Thursday, December 1, 2011

Refining St. Nick

I've been blogging about Santa since 2008.  My questions about what to teach my kids arose when my 2 year old expressed concern that a strange man who had been watching her was now going to come into her home in the middle of the night while she was asleep.  Understandable concerns when you think about it.

In 2009, we chose our path to focus more on the legend of St. Nicholas and less on Santa Claus.  It went so well that it became our tradition for 2010.

And here we are approaching Christmas yet again and I am excited to focus on Saint Nick and the lesson of giving that he represents. 

Here's a little run down of our Christmas / St. Nick / Santa Claus traditions:

1. Just before Christmas Eve, Santa will send a note to the kids, asking them to buy some food for him to pick up and take to other families that are hungry. 

2. On Christmas Eve, we put out a box of food.  After the kids go to bed, I always go to church for the 11:00 service and I put the food in Pastor Jennifer's trunk - her parents work at the food pantry so it's an easy transfer from her to them to the food pantry.

3. Santa leaves 1 present for each kid and a stocking of fun goodies.  The kids are starting to think about what to ask for from Santa.

4.  Previously, Santa has asked the kids to donate toys to Goodwill or a group that needs these for kids.  It was our way of cleaning out toys we don't play with as we got new things at Christmas.  However, we're going through that process already so it won't be necessary by the time we get to Christmas.

5. We don't go overboard on our gifts to our kids.  They get so much from grandparents and extended family and they don't have needss that aren't met throughout the year.  We follow this little rhyme: "Something you want, something you need, something you wear, something you read."  Want is easy- Teagan wants more Barbie stuff, Zach wants superheroes.  Wear is easy- a bathrobe for Teagan, a new shirt or something for Zach.  Read is already done- picked up books at the Scholastic Book Fair at Teagan's school recently.  Need- for Teagan will be a bathrobe and Zach has expressed he wants peanuts for Christmas so that could fit into this category. 

6. One of my favorite traditions is our Christmas Eve.  We go to church for a family friendly service.  Then we come home and the kids open specific presents- new pajamas and a special ornament for that year.  Then bedtime- my favorite time of day (heehee).

As we go about our holiday shopping and fun events around town, we don't make a big effort to visit Santa at every place.  We generally pick one special event to see Santa and then any other sightings are by chance and from afar. 

So we do lie to the kids about Santa.  But we also teach that the traditions of Santa are to remember the kind and compassionate things that St. Nicholas did in the past.

At this year's State Fair, there was a celebration of Germany that was ongoing for the course of the Fair.  Most of the exhibit was meh... there were even things I found downright grating (like a fake piece of the Berlin wall that wasn't identified as being a replica so people were getting all emotional and excited to have their picture taken in front of it).  But when I saw the holiday area and I laid eyes on Saint Nicholas, I was like a kid.  I wanted to hug him!  And what's funny is that Saint Nicholas isn't something from my childhood in any way.  I just didn't like the commercialism of Christmas and sought out a way to bring meaning to the season for my kids.

What are your holiday traditions? How do you handle Santa in your home? What are your memories of Santa from when you were a kid?



mimbles said...

We did the Santa thing with the kids complete with leaving out a drink and snacks for Santa and a water bowl and carrots for the reindeer (munching on the carrots and spitting them out all over the front deck so we could marvel at all the mess the reindeer left was my job).

We didn't really go out of our way to maintain the pretense though and because of my oldest's anxiety issues I had a rule of always answering direct questions honestly - he couldn't even cope with jokes of the tell an obvious lie kind.

We lasted till towards the end of Kindy when Dave was 6 before he cornered me and said "Is Santa really you and Dad?" to which I replied "Yep, but if you tell your sister I'll kill you." About 30 seconds later Caitlin, aged 5, came running up to me "Mum, David says Santa is really you! Is it?"

I did manage to persuade them to let our youngest enjoy it for a few more years, Tom lasted till he was 6 too. They're now 10, 13 and 14. I still have to do the carrots thing, it being traditional and all.

Call Me Cate said...

I love the idea of focusing on the legend of St. Nick. I think using that to help the kids think about giving is a great way to balance the receiving. And whether it's Santa or not, the idea of clearing out and donating is great.

I think you're finding a nice balance for your kids, establishing traditions that are in keeping with your values.

Rebecca said...

You mentioned that you do lie about Santa........There was this poem/story that I read several years ago and it was about a child not believing in Santa and the grandma goes on to talk about the spirit of Santa and then the child believes. The spirit of Santa will live on forever.

Mellodee said...

I have never considered the presence of Santa in kids lives as a lie. It is a fantasy, its about magic and imagination, and wonder. There is a natural progression as the child grows up and they come, in their own time, to the realization that Santa is not real. I'm sorry but I just don't see the harm in participating in the make-believe. Despite that, you as a parent have to make choices that are a good fit for your children and your family and your beliefs. I guess it boils down to what you are comfortable with. But Santa was a great memory in my life and even now it makes me feel loved to know that my mom and dad did whatever they could to make Christmas a special time in my childhood, including the little round man in a red suit who magically knew just how to make a little girl very happy.

Garret said...

Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Santa isn't real?