This is our Santa. He lives beside our chimney, and does not attempt to come down it. As the kids have told me, if he did, he would get hot in a hurry at the bottom, since we use our fireplace liberally in the winter. Also, all of the candy that’s he’s stuffed with would melt, and that would be really sad.
Our Santa is a countdown Santa. He has 25 little boxes, each one filled with various kinds of candy, one for each kid. The numbers are scattered randomly, so the kids have to hunt for the correct day. We open it up every morning after breakfast, and the kids take turns doing the opening and distribution of candy.
Santa is a relatively new addition at our house. We have had a child (or children) for 10 years, and for the first 8, we did nothing with Santa. We did nothing with Advent, either, but I’ll get to that. My kids know he’s not real. For them, he falls under the category of “American folklore,” and they think it’s hilarious.
So why do we do Santa? And why do we not do Advent? Because I am a perfectionist who will exact her perfectionist will on her family, and doing Santa instead of Advent is both a discipline of my perfectionism, and a relief from it. I am not saying that all families who do some sort of Advent tradition are this way; but that I am, and this was the discipline that was needed for it.
For years, I was bothered by the fact that we did not do an Advent ritual. I had tried, a few times, but it always turned into me reading the Scripture with the kids and getting frustrated because they didn’t want to participate, weren’t listening, and didn’t remember yesterday’s lesson. Can’t you picture this scene? A grumpy mom making her kids sit and listen to the daily lesson, the kids squirming and fidgeting and doing everything they could to get out of there. It was no fun. There was no joy. There was no eager anticipation of Christ’s birth, but instead moaning and complaining about having to read *another* Bible lesson.
So, two years ago, I gave up. I gave up the notion that our family had to have an Advent tradition. It was a big letting go for me. I read Rachel Jankovic’s essay of Christmas being material, and repented of my perfectionist, overly-spiritualized picture of Advent and our family. I wanted the Christmas waiting time to be about joy and anticipation. And then, as I was walking through Ikea picking up some decorations, I saw Santa. And he looked like fun to me.
And he has been fun. There is no curmudgeonliness about him. The kids can’t wait to find the date and pull out the candy. We read ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas,’ and they love it. They ask to read it. They want to read it. They know he’s only a story.
My kids know the true Christmas story. We recite Luke 2 on Christmas morning. They know about Adam’s perfect creation, the fall, the rebellion of God’s people, and the second Adam sent to save us from our sins. I do not need to feel guilty, every year, that we have no Advent tradition. Instead, I am now free to help the kids love Christmas. Santa makes us laugh. He gives us sugar highs. On Christmas morning, we will celebrate Christ incarnate, and we will celebrate with physical manifestations of his goodness–giving physical gifts to the people we love, eating physical candy, and feasting on physical food. And my kids can’t wait.