Christmas comes with the added pressure to create special, magical memories with our children. We have all sorts of schemes in place to convince children that magic exists. There are apps and elves and letter services to help children believe so they can carry the wonder of a magical Christmas with them for the rest of their lives. But my children will have none of these magical memories; I won’t make Christmas magical for my kids.
Hear me out- I’m no scrooge.
I love celebrating Christmas, both the celebration of Jesus’s birth, and the more secular idea of “Christmas spirit.” But there is so much pressure on moms today to make a Pinterest-perfect holiday. These magical memories should be the highlight of childhood, we’re told. Not only should we buy all the gifts, clean the whole house, and make the meal before getting everyone ready for Christmas Eve service, but we should get home to bake cookies for Santa, and to fake the appearance of reindeer hooves on the roof. Just the thought of it all makes me tired.
I won’t make Christmas magical because I’m too tired.
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Going through all that effort to pull the wool over my kids’ eyes seems so sneaky. When I read fairy tales with my children, we talk about what is real and what isn’t. They know that animals don’t fly and that people don’t get into houses through chimneys. I value the relationship I’m building with my little ones, and creating magical Christmas memories ends in me being caught in a lie. One day, they’d realize that Dad ate Santa’s cookies and the phone calls to the North Pole were part of an elaborate, universal trick. I would be complicit.
My children are amazed by the wonders around them every single day. They see plenty of magic in the world. We’ve spent hours looking through a magnifying glass at the sharp, crystal edges of a snowflake. They once spent the good part of a morning picking cattails and hitting them against rocks to reveal the cottony wisps inside. They squeal with delight when they see a rainbow stretched from east to west. These things are magical in the eyes of a child. I don’t want to divert their attention to untrue things and say, “No actually, this is magic.”
But beyond weariness and a desire to be honest, I worry about the ideas of God that my children get from Santa.
He sees you when you’re sleeping,
he knows when you’re awake,
he knows if you’ve been bad or good,
so be good for goodness sake.”
This is the opposite of grace. This is working hard for rewards and trying to dodge punishments. And it’s hard for children to separate this “be good for goodness sake” idea, from obeying God out of our love for him.
Charlotte Mason very wisely said that we should be careful about the ideas of God that we present to our children-
Parents who recognize that their great work is to be done by the instrumentality of the ideas they are able to introduce into the minds of their children, will take anxious thought as to those ideas of God which are most fitting for children, and as to how those ideas may best be conveyed.” Parents and Children), page 51
I worry that if they get that idea of someone watching and waiting for them to “mess up,” it will be hard to erase. It took me until my late 20’s to get right ideas of God, and I want to help my children avoid that. If that means not leaving gifts from Santa under the tree on Christmas morning, I’m okay with that.
This Christmas, we will hang stockings and watch Polar Express. I’ll watch my daughter’s eyes light up on Christmas Eve as she holds a candle and sings Silent Night as loud as she can. My son is going to be so excited to rip through the wrapping paper and see what’s inside! I can almost hear the squeals of delight as we take a nighttime ride to look at Christmas lights. Our Christmas will contain plenty of magic. But I won’t make a magical Christmas for my children.
(To learn more about what Charlotte Mason said about ideas, see my mini eBook in the shop!)