Remember when we welcomed December? How in the world are we already almost halfway through the month?! I have been trying to be intentional about simplifying and slowing down during this season, but somehow the hustle and the bustle still follow me around. You too?
Last April, I did a little blog series about traditions, including a couple of posts about the Christmas season. In this one, I shared a link to an article by Mark Driscoll about how he and his wife choose to "redeem"' Santa Claus by telling their children the truth about the real Saint Nicholas and the ways our culture continues to celebrate fun, but make-believe traditions based on him. A few days ago, I read another article called The Christmas Conundrum (by Jen Hatmaker) that a friend shared on facebook. While Driscoll focuses specifically on Santa Claus, Hatmaker's blog post is a little broader, written about combating materialism and returning the focus of the Christmas celebration to Christ. It is super challenging, regardless of the specific ways you choose to enjoy the Christmas season. You can read it here. I should probably revisit it a few more times, but good ole hustle and bustle have me cornered. I will throw out a rundown and a few take-aways anyway...
The blog consists of several ideas (that the author is implementing in her own home) for making Christmas more meaningful; it invites readers to try one or none or all. First, Hatmaker, (like Driscoll), is ditching the "Santa charade." Thought-provoking quote: "For a five-year-old, how can Jesus compete with Santa? Our children don't have spiritual perspective; when faced with the choice of allegiance, they have a baby in a manger, or they can get a jolly, twinkling, flying character who will bring them presents. This is going to be an easy choice for them." And I love this: "Give your kids the gift of a Christmas obsessed with Jesus - and no other - when they are little, and it will be their truth all their lives." Personally, I really do like the idea of guiding Santa to the background of the season, but I also think it is in some ways more easily thought out than carried out, especially with a child Reed's age. I guess we'll just have to take it one step at a time, and focus more on how we are celebrating Christmas than how we are not.
Hatmaker also discusses reining in Christmastime spending, and provides some really useful information about responsible consumerism and resources for battling injustice with our dollars. I have heard of a lot of people who give their children three Christmas gifts, but I think I am stealing Jen's policy: Each child gets something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read. And something to give. For this last part, each child gets $100 to distribute however they want in order to help the vulnerable. Jen and her husband provide some ideas of organizations as options. This year, Matt, Reed, and I returned to the World Vision catalog to shop for a gift.
One thing I know I will do differently than the Hatmakers is giving within our family. Jen says that she and her husband purposely don't exchange gifts, but Matt and I think it is important to model joyful giving in response to and celebration of God's gift of Jesus to us. (I talked a little bit about how we came to that conclusion here). We do a gift exchange among adults on both sides of our extended family and, for now, still buy for our nieces and nephews. I think it could be fun to switch to an exchange of some kind among the cousins once the numbers even out some, or even a special non-gift tradition. For all our presents, I have tried to make a conscious effort this year to choose and buy a gift on the earlier side and not prolong or labor over the shopping. I think this is a tough one with our large families; as our kids become more aware of and/or participate in the gifting, I want to focus on generosity and giving in love, but also don't want the process to be stressful or overwhelming. Again, we'll see.
Lastly, Jen writes about replacing some of the discarded practices with traditions that point our families to the Christ of Christmas. I have come across a couple of new ideas for this year, and I will check back in to share those traditions and hopefully hear about your favorites!
And just to reiterate, I am not anti-Santa and am not even sure how our family's traditions will take shape over time; I just thought the perspective in Jen Hatmaker's article was meaningful and thought-provoking, and I'm encouraged and excited to embrace the season as Reed celebrates his 2nd Christmas! I would love to hear any thoughts, especially ideas about practicality of some of these concepts and ideas for Reed's (and Baby girl's!) early years.