Last Christmas

was yesterday. That’s weird to say. And this year Phil and I actually had presents to put under the tree.

The presents

And speaking of presents… I’m just curious how many of you believed in Santa when you were a child, or how many of you have children that believe in Santa. And if you still believe in santa… You may not want to read what’s next. :) Here’s how I feel about St. Nicholas and the traditions of Christmas.

I can remember a couple years ago, standing around talking about what Christmas meant to us. And I said Christmas was a time for tradition and spending time with family and loved ones. And my brother looked at me with an odd look, like, really? And he said something about how Christmas was a time to remember Jesus’ birth. I thought it was an awfully canned answer. I was just being honest. Tradition has always been so important to me- the warming factor of the holidays. We have always done the same thing every year for Christmas. Gone to the same houses. Had the same kind of food, music, gift exchanges, movies, and, of course, people. Recently, people have been missing from the picture. Last year was the first year without Grandma Graber, who set the traditions for our entire family. It was the first year we didn’t have Christmas at her house. And this year, my Grandpa Cook is gone, and his daughter, my Aunt Kathy, was in the hospital after having a stroke on Sunday morning. It was the first year we didn’t have Christmas at her house. Basically, nothing we did this year was traditional at all, except for watching It’s a Wonderful Life. And on Christmas Eve I was being a bit of a grouch about it. But I finally came to my senses and realized that it was my own fault for putting all of my Christmas stock into tradition. It’s not about tradition. It’s about love, really. The love of God to send his son, for God to come to earth in human form. To go through everything we go through. And to ultimately die so that our sin debt could be paid. That is the greatest act of love. And Christmas is a time to remember this, and to just love and be loved. And that is all. We show our love by being together, by making things or giving things. And that’s how the tradition of Santa Claus began.

My parents never told me Santa was real. They told me the story of The Saint named Nicholas and how it is said that he gave gifts to poor Children on Christmas Eve. And that’s where the tradition of every child getting a gift in a stocking comes from. But they never told me that he is still alive or that I should believe in him. I would watch other families who did tell this to their children, and I envied them for having that excitement and sense of wonder at Christmastime. I thought, when I have kids, I won’t steal the tradition of Santa from them.

My mother always told me, “We didn’t tell you Santa was real, because we never wanted to have to tell you that he wasn’t. We wanted you to always be able to trust us and know that what we tell you is true.” That made sense. But I still didn’t know what I would do about Santa when I have kids. Surely they would understand that it’s just a tradition, and I wasn’t really lying to them, right?

Well, I remember when it hit me. It was last year. I was watching some Christmas special where the theme was “Just believe! Believe that Santa is real! Just believe in your heart he is real! And then we can save Christmas!” And I wanted to gag. Because that’s what the Bible teaches about Jesus. In Romans 10 it says: “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved.” Which is basically what has evolved with the tradition of Santa. And I knew right then and there, that I would not encourage my children to do such a serious thing with a fantasy. Because I did not want them to think Jesus was just a fantasy too. Fantasy and reality should be kept separate. And I want my children to have excitement and imagination, but I don’t want them to truly believe with all their heart in something that is not real. It is up to them to decide if they will believe in Jesus or not, but I will not encourage them to believe in something fake, only to tell them later that it was a lie.

I was talking about this a few days ago with my friend. And she said that her parents weren’t sure what to do regarding the Santa dilemma, but they had decided that it wouldn’t hurt anything to go ahead an do it, so they told her and her siblings that Santa was real. But one night, when her parents were putting her to bed, she said her prayers to Jesus and when she was done she asked “Should I pray to Santa now?” And that was when her parents decided that they had made a mistake.

So…. these are my thoughts. I believe tradition to be an important element in the holiday season. I believe imagination to be an integral part of human nature. And I see no reason why the story of St. Nicholas cannot be a part of imagination and tradition. But I don’t think that any Christmas story should eclipse the “reason for the season” (I’m sorry, it’s just such a good cliche), nor should we exchange the truth for a fantasy. And that’s how it will be in our house when one day there are little ones taking part is the traditions with us.

And now that I’ve finished my novella, I’ll share some pictures of Christmas at our house. And boy was it strange to have Christmas at our house!

Matt and phil

Root beer


Matt's presents


14 Responses

  1. krista says:

    hey! just thought i would ‘chime in’…my husband has always felt the same way, that how can we say believe in Santa and then say believe in God….only later to say that Santa was a lie. his line was always “there’s a little santa in all of us”..haha. i like to say that i believe in the spirit of Christmas. thinking of others first, giving gifts, spending time with family & friends…but ultimately, remembering that Jesus came to earth, living as a human, to later die on the cross for us.
    my son is 14…this is the first year that
    “santa” wasn’t mentioned on Christmas morning. i never asked if he still believed, i never spoke those words outloud, nor did he. it just kind of slipped away. (i hear this is normal.)
    so anyways, i ramble on, just to say, that when it comes to having a child and how you relate “santa” into their lives, is just to do whatever works for you & your hubby.
    i have always loved Christmas. it has always been my favorite time of year. the older i get, the more i seem to enjoy everything about it. a few years ago, my sister-in-law, (who always claimed to know Christ as her saviour), suddenly abandoned her marriage, changed what she believed and quit communicating with all of us. my Christmas traditions suddenly halted. nothing was the same anymore and there wasn’t anything i could do about it. it was then, that i too realized that i had allowed traditions to be the base of my CHristmas happiness.
    we have adjusted our traditions and now appreciate time with family more than we ever did before. understanding that things around us may change, but Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. thank goodness!!!
    merry christmas,

  2. Bekka says:

    You’ve given me a lot to think about. That’s one of the many reasons why I enjoy your blog so much. Merry Christmas!

  3. Megan Bush says:

    I am big on tradition too. As I kid I did believe in Santa. I think by the time my brother and sister learned he wasn’t real my parents tried to keep it going even stronger because my siblings always ruined everything else for me. My parents also enforced traditions and Jesus’ birth. I knew that Santa was “real” and brought presents to me but I knew Jesus’ to be the savior and that CHristmas was his brithday. I don’t think I ever confused the two and the reality of it. If you think about it, Santa is only once a year whereas Jesus’ is a part of our life 365 days a year if we choose. I will teach my children of Santa, becuase I like the excitment and anticiptaion that comes with it, but they will be taught that Jesus’ was born on Christmas nad that we celebrate his birth.

  4. Vanessa says:

    hello love. i love traditions and find myself looking for things that can be repeated year after year even though i know it will change when i have kids and my parents are grandparents. and this year especially i tried to strip it down to really just being with the people i love. i didnt have any money to spend on gifts so i made a handful of easy things to give to people in hopes that ‘handmade’ meant something to them cos it means a lot to me. it worked! in years past i would buy a ton of gifts and wrap them perfectly while listeneing to christmas music, which is still something i love to do but i also enjoyed my adult-ness of not worrying about material gifts just to be impressive….which is where i get into how i feel about Santa. i feel that he is potrayed like its his job to give gifts and that lessens the meaning of gift giving to me. whereas other gifts are given with love. and Jesus is very important to me and the whole reason for Christmas therefore i would never want to lessen the meaning just cos the story and beleif of santa exists. and i want my children to trust me. so pretty much i agree exactly with what you are saying
    am i making sense? maybe i should have just blogged my own post about this!….hahaha ramble ramble. the end

  5. Kara says:

    I liked this. I don’t know what I’m going to do about Santa yet. But. I’m not planning on the whole reproducing thing any time soon.
    Thank goodness.
    Haha. Hope your Christmas was lovely, miss Mandi.

  6. Patty says:

    Merry Christmas Mandi!!!
    Growing up I believed in Santa until I was about 8 or so. But I went to Catholic School and knew that Christmas was really more about the birth of Jesus. My family kept those seperate and Santa was more of a fun tradition that did not take away from the true meaning. We always placed the manger under the tree and on Christmas morning we placed baby Jesus in his cradle, to celebrate his birth. I guess what I am trying to say is if you bring in the tradition of Santa you must make sure that you are always keeping the spirit of Christmas in that it is the birthday of Christ.
    But then again, who says you have to have a Santa around? right:)
    I hope you have a healthy New Year!!!

  7. greta adams says:

    merry christmas…
    my kids believe in santa claus and i will do everything in my power to keep it that way because it is truly the best …seeing their faces light up when they see the gifts…and this year mason woke us up at 3:45 in the morning…YIKES….and he was literally shaking he was so excited…it’s moments like that i will not trade for the world

  8. I love your view on Santa! My brothers and I never believed in Santa (mostly because my older brother was terrified of Santa haha) but Christmas was still the most magical time of the year…knowing the true meaning of Christmas and the fact that our parents loved us and spent so much time picking out the perfect presents was the important part. Being able to say Thank You to mom and dad and understand the sacrifices they made during the tough years, made it all the more special and meaningful! Great blog entry…lots to think about :)

  9. cara says:

    okay, i guess i always figured we would “do santa” with our kids, but had not given it much thought. but this perspective feels so true and good – it feels right and authentic to who i am – not just as a christ-follower, but also as someone striving to be truthful and authentic. thanks for sharing your thoughts mandi!

  10. I really enjoyed your views on the whole “santa” thing and agree completely with your opinion. We dont ‘do’ Santa and never have. I remember my brother telling me I was stealing the joy of Christmas from my kids by not encouraging the belief in the jolly fat guy in the red suit – I totally disagree cause when my kids reached the age when Santa was revealed as fantasy they still have an awe and wonder regarding Christmas and I truly believe they would have lost this joy had we done the Santa thing. We celebrate Christmas as a birthday for Christ – only we get the presents. Jesus is the reason for the Season and as cliched as this sounds it is the truth at least for me and mine.
    Merry Christmas M and have a safe and happy new year xx

  11. Carrie says:

    I read your blog all the time, but I’ve never commented…not sure why. But with your thoughts out there in that void that is cyberspace, I felt like I had met a kindred spirit. This year was different for me too…and the first year I’ve let the pendulum come back to the middle after over reacting to the whole Santa-meets-consumerism-meets- anything-but-feeling-like-authentic-Christmas grouchiness. I’m glad to know others think about it and struggle with what’s really going on at this time of year. Thanks for blogging.
    Peace & Happy New Year

  12. Jen Davis says:

    This is simply beautiful…well put, thanks for sharing!

  13. great christmas photos. enjoyed this post :) glad you had a wonderful christmas!

  14. dani says:

    My goodness, I am so behind on commenting. Would you believe I have left this up on my computer for like a week now because I kept wanting to leave like, the perfect comment.
    Seriously though, I am so insanely glad you posted this (the santa bit) because this has been on my mind since the beginning of December. I totally agree with you. I found this website….
    mainly this:
    and this:
    and when I read about how “Santa Claus” was actually created and the difference between that and Saint Nicolas, I was floored.
    I’ve sort of come to a “get in or get out” conclusion … you are either celebrating CHRISTmas for the real reason for Christmas or you aren’t really celebrating Christmas at all. It bugs me how much the focus has been taken off the true reason simply for big business.
    I’m not against anyone celebrating whatever faith they have, whatever they believe. I really do believe to each their own. But if you don’t really have faith in Christ and you still celebrate a holiday based on Christ…?? Or if you’re celebrating Christmas and your celebration is about everything EXCEPT Christ? Seems very odd to me.
    There are plenty of holidays with gifts, you know?
    I just want more authentic Christmas’s. More giving of my time, charity and more reflection on what it’s really about. Sometimes I look around at everything and I can’t help but think “is this really what Jesus would want?” I know it’s not the most popular opinion…. but I just want to feel a fuller feeling.
    Ok, done. Glad to have finally said that! I really love this post though, so glad you posted it. I had been considering it for weeks and chickened out! Plus you worded it all so beautifully, much better than I would have!