I hadn’t been in the mood for Christmas yet this year. It’s been too warm in Maryland, too sunshine-y. Perhaps a bit too busy 🙂 I just haven’t been thinking about it. For the past few weeks, some of the radio stations I usually listen to have already started to play Christmas music. Everytime I heard one of those tunes come on, I would tsk-tsk and say, “Yuck, not yet!” and quickly change the station. But yesterday, something switched. I think it was because it was the first Sunday in months that I actually got to go to Sunday School and Relief and Society without my children (I MADE IT TO NURSERY AGE!! TIME TO CELEBRATE!!). I was feeling spiritually uplifted…so on the way home from church I found that station and blasted that Christmas music.
….Only to have “Here Comes Santa Clause” start playing. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love all things Christmas, and I have nothing against Santa Clause and families that cherish the stories of Santa Clause. But Adam and I have decided that we don’t want to teach our children that Santa Clause brings them gifts. I don’t why, but this felt like a Big Important Decision when we made it. Going against the grain of most of society? Well, I guess it’s not something that new to us…Anyway, so Here Comes Santa Clause starts playing and I hear Axton ask from the back, “Mommy, where is Santa Clause?”
A small part of me was sad to be breaking this tradition already but with a smile on my face I told him, “Santa Clause is just for pretend, sweetie. He’s just a nice story we like to tell at Christmas time.” I watched his face in the rearview mirror, gauging his reaction. He was still for a second, and then his face lit up with childlike innocence and he said, “Oh! Okay!” very cheerfully. I breathed a sigh of relief. I didn’t kill his hopes and his dreams! I didn’t ruin him! And I realized it’s because he didn’t know otherwise! This is his first year to really grasp Christmas, and I am teaching him truth from the start. (So yes, it will be my kid in the neighborhood ruining everyone else’s hopes and dreams about Santa Clause…sorry about that…).
Last year we started a new tradition with Axton. I knew that, while 2 years old may have been a bit young to really understand what was going on, I wanted to start teaching him that Christmas is not about getting gifts; it’s about sharing the good news that Christ was born to save us all. Now that Axton is getting old to understand holidays a bit better, I’m excited to have a plan in place, and also a foundation of memories to build on (however faint they may be for Axton).
In our family, we do the 25 Days of Christmas. We will start each day talking about what act of service we will do that day. I will fight – and fight hard – against the voices that tell him he needs to make a long list of things he wants for himself, voices that ask him if Santa will be visiting our house. Every day I will fight against the pull of more things, more games, more money spent. Every day of December I will teach him that Christmas about sharing the good news that Christ was born to save us all. I will teach him that Christmas is about trying hard each day to do the things Christ would do if he were here.
I can already tell this year it will be harder than it was last year. I brought all this up with him this morning and when I reminded him that no, Christmas is not actually about getting presents from Santa Clause, it’s about celebrating the birth of Jesus and serving other people, he put on a big pout and was just about to whine, when I started telling him all the things we will get to do for other people this year. But it wasn’t until I showed him the pictures I took of him last year that he started to get excited about it (so I would definitely recommend taking photos!!)
I learned a few things my first year doing this with him. One, he is still too young to be donating gifts to children he can’t physically see or that he doesn’t know personally. For example, last year I had plans for him to make cards for terminally sick children in the hospital. But the idea wasn’t tangible enough for him, it wasn’t relatable to his own life and he wasn’t interested. As Axton gets older and can grasp intangible ideas and people easier, then perhaps we will re-evaluate this. Our one exception to this is making cards for servicemen. I think this is too important not to do. Another thing I had to change about last year’s ideas was I needed to split up some of the projects into several days. For example, we decided that instead of donating to a homeless shelter, we wanted to give gift baskets to our ward’s missionaries (simply because Axton knows our ward missionaries better than he knows people at a homeless shelter and this makes it more personal to him, thus making him more excited about it). So one day is spent making cards for the missionaries, another day is spent shopping for the missionaries, and a third day is spent delivering the baskets to the missionaries. We also learned – of course – to be flexible. Even though each day has an assigned task to it, I switch them around when I have to or when it is more convenient (or when I’m not feeling extroverted enough 🙂 ). Though, be aware that some days you really can’t switch around due to deadlines, such as mailing cards to servicemen and donating a toy to Toys for Tots.
Doing this with Axton last year helped make that Christmas the most spiritually-fulfilling Christmas I’d had in awhile. It was a lot of work and some of them pulled me out of my comfort zone (financially and socially), but I can only hope that some small part of it all will stick with Axton (and Rhenner. And myself. And Adam), and that by doing all this, we truly celebrate Jesus Christ, and honor the reason He was born, His mission on Earth to spread good will, healing, the miracle of the atonement, and the gift of resurrection.
I wanted to share our 25 Days of Christmas with you, in case anyone else wants to join in on the 25 Days of Christmas this year! I haven’t figured out yet how I am going to present each day’s service item, but I’m brainstorming ideas of have 25 small gift boxes (gifts for Jesus), and opening one every morning, and after completing each one, putting the box under our Christmas tree that evening. I will keep you updated with how we decide to present it this year!
….and since I’m having trouble embedding the spreadsheet into this post, click on the link below to view it! I’d love to have you join us! If you do, post a photo on Instagram and tag @meghanrose_photography so I can see!!