I am convinced that many Christians have taken Christ out of Christmas in our U.S. culture. It has been a blessing to live in Peru and spend almost every single Christmas for the past 4 years here.
1. Peru is a Catholic culture. I DO NOT agree with worshipping Mary and the saints, but I love the fact that during the holiday season the focus is Jesus’ birth scene. There are more nativity scenes than Christmas trees and Santas.
2. Getting mountains of gifts is not cultural here. One reason is that the people don’t have the money to spend on tons of gifts. But their tradition is that the parents buy their children one gift and give it to them at midnight Christmas Eve. The children might receive gifts from aunts, uncles, or grandparents, but it still isn’t a mountain of gifts.
3. The Christmas “treat” is fruitcake and hot chocolate. How many Christmas treats exist in the states? Even though I am not a fan of the fruitcake, I love the simplicity.
4. The majority of Peruvians decorate the week leading up to Christmas, and they don’t take their decorations down until January 7 (symbolizing the time of the wise men visiting). I love this.
Jen Hatmaker wrote an excellent post. You can read it HERE. I firmly believe that my generation of Christians is fighting a culture war against Christmas. I am relieved to hear friends and my siblings share with me that they are making changes. I want my life to be more simplistic. How do I teach that to my kids?
Greg and I seem to make more and more changes every year. I am so glad we are moving in that direction. Here are some changes that I didn’t grow up with…
1. This year, our kids are receiving one “big” gift. We are also stuffing stockings with little things. We explain the tradition of Santa. Our kids don’t believe in the white-bearded Santa. We also stress to our kids that others do believe so they shouldn’t talk about it. Our kids don’t make a “wish list.” I grew up looking forward to Christmas because I would make a list of all the things “I wanted.” I don’t want my kids falling into that.
2. Every year we do a special Christmas project as a family. 2 years we prepared food baskets for a poor community and had a friend deliver them anonymously. Last year, we fed a group of homeless men on Christmas Eve. We try to do something that our kids can participate in. It is getting better and better as they get older.
3. On my side of the family, the siblings draw names. Last year and this year, we have changed to choosing a charity, and giving $50 in honor of that gift we usually bought. Also, the cousins are drawing names, and giving a book or small gift card. Simple.
4. Each year I want to emphasize the Advent season more and more. I am learning, because I did not grow up with this tradition. I want our kids to know the details of Christ’s coming forward and backward. What better way than with storytelling from the Bible? Again, it helps that they are getting older. I want the emphasis to be Christ.
These are just a few things we are doing differently. I still decorate, but I am considering taking Santa out of the decor. Many Christians struggle enough with their view of God. How many people view God as an old man looking down from heaven wagging his finger at them? This isn’t a healthy view at all. But isn’t that what we have turned Santa into? I remember when Ana was three. She was crying that December. When we asked her what was wrong, she explained that she didn’t want a scary stranger coming into her house at night (referring to Santa). We explained exactly who “Santa” was that evening to her. “Elf on the Shelf” has become such a fad. That fad didn’t sit well with me the very first time I heard about it. I want my kids to be good because we strive to be like Jesus, not because they want a spy to report back to Santa who is making a list about their behavior. I realize there is fun in all of it, but I am seriously considering what exactly I am teaching my children through it all.
It certainly isn’t what I was raised on, but I want to build on the things that I was taught and add to it. My prayer is that my children can do the same. I am ready for Christ to be back in Christmas.