Culture

December 06 2011
122

It was pizza night at Grandma’s house, a week before Christmas. Everyone was there – my uncle and two aunts, my mama and daddy. And of course there was the bevy of cousins scattered throughout each brightly lit room.

My brother was the youngest of the bunch at the time. Four years old with big eyes, ridiculously long eyelashes and warm brown hair in an early ’90s bowl cut.

The pizza guy was young and asked the routine Christmas question as he handed my dad the pizza boxes above Zach’s little head.

What’s Santa going to bring you for Christmas?

Tiny, skinny Zach looked up at him squarely.

Nothing. Santa Claus is dead.

The pizza man’s face froze and my dad couldn’t quite muffle his guffaw. This wasn’t exactly how my parents had planned it…

 

If there really were a king and queen of Christmas, my parents were that royalty. When I was the four year old of the family and my brother still a tiny newborn, I laid awake long after my parents crept to bed in the wee hours of Christmas morning. I was certain – certain – I heard Santa’s sleigh landing on the rooftop and I knew those must have been jingle bells dancing on the edges of his red suit.

Much to my delight, Santa Claus had managed to fit down the pipe of our wood burning stove, leaving muddy boot prints on the carpet, crumbling the cookies I’d left him, gulping the milk and leaving a rosy-lipped baby doll beneath the tree. He even fed Rudolph the large orange carrot I’d set beside the cookie plate and Rudolph had, in turn, left his own trail of carrot bits near the front door and outside on the doorstep.

Little did I know, at four years old, that my grandparents had helped fill our cupboards that cold 1990 winter and that the baby doll’s diaper bag left for me by Santa had been sewn from scrap fabric by my mama a few days earlier and filled with my own baby girl clothes.

To me, it was all too good to be true.

To me, it was the best Christmas ever.

 

A few more years into my childhood and my parents were hearing the arguments.

Jesus is the reason for the season.

Santa takes the place of Jesus.

Good parents don’t lie to their children!

If you mix up the letters to Santa’s name, what do you get? Satan.

 

We read books about the real Saint Nicholas and my brother and I knew the story of the kind man who became a legend for his selfless love and generosity. We knew our gifts came from our parents and we delighted in the stockings they filled for us on Christmas Eve. Our family sought the real sources of our various traditions and set up our Nativity scenes lovingly. One year when we were tiny, my mama invited friends for a “Jesus Birthday Party.”

But soon the arguments were stronger and our friends weren’t putting up Christmas trees any longer because, they said, trees set up in homes had pagan roots. We left our Santa Claus ornaments in their boxes and the cross stitched pictures of the jolly elf stayed off our walls. We decorated our tree but a friend’s daughter caught her breath and hid her eyes upon entering our home one December.

You’ll have to understand,” her mother explained in sugary tones. “She’s just having a difficult time. She simply doesn’t understand why a family she looked up to as so godly would have a Christmas tree in their living room.”

Small ears listened as parents rolled the issue in conversation and pastors preached the evils of worldly celebrations.

We learned to step lightly during holiday time, because one family didn’t do stockings and the next family didn’t do trees and the other family simply skipped the whole thing altogether because Jesus wasn’t born in winter anyway and where does the Bible even say to celebrate His birth?

The topic, as they say, was hot. Smokin’ hot.

Well meaning adults asked what Santa had brought us and we quipped lightly, “Santa doesn’t come to our house! We celebrate Jesus!

Smug at seven years old.

 

I thought the debates would have blown over or been resolved by now, some twenty years later. But apparently some wars wage on.

Someone said it a few days ago, on Facebook or Twitter, “Parents, if you lie to your children about Santa, how do you expect them to believe you about Jesus?

 

I don’t know all the ins and outs of Christmas celebrations, nor do I know exactly where the lines are drawn between Holy Nativity and cultural holidays.

But I do know this.

I’ve never met an adult who told me the reason he has a hard time believing Christ is because his parents told him about a red suited gift-giver who turned out to be as real as pixie dust.

Instead, I talk to adults every single day who struggle with the Truth of Jesus because they spent their young years listening to Christians cut His body to pieces over trees and ornaments and brightly wrapped packages.

What of the truest reason for this season, friends?

122 comments

  1. Oh Ash. Are you sure our souls didn’t play in the heavenly nursery together?

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  2. well said ashleigh. this Christmas argument scenario is still played out today
    and a hot button divisive issue. when all is lost people think they should blame the
    Catholics who started nativity sets and Christmas trees. nothing like keeping the
    divisions alive even at Christmas time.

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    • The divisions don’t aid the cause of Christ… at all. The point is entirely missed when we believe that being “the most right” is pleasing our Lord.

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  3. Ouch! I think one of the disadvantages of having the world at your fingertips is that you can study the origins of EVERYTHING. I wonder how many “pagan” things we participate in without even knowing? I’m not sure why, but it seems so fear based to take every practice back to its origin. Way to complicated. What does it mean now? A Christmas tree now means adorning something God made to make it even more beautiful. It means that this is one of the times in the year that we set aside for Him, the author and finisher of our faith. It means that even though winter can be stark and bleak there are things God created that continue on forever green and growing. It means that even though the evergreen stays green in the midst of a storm, another tree found its death with Him on Calvary.

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    • Wendi

      beautifully written!

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    • “. . . it seems so fear based to take every practice back to its origin.”

      Hmm, good point. Perhaps we should be worrying a bit more about the fear-roots rather than so much about the pagan roots?

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    • Claire

      Precisely. The days of the week are Anglo-Saxon/Viking in origin and we use those. The names of the months are based on Roman/Greek gods as are the planets. The big difference is that when I say “Thursday”, I’m not invoking Thor and I don’t spend January worshiping the Roman god of doorways. Christians have been taking pagan things and re-centering them on Christ for millenia. I don’t see why we should stop now.

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    • Kd; Have you ever shared someone you love with a stranger? Santa Claus is a sleigh of
      presents for everyone. Reality says not everyone is reached on that special day.
      Jesus said to his chosen apostles when He was to pass from this earth and rise again, do this is remembrance of me share this with all my people, Jews and Gentiles; who hear my Father calling and receive the Holy Spirit. Even forgetting the origins or the past, is this day to honor and praise Jesus really to be shared with someone else? Jesus gave His life for us. It was simple when Jesus explained it at the cross. Luke 24 shows how we listen then and now. We hear what we see. We invent so it’s visible and our hearts are in the right place, but we love another in His name. Would you parallel your wife and honor her in a godly way and bring a strange women into the circle and call it love? It’s not the tree or the presents or the pagan history that separates us from the Truth, it’s man thinking they are right and the others are wrong. It’s off topic so to say. Focus on Him The Way is simple. “Do you love me” that is what Jesus wants. Thou shalt have no other gods before me, along side of me or within you. Just the simple Truth He died so we can live. Shouldn’t there be a celebration everyday for Him. Give Santa a day for the children to enjoy family and friends. Give Jesus everyday. His Presence spoken daily and honored as the One who loves you, this is the gift no one can match. Not even Santa Claus.

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  4. It’s amazing how our upbringings and personal experience color how we view these issues. For me, I did not grow up believing in Santa. I do not miss it at all, and we have never told our kids the Santa myth. Life is so much easier this way around Christmastime! But, since we live in a part of the country where most parents do Santa (unless they’re Jewish, that is), I can’t tell you how many people (relatives included) pretty much accused us of being horrible parents because of our decision. I have had my head bitten off more times than I care to remember by other people over this, as recently as last year when a 40-something mother of one of my daughter’s 1st grade classmates literally stormed into the class at drop-off time, pointed her finger in my little girl’s face in front of all of her friends, and yelled at me because my daughter had told her daughter that Santa wasn’t real (her daughter had backed my daughter into a corner the day before and begged her to just “tell her the truth”… my daughter had not brought it up). Did I mention my kids go to a private Christian school and this woman is a well-known leader in her church? Insane… just insane. Just goes to show that fundamentalism is ugly no matter if it is pro-santa or anti-santa. Sure would be nicer if we could all just handle the celebrations for our family in the way that we feel is right without judging each other. There is a dying world out there, and whether or not you believe in Santa really should not be the focus, ever.

    I will say though that I have definitely heard people say that their ability to have faith in God was affected by their faith in Santa being shattered as a kid. So maybe you haven’t heard that from people in your life, but it definitely can happen, so I would encourage you to not discard that completely.

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    • Yes indeed… if we could just cover each other in grace instead of teaching our children that having the last word and being “the most right” will make us “the most holy.” Santa vs. Jesus is so far from the point.

      I’d be interested to talk to someone who credits Santa as being the main reason they’ve struggled with their faith in God. I’ve talked with many a person who has dealt with doubt and/or walked away from their faith completely, and I’ve simply never heard that given as a reason, but I’ll be cautious about discarding it as a possibility!

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      • Jamie

        I guess I ought to chime in here. When I was young, and I believed in Santa, I must admit, it made me into a bit of a spoiled child (I can’t go so far as to say that I was a “brat” but I certainly came to expect “stuff” as I was usually a pretty *good* kid).

        I think this tugged at the fabric of how I viewed God when I became a believer many years later. When you are a child, and you see holidays celebrate and glorify stuff as much as Christmas does, it can certainly skew how you view the world and the Lord. If, at the very impressionable ages of life (say 3-8ish) you are insisted on believing in a guy that comes and brings you stuff if you are “good” how do you really disconnect yourself from this feeling when you realize the True Giver of Gifts becomes clear to you? When I first began believing in the Lord as LORD (not just being a creationist, believer in God..) I have to admit I had a sort of spoiled outlook on how God was somehow indebted to *me*, that when I behaved “well” then things should go “well”, right? I truly think I have to attribute that to the supposed belief in Santa. As I grew up, Christmas’ were huge (I’m talking HUGE) my parents didn’t want us to have the disappointing christmas’ they had growing up, so they were all for the fun/magic of it all, and in all honesty, I do wish they were just honest about it… To recall back in time the years I know we, as a family, were struggling financially, and yet Santa never “let us down” we still had HUGE… makes me sad in my heart that my parents couldn’t be honest and true to say, “we can’t do big this year” it definitely messed with my outlook on the whole situation (in retrospect). I appreciate them wanting to keep us young as long as possible, but I do feel saddened by the commercialism and materialism of it all.

        I also would like to throw in the fact that when my father of the age of 48 he watched the Christmas special on the history channel dispelling all the “origins” that the Christian people came up with how they got all their traditions concerning Christmas, and it spoke of the pagan rituals and the worship of the sun-god… and he was quite hardened by it. The proof and evidence was there that his whole life he had been lied to by the church of his youth… what does he think today? I don’t know, he died not long after that “revelation” of sorts… I know he was grieved and jaded by it, I had become a Christian just a year after watching that program, and was such a new believer that I never got to have a heartfelt conversation with him concerning the Lord… but I will say, it was very clear how upset he was about the traditions that were adopted by his church.

        I will say that while believing in Santa didn’t overthrow the Sovereignty of my King, I will say that it definitely messed with my head, a lot. It has definitely been baggage I have had to unload at the cross, and I still continue to struggle with it, I have two children, and i loved Christmas, but it was Christ-less…. and that is my memory of it. I do have a tree (a tiny one) and we do have gifts, but we certainly try to recognize the fact that the children will get their gifts whether they are “good” or “bad”, as that is the way the Lord blesses us– because it pleases Him to do so… it’s a tough thing to struggle with, there’s no doubt, and there simply isn’t enough time or space to write about all the issues that came from my past (concerning this one issue) but I hope I was able to spread light on how it can mess with children. (I have pretty strong convictions about this, so I hope I conveyed enough to spark some thought in someone).

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        • Jamie

          Also how do you (the general “you” as in all of us) reconcile 1 Timothy 4:7…

          thoughts?

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          • I wouldn’t say the idea of St Nicholas is Godless. It’s been warped by comercialism and consumerism, perhaps, but his basic premise is Godly :)

          • ` Jennifer

            I think that looking at that verse by itself is taking it out of context. The verses prior to it are speaking of people who are walking away from their faith and choosing to believe in deceitful spirits instead of God. I don’t think anyone reading this post would say that they choose to WORSHIP Santa instead of God because of being allowed to believe in Santa as children.

          • jamie

            I think I have been mis-understood. I was asking how people reconcile this verse with perpetuation of the myth of Santa Claus (and yes, it is a myth if you embrace flying reindeer and Santa “seeing” you if you are good or bad, not Saint Nicolas, as he was a good example, and what he did was give to others, Christmas as it is nowadays, (and specifically in the eyes of a child) it’s about what do “I” get… St Nicolas gave of himself to poor children, he didn’t perpetuate materialism. ) this is where the myth stuff comes in… Santa as he “is” today, is a far cry from the godly man that he was modeled after. We need to be diligent in teaching and shepherding our children to keep their eyes on the Lord, we need to instill in them “good natured” inclinations, not because Santa might be watching, but because they are vessels of the Holy Spirit, and it is pleasing to the Father… The problem with “behavior modification” is that it doesn’t come from a desire to be holy, it comes from a place of “if I’m good then—” what happens when God takes it all away? The reaction can often times be a back-lash of rejection of faith and disillusionment that it didn’t go as it “should”, I think timothy sums it up pretty well in chapter 4… Jesus said if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out— if He was that serious about anything that keeps us from His presence, should we not be diligent to cast away any (and every) thing that could get in our line of sight of Him? Likewise, shouldn’t we be diligent not to become stumbling blocks to our children, to keep the focus on Jesus, to keep it away from materialism, and to embrace the poor and celebrate the Saviors birth?if anything shifts your focus from Him, it’s an idol… It’s hard, I fail all the time. I don’t mean to bring this up to cause pain or frustration, what I am bringing up is a deep-heart-struggle. I loved Santa and believing in him.. But I am heavily convicted not to bring that false-hope into my kids’ lives…. It’s increasingly hard, and I still do small Christmas for my kids, a small tree and sentimental ornaments, but we focus on why we celebrate by sharing gifts…

            I think what it boils down to is,if you can celebrate with Santa, good for you, but don’t be a stumbling block for your brother, also, you should pray about it. If you haven’t prayed about it, any “heated” battle comes up is “feelings-based” and a retaliation on something you have not been guided in by the Spirit.

            think about what I wrote. Don’t see me as an antagonist, just realize I have struggled, and the Lord has pruned something out of *my* life, He has raised scriptures in my life to reveal Himself to me,to be a witness to the people that *I* am near… We are all working out our own salvation, its personal, its done with surgical accuracy, its intimate, and its meant to bring us into deeper fellowship with Him, and Him alone…. All other idols cast out! Cling to Him, and seek Him on every subject.

            Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
            Philippians 4:7-9

  5. Bless you, Ashleigh! Thank you for sharing your heartful thoughts!{hugs}

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  6. My dad got saved in the Jesus Movement, so he was big on not lying to us. Dirty hippie. :)

    He was also big on celebrating and big especially on Christmas. So we didn’t miss out on anything magical. When we got older, they told us that some people believed in Santa, and it was fun to be in on the “secret”. But they taught us not to ruin things for other people. I am not planning on doing Santa with my son simply because it’s never been a part of my own holiday experience, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing, just different than my own tradition.

    I think the two sides of this debate often miss each other somewhere. The pro-Santa side doesn’t feel like they are lying, just playing a childhood game. The ones who don’t do Santa (often) don’t feel like they are missing out. But both side sees the other side as something foreign: people who lie to their kids, or people who would rob their children of a magical childhood experience. When, really, we are all doing the best we can to make Christmas special.

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    • My parents told us Santa wasn’t real, too. However, we still pretended Santa was real at Christmas. All of us were in on it, though. Presents were left under the tree on Christmas Eve from “Santa” and we watched all the Christmas specials on TV. We were told, as my children are told, to not ruin it for other kids, though.

      I think Christmas is magical. I love Santa. I also love the Nativity and I love Advent traditions leading up to Christmas Day.

      I think you’re right about those who don’t do Santa vs those who do judging each other’s motives. If someone wants to teach their kid about Santa, that’s no problem to me at all. But please don’t judge me for not doing Santa as if he’s real with my own children.

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    • This this THIS. The missing of the mark.

      I think I like your dad. Christian Jesus People Hippies are the best evah.

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  7. Ashleigh, I appreciate your mention of Holy Nativity and cultural holidays– they are not the same, and I think too often people fail to make the distinction, viewing the latter as an evil attempt to stamp out the former. But to me, they each have a place, and I love it all.

    And your last line gets to the real heart of it. Not just at Christmas, but all the time, aren’t His people guilty of cutting his body to pieces? I long for the day when we’re whole.

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    • Amen. I feel it all becomes the muddiest when people lose sight of the difference between Nativity and the traditions of our culture.

      I ache for that day of healing and wholeness.

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  8. did you just write my story??

    i have trouble getting into christmas now as an adult. i don’t have children, so maybe that’s why i kind of just shrug it off. but i think i would like to enjoy it, to have a holiday ritual. my husband and i have moved several times over the years and christmas decor is just extra stuff to haul around…but maybe we need something like this to make our own memories and find our own way.

    thanks for the post!

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    • Wendi

      My husband and I don’t have kids either, and for some reason we are soooo missing out on some really awesome things about the Christmas season because of it. Um…no. We’re not missing out on anything. People with children have found something special that surrounds the holidays and happens to include their children. It doesn’t mean that they are experiencing more joy than people without children.

      But I hear you about the moving. For a long time we moved pretty much every single year. So things were always tossed out or boxed up. But it seems that Christmas was always a special tradition for us; the thing we held on to as being super special every year (even over our birthdays and anniversary).

      But again, I think we all do what’s best for our own families. For me to tell you OMGOSH!!! You must have Christmas!!! is just ridiculous. My idea of what Christmas is – being around family, telling jokes, eating too many cookies – might not sound like an enjoyable way to spend a holiday to you.

      The neat thing is that Christmas, and Easter, and birthdays and anniversaries happen every year so we can always try out new possible traditions.

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    • I love everything Wendi said below. A dear friend of mine who hasn’t had children revels in the beauty of Christmas more than many other friends… I think the magic is what YOU want to make it.

      We’ve moved over and over, too, and I was just talking to my mom the other day about the difficulty of decorating a new place every year or two. I think tradition and ritual is easier when life doesn’t change quite so often, you know?

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  9. Wendi

    Wow, what a brilliant post! I had no idea that this was even an issue among Christians. Every church I’ve ever attended always had a Christmas tree displayed somewhere in the building.

    While this seems extreme to me, I do have to remember that I grew up in a pretty secular, only slightly Christian home. Slightly as in Easter and Christmastians. Mom dragged me to Easter services. She dragged dad and I to Christmas Eve midnight services but that was pretty much as far as it went.

    I think she grew up hearing similar mobius strip-like stories of what it meant to be a real Christian. My dad just struggled to be the adult in his family and maybe got dragged to church by a grandmother or great grandmother.

    Christmas has always been a big deal to my family. The tree, the gifts, the lights, but most importantly, Christmas was always about family. No matter how much they drove each other nuts, Christmas was our time of putting away all those things and celebrating being together and laughing until our sides hurt.

    It’s a downright shame how we Christians hurt each other when there are good times that, I am certain, Jesus would much rather us have.

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    • “Easter and Christmastians” – HA!

      It makes my heart warm to know that you *didn’t* experience this.

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  10. great job…I have known that war…I have swung the pendulum wide…adding my all or nothing personality…all of Christmas was cut to shreds…but God is merciful and kind…the pendulum swings a little softer…age is a great balancer…
    You last paragraph is profoundly true…well done…

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    • Ah, the pendulum. I know I can’t avoid it, extremist that I am, too, but I’m trying to be aware of it and know that age will indeed bring balance. Thank you.

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  11. You’ve written a great post for thought, Ashleigh! Cutting His body apart is something us Christians have been experts at for more than 2,000 years. It’s a shame!
    I do believe that celebrating the birth of Christ through the Nativity and cultural traditions such as the Christmas tree, stockings, and Christmas lights can be combined in a Christian’s celebration of the season, just so we don’t lose sight of the true reason in all of the commercialism: The birth of the actual Son of God, both God and man, sent to us to receive the punishment for our sins and to make us Holy and righteous in His Father’s sight, so we may dwell forever in His presence! Oh, the joy of the season!

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  12. I love this. I just do. Thank you. This post is going into the basket of all the other things that God is accumulating to teach me more about love.

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  13. Brenna

    I was one of those people who earnestly felt that Santa should not be included in Christmas celebrations. (Yes, I was that obnoxious kid who told you when you were a kid that Santa didn’t exist….) I was going to celebrate Jesus’ birthday and not confuse my kids. I would be upset if someone brought a Santa to church (although I never went down the whole Santa=Satan, Christmas trees are bad route).

    But you know what, my four year old LOVES Santa. Santa brings presents on Christmas (in her mind he is like an angel because when he was St Nick he was kind and loved Jesus) and we have Christmas because Jesus was born. Her four year old mind can reconcile the two, so I realized, mine can too! She loves counting down the days until Santa comes as much as she loves hearing her nightly Advent story counting down the days until Jesus is born. If she wants a present, she asks us to tell Santa. But if she wants healing or her heart to feel happy, she prays to Jesus. I think we need to give kids a lot more credit.

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    • I said I would do and not do a multitude of things as a parent… and then I had kids. ;)

      The simple heart of a child has taught me so much, too. It isn’t at all confusing to my children. They simply revel in the joy of all of it.

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  14. Amen and amen! I heard all of this. We couldn’t have a Nativity set growing up because Jesus wasn’t born in December. Crazy! I now have a miniature Nativity set out all the time and put two more out for the holidays, along with my Christmas tree, stockings, elves, and reindeer. Any excuse to celebrate the joy of love and life is good enough for me! Thank you : )

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    • It’s quite a ride, isn’t it? The arguments and endless debates and how they mold us into our own adult beliefs. So glad you’re finding the joy in the celebration of our Savior’s incarnation.

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  15. Jesus is grace and truth. Just wanted to recommend this great video for kids about history of Christmas traditions: http://store.whatsinthebible.com/collections/dvds/products/why-do-we-call-it-christmas

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    • My four year old is actually watching this movie as I type. :) We were given a complimentary copy and have thoroughly enjoyed it for our boys. Great recommendation!

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  16. I remember many of these conversations taking place in my home growing up… pagan traditions, would Christ be happy with our fun & frivolity? I was a youngster on a crusade-wagon for truth, but I remember hating it deep down. Wishing there weren’t fights against the holiday that I loved so much…the holiday that brought so much joy and so many memories.

    So here I am, putting up our tree, stringing lights, and hanging up a wall plaque shaped like a stocking that says Merry Christmas. I don’t even have a nativity….not because I don’t want one, simply because I don’t own one yet.

    I do pray that when a person walks into our home though, they don’t see a home of paganism but that they see love, they see joy…they see hearts that are in love with Jesus and filled with the grace He so richly pours out.

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    • Yes and yes and yes again. Especially your last few lines. Thankful for the journey and the way it teaches us grace and makes us see Jesus.

      And the “would Christ be happy with our fun and frivolity?” bit… made me shudder. Oh, how well I know the darkness that line of thinking brings. Ick.

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  17. This is one of my favorite pieces on Santa, from Mark Driscoll. His point: we can reject Santa, receive him, or redeem him. This is about redeeming him & it’s the path we hope to take with our children:

    http://blog.marshill.com/2010/12/13/what-we-tell-our-kids-about-santa-pastor-mark-for-the-washington-post/

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  18. I grew up in a family where this was hotly debated as well. My dad claimed to have had a vision at an early age where the hand of God appeared and wrote “Santa Clause” in a fogged up window and then rearranged the letters to read “Satan Calls”. Needless to say we did not celebrate santa. We were without a tree for a stretch of several years, but eventually my mother’s love of christmas won out and we started decorating again. We never did Santa though. I’m currently doubting the existence of God, but still celebrating Christmas with our kids. I’ve never tried to convince them that Santa (or “SinterKlaas” as they like to call him) was real, I just told them that he was a real person a long time ago and now we pretend that he comes to our house on Dec 6th, but they are utterly convinced that He came to our house last night, their excitement is contagious. :)

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  19. We had Santa growing up, but somehow my siblings and I always knew it was our parents. It was a fun thing, but not something any of us were particularly attached to.

    We don’t do Santa in our own house, which mostly means Santa doesn’t bring gifts. His face still shows up and we watch Elf and read The Night Before Christmas. When Santa comes up, we talk about him as a man who loved Jesus and gave to the poor. But I never want my kids to be the one to ruin Santa for someone else, especially maliciously.

    As for emancipating ourselves from every pagan ritual and motif, my attitude is more of a “whatever.” There’s more important things to spend my time on. Besides we’re Christians, we should be more concerned with redeeming the world rather than separating ourselves down to every jot and tittle.

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  20. Holy smokes! That rearranging of Santa into Satan? I’ve never heard that. CRAZY.

    Have you heard of Lisa Whelchel’s book The Adventure of Christmas? In this book, Lisa writes how Jesus is found smack dab in the middle of all our Christmas traditions. Our family loves it!

    http://www.amazon.com/Adventure-Christmas-Helping-Children-Traditions/dp/1590520890

    May you have a Merry Christmas season, Ashleigh, and may we all not become sidetracked as we celebrate the birth of our Savior! Here’s to a guilt-free Christmas! {clink, clink} xoxo

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    • Thank you for mentioning this book.

      Just a few days ago I told my husband that I want to instill in my children the reasons behind Christmas Traditions. The roots of most of them are Christian based.

      This book will help!! along with keeping it real. Although I do feel kinda guilty for eating too many cookies- I’ll rid that problem by not stepping on the scale. :)

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  21. Dawn

    Amen Ashleigh, Amen!

    It’s funny that some people feel that Santa and Jesus should be separated when where I work, they didn’t continue a holiday tradition of breakfast with Santa because they felt it had to many religious connotations. As a thirty-something mom of 3 that became a Christian in only the last 10 years and who places a very high value on celebrating Christ during Christmas as well as letting my children enjoy the fun of Santa, I feel like my time is better spent enjoying the love and joy of this season with my children than judging others for how they do or do not choose to celebrate it. At the heart of Jesus Christ and all he stands for is love and I feel that the same goes for Santa. So no matter how you lean during this holiday season, shouldn’t love be centered in the middle of it and wash away all the other “stuff”?

    Reply
  22. I was told the same things. I couldn’t get over that having a Christmas tree was wrong. We continued to decorate one. I couldn’t believe that we were pagan for doing such. BUT we didn’t do Santa Claus. I can still remember the 4th grade when my classmate told me Santa was a lie. It broke my heart, deeply. I couldn’t understand why my parents would lie to me and tell me that something was real that wasn’t. Maybe that played a part in our decision with our children, back in the days when I was living a religious life, I can’t really say. We didn’t have much money…. we struggled OFTEN to make ends meet with our 5 children… we still do these days after 10 months of unemployment. During the years the main thing I wanted my children to know and see was the love of God who provided so generously. Each year I wondered if we would even have Christmas. Each year I prayed that God would provide it for my children. Each year He did. My children were told that all that they were receiving were gifts from God. Now that I’ve come out of religion I’m not sure what I would do. I don’t think I could get into the “Santa knows if you’ve been bad or good”. I hate managing sin and focusing on behavior. But now that my eyes are open I can see that none of it was evil as I was told. It was the religious binding that was evil.

    A very thought provoking piece that I easily related to. I lived in that same arena. Thank God I am now free….

    Reply
  23. Carri

    Love this post! Some things that caught my eye:

    “and where does the Bible even say to celebrate His birth?” Really? People need to be told in black and white to celebrate the birth of their Savior? That should be something to celebrate every day! Christmas is a time set aside to formally recognize it.

    And the whole lying to your kids about Santa thing affecting their faith…. uhhh… let me tell you, world. When I found out Santa wasn’t real I didn’t go crying and get mad at my parents for “lying” to me and suddenly lost all trust in everything they told me. I am 24 years old and have never thought of it that way. I just felt silly for being duped for so long. :-) Even then, I’ve never had an issue trusting in Jesus. I agree, that really is not a solid argument.

    Honestly though, who cares how you celebrate it? As long as you are true to the reason behind everything, that’s all that really matters.

    Reply
  24. Great post. In terms of “how much is too much” with Santa, I think people ought to have a bit of “to each his own” philosophy – do what seems right to you, but don’t someone that has a different opinion. (Actually, that ought to be a rule of thumb for how to treat people on more than Santa issues.)

    I believed in the big guy until I was 6 — I was sick on Christmas eve and couldn’t go to our family party, and my mom spilled the beans and asked if I’d help put out the various gifts for the younger siblings. (One of the gifts was a giveaway — my bike had gotten an upgrade to “stingray” status, and it was obvious santa didn’t come take it away and back.)

    With our own kids, our oldest never believed – we told him that there had been a Santa a long time ago, and that people were carrying on the tradition. When the 2nd kid came around, we never talked about Santa but discovered when he was 3 that he believed, and he wasn’t in preschool and hadn’t been exposed. I think the culprit was the original “Santa Clause” movie which had just come out. (The first time I watched that one, I found myself wishing that Santa was real!)

    It is unfortunate that people get so judgmental about stuff like Santa. Although some of the traditions do have pagan roots, they (like us) can be redeemed and turned into something that gives glory to God. That should be the end goal for us as Christians anyway: everything we do whether mundane, traditional, celebratory, etc. can be ‘sacred’ if we do it as “unto the Lord.”

    Reply
  25. I really hate all the debating. I’m 20 and I remember tid bits from my childhood and Santa was apart of it. I’ve discussed it with my older siblings and they all agree. It bothers us so much now that for my little sister who’s 8 my mom and step-dad decided no Santa. I still remember a few years ago my little sister showed her anger that we didn’t “do Santa” that when she saw Santa decorations she’d get mad. What’s so wrong with it? I miss the magical part of this year, I know the “reason for this season” I know that God sent His son for us….I just don’t get what’s so wrong with having a magical childhood.

    Reply
  26. Elizabeth

    Growing up, my story is similar. There was so much controversy surrounding Santa Claus, Christmas trees, and stockings. In our family, we were taught that Santa Claus was not real, but were also told not to ruin this for other children. I delighted in decorating our Christmas tree and setting up the nativity scene. Of course, I had to be very careful who I told about our Christmas traditions in case they judged us. I learned from a very early age that being judged was one of the most common occurrences in Christianity. Now, I am 22 years old, in nursing school, and about to marry the love of my life. We have discussed what we are going to do with our children. I was raised that Santa Claus was paramount to lying to your children and turning them away from the gospel. However, he was raised believing in Santa Claus, and he has a beautiful faith in God despite realizing when he was younger that Santa Claus did not exist. So I am torn. I read the article someone posted above by Mark Driscoll. I love how he sums it. The most important truth that I can impart to my future children is that God loves them, and they, in turn, should love God with all their hearts. All the rest beams that need to be pulled out of our own eyes before looking at others.

    Reply
  27. My husband grew up in a family that had very little money, which meant very few (if any) presents on Christmas morning. The value of Christmas was never placed on Santa, because Santa = Gifts, and they had no gifts to give their children, so why put a false hope in them? I grew up with Santa but stopped believing when I was about six. Now that we are parents, we decided not do ‘do’ Santa in our house. Our society has become so detached from Christ that we don’t want to participate in anything that would serve as a distraction. We have no issues with our daughter watching Rudolph or reading The Night Before Christmas, but Santa will not be taught as someone that is real, but instead a Christmas fairy tail. We WILL teach our kids about St. Nicholas because he was obviously a real persona and where the Modern Day Santa is derived from.

    As for the extremist views on Christmas trees and whatnot, I really have no thought. Some people will simply just be that different and there’s not much that can be done about it. The thing is, though, is that it wasn’t a Christmas tree the pagans put up; it was an evergreen (I think?) tree they put inside their homes as a sign of life in the dead of winter. Someone, somewhere, started the tradition of the Christmas tree, likely as a way to redeem the Pagan tradition.

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  28. I am so disgusted that this is an issue/argument. There are family traditions, old and new. Like everything else in our lives with our children and what we learn about and do with our parenting is different than others. What happened to non judgemental like Jesus? What happened to acting like Jesus? No one is right in this discussion. We should all chose what is best for our families and not judge or condemn others who are different and not change because of others around us. We need to pray to see how God wants us to live and how he wants us to bring up our children. Celebrating Halloween and Christmas never affected my love for Jesus….it just took me 40 years to give up control and follow his plan for me and my family. If we celebrate with ghouls and goblins and Santa and reindeer our kids will not be damaged for life and the other way around too…if we chose not to. Let us each be what God wants us to be and quit worrying about others and how they live and what we think is right or wrong. Let us all accept all ways of celebrating no matter what they are and know every one has their own reasons for their path. This is what shows our children the true meaning of Christmas – loving everyone, letting them live their life and not judging….not if we chose to have Santa or not.

    Reply
  29. LeAnna

    I enjoyed this, Ashleigh. Also enjoyed reading everyones comments, especially those who expressed their struggle with faith in God because of their experience with Santa as a child. That is intriguing to me.

    I grew up with many friends who did not “do” Christmas, period. Wouldn’t come to our house at Christmas because we had a tree, etc. Totally steeped in legalistic LAW. I’m so thankful for parents who were led by the Spirit in all things. We never did Santa in a literal sense, I knew my parents worked hard to provide our presents for us. A demonstration of Gods gift to us, Christmas gift giving in our home was sacraficial in many ways. Is was never a materialistically driven thing for us…mostly because we didn’t have a lot growing up…
    My husbands family is the total opposite. My MIL is constantly talking about Santa to our kids, and even though we don’t teach our children that their gifts come from him (rather, we teach as a whole- year around- that all good things come from the Father above), I don’t tell her she can’t talk to him about Santa. If my 3 yo has questions (and boy, does he!) his father and I answer him honestly. He’s VERY interested in Santa this year, mostly from the classic Christmas movies he’s seen. For now we talk about how Santa is a decoration for Christmas, and how Christmas is first of all about celebrating Jesus birth, and move on…He’s barely three…When he is a bit older we’ll teach him about St. Nicholas, as a historal figure.

    ALL of that to say, we condemn and are condemned from either side. And that’s when the Enemy wins. He’s gotten hearts off of what matters (the glorious, beautiful birth and sacrifical death of our Lord Jesus) and onto self. And self righteousness is indeed the same, on either side.

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  30. What a great post Ashleigh!! And one that divides many and probably always will. I gave my grandchildren a statue of Santa worshiping over the baby Jesus..they love that just as much as they love anything else that has to do with this time of year.

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  31. Mae

    Your upbringing in the area of Christmas beliefs sound much like mine! I loved Christmas as a little girl; I don’t think I every believed Santa was a real person, but I loved the stories and acting out the Santa traditions (leaving cookies, hanging stockings, presents from “Santa”)– even if they were “pretend”. Over the growing up years as my parents/family went through the anti-Santa/Christmas movement, I hated how joyless the holiday became. The first year I was out of the house and married, I found such freedom and utter JOY in celebrating Christmas in the typical way. I love all the decorations, lights, tree, Santa stories, songs (even secular). In no way have I found that participating in these traditions make my forget about Jesus or have a hard time believing in Him. Now that I have toddlers, I’m having no hesitations about introducing them to Santa and the rest of the holiday.

    Reply
    • In no way have I found that participating in these traditions make my forget about Jesus or have a hard time believing in Him.

      Amen and amen!

      Reply
  32. Yes. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.

    I couldn’t have said it better. Perfect.

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  33. Ellen S.

    I hopped on over from a tweet and found myself totally engrossed in the discussion. I grew up (and still belong to) a Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod – if you like specifics) a relatively conservative group. The church was always decorated with religious symbols – never Santa, but at home we had a mix of secular and religious decorations. I never felt conflicted about Jesus or Christmas or Santa, I never knew that there were those in the Christian community that held these kind of viewpoints (I lead a sheltered life apparently). My parents knew what was important and so do I… With my kids, the focus is on Jesus’ birth, but Santa is along for the ride – in the backseat as a simple tradition, not a figure of worship. I think you can have both.

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  34. Yes. I could have written this.

    Thank you Ashleigh.

    Been here. Done this. Went through a season in my childhood where Christmas was minimally celebrated and the “secular” part was snobbishly frowned upon. I don’t like Santa very much…I grew up without him and could really care less. My boyfriend rather despises Santa, saying “my child will never know Santa. He will be given gifts by a father that loves him and whom he can hug every day.” :) I love and respect that. So Santa will not likely be a big part of my life in the future.

    But I love Christmas. I love shopping and gift giving and music and lights and trees and all that jazz. :D
    I will always celebrate Christmas.

    Reply
  35. I never grew up hearing anything was pagan about it, as you know our church wasn’t legalistic (thankfully). We just a couple yrs ago decided to be open about what Santa is and isn’t – just felt a heart pull that the way our boys are, it would be best to fully talk about all of it honestly and celebrate however that played out. I can tell you that during the “Santa is a really fun magical pretend thing we all like to experience” conversation, my boys then asked if the tooth fairy was real, if the Easter bunny was real, and then if Jesus was real. Yeah, turned into quite the heavy conversation! And I love that it led to a gorgeous conversation about Jesus on the cross and what He did for us.

    Now our Christmas celebrations are a fun mix – just today my oldest wrapped and put gift tags on several presents for his siblings and put them under the tree, we all joked that the Prep & Landing Elves must have left early presents, and said they were from Santa – all while all the siblings were completely knowing that my oldest boy did it. For us, the kids knowing Santa is pretend actually expanded their creativity instead of making them neurotic about if they were good enough (which is what it did before). And they’ve been getting a lot more money since they found out the tooth fairy was really mom and dad. ;)

    Reply
    • For us, the kids knowing Santa is pretend actually expanded their creativity instead of making them neurotic about if they were good enough (which is what it did before).

      i love this! how brilliant….what insightful parents you are.

      Reply
    • Love your stories about it. And I also love that you didn’t have to experience the legalism of these issues!

      I’m intrigued with the whole “you better watch out” idea. My parents didn’t play into that with me and I do take issue with teaching children ANY sort of works-based reward system like that – Santa or not. I wonder if perhaps Santa is indeed an precursor to such a view of God?

      Reply
  36. Sara

    You know this was all in my heart somewhere—your sister heart just sorted it out and gave it voice. Thank you for ALL you are and do and say.

    It ministers holy to me.

    –S.S.

    Reply
  37. Janeen

    This is something I have struggled with for a number of years because of my husband. I have ALWAYS loved Christmas. I loved it when I didn’t know the “meaning” behind it (didn’t really learn much about Jesus until my mom told me one year after I put x-mas on my window, lol). I loved it when I was a part of the Catholic church and going to mass and singing in the choir. I loved it in school at various Christmas concerts. My husband does not celebrate Christmas. He wants absolutely nothing to do with it and it’s been hard. He did tell me while we were dating but how serious he was, how HOSTILE he was towards the holiday really did not become clear until after we married. I suspect he held some of his feelings back afraid to scare me off entirely and he probably would have had I really understood how he felt about it. He followed a booklet written by a man named Herbert Armstrong called “The Plain Truth About Christmas.” I read it one time and, sincerely trying to be a good wife and not wanting this time of year to be fight when my oldest daughter’s birthday was just two days after Christmas, I tried to give it up. For the next four years, I barely did anything for the holiday. I grabbed at a couple of things my husband was okay with and tried to make do with that. One Christmas we were in South Korea and it wasn’t too hard since the country doesn’t make Christmas as important as we do here. But this past year I finally reached a point where I could not ignore the holiday anymore. I hated the fact that I had to basically isolate myself from people for a good month or so out of the year because of Christmas. I LIKED having a Christmas tree. I always thought they were beautiful and some of my favorite Christmas memories are of decorating the tree. I decided to celebrate Christmas this year. For me, it doesn’t have much in the way of a religious significance. But then, for the longest time, it didn’t. For me, Christmas has always been about family. It’s always been about the magic that you can feel this time of year. I don’t know, perhaps I’m still very much a child when I think of this holiday but it’s something I enjoy and something I’m no longer willing to give up. I’m trying very hard though to keep it a simple holiday and not get too into the chaos and stress of the holiday. I’m also trying to not let not having a lot of money get to me. I KNOW presents are not the most important part of the holiday, being with family is but it can be hard not to feel that way when you see all the adds for all of the various sales for stuff. But I think that’s kind of how it goes with things like this, you have both the good and the bad. I’d much rather focus on the good though. I know that the holiday isn’t celebrated by everyone and the reasons people celebrate are not all the same and try to respect that. We all have our traditions.

    Reply
  38. Ashleigh, this story expresses so eloquently how we (Christians) have nearly lost the culture war by our legalistic views. I’ve battled this for years, and have never settled on a way to enjoy the holidays because of the mix of pagan and sacred practices. In fact, I still view the materialist blitzkrieg and the shopping madness as a rape of the sacred. But your perspective sheds new light.
    Peace and joy!

    Debra
    http://debrasblogpureandsimple.blogspot.com

    Reply
  39. So well written and obviously heartfelt. We do each have our journeys. . . and mine included devastation when learning Santa didn’t really make it around the planet and deliver us all our gifts. I did wonder if that meant God wasn’t really who I’d heard he was—for a time. I certainly don’t mind if others have fun with Santa, and my daughters know that, but before I married it made the short list of what I wouldn’t do with kids. We have pics of them sitting on his lap, but we never told them he made it around the planet. I adore the historical figure, and never want to point my finger at those who have fun with it, but the magic in our home is with the Tooth Fairy:) We each come to our own places, I suppose. May we all do so with love and grace.
    I did relax about defending my own sensitivity years ago when I read Annie Dillard’s essay “God in the Doorway” in Teaching a Stone to Talk. She expressed my heart so well.

    Reply
    • Thank you so much for your perspective and story. I’m interested in the idea of Santa’s non-reality making someone question the truth of God, so I’m appreciating the anecdotes here from people who did experience that.

      We do each have our journeys, don’t we? You obviously shine grace as you walk along yours. Thank you!

      Reply
  40. I was just writing about this the other day when my 5 1/2yo said, “Mama, I know Santa isn’t real”.
    Many extreme Christians would argue that he shouldn’t be celebrated at all because he takes away from the “Reason for the Season”. But guess what? We are IN but not OF this world. To be blunt, so what if non-Christians revel in the secular-ness Christmas has become! For them is may be Santamas, but it doesn’t have to be for me or my kids. They don’t claim to be believers and I am not going to convert them by bad-mouthing their fun. So how ’bout we live it . . .

    Thanks for the ideas in continuing our journey with our little ones!

    Sara@ http://yourthrivingfamily.com/

    Reply
  41. Yes, yes, oh YES! My best friend and I have gotten our pictures taken together with Santa for each of the last eight years. My brother told me that he once overheard his sons discussing whether or not there really was a Santa. They agreed there wasn’t, but then one of them added, “But don’t tell Aunt Nancy. She doesn’t know!”

    Call me crazy, but I think more people would entertain the truth claims of Jesus if they saw his followers demonstrating ridiculous joy–especially at the celebration of His birth!

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  42. Thank you for this…..we are a Santa family as well as a Jesus family and I was surprised to be asked about it. I do know my little daughter is much more interested in her Nativity Little People than Santa right now, lol…

    Reply
  43. I grew up where, for the first few years of my life, my dad played Santa. Then he went to Bible college and from there, Santa was never allowed in our home again. Christmas, however, was celebrated big time. It never damaged me that we didn’t do Santa. It never damaged me that, at one time, we did. Now that I’m a parent we play Santa. Well… not anymore. They’re all old enough to know he isn’t real. Of course, in our home, if you don’t believe in Santa, he doesn’t bring you anything from him. So if you asked my 19 year old if he believes in Santa he will tell you that absolutely he does.
    I’ve known a few people in our circles that wouldn’t or won’t have a Christmas tree and more recently said they will not celebrate Christmas because of the pagan rituals.
    I shared something on fb the other day and thought I’d share it here, if that’s ok:
    ~~~~~
    “GOD REST YE MERRY GENTLEMEN… So, what about celebrating a Merry Christmas? Christians and cults opposed to celebrating Christmas cite Babylonian and Egyptian pagan origins. These people have missed something very important, where did paganism get it’s origin? Man was created with an instinct to worship the creator God, and by rejecting God they fulfill this instinct by creating their own gods to worship in their paganism. Thus, paganism’s origin is from a distortion of the inspired truths of God. Now, when it comes to Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Jesus. Prior to any Babylonian or Egyptian paganism of a virgin mother-child cult, the birth of Jesus was inspired truth and foretold in the first book of the Bible, Genesis 3:15. Therefore, celebrating the birth of our Savior has origins from God and not from paganism. When I hear someone quote scripture out of context as reasoning not to celebrate Christmas, this verse comes to mind, “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (II Timothy 3:7).”
    ~~~~~
    Our instinct is to worship a creator. We do not instinctively worship Santa. He’s a nice old man that gives presents one night a year. But God… God is the giver of life and of all good things, all year ’round.
    I’m not going to judge a family either way, but I will say that I do believe you can share the magic of Christmas with your children and make sure they know the true meaning of why we have Christmas to begin with.
    Hubby grew up in a home where they played Santa all his life. But he knew, even believing in Santa, that we stopped to worship the babe in the manger who came to give us the greatest gift of all.
    Parents are children’s greatest influence. Like everything in their young, impressionable lives, it’s all in how we handle it.
    The second verse to one of my favorite Christmas songs that I sing in church with hubby says:
    ~~~~~
    The soldiers that nailed Him there
    no beauty could they see
    Yet an ornament of love
    they were hanging on that tree
    No ribbons, no angel tops
    just a thorny crown
    And the gift he gave to all the world
    was His blood, flowing down
    From a stable in Bethlehem
    to a Cross upon a hill
    praying, “Father, please not my will,
    but thine to fulfill”
    From the safety of a virgin’s womb
    to be hung on Calvary
    Where the Light of the world
    decorated the Greatest Christmas Tree
    ~~~~~
    I’m not sure how the lyrics to that song fit, but I just sure do like it. lol
    ~Kristi

    Reply
    • I love your thoughts, and love that you shared them here. I know you know the thinking of which I speak here, and I appreciate your wisdom, friend!

      Reply
  44. webee1975

    i have to say this is beautiful,i was in 1975 and in our house we celebrated both.mostly st nic.as an adult my husband and i don’t have children but we started a tradition of baking a birthday cake.as we sit to eat our christmas meal we wish jesus a happy birthday.we will say happy birthday thruout the day.growing up one tradition we had was to open 1 gift on christmas eve.we still do this.it was started because we were to ansy to wait to open a gift.this 1 gift was to hold us until morning when we opened our stockings.we had to wait until after we ate to open presents.the stockings and that 1 gift had to keep us busy.then after we ate we would for a circle with the tree as the closer of the circle.my mom passed out the gifts.we had to wait but while waiting we would decide wich one to open first.then when my mom was done she or the person next to her would start.the person opening the gift would say who it was from then shake smell feel and try to guess then open the gift.then show excitement and say thank a bunch of times.then the next.we would wait patiently and watch.we would cont going around until all gifts were opend.now i live far away and i am to sick to travel.we don’t decorate because it is way to much work to put up then down.we no longer wrap presents but instead put them in reusable gift bags.we still do the 1 gift christmas eve and even though the stockings are no longer hung we get stocking gifts.the second we wake we check our stocking gifts.then because we can’t wait we open our gifts.this yr we might try to wait because my husbands mother lives near us.we try to make it clear what were celebrating.we give gifts with no expextations of the receaver giving us anything.we get joy in giving.that is what christmas is about.joy in GOD and giving without expecting a thing in return.i love to give and to imagine there faces.this is what christmas means to me

    Reply
  45. I want to have time to read all these comments because I’m sure there is much truth in them. And there is so much truth in your post. I’m at the other end of the spectrum, my parents remained grounded in their beliefs and didn’t let the tide of the Christian wave sway them, this way and that. We weren’t taught about Santa, I never felt like I missed out on anything, I appreciated my parents and how hard they worked to provide for me, and never had any issues with other friends believing or unbelieving.

    I think there’s a facet here about Santa that does not fall in line with Christ, and is therefore, a moot point. Santa teaches us to focus on ourselves, while Christ teaches us to serve others. If we are pursuing Christ’s heart, the small issues fall by the wayside. I wouldn’t judge another parent for teaching their child to believe in Santa, but I feel like this time of year is the perfect time to teach our kids to serve others. Focusing on our humanity and the greatest gift of all, rather than what Santa chooses to bring us. Surprising others, especially the least of these, with blessings, rather than earning material things from Santa by acting good.

    I never met anyone either that struggled with their belief in God because they believed in Santa, but I sure have met a lot of Christians who were focused on themselves instead of others, too many to count. Not to say that Santa caused this, I just feel like there is much in this world that guides our eyes back to ourselves rather than loving each other more than ourselves.

    I wouldn’t invent an imaginary friend for my daughter, or a man that brings her gifts. Christmas is magical enough for us. If she had an imaginary friend though, I would never scold her for believing in him. As they grow, they work through their own discoveries and form their foundation for their beliefs.
    I can also appreciate Santa as he has made his way into our culture and is just sort of there, in some songs, in some traditions, which I would never split hairs and not play those songs or hang up stockings because they are related to Santa. I feel like that does more harm than good.
    The most important thing to avoid on this issue is judgement. That’s when we become divided. Love unconditionally.

    Reply
    • I love every bit of this comment, wise friend. Good, good thoughts here – especially the part about self-centered Christians.

      I wonder if, perhaps, the issue of Santa and the way he plays out in growing lives is more indicative of an overall style of parenting and living? If children who are encouraged to think outside of themselves can see him as a giving man who shows kindness and generosity, versus children of parents who encourage a self-centered lifestyle as a whole and the gimme-gimme version of Santa would merely into that?

      Reply
  46. Yeah…it’s sad. I mean, there are times when my “Christian” side wants to flare up and ask “What the heck do Santa, Rudolph, and Frosty have to do with Christmas?! Nothing! They don’t have anything to do with Christ!”

    But this is usually only when I hear Christmas music about such, and then I calm down, without saying anything about it. (I don’t like Christmas music, at all. Even Christmas music about Jesus drives me crazy. I’m sure there’s a disorder for that)

    I think the problem that many Christians have is that these mythical figures (though some based in fact) have been so commercialized and laced with consumerism and entitlement that they’re repulsive to people who celebrate the God who left everything to become like us to redeem us. But rather than trace their (right) anger to its source, they attack the figures using misunderstood half-truths about origins to back up their indignation, conveying that they really don’t believe the blood of Christ can redeem having a Christmas tree in one’s home. And, tragically, they attack those who are “more mature in the faith” and feel they have freedom to celebrate both Jesus and Santa, while still guarding against consumerism and entitlement and still being faithful to Jesus.

    Reply
    • I think there’s likely a disorder for half the things I do, so hey, solidarity, etc. ;)

      Yes indeed – while talking about the manner in which we “debate” the whole ordeal, I won’t hesitate to mention that I’m not a fan of the commercialization of this celebration and the way everything’s been interlaced. As Tamara and I were talking about above, I think there’s a line that might have to be drawn, mentally, when thinking through Christmas celebrations as Christians. There IS is a difference between the Nativity and the cultural tradition. I just wonder if they truly have to be mutually exclusive?

      Anyway… just thinking aloud here.

      Reply
      • Oh, no, I don’t think they have to be mutually exclusive in and of itself. I’ll watch old school Christmas cartoons with the aforementioned characters with my nieces or whatever. It’s the commercialization of those characters which detracts from the “real reason” for Christmas that drives me nuts.

        And, you know, Christmas music…

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  47. Agnes

    I think I stopped believing in Santa when I noticed that the writing on the gift tags was my mom’s.. !!! But you know what, I pretended to believe for a LOT longer than that. I loved squeezing my eyes shut and listening so hard for the jingle-bells. As we slept in the attic room, listening for reindeer footsteps – ehrm, yeah, I was like 12, ha. Christmas is a really special and magical time of year, and a time when my all-fighting, all-screaming family would stop and be nice to each other, for ONE day of the year. I was going to squeeze all the magic out of it that I could. When we were very small, my parents would wait til we were in bed Christmas Eve before putting up the tree and putting out the presents, so when we woke up we would be amazed! To me, that was so sweet. As we got older, they would kind of assume we knew Santa wasn’t REALLY real (it was never discussed), and they started putting the tree up a little earlier. I remember being a bit disappointed. We would always write letters to Santa, and send them to The North Pole, HO HO HO or something like that for free (at that time Canada Post volunteers would answer the letters and reply, not sure if they still do). I have no idea how it became something for Christians to dispute. Every church we went to (there were a few) did Christmas to the hilt. I was into my 30’s before I met a Christian who didn’t believe in ‘Christmas’. We didn’t have less Jesus just because we had the Christmas fun as well. But I respect my friend’s views. Just doesn’t seem like much fun, that’s all :D

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    • there are other ways to have fun at Christmas without Santa in the equation. Sadly for many, Christmas revolves around Santa

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  48. I have issue with this. I think this writer’s opinion comes from a negative experience and she has created her stance form that place. Smug at seven? I disagree. I think the child was just staying what they do, not lacing it with a pious attitude. Children have a way with just saying what they do … they don’t speak in double talk like many adults do. I think that at the young age of seven, a child saying they don’t believe in Santa should not be taken as smug. Kids speak boldly whether they are saying that someone at the grocery store stinks, that a lady has a mustache, or Santa is dead.

    I feel strongly about the conviction my husband and I have about not doing Santa at Christmas, and I have been free in sharing that with others .. however I don’t shove my opinion down other people’s throat. I may probe their thinking and throw things out for consideration, but my intention is never to force someone to come to my point of view. I value honesty with my children is all areas and don’t want to intentionally lie to them. Period. I don’t see how one can say they aren’t lying to their child about Santa. That’s my hangup with the whole thing.

    There are those who choose not to do Santa and are vocal about that … but just as Santa-ers don’t like feeling like they are booking frowned upon for choosing Santa, non Santa-ers don’t like feeling that way as well.

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    • As the writer of this piece and the former seven year old in question, I can assure that I was indeed an extremely smug seven year old. I held a heaping dose of self-righteousness was in my little heart in those early years due to the influence and example of those around me and I sadly allowed it to be cultivated and carried into early adulthood.

      You clearly feel very strongly about your own Santa-related beliefs and you don’t hesitate to share them with people around you. But I’m not sure Santa is even the main point of this piece, as much as it is the grace and love in which we hold and share our personal preferences, regardless of the particular topic. May we seek Christ always, above feelings of spiritual superiority or the goal of being “the most right.”

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  49. I debated whether or not to “teach” my boys about Santa. Not because I think he’s evil, but because I never believed but still LOVED Christmas. My husband has encouraged me to just let them be kids, let them believe. Yesterday when I took them to visit Santa, when their eyes lit up, when they hopped up on his lap and excitedly told him what they wanted for Christmas, I was so glad that my husband pushed for this. I loved watching them, I love seeing the wonder and excitement in their eyes, and I think they’ll still manage to grow up loving Jesus :)

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  50. brandie

    thank you for this piece; i agree with you and with so much that others have written here. the only part i wish to chime in about is the various arguments that generally go like this:

    “my parents did/taught me/told us ______ and that is why, as an adult, i no longer believe _______”

    this argument takes many forms, but it’s basically the same format. people use it to explain (justify) all sorts of choices. i used this argument myself. i’ve come understand as a parent that the Enemy has absolutely no mercy and will twist anything and everything he can, including the things that i try to teach my kids so that they can stand in Truth. i think that all we can do is seek the Lord’s leading on EVERYTHING by asking Him and listening for His voice, pray endlessly over our children, and encourage them to listen and obey Him as they walk their own journey of faith. it’s not about doing this or not doing that; the most perfected of “Christian” disciplines and practices can ultimately be used to justify someone walking away from God. we need to be REAL: broken, humble, honest, obedient, joyful, fun, redeemed, whole, healed, loving listeners to his voice. i think that is a faith that our children will embrace and follow.

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  51. Just read this to Wolf and he is making me comment again.

    He says, “Props.”

    :D

    (which means he really really really liked it)

    —S.S.

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  52. Amy Stalls

    Thanks for sharing this. All of the judgments are usually what takes so much of the fun and joy out of the holiday for me. I feel like I am constantly reminding myself that Jesus sees our hearts and when He sees mine He knows that Santa to me just reminds me of being a generous person but that he nor I could ever out give the present He offered (eternal reconcilement with the Father). When Jesus sees the tree I decorate at Christmas, He sees my heart that loves to remember holidays before and memories with those I love wrapped up in the carefully chosen ornaments from trips and time spent with them. At some point we’ll learn to relax and enjoy and encourage each others’ creative expressions of the celebration of the Season of the greatest gift we mankind ever received.

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  53. “If you mix up the letters to Santa’s name, what do you get? Satan.” Laughed out loud. Literally.

    With the two-year-old starting to click into an understand of Christmas, I have been thinking a lot about these things. Thank you for your honesty and the beauty of your hard-earned stories.

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  54. Kim

    As mom to 9, ages 27 on down to 10, and grandma to 1, we’ve always done Santa but that’s a sideline of Christmas. Our children fully understood/understand that was just a teensy part, that for our family the true meaning of Christmas was the birth of God’s best gift to us, His Son, Jesus.

    With three grown children and now having 5 teens in the house, it’s exciting for my husband and I to see how the kids have taken the idea of giving and run with it. We couldn’t be more proud. Our family gets involved in the spirit of things by putting the emphasis on giving… We do plates of homebaked Christmas goodies and homemade candles so we can take them to our neighbors. The kids make their own handmade cards for the dear folks on our Meals on Wheels route. We all look forward to the gift basket deliveries sponsored by a local Christian radio station. All these and more have become our traditions.

    And that being said I truly feel that what each family does at Christmas is between them and God and how He directs. It’s kind of like us at Halloween–we felt led way back 24 yrs ago to not “do Halloween”, we substitute a family night with activities. But I know plenty of families at church who do and that’s fine. I will not ever criticize someone for not doing it “our way”.

    Good discussion. You young folks have an amazing amount of wisdom and maturity. Blessings on you all…

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  55. Stacey Mills

    Ash you are an amazing writer! I must admit I have mixed feelings about this story. I rejoice that God has set you free of the heavy burden of legalism, it stems from a lack of understanding our own depravity and our desperate need for a savior. Thinking we can add anything to what has already been done on the cross is foolish and dangerous. I remember conversations with a 14 year old some what smug Ashleigh about the evils of tv and Rebecca St James :o), I knew with maturity you would come to understand Gods Grace and His law of love. But why I have mixed emotions is the painted picture of a Christian in your memories and possibly even in your heart today. Have you only the memories of the folly of legalism to remember? Were there no examples of true Christianity to set the example that Jesus is the truest and best gift of the season and the freedom we have to enjoy the other splendors of Christmas such as a beautifully lit tree with VICTORIAN bulbs :o) carols, baking, and even Santa? My prayer for you Ash as you are raising your babies is Gods perfect balance, Jesus at the heart of the season with plenty of love and respect for others needs and where they are at. Very important, we always need to remember that love trumps freedom.

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  56. Stacey Mills

    What of the truest meaning of this season? Jesus shared humbly with the understanding of our own depravity and our deep need for Him. To love others and show respect for where they are at, caring for their needs. Then the fun- Christmas trees! Lights! Carols! Parties! Hot tea, watching Elf by the fire! Yippee! Merry Christmas Ash

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  57. Annie

    There is a Christmas tree in my family room as I write…There is a copy of “The Night Before Christmas” on our bookshelf. However, I have to say, it has been such a help during the teen years to be able to look at my kids (now 19 and 20) and say…”I’ve NEVER lied to you….Every word I have spoken to you in 19 (or 20) years has been the truth as I knew it. That’s not to say I haven’t been mistaken or wrong at times…but I’ve never known the truth and told you something to the contrary. Surely, you don’t think that after all these years, I’m lying to you now…”
    While our kids were growing up, we told them that the story of Santa is fantasy…fun, enjoyable “make you smile” “bring happiness to the season” fantasy. Mom and dad put the presents out on Christmas Eve. We enjoy reading the book…we watch “Santa Clause is Coming to Town” and “Rudolph” every year…in fact, it’s a tradition at our house, but at no time did we ever lie and tell them those stories were true…But then Hank the Cowdog and Nancy Drew werent’ real either and we could enjoy thos stories…we can enjoy this one too…but always know in the back of our minds that it’s just “story”…fiction….make believe.
    I dont’ assume to tell other parents how to raise or talk to their children…I have family members who vehemently disagree with us. That’s ok…this is the way we have chosen to teach our children and no one is the worse off for it. They are fine young adults now….well-adjusted and going out into the world knowing that their parents have never ever lied to them…so we probably aren’t going to start now. They can trust and believve whatever we say to them. I’m glad for that history.

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  58. Cindi

    well said. especially the end line :) Thanks :)

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  59. JM

    My friends and family run the spectrum from “Santa is coming” to treeless, subdued Christmases. We’ve taught our child to be loving towards the people who have all these views. But, in our family, we are honest about the Santa story in its many commercial and historical perspectives because I AM ONE OF THE PEOPLE YOU HAVEN’T MET. I was always a logical child. When I discovered that Santa (a man you can’t see who wants you to be good) wasn’t real, I lost my faith in Jesus (to my childhood eyes, He was also someone you can’t see who wants you to be good). If my parents were wrong about one, they were probably wrong about the other. It took me almost 2 decades from that childhood discovery to come back to faith in Jesus.

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    • I am so glad you are back to faith in Jesus!
      Thanks and praise to God.

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  60. WOW! such an insightful post! Some people must find a reason to argue and blame for any and everything. You are so right when you say that this season is ALL about God’s love, and selfless giving and sharing with those around us. Interestingly BOTH Santa and Jesus are wonderful examples of this kind of selfless love. We may or may not “believe” in the men that are symbols of this holiday, but we can all join together and “believe” in what they stand for. Love God by loving His creation. Merry Christmas!

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  61. Kristie

    Thank you for this post. My DS is 2 1/2 this Christmas. We do not have TV, the closest mall is a three hour drive, so the holidays are only what we choose to make it. I have taken him to have his photo with Santa each year, but this is the first year he has recognized this man as “Santa”. Even still, he’s just a big man with a white hair and a beard. He doesn’t understand that this man is magical and brings gifts on Christmas Day. Still, it’s decision time now. Either we allow him to “believe” when he wakes up Christmas morning or we don’t.

    My parents played Santa up until the last Christmas morning I woke up at home – I was in my late 20’s (even after moving out, I always spent Christmas Eve at home). Santa is fun and completely unrelated to the religious holiday for me, just like the Tooth Fairy. So from my experience, I think we’ll play Santa, but we won’t try to “make” our DS believe if he doesn’t. I figure we have a few more years before he asks anyway.

    I think the important thing is that anti-Santa people shouldn’t (under ANY circumstances) ruin it for pro-Santas. And I believe that pro-Santas shouldn’t feel that their choice is superior (or more correct) than anti-Santas.

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  62. Kirsty

    I really enjoyed this artical. Alot of what you said is what was taught to my parents when they became Christians. When I was 10 they were convinced that they needed to tell us the truth about Santa. I remember very clearly being told the whole “satans claws” thing. What affected me though, was not being told that it was wrong to believe in Santa. Was that at 10 I was shocked to learn that my parents had lied to me all those years. It affected me deeply.
    I have 3chidren. My husband and I have chosen to tell them that there is not a Santa. Not because I believe that it will cause them to struggle with their faith, but that we want our children to know that what we tell them will always be the truth. Thanks again for writing this:)

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  63. Thank you. I’ve been running into this more this year than any other year in the past. Your words beautifully said what has been running through my mind not quite so eloquently!

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  64. kt

    Santa was well supported in my house growing up. I just remember feeling betrayed when I found out the truth. Then I toyed with my parents for a couple of weeks to see if they would tell me the truth, but they did not. I think it made me question their honesty to me in more than just the Santa department. So, we do not do Santa or lie in any way (even for playful fun) to my kids because I don’t want them questioning what I say about Christ because of what they could see as a character flaw in lying about Santa.

    Other people celebrating does not bother me, but I get lots of dirty looks from Seniors when our four year old says that we don’t believe in Santa we believe in Jesus (I felt bad but it was a totally not coached response). Since then, I have explained to him that some parents want to celebrate Santa to provide a fun time for their kids and they are not trying to lie or be mean (how he initially thought the other parents were behaving). I also asked him if he wanted to play the game (we would if he wanted to) and he said no that he just wanted presents from us. I don’t know if our situation is helpful for anyone, but there it is! :)

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  65. To each his own. I love my Christmas tree and my Christmas decorations. AND I love my LORD. Having Santa as part of my Christmas decor or traditions does not diminish that. I grew up having Santa (even after I knew he wasn’t a real person). And I don’t recall being upset when I found out that my parents were the ones delivering presents. I don’t recall having any trust issues with them. I don’t recall ever doubting that God or Jesus were real because of finding out that Santa wasn’t. My 4 yr old son already has his doubts about Santa, but he has not expressed doubts about the Lord. I think kids are smarter than we are giving them credit for. They are going to see our faith lived out each and every day and that will be what they ultimately believe.

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  66. Sharon

    Powerfully written. I read another blog that made a comment similar to the one you wrote about re: our kids not believing we’ve told them the truth of Jesus after lying about Santa. I thought it, too, was well written. I think you both make wonderful points and for me it comes down to balance. Living a balanced life takes lots of thought and effort and energy. I always wanted my kids to know the real story of why we celebrate Christmas, yet also enjoy the fun cultural traditions as well. I’m now an almost empty-nester, but I know it is possible to enjoy both. It is possible to celebrate the love poured out from above in the birth of our Savior, while singing carols, decorating the tree, making cookies, and loving others well!!

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  67. “I’ve never met an adult who told me the reason he has a hard time believing Christ is because his parents told him about a red suited gift-giver who turned out to be as real as pixie dust.”

    True, we haven’t met, this is my first time at your blog, but I am one of those people. I was 30 before I put my faith in Jesus, and shortly after that watched a series of movies/documentaries about the roots of various Christmas traditions. Driving home from that event is when it hit me that I had no reason to believe my parents about Jesus since all the other things that were celebrated weren’t true. We don’t include Santa in our Christmas celebration, but we don’t pass judgement on those that do.

    However, why should we as Christians make such a big deal out of wordly celebrations? Shouldn’t we have something different and better to offer the world?

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  68. While I chose to tell my children the truth about Santa, I would never judge another. Part of me wanted them to believe in Santa but I wanted them to believe it without me telling them. They kept asking questions and each answer was a lie, until I finally told the truth. My family was upset with me but in my heart of hearts , I could not say things that were untrue. My children were never judgmental and I played the game with other families.
    I think, that just as I was not judgmental, so should others not be judgmental to those of us who could not go along with the whole fable. It is just life…it is about doing the best we know how to as parents and supporting one another in whatever decision they make.

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  69. You are a preacher girl Ash, and you preach wise and good and honest and true.

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  70. Valli

    I had the opposite experience: My belief in God made me, at a very young age, doubt Santa. After all, if he did everything people said he did, he’d have to be God. So I didn’t believe in Santa even before I started school but felt I had to continue to participate in the ruse for three Christmases afterward. I didn’t have the words to express my discomfort then, but now I can say that I felt coerced. As if I had to profess belief in something I didn’t believe in, just to get the gifts. So I’m not going to do Santa with my two-year-old, but it’s no skin off my teeth if other people do it with their kids.

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  71. Ryan

    People don’t choose to reject Jesus because of division in the church. People choose to reject Jesus because men love darkness rather than light.

    Regarding the rest of your position, exactly what issues of doctrine and practice are you willing to divide over? Should we overlook our disagreement with Mormons? Seventh Day Adventists? Muslims? Roman Catholics? Hindus? Atheists?

    Truth is truth, and is always worth standing up and speaking up for.

    Next thing you know, you’ll be driving around with a Coexist bumper sticker and singing “All we are saying is give peace a chance”….

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  72. I wrote a piece called Christians and the Santa Question that addresses many of the issues in this piece. Thanks for your insights, Ashleigh; they are excellent and though-provoking. So much of how we respond to Christmas and Satan stems from our own childhood experiences; this arena certainly demonstrates it. There is not, in my mind (and as my post unpacks) just one right way to handle this issue. May Jesus be glorified, at his birthday, by all of us in our ways at Christmas, as we keep our eyes fixed on him.

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  73. Ashleigh, thank you so much for this. I just read a post on another blog that rather muddled my mind, and I think the Lord just used you to help straighten me out. :) Blessings to you and your family this Christmas–this season of true tidings of comfort and joy.

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  74. Ryan

    Jesus CHRIST is the reason for CHRISTMAS…He is and always will be the Reason for the season. Praise His Name forever. He came to set us free, and the greatest gift ever given to us by God above is the gift of salvation and eternal life through His Son. Happy birthday, Jesus!

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  75. This is one awesome blog.Really thank you! Awesome.

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  76. stivi

    After reading your article this scripture comes to mind:

    Hebrews 6 :1-12
    King James Version

    1Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, 2Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. 3And this will we do, if God permit. 4For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, 5And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, 6If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. 7For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: 8But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.

    9But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak. 10For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. 11And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: 12That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

    Jesus/Yeshua’s coming in the ‘harpazo’ for his believers is too close at this present hour to be quibbling over trifles. The time for getting into the ‘ark’ is short and we must be about the business of winning souls for Him. The eternal consequences are just too important for both the believer and especially, the unbeliever.

    Revelation 20:11-15
    11Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. 14Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

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