Tonight for Young Womens, we are sharing Family Christmas Traditions. Christmas brings to my mind so many fond memories of being together with my family, and being a child. We always lived far away from our extended family. I've always been so impressed at how my parents were able to create the beauty and joy of Christmas within our own immediate family.
My dad made several varieties of candy, which we delivered to our neighbors while caroling from house to house. Our little advent calendar, "A Beary Merry Christmas", which hung at the bottom of the stairs. We jockeyed to be the first one to move the bear to the next velcro-strip each morning, and were that much closer to Christmas. Christmas Eve, setting up Luminarias to line the driveway, dressing in our Nativity costumes, Dad reading Luke 2, and singing the hymns and songs of Christmas around the piano. Sipping hot chocolate from the chipped "Santa mugs" and being so excited for Santa to come that I couldn't sleep Christmas Eve night! Christmas morning seeing the piles of carefully chosen presents, bought from the great sacrifices of Mom and Dad,
equally distributed, as turns were taken so our pile of Christmas presents could last as long as possible, and be enjoyed by all. The sounds of Mannheim Steamroller and the smell of orange peels and baking cinnamon rolls! Christmas was magical and beautiful, and filled with love and a focus on our Savior.
Since I've become a mother, I worried about the increasing commercialism of Christmas, and that there would be too much focus for my kids on Santa and presents, and not enough focus on the spirit of Christmas, Christ and the miracle of His birth. We've tried our best to simplify during the holidays; creating new traditions, and maintaining others. Most importantly to turn the kids' focus to acts of service and remembering the real reason for the season.
My Grandma told me a story about my Dad that I'll never forget. He was 10 or 11, and came home one day from school crying. His friends had told him that there was no Santa Claus. Grandma was surprised and asked, "Craig, don't you know by now that Pop and I are Santa Claus?" Grandma said her boy looked up at him with tears in his eyes and said, "But you told me there was a Santa Claus." It broke her heart. Her little boy had so much faith in her, that whatever she told him was true, and he believed it with no doubt.
A couple years ago I read a book called A Tree Grows in Brooklyn when a grown woman is asking her mother (Mary) for advice on raising a daughter. Among other pearls of wisdom she gave, she said,
""And the child must believe in the Lord God and Jesus, His Only Son." She crossed herself. Oh, and you must not forget the Kris Kringle. The child must believe in him until she reaches the age of six..."
"I know there is no Santa Claus."
"Yes, you must teach the child that these things are so."
"Why? When I myself do not believe?"
"Because," explained Mary Rommely simply, "the child must have a valuable thing called imagination. The child must have a secret world in which things live which never were. It is necessary that she believe. She must start out by believing in things not of this world. Then when the world becomes too ugly for living in, the child can reach back and live in her imagination.""
But, pairing these two stories together had me concerned that if I encouraged and allowed my children to believe in Santa Claus or Tooth Fairies and such, and they were discovered to be false, then when I taught them of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, they would be lumped into the same category, and their existence would be doubted as well. Up until this point, we have had almost no focus on Santa at Christmas time. My kids have had no desire to sit upon his lap and no interest in him other than a special gift from him on Christmas day! But, that hasn't felt quite right either. Santa is fun and magical and I love that he symbolizes love, and selfless giving. Certainly as with everything, there could be moderation in all things and a happy balance of both.
After much thought and even some prayer, my friend Heidi posted an article called "The Truth About Santa," where a mother answers her daughter's question, "Are you Santa?" I nodded and smiled when I read it.
"Santa is bigger than any person, and his work has gone on longer than any of us have lived. What he does is simple, but it is powerful. He teaches children how to have belief in something they can’t see or touch."
Here was a good balance of magic and fun, but also faith and love.
And so entered our Scripture Elf.