have a few prompts that I'm going to shoot out.
Look for the following posts in coming weeks;
I'm sure I'll have a few more, I'm just not sure if they will make it out before Christmas. There are quite a few things going on between then and now! I pray you have a wonderful Christmas season remembering the reason why we celebrate this wonderful time of year.
To my dear readers!
I'm very excited for the holidays; Very excited to spend time with family and friends. As my regular readers know, I am not totally regular on posting things. Sometimes I'll post all week long, and sometimes only once in a week. (And still yet, sadly only once a month…) With the holiday coming up next week, I will be out of town. As it is just myself who is the contributing writer on this blog, I will be otherwise occupied playing with my children, cooking with my mother, enjoying a glass of wine with family and getting totally stuffed to the gills on Thursday. So I don't have a menu planned, I don't have a schedule planned, and I certainly don't have any posts planned for next week. It's quite a fantastic Friday for me in rainy northern California today. My son is out of school for 9 days and we plan on enjoying every minute of it. I'll be doing a craft fair the weekend after we come home from our vacation and so that will keep me quite busy in preparation during the last week of November. So this is my last post for the month of November,
Be thankful for what you have been blessed with, do not want what is not yours, and love those who love you the most with an unending and unselfish love, so that you can leave a legacy of love for those that would follow in your footsteps.
Now the sappy-ness is over. I hope you all have a great time next week. Look for me in December!!
Like the end of anything, Fridays are anticipated because they are the end of the work week for most people, and the beginning of the weekend. Can we say 5 o'clock anyone? I feel like my son has reached the end of his "little kid" life as he's now in kindergarten, and is growing up way to fast for me. Just this evening we were stalling for bed time finishing our cookies for dessert and we clicked through the folders of pictures on our PS3. Caleb was enthralled that I started with pictures of him as a baby. Adelynn kept asking when we were going to see pictures of her, so I obliged and we ended up burning through 20 minutes real quick! As I bathed them and get them in bed, I thought of something a friend told me today as she was so kindly complimenting me on some of the things I've written here about the kids. She told me I should make sure to write a lot more down and then print them out for the kids' baby books, etc. She and her twin sister had been going through their mom's photo albums and wished she had written more down about them as kids. Of course she was happy that she had pictures, but the memories begin to fade without details. In any case, here is a simple 20 things about my kids that I wanted to write down before they are older and I've forgotten. It also made me smile to write these precious moments down, because I am still in the thick of tantrums, bad attitudes, potty training, wet beds, rejected dinners, etc. So seeing all the sweet things about my kids written down brings peace in the midst of parenting trials. I thank God for my kids every day even as I struggle to view and treat them as blessings instead of burdens.
20 ways you will make me smile (forever)
1. Your beautiful blue eyes.
2. How everyone says you have your mama's curls. (I don't trust them to last, so I'm enjoying them now!)
3. The way your eyes get HUGE when we are really close and talking about something "So Cool"
4. How you potty trained yourself because you wanted to be a big girl. I really hope you grow out of wanting to be a big girl…You'll grow up way to fast like mama did.
5. It makes my laugh and smile to see you traipsing around the house in nothing but your pink panties and high heeled princess shoes.
6. It makes me smile to remember how well you can speak at this age, but how you never say the "s" at the beginning of a word. Spaceship becomes "Paceship" and spaghetti is "Paghetti"
7. The way you light up whenever daddy comes home.
8. How eager you are to help me in the kitchen dumping measuring spoons and watching my ever-constant mixer go 'round and 'round.
9. Your chubby little buns…Oh, I could just squeeze all day!
10. It makes me smile that you both have similar white lovey blankets; The name of your white blanket is "Neenee". Brother's white favorite blanket was "Boo" (And I have no idea where either name came from.)
11. It makes me smile to listen to how sweet you are to your brother even when he isn't nice to you.
12. You know how to use your manners. It does a mama's heart good to hear that.
13. Whenever you are sad, you want to sit on my lap and snuggle for as long as I can sit. (Which isn't long these days)
14. That you love to go shopping with me, even when it's to Walmart and I haven't promised you a toy. (Because I don't need to, and most times I don't even need a snack for you either)
15. It makes me smile to hear you call yourself a princess. Even though it brings frantic thoughts of drama and pinkness beyond my comprehension.
16. That when you fall asleep in my arms you still do your little baby whimper-smile with your sweet little lips.
17. It makes me smile that you are always willing to sit and read. You love books.
18. I think it's pretty cool that you love to count, sing songs pretty well and are well on your way to knowing the whole alphabet.
19. It makes me smile when you do something that your brother asks you to do without questioning him, because you trust him completely. (May be dangerous some day…)
20. It makes me smile knowing that God gave you to me for this sweet time and I get the privilege of watching you grow and teaching you all the wonders of Christ so that you too may one day know and love Him as much as I do.
I love my babies!
1. Family; We are healthy, happy and growing together in love.
2. Faith; God has been so faithful to us, even when we mess up and fail miserably. I'm so thankful that Christians aren't perfect, just perfectly forgiven! It means I am human but that God loves me despite me!
3. Friends; Though friends move away, we are able to remain friends because of modern technology and fast cars and freeways. (I know, silly!) Those friends that remain are even more precious now!
4. Employment; So many people are hurting right now, and while we struggle to pay off debt and feed our family, we are employed and so thankful that from our little we can still give much.
5. Fun; We live in an area where there is so much to do. We have beautiful mountains that will soon b e covered in snow, we have the pacific ocean where yesterday it was a record day @ 82 degrees! There are lakes, trails, valleys and rivers. God's majesty is displayed all around us. Sometimes we don't notice, but I've definitely been noticing since autumn is my absolutely favorite time of year. Take a look around you today and think about all the things you have to be thankful for. Even in the midst of the chaos of this world; It will change your attitude for sure!
Monday Mission: Should you choose to accept it, will be to do one random act of kindness today. See? I told you we’d start out easy.
Of course back in bible times the mode of transportation was walking; Or riding on an animal if you were wealthy to afford an animal. So a lot of time was spent walking together, and God said that this was a perfect time fore discussing eternal things together. Sometimes I feel like we spend half our day in the car! Make it a point to turn off the radio and spend some time being spiritually focused. Maybe it’s a short drive…Spend it in prayer for safety and reflection on the mornings events; good or bad. Dr. Rienow is a down to earth kind of author and admits to forgetting this occasionally. I’m going to quote what he said about this small tidbit of effective time.