Untangling Christmas


This is a journal entry I wrote the other day about Christmas and the need to untangle some of the traditions that get all jumbled together. As my kids get older I feel the need to make some sense of this! If you have ideas about how your family does this I’d be curious to know in the comments.

“Christmas is here again and this year, like several years before, we’re  trying to celebrate in a way that is God-honoring and fits our family. I feel a little stress around Christmas because the culture can be so overwhelming and dominant it gets overrun. I’m referring to the Christmas story of Mary and Joseph and the birth of Jesus. These are the parts that are close to my heart and noteworthy this season. These are the things we would like to celebrate. But, like I said, if we do nothing this will completely be replaced by reindeer, Santa Claus, and presents.

I would say we do a pretty good job of keeping the focus on Jesus. We usually do advent stories everyday in December, we sing Christmas songs, and talk about all these in our home. The hard part is trying to make sense of and incorporate all the other things too, like Christmas trees, Santa Claus, and presents. And as our kids get older we simply can’t avoid these other aspects of Christmas. In years past they could mostly remain ignorant, but that isn’t possible anymore. And I don’t want ignorance to be the solution to tough cultural issues. I would rather walk through these things with them and have constructive conversations about it. So how do we work through it? As it stands Christmas is one big jumbled mess of Christmas trees, presents, angels, shepherds, baby Jesus, Santa Claus and reindeer. Is there anyway to untangle this?

Saint Nicholas was a man who loved Jesus and shared his great wealth with poor people.

I really think a little bit of knowledge of church history would help here because it hasn’t always been this way. How have Christians in different countries and in the past done this? For example, Christians have historically celebrated Saint Nicholas Day on December sixth. Saint Nicholas was a man who loved Jesus and shared his great wealth with poor people. And the tradition of him delivering toys and presents sprung up from his extreme generosity and love for the Lord. Clearly there’s a good man here and something we could celebrate and try to emulate. From him we get the tradition of gift giving, stockings over the fire and Santa Claus. So what does this have to do with the nativity story and Jesus’ birthday? Well, nothing really, except that Saint Nicholas loved Jesus and probably celebrated his birth just like every other Christian. If we could pull out just this much of it from the tradition it would help a lot. It would untangle just one piece of the mess it has all become.

I want to get Christmas right. There’s a whole lot that is praiseworthy this time of year and there is a whole lot that is confusing and hard. I want to help our kids understand what is going on and what the season is all about. And the traditions we do and do not celebrate reinforce what is important and reflect what we believe.”

4 thoughts on “Untangling Christmas

  1. Well I totally agree with you Josh. This time has become so commercialized that families are going in debt just to buy gifts, Christmas tree, ornaments, etc.. my son made quite an interesting statement t to me the other day I was shocked. He says”How do parents put their children on strange men’s lap every year and take pictures. They have no idea who this man is that they are placing their children on?” I had to think about it for a minute, but did actually have to agree with him that for centuries this had been the tradition but he has made it very clear to me that he will not be putting his children on a strangers lap. I am not sure how you take the commercialized portion out but I know my son will definitely raise his children differently and they won’t be wondering where the fat man with white beard is or where their presents are. It has to start somewhere.

    1. Thanks for sharing Wendy. I think your son is right to question just why we do the things we do. Is it just because of tradition or is there a purpose or meaning to it. I’m not against tradition. But if it’s just something we do because we HAVE to or society tells us we should I really question that. I’m trying to redeem (if possible) some of our Christmas traditions. If not possible, I’m totally fine with scrapping them!

  2. Good post Josh. In our family we felt that total honesty was important with our kids. We as parents talked about the fact that if we tell our kids that Santa is real and The Easter Bunny is real and the Tooth Fairy is real and Jesus is real but then we break the news that Santa, bunny, and fairy are not real and yet expect them to still believe us when we say Jesus is real…….
    So we decided to tell them the truth. They still got money under their pillow, the gifts still magically appeared under that tree for Christmas morning and they still got Easter baskets but they knew full well who was giving it to them. We have since asked them now that they are adults if they felt like they missed out on some childhood magic and they say absolutely not. Knowing the truth about who put they money under that pillow for the tooth did not at all take away from the excitement of getting that dollar in the morning. Christmas morning, is super exciting even when it’s Mom and Dad leaving the gifts. Advent traditions are so special, gifts were fun and giving to others of our resources and time…. bonding as a family.

    1. Randi, I have felt the same way about honesty. It creates kind of a double standard when the stories of Santa and the Easter bunny aren’t real but the story of Jesus is…. I agree that honesty is better here at the possible risk of “missing out”. It’s nice to know your boys haven’t felt they missed out on anything, but rather appreciate how you’ve raised them. We’re erring on the side on honesty too. Thanks for sharing!

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