A few weeks back while at work there was a family that came in with their kitten. Having young children of my own (and because I love kids), I always try to engage children in conversation as I am setting up for an appointment. (For those that don't know I am a Veterinary Technician) My best guess was that the kids were around four and six. Since it was just before Thanksgiving I thought this would be a perfect time to bring up Santa! Most kids can't wait to rattle off the list they have created and are anxious to babble on about all the things they will ask for.
Let me preface this next paragraph by saying I do know that not everyone celebrates Christmas. I am aware that people do practice other religions and have their own traditions which do not include Santa. I decided to go out on a limb with it anyway and asked: "Are you getting your lists ready for Santa"? Both children took a moment before answering with a "No". I knew right then with how the room suddenly felt that I should have kept my big mouth shut and stuck to topics on furry animals rather than the man in the red suit. It was their mother who filled in the silence with: "We don't celebrate Christmas. It is too commercialized." Let's just say she had the last word on that conversation as I quickly jumped to how cute their kitten was and other ramblings that did not have a thing to do with Christmas.
Just like that Santa was thrown under the bus. Not because of religion, not because it was not their culture, yet because society has turned Christmas into dollar signs and presents. Yes, this mother is indeed right about that. I do not argue the fact that our culture has turned Christmas into a money making event. This does not mean we can't still celebrate Christmas and the mystery of Santa because of it. I believe it is our responsibility to teach our children what the holidays are really about. Let's face it friends, there are many things in society that will teach our children things we do not want them to know. Society will hand our children ideas that we cannot keep them from. Unless you have a bubble and a blindfold for your children you are not going to hide them away from what society has to say.
I have fallen in love with the holidays once again now that I have children of my own. Living their excitement through their eyes has been nothing short of amazing. I was brought up with Santa and I will be damned if I don't let my children experience him just as I did. As much as we talk about Santa, the elves (yes, I did falter to the evilness of those scary looking dolls. Ours are named Percy and Sheldon) and Rudolph we also talk about what the holidays mean. It is my job as a parent to teach my children that the days ahead are more than just gifts. It is my responsibility to talk about giving and sharing with others, doing kind deeds, donating and offering to help one another.
Here is what we can do during the holidays to teach our children what the holidays are truly about:
* Have your child divide up their toys. Make three piles: a pile to keep, a pile to throw away, and a pile to donate. I recently did this with my almost five year old and when given the responsibility he made some great choices. We got rid of toys that were broken and things that he didn't play with much he wanted to donate. We got a bag together and he brought it in to Goodwill. He was happy to donate his toys as we talk often about being thankful for the things we have that others don't.
* Donate food to a local shelter. This time of year there are several places that are in need of food, bedding, and even pet food. Check within your community and local family centers and see what they need. Have your children participate in gathering a bag of donations. This is something we have done the past couple years and my son loves to help put things in a bag. You don't always have to go buy things either. Take inventory of your own shelves and pantry, if there are doubles of anything put those things aside. Maybe you go grocery shopping and pick up an extra container of oatmeal, bag of pasta or can of beans. Every little bit counts!
* Talk to your children! Have conversations around what the holidays mean. Tell them how lucky they are. Explain that even though we exchange gifts and Santa comes that Christmas is much more than that. Teaching the value of family, love and compassion comes from home.
* Make homemade gifts with them. There is nothing more my son likes to do than to do a project of some sort and give away the end result away. He is always giving my husband and I something he made or insisting he draw something for his grandparents. He does this with such pride and excitement. Get art supplies, glitter, glue, and paint. The internet is full of wonderful craft ideas for homemade holiday gifts. Get crafty, be creative, and let them have fun. It will mean so much more to them if they make it!
These are just a few ideas and things I try to practice within my own home. I am not judging you if you choose not to celebrate Christmas or Santa because it is a spiritual decision. Yet before you try to destroy the magic of Santa just remember that Christmas is whatever we want it to be for our children. Don't throw Santa under the bus because of what society has made him! Let's teach our children about gratitude, love, and sharing during the holidays. Let's show them what the Christmas spirit truly is. Let's let Santa be a part of the holidays; leave the big guy alone!
Come visit me over on Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram. I look forward to connecting with you!