After Lydia’s birthday in November, we sent out around ten thank you notes. Her job was to decorate each card with stickers. So when she started grumbling, I told her, “Well, if you aren’t grateful, I’ll just tell everyone NOT to send you gifts next year. Then, you won’t have to worry about saying thanks.” That seemed to do the trick!
Then, on Monday night, we read the Nativity story at bedtime. We’ve been reading the Jesus Storybook Bible. I love how each story ends by pointing back to the Lord!
I usually ask Lydia questions to see if she can recall the main points.
Lydia has been interested in the night sky for several months. So the other night, we discussed the special star God placed in the sky at Jesus’ birth. She asked about the gifts Jesus received from the wise men. We chatted about frankincense, gold, and myrrh.
I also asked, “Did you know Jesus is the greatest gift we could ever receive?!”
Naturally, with Lydia’s birthday not too far from Christmas, this intrigued her. “So then, why do we give each other gifts?” She wondered out loud.
“Well, we show God’s love through our gifts.” I replied, in awe that she even asked. “It’s one way to celebrate what Jesus has done for us.”
When it comes to Christmas, I’ve been upfront with Lydia about Santa Claus. I have nothing against Santa, but I prefer to focus on Jesus and teach Lydia about Him.
And yes, Lydia knows not to tell her friends about Santa! Though, it is a little funny when an adult asks her, “So, what’s Santa bringing you for Christmas?”
In those moments, Lydia looks confused and concerned…like she’s thinking… “Wait, they don’t know about him?! …Well, I’m not going to tell them. Hmm…but what should I say?”
Up until last year, Santa wasn’t an issue for us. But then Lydia’s imagination kicked into high gear, and she started asking what was real and what was pretend. It became difficult to explain the nuances of make-believe cartoons versus shows with real actors.
Lydia questioned, “Is the person in that movie real?” I didn’t think much about it at first. “Well, yes. The person really exists, but he’s an actor who is pretending.”
Before long, Bible characters were examined, too. “Mom, was Jonah real?” … “Hey, my Daddy’s name was David! … So was King David real too?”
I answered Lydia’s questions, but was unsure if she understood.
When the holidays came, Lydia quickly applied the same ‘logic’ to Santa. “Why does the Santa on tv look different from this one in the book…and the one at the mall?”
I felt the need to address Lydia’s confusion in a truthful, yet sensitive way.
I decided to tell her the truth about Santa using a familiar example. “You know how Daniel Tiger (a PBS cartoon) is not REALLY real? He’s make-believe. Well, Santa is not REALLY real either. It’s fine that everyone talks about him, but he is just pretend.”
(Yes, St. Nicholas was real, but Santa has become quite different in our culture.)
Lydia took it fairly well. For about ten seconds, she looked a little surprised. “Oh.” And, then she asked about Rudolph, the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny. “Yep, their pretend too.” Twenty seconds later, with a quick, “Oh, okay,” she was onto the next thing, unfazed!
For me, this all is pertinent because there are bigger concepts at stake. Dave died when Lydia was not quite 18 months old; therefore, she doesn’t really remember him. So, over the years, I’ve done my best to answer questions about Dave and Heaven. Still, she occasionally she gets fuzzy on the details.
But whenever her thoughts drift toward Dave, I don’t want Lydia to ever doubt that Dave—and his love for her—was real! He loved her so very much!
Similarly, I never want Lydia to be confused about Jesus, because He is our only true hope in this chaotic world. Jesus and His love for us are most certainly real!
Last night, as I wrote this post, I asked Lydia, “Does it make you sad that Santa isn’t real?” To my surprise, she shrugged and answered, “No.”
Curious, I asked, “Really? Why not?” Lydia didn’t hesitate in her answer. “I’m not sad, because I still get gifts!” I laughed at how simple it is for her. Lydia isn’t going to sweat Santa; she knows she is loved. And to her, the gifts are evidence of that love.
Clearly, each child and each family is different. Therefore, everyone should handle these topics in their own way. But as Lydia reminded me, when talking about Santa and gifts: “Mom, Jesus loves me MORE than that!” Yes, Jesus truly is the greatest gift ever.
Father God, thank You for the gift of Jesus! In Him, we have everything we need. Help us be generous with others and spread Your love in all we do. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Questions: How do you handle Santa in your home? What are your favorite Christmas traditions?
Tasks: Consider ways to highlight Jesus this season. Check out Because of Bethlehem by Max Lucado. For kids, check out Star from Afar!