Monday, December 5, 2011

Who Brings The Gifts?

My dear hub and I grew up in homes where Santa Claus brought presents. In mine he came while we were at the children's Christmas Eve worship service, and my brothers and I couldn't WAIT to get home from church so we could see what we got!  I was suspicious for a couple years, but didn't learn the truth until I was 12 years old.  In hub's home, Santa came in the middle of the night, and they opened gifts in the morning--no going to church usually at all.  

When we adopted our first two sons (ages 11 and 10), they had already been elucidated.  We did, however, manage to load them up with presents!    Three years later, we adopted two more children (ages 9 and 6).  The six-year old believed and the nine-year old wasn't sure.   Fondly remembering my childhood, I sought the perfect "Santa" present for them, and something okay for the older children--so they'd all have at least one gift from "Santa Claus".   Hub thought we should quietly ease them out of the mis-belief in Santa, but I wanted to perpetuate it for one more year.  

We came home from Christmas Eve church.   All the "Santa" presents were set to the side, and we made them wait til the very end of the unwrapping to open those.     The youngest squealed with absolute delight when she unwrapped the Cabbage Patch Kid of her dreams from "Santa."    Santa-this!  Santa-that!   Ugh.   Granted she was young and had only lived with us for about five months at that point.   Still.    Even though we'd been going to church and reading family devotions and they participated in Sunday School and the children's Christmas Eve service, the true message that "Christmas is about Jesus" was lost.   

I could see the whole thing being re-routed to this massive heap of presents...and Santa Claus was getting all the glory.    Meanwhile the joy of Jesus was left back at church--it seemed.

Hub and I had a discussion.   We paused and re-thought our options. We realized things would've been different had they grown up with us from infancy.  We quickly began a re-education program with ALL of them on the TRUE meaning of Christmas.  We continued to "do" Santa Claus for a few more years for the sake of the youngest one.

Then we had three babies. We knew right away that Santa Claus would no longer visit our home. For one thing, we were more spiritually mature and keenly aware of our need to keep our hearts focused on Christ.  Plus, our faith had grown so much that we no longer wanted to cling to worldly traditions which sought to replace Christ and God Almighty with a fictional character.

So.   The younger three children WERE trained from infancy.   Even though we don't know for sure when He was born, our focus of Christmas is celebrating Christ's birth and the glorious day of His return!    I got rid of the cutesy-wootsey Advent calendars and made a Christ-centered banner styled around Bible verses representing the items found in the Christmas account.  

Several years later, after hearing a friend describe how her family celebrated Christmas with "camel packs" and "half-birthdays," we started some of our own new traditions.   (Camel packs are like saddlebags in which the children present gifts in the way the wisemen did. And half-birthdays land six months before/after a real birthday--in a whole other season of the year!   The fuss of "presents" then takes place at their birthday and half-birthday.    Half-birthdays are very cool for children born in winter months, lots of summer opportunities for tenting sleep-overs and pool parties!)  

We got rid of ALL worldly-focused (Santa, reindeer, etc) ornaments, decorations and paraphrenalia.   Some ornaments were saved for other holidays or home decorations (gingerbread men show up in my kitchen on January 7th, snowmen and snowflakes delight us throughout January and February).    Our tree is TOTALLY about Jesus' birth: crosses, angels, wisemen, stars.  We watch for nativity scenes at second-hand stores so we pretty much have one in every room of the house.   
We look for the symbolism of the things we use for decorations, for example, evergreen = everlasting life, wreath circle = eternity without end, burgundy or deep red ribbons or ornaments = Christ's sacrifice & blood in His death for us!    We are MUCH more thoughtful about the things we use to decorate our home--it represents who we are and what we believe.    

During December, actually starting on the first Sunday of Advent (usually the Sunday right after Thanksgiving) we begin reading from our Advent devotion books, along with lighting candles for the devotions and calendar readings. We usually have our tree up and decorated that same we have the WHOLE MONTH of December for "advent" (tippy toes anticipation!) of Christ's coming to Earth once as a little child to take away our sins and soon as a returning Conqueror to take us to Heaven!

We still send Christmas cards--but the cards are about Jesus and the TRUE meaning of Christmas and our letter focuses on the blessings God has showered upon us.    We usually pool our  money to buy one larger gift for the whole family (last year it was a Wii), plus whatever the extended family or friends give.  The children participating in the Christmas Eve service still get new clothes.   We still take a family picture.   We still hang stockings at the mantel--but those little gifts are between the family which we open on Christmas Day before heading off to worship service.

AND our Christmas celebration goes through until January 6--which is Epiphany--the church celebration of the wisemen visiting Christ. Remembering--they brought gifts to our Little Lord Jesus!   After Epiphany, we put away our Christmas decorations for another year.

Christmas then is pretty much TOTALLY focused on Christ's birth--instead of the greedy gimmee-gimmees the world would like it to be. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Deb, It's Lisa. We have even gone beyond the camel packs and don't exchange any presents during the Christmas season. We now exchange New Year's presents. The whole family meets together and decides what to get each of the family members (the one being discussed off in another room were they can't hear.) We have more fun deciding on what to give each other than even receiving the gifts - although that is great fun as well. December is spent in service to others - ringing bells, helping neighbors, visiting nursing homes, etc. As the kids get older it seems things change much more easily. :)