Santa and the Elf in Our Christian Home
by Michelle Lane Martin
Some families struggle with the decision of incorporating Santa Claus into their Christmas celebrations. Does it take away from the glory of Jesus’ birth? Does it make kids preoccupied on getting instead of giving? Am I weakening God’s grace by distinguishing between good and bad people? Will my child be angry or hurt when the truth finally comes out one day?
As parents, Santa Claus was never an issue for my husband and me. When our daughter Julia was three years old, I was in the nursery helping her decorate her personal pink Christmas tree. Out of nowhere, she informed me that Santa Claus was not real. How did she know this? Julia explained to me that she can feel Jesus living in her heart, but she could not feel a Santa there.
This preceding revelation put a surprising twist on any future Santa Claus plans, but it didn’t mean we couldn’t still have fun with the concept. We played around with the idea of Santa, making it a secret as if she was one of the only kids in the world to know the real story. (I was always fearful that she would spill the beans to her cousins or friends, but thankfully that has yet to happen). We watched Santa Claus specials on television, her favorite one “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” At shopping centers we kept our eyes peeled for the jolly old man, and giggled to each other about “our little secret” as we surpassed long lines of eager yet tired children.
One of my funniest memories is of picking my daughter up from her Sunday school class when she was four years old. Julia told me how one of the teachers asked her what she wanted from Santa this year. She then whispered gently in my ear that she told the teacher a Frozen castle, but she had to pretend because she couldn’t spoil Santa Claus for her!
Over the past couple years, we have delved further into the topic of Santa Claus. We read the real story of St. Nicholas together, learned the history of the figure and how he has changed through time and cultures. We did a Christmas Around the World unit for homeschooling, studied Santa Claus throughout the globe, and laughed as we learned that his reindeer in Australia are replaced with kangaroos.
We bought an Elf on the Shelf, named it JingleBelle, read the book, and bent the rules…a lot. Our daughter slept with the elf during numerous December nights, and we never did box up JingleBelle after Christmas. Last year was the first time we played around with hiding the elf in a different spot every morning. (This proved interesting trying to pry it out of a dozing girl’s arms before daybreak. Eventually we ended up putting JingleBelle to sleep in the Barbie doll bed). Sometimes Julia would make suggestions as to where her elf could appear, my favorite being amidst her little Nativity set.
With the passing of Thanksgiving, my family again finds ourselves delving into the magic of Christmas. Both trees (the big one in our living room and the pink one in the nursery), shine brightly, decked to the gills with ornaments. Holiday music is enjoyed in the car and radio. Candy canes happily stick to little fingers and smiling faces in our home.
This year my son Josiah will be twenty-two months old during the holidays. I eavesdropped on a (mostly one-way) conversation my daughter was having with her baby brother yesterday. Julia was going on and on about Santa Claus, his reindeer, how he goes house to house bringing presents to the good little boys and girls. She then said something that warmed this mom’s heart, making me grin from ear to ear. She lowered her voice and told him, “Now don’t worry too much about ALWAYS being good. You’re allowed to make mistakes. You’ll get presents under the tree even if you’re not perfect, because Mommy, Daddy, and JESUS love you SO MUCH.”