Last year was Sarah's very first Christmas. As Christmas approached and we started discussing what our family traditions would be. Stephen and I talked about our own Christmas traditions and decided there was absolutely no way we would be able to ever provide our children with the abundance of presents we received. Our parents spoiled us rotten but they were also financially capable of doing so.
But they also spoiled us in the name of Santa. Now, I am certainly not anti-Santa - that is not what this is about. Stephen on the other hand could care less whether Santa was even a part of anything we do. But you probably expected that. The season really is about Jesus and he's in the Jesus business, but then again, as Christian's so are Sarah and I.
Not sure how to proceed and relieved that Sarah wouldn't know the difference for at least a couple years, we agreed our giving practice for our children would go as follows.
Something you want
Something to wear
Something you need
and something to read.
It gave her plenty to open and as predicted she was aptly spoiled by the rest of the family. But there was still the fundamental question of how to address the Santa Conundrum. We can't afford the extravagance of the Santa that we had and in some way we're both not sure about lying about whether he is "real" or not too. (Even though, neither one of us had a scarring experience surrounding the truth of Santa).
Even still we're Christians who want to place the emphasis on Jesus more than Santa and we also happen to be servants of the Lord in a particularly public way because of Stephen's vocation as pastor.
BUT - I refuse to let our child be the one to spoil the mystery of Santa to others whose family have chosen to continue to celebrate him. And, let's be honest, Santa isn't anti-Christian - it's the commercialization of him we dislike. His story came out of that of a 4th Century saint of the early Christian church (more on that later).
Much to my dismay as I had yet to figure out what to do about the Santa Conundrum, Santa is already the focus of Sarah's Christmas play at daycare. (The Mrs called Santa and Santa said, "No more ELVES jumping on the bed!") And we have been told by her teachers that Sarah is quite the performer of this said song. (And we are not the least bit surprised of our little ham either.)
Alas, I guess we need to figure out what to do this year. As the story of Santa is already making his way to our house, and to that Sarah is fully enjoying herself singing about the magical guy and his elves. (And let's be honest, who doesn't LOVE a good Santa themed Christmas movie?)
So just who was this Santa guy based off of? Who was this Saint Nikolas "The Wonder Worker" whom had started it all? Could we find a way to bring Jesus to Santa so we don't have to abandon one for the sake of the other?
Enter, December 6th and the celebration of St. Nikolas Day. St. Nikolas was a Greek who lived in part of Modern day Turkey which at the time was Lycia, a region that was ruled by Rome. Raised by his uncle after the death of his parents, he became a priest and later a Bishop who served on the First Council of Nicea (ever heard of the Nicene Creed, my Lutheran, Episcopal and Catholic friends??). Yes, he signed the Nicene Creed himself!
He became known as a great giver to those in need and there are many legends of how he did this, most notably helping a man provide a dowry for his three daughters by throwing gold in the window (or as some legends say, the shoes and stockings outside the door) and even down the chimney to provide for the man and his daughters. (Sound familiar?). St Nickolas chose to give in the name of Jesus because of all Jesus had done for him.
And so, we decided as a family to celebrate St. Nikolas day, December 6th. Santa, who is based off of the St. Nikolas the Wonder Woker, will leave Sarah a fun gift that day and to carry on the tradition of blessing others as Christ has blessed us, when she gets old enough, she'll choose a way in which she wants to bless others. (For now, we'll choose a family project).
We've decided we won't talk about whether Santa is "real or fake" because Santa (St. Nikolas) was a great man who gave generously to others. And seeing as how this means gift giving will commence earlier for Sarah (at least from Santa - we will still exchange gifts as a family on Christmas following our tradition from last year) we doubt she'll really complain.
I am more than aware we are not the only family that have chosen to do this and if you have any advice on navigating this as she gets older, we are definitely open to your suggestions. If you wish to join us in celebration of St. Nikolas, let us know and we'd be happy to walk this journey with you and perhaps we can choose to give back together in the name of St. Nikolas as Jesus has blessed us.
But, beware, if you wait to ask Sarah what she wants Santa to get her for Christmas after December 6th, she's likely to tell you Santa already brought her a most awesome bucket of duplo Lego's and some socks and in response she is going to be sharing in the gift giving spirit to a child who is not as blessed with life's essentials as she is this year.