Saint-a Claus

We’re gearing up for our third Saint Nicholas celebration on Saturday.  This is a new tradition for me and I’ve put way too much thought into the other Santa/Saint Nicholas idea over the past few years and of course I’m still not a pro and can’t say with certainty how it will all play out.

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How we handle Santa Claus and Saint Nicholas in our house is probably best described as a happy medium.  A little bit of this and that.  This is what we’ve been doing so far

  1. Place the Emphasis Always Back on Jesus – In our house, whether you get a gift from mom, grandpa, Saint Nicholas or Santa Claus it is explained that those gifts are because it’s Jesus’ Birthday and that we’re celebrating our love for him and his love for us.  
  2. Saint Nicholas Comes to Remind Us of Jesus – Saint Nicholas brings his traditional gold chocolate coins and a Christmas book (and maybe a few Christmas activity books).  Ideally this Christmas book helps remind us of Number One on the list.
  3. Santa Claus Comes to Remind Us of Jesus – Starting last year Santa Claus brought a few treats and a little toy and set up our Nativity Scene in front of our stockings.  Ideally this also helps remind us of Number One on the list.
  4. No Denial, No Encouragement – Henry currently believes in Santa Claus.  He’s watched a few movies with Santa Claus in them and seen a few books with Santa Claus as a character.  He’s come to his own conclusion that he believes that he exists.  We don’t rain on his imaginative parade, but neither do we actively encourage it.  I’ve asked him if he believes Santa is real, he says yes and I basically drop the subject.  I believe it’s healthy to believe in things that aren’t real as a young child.  I honestly believe it helps to stretch the mind for some of the bigger truths we need to accept later in life.  If, in a few years, he believes he might be able to find a passage to Narnia in the back of a closet or find a hobbit hole out in a field I’ll treat it the same way.  I cherish the days where the possibility of Narnia or Middle Earth existing was real and I hope my children experience that same type of wonder even if it relates to Santa Claus (I think Mr. Chesterton sums up things nicely for me but I tried to hash things out a little while ago with Santa, Sherlock and the Scientific Method)
  5. Ideally – We’re doing all of this with the goal that eventually (in a few more years) he’ll figure things out for himself.  Both my husband and I had Santa figured out by around age 6 or 7 if memory serves.  Some kids do get really invested in this idea of Santa and if we get the feeling the “truth” will be hard for him we might break the news earlier rather than later – it’s all about knowing your kid in the end.  But for now I’m hoping that when he figures things out for himself we can lean back on our traditions and teachings of Saint Nicholas and still enjoy the spirit of giving that Santa came from.  I hope we can encourage him to be “Santa” or “Saint Nicholas” to his parents, family, friends and strangers and how that it all comes back to Number One in the end.
A lot of what we do is what my friend Bonnie does, except for the whole Santa on Christmas Eve thing.  Honestly, we do this because it’s what I grew up with and it feels strange not to do it and sometimes I think that you’ve got to go with those gut feelings as to what feels right.  I wanted to have something that was more close related to the faith side of things so we streamlined gift giving from the start and added Saint Nicholas Day while keeping some of the traditions that were still familiar to us from our childhoods.
In the end we’re feeling pretty confident that if all we do during Christmas whether Saint Nick fills our shoes on the 6th or Santa sneaks down the chimney on the 24th that as long as it all relates back to Jesus we’re on the right path.  I’m excited to see where our traditions lead.  This year in Santa will be bring something handmade (but not by me) and I’d love to see that continue even once Santa is known to be us – maybe we’ll be Santa to each other and that special item that appears in our stocking Christmas morning will be something we made with our own hands (or found someone to make for us) – I’m feeling that would be a natural progression that I could get behind.  Who knows where it will go in the end, but I feel like we’ve laid a good groundwork for our family so far.*
*p.s. this is what works for my family.  Your family is it’s own unique group of people – what works for us may not work for you and that’s okay.

*p.p.s For us, a book and chocolate coins come from “Saint Nicholas”, a gift or two and a few snacks come from “Santa”, but any other gifts (the under the tree sort) come from Mom and Dad.  I hope that in the future we can bridge Santa Claus to Saint Nicholas by explaining that, like Saint Nicholas Mom and Dad don’t need the credit for every nice thing we do and that we enjoyed “playing Santa Claus and Saint Nicholas” without getting the credit just like we do when we buy gifts and things for charity (which we already do with our son). with no recognition afterwards.

4 thoughts on “Saint-a Claus

  1. It's so interesting to me to see how everyone addresses the whole St. Nick/Santa thing in their house, esp since I grew up with it, but my husband didn't, and we're not really doing Santa (at least the secular version) with our kids.


  2. We're pretty much taking the same approach as you – my husband is inclined to be very straightforward and honest about the whole thing, which works really well for our VERY practical 5-year-old boy. But our 3yo girl so DESPERATELY wants to believe that all things fantasy are reality, and is always asking me if we're bringing her presents or if St. Nicholas is, and HOW can he bring presents if he's in heaven? To which I pretty much just have to respond, “Well, what do YOU think?” and she mostly satisfies herself with whatever answer she wants. But oof, it's hard, considering how much they're bombarded with “Santa” imagery everywhere they go!


  3. I think if Henry was more like your oldest we'd approach it differently too. We were just talking about the two…. in his mind St. Nicholas and Santa Claus are two different people and both exist and he's perfectly content with that. I use the “Is that what you think? Okay then” approach a lot.. not confirming or denying just letting it be. We also don't do a lot of Santa-centric activities. We don't do Santa in the mall, or letters or extra things – we might if he wants to in the future, but we don't actively do the rest


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