Our favorite family Christmas tradition happened only once.
It was during our yearly Christmas Eve Candlelight service at my parent’s (and my childhood) church. The service sounds a little like a Christmas-sing-a-long, a band concert, and a nursery full of babies suffering from separation anxiety. With the added excitement of giving children fire.
Basically, we love everything about it.
That particular year, we, the congregation, babies and grandmothers alike, stood and sang all five verses of We Three Kings.
Did you know there were five verses of We Three Kings?
WE DID NOT.
By about the fourth verse, Dr and I looked at each other and promptly lost it. We were laughing like five-year-old boys who just burped. My mom tried to shhhhush us but by the next verse…verse FIVE…she was laughing right along with us.
Nowadays, we have little people watching us so we try to be more reserved and respectful but that night, O minor-key night,continues to bring us good tidings of great joy every.single.year.
Our family has lots of other, less
disrespectful silly, more cheesy traditions too.
Every Christmas Eve is basically exactly the same. The cousins run around like crazy people who haven’t seen each other in six months (because they haven’t), we eat ourselves miserable on a lunch big enough for an army, tear ferociously into presents, take family pictures by the Christmas tree, that candlelight service and then throw Jesus His very own birthday party.
That party felt incredibly cheesy most of my life (my parents started the tradition when I was three or four), but the older I get, the more I treasure seeing my dad at the head of our table listening to him read from Luke 2.
Jesus is the entire reason we give presents to one another. We give because Jesus first gave to us. Without Him, there’s no Christmas at all.
And oh yes, we ABSOLUTELY sing Happy Birthday to Jesus with lit candles. The kids blow them out and we make ourselves miserable for the second time in the day.
The rest of the night we play games and Nana helps the kids get their cookies and the check ready for Santa.
Yes, we pay Santa.
Growing up, my parents, as incredibly practical Baby Boomers, told us they had to PAY Santa.
“Nothing’s free, kids.”
Even if elves are making the toys, it takes money. They’ve got to purchase the materials, pay for the electricity, buy boxes, feed the reindeer, the list just goes on and on.
As far as I know, we’re the only family who’s ever done something like that. Having to leave Santa a check next to his milk and cookies kinda strips the magic of Elves and nice lists and fireplace hopping. At least a bit.
And to be clear, we’re fine with that.
Two reasons why: Manages their expectations and teaches them to be generous.
Recently, Skillet told a friend his parents paid Santa for the gifts and he responded with, “Well our family doesn’t do that! Santa brings us whatever we want!”
Which I know is not true. His parents are on a budget just like we are.
But teaching our kids presents cost money helps them manage their own expectations.
They don’t get whatever they want. They get what we can afford and for us, that’s something to wear, something to read, and something to play.
Because if three gifts from the wise men were good enough for Jesus, three gifts from Santa for my ordinary miracles is just fine.
(Nothing says Happy Holidays like a good Jesus-Santa-juke)
This Christmas, we will spend less than four meals at Chick-fil-a on both of our kids’ Santa presents. Largely, that is thank to months shopping online trading sites, thrift stores, and consignment shops for their gifts. This year, my daughter’s actually getting a NEW toy. Not new-to-her, straight up new. That’s a rare thing.
But one reason I shop second-hand for our kids is so that we can buy new toys for other momma’s kids.
If they understand they don’t get anything they want, they get what we can afford, that makes the next lesson easier to understand.
Not all moms and dads can afford to pay Santa. Families have other bills like housing, food, doctor’s visits, school supplies, gas for the car, all kinds of things they need to spend their money on before they can pay Santa.
So we get to BE SANTA for those kids.
We shop for toys all year long. Clearance sales and overstock stores. Even thrift stores will have new-in-the-box toys. We add them to our stash and then when Christmas comes, my kids get to take them to various collection sites.
And they love it.
One day, our kids will figure Santa out or some kid will be the one to tell them the truth over a lunch of corn dogs and peaches in the school cafeteria. Hopefully, they’ll come to ask us about it.
And we’ll be able to tell them, yes, we are Santa to Y’all.
But you have been Santa to lots and lots of kids too.
We are all Santa.
While We Three Kings is our silliest Christmas tradition and our birthday party for Jesus is the cheesiest, teaching our kids they are the hands and feet of love and generosity and kindness, that’s our most important tradition.
Because if Jesus is the absolute best gift we could have ever received, and He is, then giving just a bit of His love away every year is the best we can give to others.
And during Christmas, Jesus’ love can arrive under the tree wrapped up as gifts from Santa.
To help you have the most peaceful holiday possible, several writers have linked arms in a series called The Peaceful Holidays Series. We are all writing on similar topics each week. This week’s topic is Traditions (obvi). If you are totally stress-free this season, Great! But if you’re like me, you might need some more ideas. Check out these amazing writers and their contributions!
Janelle Esker from The Peaceful Haven
Jessica Herberger of Celebrate Joy Every Day
Betsy Pendergrass of Gathering Around
Each one of these women offers such encouragement this season! I hope you enjoy every piece and I am praying a Peaceful Holiday season for Y’all.