The Christmas Conundrum
by Jen Hatmaker on November 29th, 2011

When I was in sixth grade, I received two Christmas presents I distinctly remember:

1.) The most coveted, desired beautiful "Forenza" tag on a pair of black leggings with a corresponding purple and black plaid shirt. (The outfit could've been anything, as long as it was from The Limited. Outback Red, anyone? Omg. If I could've conjured riches back then, I would've spent every red cent on OBR.)

2.) A fun, quirky red "football jersey type" sweatshirt.

I loved them both. Loved, loved, loved. I was certain these gifts were my ticket out of Dorkville. The feathered, product-less boy haircut and Bargain Selection glasses would become moot in light of my new, stylish garb. The popular kids would wonder what they ever didn't see in me. The cute boys I pined over would fight over inviting me to Sadie Hawkins, and they would say things like, "Why haven't we noticed her before? We're like Saul after the scales fell from his eyes." Or at least something very, very similar to that.

Until one very unfortunate eavesdropping session.

Supposed to be in bed but creeping in the hall listening to my parents' conversation which simply seemed like a naughty, awesome thing to do, I heard my mom say this:

"Her red sweatshirt? I found it at Walmart for $3.00."


And just like that, the sweatshirt was ruined. In front of my eyes, it lost all its charm and it simply became something a Walmart girl would wear because she couldn't afford Esprit and her mother refused to buy her Guess jeans. All of a sudden, it communicated: I'm poor. (I was in sixth grade, people. It was a very dramatic time.)

Here's why I tell you about my persecutions: That is the only thing I remember from Christmas 1985. Not Jesus. Not reverence. Not generosity. Not gratitude. Just a selfish, materialistic reaction because every single gift of mine wasn't from an overpriced store with a namebrand I could casually brag about wearing. What a brat.

This sort of bull crap is still happening every year.

What happened to Christmas? What on earth happened to it? When did it transform from something simple and beautiful to what it is now? How insiduously did the enemy work to slowly hijack Jesus' birth and hand it over on a silver platter to Big Marketing, tricking His own followers into financing the confiscation?

We all know it. We all feel it. Every year we bear this tension. Each December, the world feels off kilter. But in the absence of a better plan or an alternative rhythm or - let's just say it - courage, we feed the machine yet again, giving Jesus lip service while teaching our kids to ask Santa for whatever they want, because, you know, that's really what Christmas boils down to.

I just cannot take it anymore, yall. I cannot.

What if a bunch of us pulled out of the system? What if we said something very radical and un-American, like: "Our family is going to celebrate Jesus this year in a manner worthy of a humble Savior who was born to two poor teenagers in a barn and yet still managed to rescue humanity."

I'm going to throw out some ideas for what I hope is a more meaningful Christmas; you may take some and leave some. Good reader, you may take none. Maybe you'll tweak an idea to fit your family. You might say, "For the love of Baby Jesus! She's ruining everything! We'll try one little thing this year, ok?! And then we'll quit reading her blog." Here goes:

1.) Because I'm anxious to make enemies and isolate myself from any goodwill you've ever felt toward me, let me just start with a biggie: We've pulled out of the Santa charade. Our newest kids are 5 and 8, preparing for their first Christmas in America, and we're just not doing it, yall. Maybe because we've spent the last four years trying to unravel the mess we've presented to our other kids all these years, but hear me say it: We are giving Christmas back to Jesus. Not a corner of it; all of it.

There is no fake benefactor this year my kids can petition to get more stuff. Because honestly? For a five-year-old, how can Jesus compete with Santa? Our children don't have spiritual perspective; when faced with the choice of allegience, they have a baby in a manger, or they can get a jolly, twinkling, flying character who will bring them presents. This is going to be an easy choice for them. My friend Andrew, who identifies himself as a member of the "non-believer corner" put it this way:

I always thought it was strange how Christians will tell me they have this giant and awesome truth they know is true deep in their soul and want to share with me, but when 12/25 comes around they lie to their own progeny because, apparently, that giant, liberating, and awesomely simple truth is somehow just not enough. It may be a good narrative, but it needs a little something to give it some panache.

As importantly, it sets this tone for Christmas: Be good and you'll get stuff, which becomes so deeply seeded, undoing that position is almost impossible. When we teach our children to understand Christmas through this lens, then tell them at nine-years-old: "Never mind! It's all fake! Oh, and stop being so selfish because Christmas is about Jesus"...we shouldn't be surprised when our kids stage a mutiny and ask to move in with Grandma. Young parents, this is so much easier to do right the first time rather than try to undo later. Give your kids the gift of a Christmas obsessed with Jesus - and no other - when they are little, and it will be their truth all their lives. Some practical points:

* When faced with Santa everywhere, everywhere, everywhere, we told our kids the story of the original St. Nicholas from the 3rd century, and his devotion to Jesus and the poor. We explained that Santa is a character based on his life, but one was real and one is pretend. We also told them some children believe Santa is real, and it's their parents' job to talk about that with their friends, not theirs. In other words, DON'T BE THAT KID WHO MAKES EVERYONE CRY IN THE MIDDLE OF CLASS. You're welcome, teachers.

* For the most part, we are not watching TV this month. We're allowing movies and Netflix, but the less commercials our kids have to digest, the less confusing this month is for them. Um, ditto for all of us. When there are commercials that say, "Hey? You know how to avoid the terrible Disappointed Face when you give your loved one her gift? Buy her a Toyota!"...we have seriously derailed, folks.

* Take a big breath: I got rid of all my Santa paraphernalia this year. No more severed ceramic Santa heads up in here. Try not to flip out. (I am in the "undoing" category I mentioned above. So freaking hard.)

* This is big: I AM NOT JUDGING YOU. If you put carrots on your front lawn for the reindeer and stamp bootprints all over your living room from Santa's shoes, that is fully your prerogative. You don't need to hide your Santa wreath when I come over or defend your position to me or anyone. For us, Christmas has gone through four years of reconstruction, each year progressively more simplified. I know God is doing all sorts of different things with different families at different times; everybody be cool.

2.) While you're stewing over Santa, let's go ahead and tackle this one: spending. Whatintheworld? We recently watched a video from Christmas 2004 when our kids were six, four, and two. (Sidebar: Those of you with a 6-year-old, thinking he is so big? You will die one hundred thousand deaths in seven years when you look back at videos and realize he was just an infant baby. And then you will cry drippy, sad tears because you'll realize that when all those old women told you to enjoy early childhood because it will pass so quickly, and you wanted to kick them in the shins, they were right. It is over in a nanosecond and the next thing you know, your "six year old" is texting and getting ready for high school and smells like the inside of a trash can.)

I digress.

When we saw the mountains of presents in front of our P.R.E.S.C.H.O.O.L.E.R.S. and watched them rip through boxes so fast, they had no idea what they even received, I caught Brandon's eye across the room and mouthed, "We were freaks!" Not to mention all this bounty was brought into a home burgeoning with loot already, so we had to get rid of a bunch of toys just to shoehorn in the new stuff. Kindly note that the recipients of all this commerce couldn't even wipe their own butts yet.

Insane at best, sacrilegious at worst.

Four years ago, we started this gift-giving policy for each kid: Something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read. That's it. (This year we are adding something to give, and I'll talk about that in a minute.) Brandon and I don't buy for each other, and we draw names with our extended families, so each adult only buys one gift.

Friends and countrymen, we simply need to spend less on ourselves. There are plenty of practical reasons, like debt and financial strain and untold energy and stress. But even if we could afford to spend $500 on every important person in our lives, that sort of egregious consumerism is unbecoming for the Bride of Christ during a season that is supposed to be marked by the worship of Jesus.

We can find alternative rhythms to show each other our love. My mother-in-law is so very, very good at giving meaningful gifts based on making memories together. She takes my kids to plays and museums and day trips. She invites them to her house individually and spends precious time with them. My kids gobble this time with her down. Let's give the gifts of time and experiences and our creative talents and words this year. They will last long after the electric griddle has been forgotten.

3.) Let's MAKE DADGUM SURE the products we do buy don't come to us courtesy of slave labor. Like Ashley Judd said in Call+Response, "I don't want to wear someone else's despair. I don't want to eat someone else's tragedy." Our little church has joined the dog fight against human trafficking, and let me tell you something: When I refuse to carefully examine the vendors I buy from because it is inconvenient or overwhelming or I just really want that, I am turning the key that shackles the enslaved hands forced to produce my little goodies. I am as complicit as the abusers who exploit these laborers. And please don't tell me, "Not buying this one thing produced through a corrupt supply chain isn't going to make a difference." All that means is I don't care. If it was our children forced to work relentlessly in bondage, we would we hope and pray rich consumers across the world would battle that injustice by directing their consumer dollar with purpose, communicating to capitalistic opportunists "NO WE WILL NOT." We will call unethical business leaders to task with our words, our votes, and our money.

So many fantastic resources to help us become responsible consumers, calling vendors to reform and repentence using the language they truly understand...lack of profits:

* Download the Free2Work app, which allows you to scan barcodes and find out if that product is made responsibly or by slave labor.

* New to this conversation? Learn from our friends at Not For Sale. They are LEGIT.

* Need convincing? Download this Slavery Footprint and see where you land: "How many slaves work for you?" (Holy moly.)

* Know the top products made by slave labor, so you can be extra diligent on who you purchase them from. Careful...some of your faves are on the list (coffee, chocolate, cotton, sugar).

* Learn trusted vendors and stick with them, even if they cost more. We will not finance the slave industry because we are addicted to artificially low prices made possible by not paying the labor force.

4.) On the other hand, we can do so much good with our dollar! I think about the Acts 4 church, redistributing their resources "to anyone who had need." Such beauty. We can direct our Christmas dollar in two ways for great good:

Buying Products with a Conscience

These products range from beautiful artisan crafts made by former sex slaves or recipients of microloans; they include companies who use profits for international justice or employ vulnerable workers. Fabulously, these options are legion, and you don't have to look hard to find them. I'll include a few, then hopefully readers will add to the list of responsible vendors in the comment section:


The second stream we can choose to float down this Christmas is out from underneath the consumer umbrella altogether (mixed metaphors, anyone?), and it is simply sharing our resources with those who need intervention to break the cycles of poverty and despair. This year, we are giving each of our children $100 to spend on the vulnerable. This is part of their Christmas present, because as you and I know, it just feels so awesome to be a part of Jesus' redemptive story. We will give them some options, and they can distribute their money however they want. Here are some trusted, responsible organizations to partner with, donating in increments as low as $10:

5.) Finally (and all the readers breathed a sigh of relief), instead of just pulling old habits off the shelf and leaving a vacuum of void and guilt, let's replace American practices with - and I mean this in the most sincerest sense - Christian practices. Let's fill our homes with Jesus and find ways to worship Him with our little families every day this month. Let's join the Advent Conspiracy, daring to believe that Christmas can still change the world. May beautiful words fill our houses; lyrics like Come and behold him, born the the King of angels. As much as possible, let's mute the competing chatter trying so hard to invade our spaces; turning it down, turning it off. Celebrate Advent with your kids with diligence and anticipation. We ordered a fun version of the Advent Calendar, and each night the kids open a new envelope full of Scriptures and family activities. (Tonight we are reading about Jesus, the Light of the World, talking about what being a light in the darkness means, then playing flashlight tag. Yes, I'm sure someone will get hurt.)

Believers, let's do beautiful things together this month like serve and share and spend time with one another. Let's invite the loneliest people we know into our homes and show them Jesus. How about we make lovely food together, then share it. Parents, talk about Jesus' impending birthday like it is the most precious, thrilling, miraculous moment you have ever heard of in your life. Can we be brave enough to say "enough" to any further ruination of Jesus' day? Can we risk difficult conversations with grandparents and friends and our own children, understanding that Jesus called it the narrow way for a reason, and he wasn't kidding when he said few would find it? Let's listen to divergent thinkers and spiritual leaders who are courageously leading us in the ways of Jesus this December, helping us resist consumerism and selfishness and giving voice to our radical thoughts and inner tension.

Despite what your mother might say when you tell her you're scaling back this year, I am not trying to ruin your Christmas. On the contrary. I'm dying to rediscover what is simple and magnificent about the Savior of the World coming to earth, putting on flesh and saving my life. I so want my kids to marvel that Jesus came, just like God said he would, and he split history in two, forever transforming the concepts of hope and peace and salvation. And I just feel like when I create a season revolving around wish lists, frenzy, and alternate characters of honor, my kids will never understand any of this.

And neither will I.

Together, we have the opportunity to show a watching world something truly hopeful and sincerely beautiful this Christmas. We can live alternative rhythms in front of people, showing them something better than stress and spending and tension and exhaustion. We can raise children who understand exactly why the songwriter wrote: Oh come let us adore Him. We can partner with Jesus and bring good news to the nations yet again, fighting injustices and carrying hope to the ends of the earth through something as simple as sharing our money. Most importantly, we can render to Jesus the reverence he is owed, pushing all substitutions to the side and making our homes holy ground. This is why (from my favorite singular lyric in any hymn ever):

Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Til He appeared and the soul felt it's worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn...

The weary world rejoices indeed. Thank you, Jesus, Lord at thy birth. Joy to the world.

Readers, how do you give Christmas to Jesus? What alternate rhythms have you established? What vendors do you love to support? And if you find yourself disagreeing, I welcome your comments as well. This is a worthy conversation and I'm just glad we're talking about it.

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displaying most recent 100 comments

Linda Hale - November 12th, 2013 at 11:39 PM
My kids are older, but your post really resonated with me. One thing we have really enjoyed is going to a presentation by Rick Larson, a lawyer and professor in our town, about the biblical star of Bethlehem. We try to go each year if we can to a live presentation, but it is on dvd. The conclusion ties in with Easter and is amazing. The link is
Caleb - January 2nd, 2014 at 4:00 PM
I just looked at your link. That is amazing, compelling evidence and only serves to strengthen my faith in God. I've never seen or heard it presented to like that. Thank you for sharing.
Nicole Reynolds - November 13th, 2013 at 5:45 AM
Love it. We NEED to hear that Christians can and should be swimming against popular culture. Christmas is the biggie!
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family life.
julie - November 13th, 2013 at 9:37 AM
Colossians 2:16 "Therefore, let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ."

Paul was addressing the legalism that came along with many Jewish observances, pointing out that what people do or do not do as far as holy days are concerned is not a mark of their holiness or standing before God. Perhaps this post was not intended to be judgmental, but there is this culture of 'take back Christmas' now that delights in pontificating about how believers should celebrate this day and makes many feel bad for observing American traditions.

The point is that there is no biblical command to observe Christmas at all in the bible. None. Therefore, we cannot say there is a right or wrong way to do it. Should wisdom prevail? Yes, of course. But all people and families come into this time of year with different situations, needs, desires, etc. The important thing is how the gospel is impacting a believer all year long. This will manifest itself at Christmas too, but it may look different for others than it does for you.

Sarah - November 14th, 2013 at 7:52 AM
Did you read the whole post?
julie - November 14th, 2013 at 1:45 PM
yes, what is your point?
April - November 15th, 2013 at 6:52 PM
Jen very clearly stated that this was their family's method of celebration. I don't think her post was at all judgmental. I find that those who feel judged by such posts are usually looking for any reason to feel that way, instead of embracing the truth they can find and discarding what doesn't apply to their particular family.
julie - November 17th, 2013 at 2:25 PM
Look, I am not offended by this post. My comment was simply intended to remind that there is no biblical command to observe Christmas a certain way, or even to observe at all. What we do see in Colossians is that Paul tells the believers not to be divided by the observances of holy days. I really do think this is a helpful truth because there are so many strong opinions floating around about how believers should engage the holiday season.

Jen is a great writer and I do believe she means well and has good things to say. I'm certainly not discarding those good things...and it's possible to critique something without being defensive.
Santa - November 19th, 2013 at 3:02 PM
Paul also says in Colossians "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces[a] of this world rather than on Christ."
Willis - November 24th, 2013 at 8:46 PM
So, Santa, you read the Bible, too?
Jess - November 20th, 2013 at 9:22 PM
Julie has a point...
Michele - November 20th, 2013 at 9:30 PM
I read through the article and most every post. I think that much of what I am reading comes off very indulgent. I am a devout Christian and love Christmas. I love giving and doing it abundantly. Giving to my family, friends, neighbors, even strangers. The issue of "Santa" or "no Santa"..."taking Christmas back for "Christ". I say..."bah humbug" to the drama of it all. I truly love and care for my fellow believers but discussions like this is why unbelievers think we are arrogant. I wonder if Jesus were here to speak for himself what he would say about this discussion. I think trying to protect "Jesus" from Christmas is just plain silly.
Tia Wind - November 22nd, 2013 at 6:34 PM
Aundrea - November 13th, 2013 at 9:48 AM
Our family is at the same place - but you put it way more humorously than I ever could have .... so I plan on just doing the wimpy thing and sharing it on my kids and husbands Facebook - tee hee hee:o)
BTW: that is my favorite lyric as well.... because it is my story.... "long lay the world in sin and error pining, til He appeared and a should felt its worth...."
Lindy - November 13th, 2013 at 10:22 AM
I believe we as families need to be educated and take these holiday's seriously. I wrote about how our family doesn't do gifts anymore a few years ago here:

You may enjoy this video if you want to hear the truth on Santa. He isn't what you think.
Jodi - November 13th, 2013 at 10:30 AM
Years ago, because I couldn't afford more as a single Mom, NOT because I was being a good Christian, I went to a "Baby Jesus got three gifts to we each get three gifts" policy. We have pretty much stuck to that and it has been wonderful.
Melanie - November 23rd, 2013 at 8:29 PM
That's what we do too - decided that before our son was ever born. Our son has autism, and so he's never had the Santa Gimmes because we deliberately didn't teach him that. We also don't do the Tooth Fairy or Easter Bunny - but that's because I just didn't feel like it and he doesn't expect it. No particular moral decision there - I'm rather slack. But, why should we introduce something potentially mercenary, though, and then have to unteach it to a very literal kid who doesn't understand the difference between a truth and a lie? He goes to see Santa at a special-needs event every year, but he thinks it's for a photo for the grandparents. It's part of our community "December fun," like looking at lights on houses. He knows that we go to church on Christmas Eve to say "Happy Birthday Baby Jesus", and that's as far as his concrete conceptualization of the world can go at this point.
Kim - November 13th, 2013 at 11:29 AM
I had to tell you that I was 11 in 1985 and also received one OBR shirt that I layered over a cheaper non-OBR shirt so that everyone could see the label. I think you were in my head when you described what you thought would happen when you finally wore the right brands. And I had short over-permed hair and giant pink glasses. I have thought about that memory as I work through how to deal with consumerism with my own kids. Thanks, for being right and for being right there with me.
Sharon - November 13th, 2013 at 1:30 PM
Wonderful entry. I, too, write a blog about family wellness and just mentioned Fair Trade in an article about Christmas candy, last year we implemented the "something you want . . ." idea and we've done, "The Advent Conspiracy!" Excellent post! Loved it! We've been leaning the same way and when you mentioned to do it while your children are young I made the decision: the kids are 6, 5 and 19mo with one on the way. Toy catalogs are everywhere and while it's cute to see the little one hold it like a newspaper, it's a little scary, too. My SIL sent me this link and I will be sharing it, too. May I link to and quote you in my upcoming, "Why Fair Trade?" article? Thanks so much for your post . . . btw, I, too, pined after some Benetton, Guess, etc. The military exchanges were my bane. I lived to tell the story, too!
Arica - November 13th, 2013 at 2:48 PM
Love it! Totally what I have been wanting to do: take back Christmas for Christ. To live in adoration. To behold the glory. To not be caught in the madness and totally stress out. Thanks so much for the list of websites to buy products that benefit others. Have been looking for this.

And I have been wanting to rant about this on Facebook, but at the sake of not appearing "holier than thou" can I just say, can we also please get rid of the elf on the shelf also? I am not sure why we need one more thing to distract away from Christ or a need to manipulate our children into being good. By golly I have had enough of seeing the crazy elf position pins on pinterst, like this is the most important thing people can do with their time. Ok done.

Yay for celebrating Jesus. He is SO WORTH IT!
Lisa - November 13th, 2013 at 2:57 PM
While we don't "do" Santa here (our son knows Santa is pretend--but still likes to pretend that he is real and still wants to leave a note and cookies on Christmas Eve), I think it's all about balance.

We certainly do a lot of what I guess people would call secular activities for Christmas but I've always taught our son (and still teach our daughter, even though she's older) that Santa, and cookies, and presents, and lights, and trees, and the Christmas programs, etc, are ways we celebrate Jesus's birth, that Jesus is the center of it all and all the hoopla that comes with it are ways we're throwing one heck of a celebration for Christ's coming to Earth much in the same way we do different activities to celebrate each other's birthdays.

Our focus for Christmas (and all year long) *is* Christ and we look at Christmas as a giant birthday party celebrating our Savior. We don't "have" Christmas, we don't "do" Christmas but instead we *celebrate* and Christ is certainly worth celebrating and we try to do it big!

Having said all of that, we're just one family and I couldn't agree more that--sadly--Christmas is, in general, more of a way to make money and indulge greed than to celebrate the King of the universe.

But I think the thing is, if we're carefully and intentionally cultivating a sense of gratitude and anti-materialism in our kids all year long (goodness, it's not just at Christmastime where one can find commercials that will tempt us or our kids to put on what Jen called the "Disappointed Face"), while the lure of greed at Christmas is certainly ratcheted up some notches, it can also be the perfect opportunity to create teachable moments because it's getting harder and harder to simply steer clear of it.
vivian - November 15th, 2013 at 11:13 AM
YES!!! If you "do" Santa, I agree that it is all about balance. That is how we do it. :)
Lori - November 13th, 2013 at 5:14 PM
LOVE. LOVE. LOVE. I have a 7 month old and my husband and I have talked about how we want to do Christmas as he gets older. I really don't care about the whole "Santa lie" thing. I understand wanting to introduce wonder and magic and all that... but can't we do that with the idea of the gift of God coming to dwell among us?! It's not that I want to make less of Santa, but I want to make more of Jesus.
Susan Tuma - November 13th, 2013 at 6:21 PM
Love this. Every word. You have a way of sharing that draws us in, for me because you share much of what I'm thinking but can't get in to words that sound as great as yours! %uD83D%uDE0A
Kristen - November 13th, 2013 at 8:03 PM
Thanks so much! I spent a year in the poorest country in South America right out of college and it's changed me forever. Every year I return right after Christmas--yet I would just love to actually spend Christmas day in the poorest homes I've ever seen with the dirtiest children I've ever seen, the blandest food I've ever eaten, and the most joyful christians I've ever seen. My friends and I started Navidad en Bolivia where we provide opportunities to brighten Christmas for bolivian children, pastors, and communities.
Deborah Pinnell - November 13th, 2013 at 8:05 PM
Our family with three kids (now 21,20,&18) had the tradition of 3 gift limit. Jesus received three from wise men. If it is good enough for him it is good enough for them. They received one from each other and one from us. They were nicer to each other and they remembered who got them each gift. We each took turns passing out our gifts. No rush to tear into tons of gifts. We later added a gift from Jesus just a reminder of him. A devotional usually. I have video of my 6yr old daughter hugging her book "God wants all of me" and saying "thank you Jesus thank you Jesus." It warms my heart to watch it. We have adopted and started over now this year he will be 3. He talks about Santa already, but he talks about Jesus even more. It is a challenge to protect them from the Santa effect. They learn so much from preschool. His preschool is at our church but Santa is still taught. All we can do is be clear at home and consistent in what we believe.
Karen - November 14th, 2013 at 7:09 AM
I never did Santa for my son. I distinctly remember the trauma of being lied to, and then wondering if Santa wasn't true was Jesus? At first, I told my son that Santa didn't come to our house because we had enough money to buy our own presents. It was "easier" to be sure he didn't ruin it for the other kids. More detail came with age. Last year, at 11, his 8 year old friend was talking about Santa, and he asked if we could do it, so we did. We pretended. It was good. This year I've seen the "cultural loss" so we are doing all the Santa related cartoons from my childhood. The Grinch who stole Christmas, Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer. It was easier for me, because I homeschool and we don't watch regular TV (just Netflix so no commercials). Gift giving though tends to be stuff I would have gotten for him anyway, plus stuff he wants. I've always wanted to do the three gifts like the wise men idea, but never managed to get that small. I like your 4 gift plan.
Marilyn - November 14th, 2013 at 8:38 AM
Thanks, I needed that!
Robyn Windham - November 14th, 2013 at 11:54 AM
Linda M. Torres - November 14th, 2013 at 12:22 PM
Excellent! Thank you for sharing. Our kids are 29, 23, 19 and 13 and we have 2 grandkids, 5 and 1. We never taught them about Santa, believing that lying to them about him and putting the focus on him rather than Jesus just wasn't for us. They've always been very appreciative of what they received even when we could only afford, coloring books, socks and markers. Now that we can afford more, we have often given extravagant gifts, i.e. computers, phone, etc. We definitely need to scale back more and I thank you for the reminder. The Lord bless you!
Penny - November 14th, 2013 at 2:19 PM
I never did Santa with my kids. They are 23, 21, 19 and never asked why we didn't. They understood it was Jesus' birthday. The first thing we do Christmas morning is read the passages from Scripture about Jesus' birth. When they were younger we would have birthday parties for Jesus with the kids would bring toys for homeless shelters, children's home, etc. Each year I look for ways to make it more simple. Thanks for writing this much needed blog! May this be a year we as Christians take back Christmas and share the hope we have because of Jesus Christ.
Oliver J. Crisson - November 14th, 2013 at 2:47 PM
It's great how little this has to do with Christmas and everything to do with our selfish hearts. They just play it out during this season due to the American version of it. Very convicting. I've been lacking a lot of joy in faith recently, and I'm sure it's because of my selfishness with time, concern, prayer, and money. I'm so ignorant to product knowledge in regards to forced and child labor, so going and reading the sites listed was quite heart-breaking. Thank you for taking the time to list out your own progression. It's a blessing and the LORD's using it to sanctify others.
Ashley - November 14th, 2013 at 10:13 PM
WOW! I have stopped doing Santa with my kids several years ago - after realizing that I was covering the truth with a stinking LIE!

And you are SO right - I was 12 in 1985 too - and Forenza, The Limited, OBR were everything I thought was good in this world. Then, just 8 short years later - I had my precious son and SPOILED him rotten - now he's grown and he's still so dear, but I can't believe how fast it went. I have my youngest children still at home, age 9 & 13, and we've been scaling back so much.

After reading your words, my heart was sticken to think of how much I used to spend, and still, even after we've scaled back, partially due to a drastic loss of income, partially due to realizing we shouldn't spend this much - but still - we spend more than we should. And all those times I spent too much on bikes and trampolines that are long gone - broken, sold at yard sales, or dropped off at charitable organizations, I spent that money selfishly. While I lavished on my children, as many mothers as there were gifts under my trees, must have sobbed, heartbroken tears over their sweet child's body as they slipped away, unnoticed while their mom's could do nothing to save them due to desperate poverty. I suddenly realized that when I thanked God on Christmas Eve for allowing some extra funds to come in to pay for our huge feast or un-needed toys - he must have looked at me and wondered when I would realize that he was also looking at that mother who was weeping because she had no power to save her child. And yet - he still loves me - despite my greed - He is so much more than I can describe. I definitely want to do something to turn this around. Why have we been so blind - we sold out to the evil one one lie at a time - till the whole season looks nothing like worship and praise of the One True God!
DRB - November 15th, 2013 at 12:43 AM
I don't have children yet but even watching my sisters' and friends families I know it's difficult to highlight Jesus in the midst of commercialism. I am blessed with living overseas where there isn't much commercialism or even awareness that Christmas is an international holiday celebrating the birth of the Savior of the world but I hope my lift does reflect that. Thanks for sharing even more ideas and ways to show and live the real meaning of Christmas.

I work closely with a lady who makes jewelry in her home to provide for her immediate and extended family and her jewelry also makes great gifts!
Deborah - November 15th, 2013 at 1:37 AM
I agree 100%. While living overseas in different counties in Asia, I found that the people knew a little about Santa but knew nothing of Jesus. And several different times, friends that had been studying about Jesus and reading the Bible, commented to me about Jesus wearing a red suit and having a white beard. When they hear that Christmas is about Jesus, they assume Santa must be Jesus because that is the only symbol they have seen (besides reindeer and presents.) one friend even bought me a stuffed Santa and said, "I bought you Jesus." My heart broke. Now, I have come to dislike the image of Santa and he will never be in our home.
Doc Tom - November 15th, 2013 at 6:23 AM
You said "Forenza"! Lol! And Esprit and Guess. All in one post! Just remembering my sister and cousins from that Christmas, they all looked like glow-in-the-dark frisbees. I think someone got some Coca-Cola attire that year.
Jenifer - November 15th, 2013 at 7:39 AM
Great blog. My husband and I determined when we first got married and had children we would NOT LIE to them about Santa Claus. Or the Easter Bunny. NO LIES. Jesus brought the TRUTH to us and that's what we want to focus on. All of our children are grown and serving the Lord. Those little decisions make a lifelong difference%u2026.
Pam True - November 15th, 2013 at 8:40 AM
I wish more Christians saw things like you do! This is a short 30 min video that a group of young people filmed, acted in, co-wrote, and edited that goes so well with your blog post.
Vivian - November 15th, 2013 at 11:10 AM
I absolutely respect you for your beliefs and your determination to stand by those beliefs. Please continue to stand firm and not be swayed by others! I have to add though that, although you say you are not judging, your words do not convey that you really aren't judging.

"Young parents, this is so much easier to do right the first time rather than try to undo later."

Do it right? So you are in essence saying doing Christmas with any other aspect other than Jesus is wrong. I am a Christian and we absolutely make Jesus the true focus of Christmas. We also include Santa, Elf on a Shelf, and presents. Is this going to ruin my children? Will they not grow up to be strong Christians? I will not judge others for doing it or not doing it. I don't think it damages children to believe in Santa or to never think that he is real.

I'm just saying all of this to say please be careful in how you share the way you will celebrate Christmas. When it comes across as the right way/wrong way, it truly comes across as judging. Whether it is intentional or not.
Emily - November 17th, 2013 at 8:18 PM
AMEN!!! It is not lying to our kids, it is making it a magical experience. I love how everyone states that we are lying to our kids, but I can guarantee that they call their kids princess, or superhero. When they do that they are in fact LYING!!! I don't think parents realize how many times they really lie to their kids. Yeah they may not do the evil Santa thing, but rather do it in other ways.
Sarah - November 18th, 2013 at 8:49 AM
If you tell your children that Santa is real, you are lying to them, and then you will have to try to "undo" that lie later, which is what Jen was referring to. I had a conversation with a mom recently who was bemoaning the fact that kids in her daughter's class were talking about how Santa isn't real and that these kids were "ruining the lives" of the other children. I could only think, why in the world would you lie to your child if you think her life will be ruined when she learns the truth, which is inevitable? Christmas is so full of magic already...the lights, the music, the joy, the giving, the anticipation, not to mention God Himself being born on Earth...that there's no need for a parent to actually lie about Santa. The children will still be just as ecstatic on Christmas morning!
Jay - November 25th, 2013 at 5:42 PM
Thank you for pointing this out. While so many people claim this post is not judgmental, you've pointed to one (of several) examples where I'm sorry, but it's clear that this family IS judging others and how they choose to celebrate Christmas. Apparently it's bad to celebrate Christmas, but not at all bad to take money for an HGTV show that ties into the same consumerism we're supposed to reject. Okay then.
Sara F. - November 15th, 2013 at 1:40 PM
Thanks for the post... need to look into more about buying responsibly. Here are some more thoughts on why believing in Santa might be a bad idea...

AVB - November 15th, 2013 at 3:19 PM
Thank you for this! I agree with you! My husband and I decided before we had kids that Santa would not be a part of our Christmas. It's not that we even view it as a lie. That's not part of our reasoning. We don't view it as a lie, just pretend, but it's not at all important to us. No judgment toward those who have Santa, we just don't, and it's been one of the most liberating parenting decisions we have made. I won't go into the details of why and how it has been freeing for us, because I don't want to come across as saying I have it better than anyone else; but I do love how our family does Christmas and how relatively stress-free it is. My response to those who have, in fact, claimed that I am denying my children the magic of Christmas is this, "Our Christmas magic comes in the form of the virgin birth of the Savior of the world." Our Christmas season lacks nothing for lack of Santa.

One other holiday thing we don't participate in is Black Friday. I could write my own blog post about my thoughts and feelings on that, but I will spare everyone.
Jenny - November 15th, 2013 at 8:43 PM
Aww, bless you. I have been intimidated by it all this year as a newlywed- I married into a large family who actually emails lists to each other for shopping for Christmas. I don't really have much family, and we never buy gifts because we can't afford it. Last year, I made fudge and cookies and spiced tea. I felt weird because everyone else spent money on things with a UPC code and I didn't. After reading this, I feel more convicted, and that baking cookies is EXACTLY the kind of gift to give.
Ally Meraz - November 15th, 2013 at 10:46 PM
I know you posted this a few years ago, but I was really encouraged and inspired to simplify the Christmas season and to focus on Jesus! Thank you, Jen! I find myself slipping down the slippery slope of materialism and consumerism and comparison each year around this time. I also really love your list of organizations to buy products with a conscience. This is something I"m also really passionate about, so I started a blog called "Buy With A Purpose" to promote mission based "businesses" around the world! I believe if the church started buying with a conscience or with purpose our world would be changed. Thanks again!
Kristin - November 15th, 2013 at 10:54 PM
Love, love, love!! Thank you so much for this!! With a 2 year old and a 14 month old I'm so happy to be encouraged to keep Christmas about Christ. Thanks again for sharing your heart and speaking truth!
Lisa Sullivan - November 16th, 2013 at 9:11 AM
We make Jesus a birthday cake. Started this when my daughter was born.
Elizabeth - November 16th, 2013 at 10:10 AM
This is an awesome perspective!! We don't have kids yet but when we do it's great to lay this foundation from the beginning! I am a co-founder of a clothing brand called William Leora - we are a tween clothing line giving 1/4 of our profits to organizations fighting against human trafficking. It would be awesome if you checked out our line- we could use the support as were just starting out :) God Bless
Rachel - November 16th, 2013 at 12:19 PM
I grew up in a Christian home and we celebrated Christmas to the nines every year. While my parents never fed me the lie of Santa, per se, we still received gifts "from Santa" knowing full well that it came from mom & dad. All that being said, I still remember one year when I was about 8 waiting up until midnight watching the fireplace just to prove to myself that Santa really wasn't real. My dad was a preacher and so we always kept Jesus in the picture - the reading of the "Christmas story" scriptures was a tradition on Christmas eve.

While I don't think that I was marred by our family's Christmas traditions, now that I'm grown with a family of my own, I do believe that as Christians, Christmas doesn't fit. In any way, shape or form. Nowhere in scriptures are we asked to celebrate Christ's birth - we are commanded to celebrate his death burial and resurrection on the first day of the week. Every week. Easter doesn't fit either - and not just because of the Easter Bunny. By celebrating "Christian holidays" we make it ok to turn our relationship with God into a once-a-year celebration.

Don't get me wrong - I am not condemning anyone FOR celebrating these holidays, but let's be realistic. These holidays are man-made holidays and when we try to make them "God instituted", we fail. He doesn't want a once a year party - he wants an every moment of our life party. The struggle to keep Christ in Christmas is futile because he was never there in the first place. If you want to celebrate Christmas - fine. It is a great opportunity to reach out to those in need, absolutely. It's a wonderful time for family, no doubt. But let's take the spotlight off of baby Jesus' birth (he wasn't born in December anyway!) and instead focus it on the love he had for me, the sinner - the perfect life he lived, and the painful horrendous death he endured to take away my sins. And the grace of God, that brought Him back to life making Him the perfect sacrifice so that one day, we may celebrate eternally with Him.

There is a reason that the "Christmas Story" comprises such a small percentage of the Bible... yes, it is important to know and understand how He came to be the Christ but it is the life He lived that should bear the heaviest in our witness. When I stand before the throne, I'm confident to say that I will not hear "Why didn't you celebrate my birthday more" and I hope instead to hear - "Well done, good & faithful servant. You truly bore witness by showing my love to the least of these, every day of your life."
Ash - November 22nd, 2013 at 1:57 PM
I agree with everything you said, but I would just like to mention we were not commanded to celebrate on the first day of the week, but actually the seventh. The first day worship came about because of Constantine.
Kaitlyn - November 17th, 2013 at 12:13 AM
Made in India by women who have escaped human trafficking. Love my Punjammies!
Gorgeous purses and more! Made by women in Cambodia.
Whitney - November 18th, 2013 at 6:33 AM
Loves this and my husband and I are prayerfully considering what Christmas should look loke in our home with a 4 and 1 year old. I would love to hear an update on your family Christmas now that it's been a few years since you wrote this. Also, is there an app similar to Free2Work? I couldn't find that one anymore. I must admit that I live in a bubble and had no idea the products I buy support child/slave labor. Thanks for being so blunt and speaking out when the Spirit leads you!
Angela - November 18th, 2013 at 7:47 AM
Oh my word I just have to read whatever you write, whether blog or book, alone because I can't explain why every single WORD makes me LAUGH so HARD, while I'm inhaling and absorbing the depth at the same time. PLEASE can we live in the same CUL DE SAC someday? You would love me. I already love you. Let's DO this...
WendyBrz - November 18th, 2013 at 9:32 AM
I'd like to add Samaritan's Purse and the BGEA Rapid Response Team as worthy recipients of our gifts. The first provides opportunities to purchase gifts for others (emergency supplies, food, etc.) and the second provides an opportunity to help those ravaged by disaster.
Tony - November 18th, 2013 at 11:02 AM
just saw this post - what a cool response! Another great vendor to add to the list - really cool handbags, messenger bags, etc - all made by someone formerly trapped in unfathomable poverty & injustice. And their face & name is right on the tag of every item they make.
Megan - November 18th, 2013 at 1:35 PM
Has anyone ever told you about advent conspiracy? Our little church celebrated this way every year.
Maggie - November 19th, 2013 at 2:37 PM
Megan, love that you mentioned Advent Conspiracy - Jen mentioned it in the blog post as well, and I think it's so great that word about such an incredible opportunity for worship is spreading!
Pam - November 18th, 2013 at 1:42 PM
I Love this! We pulled out a long time ago! We teach our children there were three wise men & they each brought a gift to to Lord. Therefore we only do three gifts. My conviction came when the Lord ask me how can my kids know me if you are "LETTING" them believe Santa is real & that I(GOD) am real?When they realize Santa is not real, they too will believe you made up GOD. That was it!!!! We make a cake, We write happy birthday Jesus on it. We dont buy anything with Santa on it. Our kids LOVE Christmas & they know in the one in whom we serve!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Tess - November 18th, 2013 at 9:18 PM
Years ago the extended family decided that it was financially burdensome & highly unnecessary to do gifts to & from everyone. Instead, we take an amount of money we feel led to spend (some years it's been more than others) and use it to help someone else. We have done an entire Chrisss for a family (the entire family contributed together), we did extra OCC shoeboxes one year, we helped a missionary get bailed out of jail for preaching one year. It's different each time, and THE BEST PART is that when we are all together as a family we share with each other what we did. We pray for each other's gift & have grown closer as an extended family as a result.

Lindsay - November 19th, 2013 at 12:19 AM
Yes!!!!! We have been doing 3 gifts, our tree finally got sold this year, the tv was gone in 2011, and Santa has been dead since 2010. It's SO freeing. Our families have not gotten on board (which means our kids still get too much), but for our home we took the plunge. I love the fact that we focus on Christ rather than getting a bunch of junk.
Maggie - November 19th, 2013 at 2:41 PM
Another great place to direct the kingdom-focused giving is Living Water International -
They focus on clean water projects in areas that impact the 783 million people without access to safe water & sanitation, and they do it by empowering the local community and sharing the gospel of the Living Water himself. They're an official beneficiary of the Advent Conspiracy, and a little goes a long way with giving to this org.

Thanks for sharing such sweet thoughts on doing Christmas differently, Jen! Exciting to see believers gathering together and returning to the humble place where Christmas began, even in the midst of a culture that's stuff-obsessed.
Betty - November 19th, 2013 at 3:35 PM
Wow, a friend shared a link to this post, and I am thankful you wrote it. It's something we struggle with as we are coming back to the States after being away for a year halfway around the world. I think we'll try to implement one change to our celebration of Christmas. Thank you for sharing.
Amy Taylor - November 19th, 2013 at 3:42 PM
Is it possible for you to share more of your family night style advent ideas? I love the light of the world one that you mentioned in your post, but while I love to implement ideas like that, I really get writer's block trying to think of them.
Laurie Bartlebaugh - November 19th, 2013 at 4:28 PM
very beautiful comments and I couldn,t agree more to the importanjce of keeping Christ in Christmas but the world won't change and the kids enjoy seeing Santa its a special treat for them and part of growing up in our crazy world why take that away from them you can instill both concepts in them. I dreess up as Santa every year and visit people in nursing homes to see the looks on their faces and joy my visits brings to their life I could never take that away from them its very magical and touching I had one old man run up to me crying to tell me he's been a good boy!!!My Dad knew it was me dressed up but he acted like a little boy and hug me real tight. So you see i9ts all qa part of growing up and what you teach them about Jesus. I.m sorry but I think Santa does a lot of good for a lot of people and he hasn't corrupted anybody by his presence!!!!!!
Melissa - November 19th, 2013 at 9:05 PM
Ok, I know this was from last year, but a friend just posted, and sadly I wasn't reading your blog last year. Can I get an A-Men! Really . I am so 1000% in agreement with this and I am ready to do this with my family. Thank you for being cool enough to write this, and those lyrics of Oh Holy Night are also my absolute favorite and give me chills every time.
Billi Jo - November 19th, 2013 at 10:15 PM
I really liked your blog about Christmas. I never believed in Santa and I never taught my 2 sons that Santa brought them gifts. I am not scared for life and neither are they. Quite a few years ago, my mom started a tradition that lasted quite a long time. She and my dad gave everyone in the family $25 on Thanksgiving when we were together for dinner. We were to spend that money on someone in need, whatever that "looked like" to each of us. Then, when we were together at Christmas, we would share how we used that money, and it had been a gift for Jesus. It was really wonderful and to this day, I believe the way my sons were raised is directly responsible for the kind, loving, giving and godly men they are today. We have cut back on the number of gifts because of financial and practical reasons. But as we give the gifts to each other, we are all aware that every good gift is from above. May each of us be mindful to bless others as we have been blessed and be alway thankful to God for His perfect gift of His Son, Jesus.
Ashley - November 19th, 2013 at 10:28 PM
hmmmm... so we as Christians invent a holiday, on our own, with no scriptural mandate to do so what-so-ever, and then we criticize, belittle, and subtly (and not so subtly) judge others for not observing this manufactured holiday in the way we see fit???? Sounds a little crazy and Pharisee-ish if you ask me! I teach my children about God 365 days a year, and I feel no need to inflict guilt upon myself or anyone else who chooses to include Santa, gifts, and other "secular" traditions in the holiday season... You must ask yourself... If a non-believer reads this blog does it come across in a way that will draw them closer to Christ, or push them away? Non-believers are a lot less interested in how we observe a man-made holiday than they are in how we show love and kindness and how we give and help others the rest of the year....
We get too caught up in the things that don't matter and miss the things that do.... So many of the "good Christian rules" we are trying to follow are self-inflicted and don't really mean anything one way or the other. :/
Joanna Black - November 20th, 2013 at 4:14 AM
Beautiful jewelry made by women in Haiti out of cereal boxes
Robin - November 20th, 2013 at 9:12 AM
Hi Jen,

I am new to reading your blog. This is the very first time i have read it and that is only because I clicked on a link from a friend on face book! Lol!

Anyway, I believe God allowed me to read you post this morning and I want you to know that,
I love this! My problem is that while I want to do just that and get away from the consumerism of Christmas, my husband as head of our household will not do it because he is so set in his ways that he will not budge from the old adage, "We've never done it that way before!" He hates change because it makes him uncomfortable and he thinks it is cheesy to implement anything regarding Christ or Christianity.
Now, I am not bashing my husband because it is not entirely his fault that he is not stronger in his faith to move out on something like this. His daddy did not teach him anything about living the Christ filled life other than going to church on Sunday and Wednesday and then living like he pleased the rest of the week. He is not comfortable standing up for his beliefs or changing because he was not taught to do so. I am so going to pray that God will allow his heart to be changed and that He will do the changing because I cannot make my husband do something he does not see as important or urgent.

If I could take our family away from the commercialism and consumerism of the season, I would love to be able to do just that.

Elli - November 20th, 2013 at 9:41 AM
Wow! This made me want to start reading your blog! I didn't read any of the other comments, just your article. It has so many references, too (like "Who Is St. Nicholas?"), it is just so worth keeping. Thanks! I've felt like this since forever, and was lucky enough to have parents that raised us 5 kids without Santa. We definitely let presents take over most of the time, but it was always about Jesus and never about Santa. I appreciate that soooo much, because I was never deceived and let down, and I have always believed the true story. That is simply something that is important to me. I don't speak for my siblings, just myself. But I am at least one who can attest to that, and dearly hope our kids will have the benefit of being aware of what is real and what isn't, instead of being manipulated into gratification behavior.
Gregory Hugh Scherrer - November 20th, 2013 at 10:49 AM
Jen: My daughter sent me the link to your article. It was encouraging to her. You did a great job. I recently wrote a book entitled "The Wonder of Believing" that you might be interested in seeing. It is a great tool to help parents with the truth of Santa Claus and the deeper truths of the meaning of Christmas. It is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble etc.
ISBN 978-1-4627-3092-6 (sc) paper back
ISBN 978-1-4627-3092-3 (e) Electronic
Thanks Greg
Dave Alger - November 20th, 2013 at 11:23 AM
I like Santa. I like the idea of giving someone else the credit for giving and Santa is the perfect scapegoat.
I like having an imagination and dreaming around the holidays.
I love baby Jesus and teaching my kids about His birth.
I'm glad my wife and I started a tradition early on of "3 gifts" (following the pattern of the wise-men)

1 gift from mom and dad (usually books or clothes)
1 gift from a sibling (we draw names and I take each kid out on a date to pick out something for their brother or sister)
1 gift from Santa (something they don't need but will enjoy)

We also have each kid pick 3 (or more) things that are nice to share with kids at the local battered women's shelter. Many of them have kids and not many means to provide for them.

I don't understand the desire so many have to fill their house with so much crap they essentially can't enjoy any of it.

Santa is fine to keep around ... in moderation :)
Kellie - November 29th, 2013 at 4:36 PM
Thank you Dave! I don't know bit I'm thankful for a voice of reason.

Because in reading all this and posts I just keep thinking: I'ts Santa. It's not the end of the world. If you don't want it - don't have it. But, I don't think every parent who tells a fairy tale to the child is raising them in a house lies. There's nothing wrong with generosity - to kids, to the poor, to whomever. God's grace is generous (maybe even generous enough to see that some people just enjoy giving. They might be a grandmother, uncle or whatever. Leave it alone - not EVERYTHING has to be a holy rite of gift righteousness. Maybe it can just be a toy.

It's only commercial is YOU make it that way. Don't hang Santa, Walmart, and Grandmo on the gallow for Christmas theft. You're the meaning maker and you can make it with anything you choose. Even a story or a stocking.
Heidi - November 20th, 2013 at 12:19 PM
YES yes yes yes yes! My husband and I have been telling our children the "truth" about Christmas ever since they were able to understand. Something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read - best advice ever.
Beth - November 20th, 2013 at 3:53 PM
Love your blog and I am just reading this post this year (I see that it was from a couple of years ago). First of all, I am right there with you on The Limited and Outback Red. I was also in the 6th grade in 1985 so we must be the same age. :-) My parents were both teachers and didn't make a lot of money but I remember it being SUPER important to have the cool clothes and shoes. I had converse hightops in several colors. I didn't grow up in a Christian family so Santa Claus was definitely a part of our Christmas. I became a Christian at age 17 and I started to re-think my Christmas traditions when I had a family of my own. Also, we attended Imago Dei Church in Portland who was one of the founding churches of the Advent Conspiracy movement. Our boys were 2 at the time and we knew we needed to start thinking differently about how we wanted to handle Christmas in our house. For a few years we didn't even give gifts to our boys because they were getting so much from everyone else. When they were 4 (almost 5), we decided to focus on relational gifts and gave them a coupon good for an individual date with mommy and an individual date with daddy. we still do this and my boys are almost 8. they love it. I have also asked family members to give relational gifts (if possible) or needs-based gifts like clothing. we save toys for their birthday. We also celebrate St. Nicholas Day with our kids and try and help them understand where the tradition of Santa Claus comes from. It is so, so hard to fight against the consumerism of Christmas but we are trying. I really want my kids to get the message that Christmas is not about them. It is about Jesus and his birth and all that this means to us. Their birthday can be "all about them." :-)
Jodi Cole - November 20th, 2013 at 4:19 PM
I have not yet finished, what is surely going to be a great post, they all are and I thank you and love you for them. But I have to say that in 2008 I too could not take it anymore and pulled Santa out of our Christmas equation. My husband was a pastor at a large church in the North East and I literally lost friends over it. Did I mention that my kindergartener went to church the very next Sunday, post reveal, and blabbed to his Sunday School class that Santa is your mom and dad! Immediate loss of a really good friend occurred. Our Christmas has evolved every year since and I am still making friends, now at a new church on the West coast, slightly uncomfortable with my stance but I will not let the enemy take it back. Christmas turned from a time of year I dreaded and became another person altogether to a great time in which we are slowly reclaiming it for our family. Now back to reading. :)
Amy Baumert - November 20th, 2013 at 5:31 PM
Yobel Market is another amazing small business that partners with refugees and other oppressed peoples to create beautiful products for consumers and provide employment for impoverished people groups. Check them out!
Jenna Tanner - November 20th, 2013 at 7:58 PM
Well, religion has done it again. Ruins just about every fun thing there is about life and makes you feel guilty about it.
Maggi - November 21st, 2013 at 12:13 AM
I so agree with you!!! What if a person is NOT Christian - what if you are Jewish - or any other number of "faiths". . . . .or what if you are an Atheist. Santa is NOT about religion - he is about fantasy and fun. . . .and the celebration of winter. I think the. . . .confusion comes from calling the "holiday" Christmas. If you do your historical homework it will come to light that Christ was not born anywhere near December 25th. It really is a "holiday" to celebrate winter. All of this whether or not you do the Santa thing or not. Fantasy, fun, make believe, imagination. . .all of these are important aspects of the human mind and growth as individuals. It would be a sad world indeed if people could not "make believe" once in awhile. This really shouldn't be considered a "religious" holiday. . .UNLESS you are a Christian - and do not believe in the good that can/and does come from imagination and make believe. This is my opinion only - and I do not judge others who believe differently - but in return I do NOT expect to judged.
KC - November 27th, 2013 at 1:58 PM
Not all Christians believe what she is saying in this post :) I am a Christian but I do not like this post.
jen houser - November 21st, 2013 at 10:58 AM
I have been saying some of these things for years and I feel like everyone (including my Christian friends) think I am off my rocker a bit. Thank you for your websites listed and very practical ideas on putting this little rebellion against the norm into practice. To share our ideas: I do a puppet show every year for my kids or let them do one for me using my bible character puppets. We have 3 nights of Christmas as a family before we go back to the larger family. Each night we tell a part of the bible story in puppet show form. And I read "Mary's Little Donkey" every night between Thanksgiving and Christmas (like one or two chapters a night).
Carol Shipley - November 21st, 2013 at 1:52 PM
I love this! Absolutely beautifully written and full of inspirational ideas - thank you so much! I have just posted this to my organisation's facebook page for others to benefit from. I run an online shop where I sell jewellery and accessories and donate 100% of the profit to 'Destiny Rescue' who work to rescue children from sexual slavery. I hope this article spreads far through social networks and many people can see the need to change the way we do Christmas! God bless you for standing up for what is right and true! x
Martha - November 21st, 2013 at 3:42 PM
I love your boldness. Such truth. We also don't do Santa. Haven't ever. And yes, we are the odd ones but my kids are happy and quite honestly, can't believe that parents lie to their kids.
blessings to you and yours in Jesus !
Rebecca Phillips - November 21st, 2013 at 4:27 PM
We have been doing want, wear, need, read for years and our children are just fine. And Christmas is great and so much less stress. Our kids are now teens and I love the added "give", especially if they use their own money, because lets face it they probably have more than me. Having teens the read last year were all Andy Andrews books which they loved. This year I might do a twist with everyone getting the same book and we have a family book club, still thinking that through.
We never did Santa even when they were little, and they only ruined Christmas for one child at church breaking the new Santa wasn't real, oops.
Patricia - November 21st, 2013 at 7:23 PM
Thank You! Thank You! Finally someone said it out loud! We are soooo tired of the materialism and Santa Claus! Our family starts December 1 with the reading of "The Advent Jesse Tree" and have a special little tree that we put our Advent ornaments on each day until the 25th. It is a WONDERFUL book if you haven't read it yet - with devotions for children and adults. I made the ornaments myself out of clay, so they will be a special tradition to hand down to my kids who can in turn celebrate this way with their children.
Cay Heath - November 22nd, 2013 at 7:07 AM
Don't forget Gospel for Asia's gift catalog. You can 'buy' goats, rabbits, chickens, blankets, a bicycle, a sewing machine, etc. for the poor! 100% of what you give for Christmas gifts goes to the field.
Amanda - November 23rd, 2013 at 1:11 AM
When I was pregnant with our first child, I strongly felt that maybe we shouldn't get involved in the whole Santa scheme. I made the mistake of mentioning it to my side of the family and was seriously given up the river.

I feel a twinge of guilt every time my 6-year-old looks to me to affirm more of her belief in Santa (Easter Bunny, etc.) and those childish questions can feel so awkward that I squirm trying to best respond--trying not to deny or further confirm! I am still uncertain what to do about it though, like another commenter mentioned the creeping feeling that you could possibly "ruin" Christmas and scar your child for life. :P But certainly, I am fed up with the stress, hurry, pressure to spend, the family gift exchanges of $25 of uselessness, etc. It is like the mafia though, very hard to get out. Ha.

I agree with everything you've said, I just don't know how I would implement it. My husband would definitely balk. I told him not to buy anything for me because I don't need anything...but he doesn't feel the same about it. I will try to implement as much as I can to reduce the stress of the season, make it holy and sacred, cozy and special quality time and memories with my children. But I just don't know how I will ever be able to get rid of this Santa character and the tide of consumerism attached to his traditions.

On a side note, I grew up dirt poor and clearly remember a girl in my 1st grade class telling me that Santa wasn't real. I assured her he most certainly was because my parents were too poor to buy me all of those gifts! (We had secret-Santas...folks who charitably made it a special Christmas for us kids.) I ended up believing in Santa until I was 13 years old. Thirteen! I am still not sure what effect that *technically* lying to a child about Santa has on a child's psyche. I wouldn't want them to relate that to the Lord Jesus. Where do you draw the line, really?
Amy - November 23rd, 2013 at 1:07 PM
I remember as a child this conversation with my mother, and I quote, "Mom, who is more powerful? Santa or Jesus?". She started crying. I can only imagine what her heart felt in that moment. She told me the truth about Santa at eight years old. When she started crying, I remember thinking for a split second, "Jesus isn't real?". I was confused, and my parents help to correct that instantly. This is EXTACTLY what your article is referring to.
Excited to transform our family's Christmas!!
Mandy - November 23rd, 2013 at 3:19 PM
Wonderful article! My two children are under 3 and I have always planned to make Christmas morning super simple - not a toy explosion, so I just love all your ideas. I very much want Christmas to be centered on our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, or as I call Him - the World's Knight in Shining Armor. Thanks again!
Katie - November 23rd, 2013 at 9:09 PM
I'm getting all emotional sitting on my couch reading this because it's like you are inside my head, yet you said it way more eloquently than I ever could have. I hope this goes viral and I pray other families join in these changes!

Paula - November 24th, 2013 at 12:23 AM
Another vendor with a conscience is Beza Threads. Their focus is liberating Ethiopian children from various forms of slavery, then educating and empowering them so they can have a better future. To learn more about how you can help free slaves, check out their website:
Kathryn - November 24th, 2013 at 8:24 AM
Same song that generates my favorite lyric EVER: Chains will He break for the slave is our brother/And in His name all oppression will cease.

I stopped going "home" for Christmas shortly after college because my family was bogged down in food and gift craziness and are agnostic. I can see them any time of year; I want to celebrate the dark ad dazzling mystery of Advent and Christmas in a holy space.

Denver-based fabulous shop: www, Job training and development for women after prison. Great chili mixes and jewelry!
Susan Cox - November 24th, 2013 at 7:42 PM
I'm adding to the list of vendors: The organization dedicates itself to "improving the lives of women and children most at risk of extreme poverty, trafficking, and other forms of exploitation by providing sustainable livelihoods through income-generating projects."
Skotti Frese - November 24th, 2013 at 9:41 PM
Beautiful. Catholics have been doing this for 2,000 years. This is what Advent is, a penitential preparation for His birth. Our kids get 3 presents, no more than Jesus got. No Santa. Lord knows, no Elf on a shelf. Why invent something so silly, when the Truth is so glorious?
lisa - November 25th, 2013 at 1:21 AM
love this. we have young kids and have thought very much about how we celebrate christmas as a family. we live in a majority muslim country so avoiding consumerism is a lot easier here (though it is still present for christmas), but because of where we live we want all the more to fill our hearts, homes and traditions with Christ so that He may be known.

also, i wanted to add a fabulous and very financially trustworthy resource for giving. our family looks through the Gospel For Asia catalogue and we pick out gifts to buy for people (usually people in India). they have really practical things that kids can understand, like a pair of chickens to provide a family breakfast for a year or a bicycle to create a job for someone. it's practical, used to care for people and share the Gospel, and easy for kids to understand. check it out. :)
Gina @real life titus two - November 25th, 2013 at 12:34 PM
I have mixed emotions about this, to be honest. I totally see what she is saying about Christmas, her ungrateful heart in the 6th grade, etc. But I wonder if maybe we as parents forget that our kids are in a process of growth. That ungratefulness is something we will battle for a lifetime. That we cant live in our culture and not be affected by it, and that her 6th grade heart was in a battle, just like my 50 year old heart is. I can be focused one day and ungrateful the next. We can adjust what we do at christmas time all we want, and put our kids in situations to teach them gratefulness, but we cant make them be mature and grasp the entire meaning of it all, when we as adults don't fully grasp it all the time. Her behavior may have been bratty, but she was young and growing. My heart is bratty, and I'm old and growing. I think we can enjoy Christmas and even the giving gifts, and also continue to grow in our understanding of Jesus and what we are celebrating. I say this because took a lot of the joy out of the christmas season for my family, when my kids were young, because I wanted them to grasp the more important concepts, forgetting that it is a life long process. So, we can give gifts, and then go feed the homeless, or help a needy family, and then teach them about Jesus...and make it a grace filled, enjoyable process. ( : Just my two cents!!
Maria Lynn - November 25th, 2013 at 11:16 PM
God is the the most generous person I know and He gives us good gifts, so I think we should follow His example. I don't really think it is a bad thing to give our children their heart's desire for that is what our Heavenly Father gives us. You can teach your children responsibility and still give them good gifts like our Heavenly Father gives His children. I'm a grandmother now. I was a single parent when my son was 15 months old, but I didn't spoil him -- but I did give him gifts (under whatever name) and he turned out to be very responsible and a wonderful husband and father. It thrills me to give gifts. I have adopted 4 children from India which I pay a monthly sum. I participate in Samaritan's Purse by packing Shoeboxes for kids. And I also believe in sharing with my adult son things his family needs at the present time instead of waiting for me to die to get his inheritance. I feel that I am a generous person because I know you can't out give God and it doesn't necessarily spoil your children to give them their hearts desire. It doesn't spoil them or create brats if given with the right attitude and love. Merry Christmas everyone! Let's pattern ourselves after our Lord and Saviour who gave us His best -- His only Son!
Lisa - November 26th, 2013 at 5:04 AM
When we adopted our son from China my in-laws (who are wonderful God fearing folks) were, for the lack of a better word, uncomfortable. Then, my mother-in-law went on a mission trip and as a sidebar went to the orphanage where our son came from. Saw what we saw and understood. Since then she has gotten on the band wagon of making Christmas about giving. Each grandchild needed to come up with an organization that a monetary gift was going to go to in their names. It was a very emotional Christmas for me when my eldest son stated that he wanted his share to go directly to his brother's former orphanage. My Chinese son wanted his to go to Operation Smile (he is cleft affected). That was a wonderfully peaceful Christmas that was free of the unneeded stress. Even the non-believers of our family were blessed.
Keva Ambre - November 26th, 2013 at 12:53 PM
Products with a conscience. Empowering local African craftsmen.

Donna Berg - November 26th, 2013 at 8:43 PM
I have created a "card from Santa" that has a cover image of Santa kneeling at the manger - and an inside message about the real St. Nicholas. It's a lovely way of introducing young ones to the truth - and a deeper understanding of how the whole Santa Claus idea got started. Please email me if you are interested -
KC - November 27th, 2013 at 1:46 PM
I am a devout Christian who as a child knew that without Jesus there would be no Christmas. But we still did Santa and had gifts. When I learned the truth that Santa wasn't real I wasn't mad that my parents were "lying" to me. I loved that they enjoyed making this magical time special at Christmas. And I certainly wasn't ruined when I found out he wasn't real. Because the main focus was always on Jesus anyway. And now today with two kids of my own I am no less of a Christian because when I was 0-10 years old I believed in Christmas. I now have an advent calendar, multiple nativities, lots of religious signs all throughout my house with Santa among them. I do agree there should be balance but really...let kids have the magic of Christmas!
In His Great Love, MJ - November 27th, 2013 at 3:10 PM
I love, LOVE, this post! You have put into words the things in my heart and mind, right when I couldn't find the right way to say it and explain it to my family.

As parents we have never done Santa, except for one year when dd (about seven years old) was allowed to leave cookies and milk with a note for Daddy aka "Santa". Otherwise she has never known a Christmas with Santa. I did away with stockings. I've done away with the stress of a tree, and lights on the house. We are down to just bare acknowledgement of the day, slowly paring away all the trappings. Last year I decorated the mantle with a manger scene and a resurrection tomb (an awesome cross/tomb combination that the Lord directed me to last year). The focus in our home is and must be Jesus!

This year I'm even going to change the name of our celebration - not sure what yet, but since the very word "Christmas" brings to mind the crazy, materialistic, stressful type of "celebration" that the world engages in, I am considering, prayerfully, an alternative. Perhaps something as simple as the Birth of Jesus our Savior.

Anyway, thank you from the bottom of my heart for this post, and the candid and non-judgemental way you have spelled it all out. I am deeply grateful to the Lord for leading me to your post at just the right time in my life. :)
Marlene - November 28th, 2013 at 9:20 AM
Check out this site - this project works with women who are coming out of trafficing.
Theresa - December 1st, 2013 at 11:09 PM
Amani ya Juu is my all time favorite place to shop. It's a fair trade sewing and economic development program for marginalized women in Africa. Their products are BEAUTIFUL and generally affordable and include lots of kids' things too. The name means "higher peace" in Swahili. I've been to their center in Nairobi, and you just couldn't believe the genuine joy (and beautiful singing while they work) these women exude who have been saved from very bad situations and brought to the center to learn about God and how to earn a living with a trade. It's an absolutely amazing organization. They have a boutique in DC and lots of volunteers host home parties (earning no profit themselves) all over. The website is I cannot talk it up enough. Check it out!!

Also, my favorite tradition is our Christmas morning birthday cake for Jesus. My four year old will help me decorate it on Christmas Eve, then we'll sing Happy Birthday and celebrate--that's integral to a child's comprehension of a birthday, after all. I can't wait! It's a great photo op for the scrapbook too (or giant pile of photos that will hopefully someday be organized).
Nicole - December 2nd, 2013 at 3:35 PM
Re-reading this post as Advent begins for 2013; such a needed reminder. A great Canadian option is
dave anderson - December 2nd, 2013 at 10:26 PM
YES! I said this in a message I preached two weeks ago:

...the sad reality is American capitalism has hijacked the greatest story every told and turned it into biggest lie that%u2019s ever been sold.

I didnt preach against consumerism or capitalism - but told people why jesus came to earth:

Matthew 10:34 %u201CDon%u2019t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword. 35 %u2018I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 Your enemies will be right in your own household!%u2019%u201D

If you take a stand at Christmas (or any other time) expect a fight to break out.

Julie - December 4th, 2013 at 9:32 PM
I so appreciate this article! We have done some of these ideas for many years now. I taught my kids about Saint Nicolas from the beginning (they are 19, 16, and 6) so we didn't "do" Santa as he is traditionally taught. However, I remember years when the kids announced they were pretending because it just seemed so fun. :) I started limiting presents when they were young but extended family didn't so it took me sitting them down one year and explaining that not only were we financially unable to carry on like that, the point of Christmas is Jesus so we started doing the 3 gift idea (for the Wise men gifts). Eventually I started giving time instead of material things. We went on a trip one Christmas and I would search coupons for fun family activities to do instead of buying lots of STUFF. Recently I have become more aware of the fair trade market. I've always had the World Vision catalog. One year we gave exclusively from it. These are all great ideas! I appreciate the links to fair trade companies. I have bookmarked them all and "liked" them on facebook so I can stay in touch with what they are doing - AND thank you to all those who posted more links in the comments!!
Even with all we have done, I always feel a pull to push further. How can I really make Christmas about Jesus? I am reading Ann Voskamp's book as an advent activity and discussing it with my children. My youngest still does an Avent Calendar but it is really hard when they are that age to keep the commercialism out!! Last night my husband told him that Christmas isn't really about presents and he said, "Oh I know. It's about God. But I still want presents." :) I'm amused and not worried. He will get a few gifts this year and we will keep teaching the truth about Jesus all year long.
I think where you are in realizing how crazy it all gets is a catalytic moment we all need to get to. Then it's fine tuning our family and individual focus to keep moving closer to Him. With Santa (I love the Santa's bowing at baby Jesus feet but I don't have any personally) or without (my kids really understood the stories of Saint Nick and it made more sense to them that "Santa's" are representative of his generosity than the whole "man in red suit lives at North Pole and flies through the air on a sled with flying reindeer" story).
The greatest thing I took from this (aside from your amusing rendition of your transformation :) is the fair trade companies and the awareness of labor trafficking and child labor. That has been my weak point. We are mid to low middle income and money gets tight. It's hard to keep up with all the things we are to be aware of these days and still just do life - BUT - this is where I'm starting this year. Awareness (check), getting armed with alternative options (check), seeing what items I need to stop buying and find elsewhere - (in process)...and so I will move forward in my journey of spending less, giving more and using even our financial status (which compared to the rest of the world is really wealthy) for good.
Thank you for sharing your journey. I hope those who immediately got offended will stop the nonsense and just get something out of your experience that they can run with. Surely the child labor and fair trade is not so controversial that someone can't tap into that.
Blessing this Advent!
Arianne - December 6th, 2013 at 2:33 PM
So, your whole "Christmas Tree" facebook comment thing had me come here and look up your Christmas post that people kept mentioning. As I looked it up, I thought, "Hmm, I wonder if I can find that one blog post someone wrote that I loved a Christmas or two ago?" But as I read it, I realized that this WAS that post, lol. Here I thought that I had "discovered" you with "Worst End of Year Mom," but I remember reading, loving, and even sharing this post on facebook before that. :-) I so admire the way your brain works...and no, I don't think there is a thing wrong with you enjoying your sweet little tree!
Name - December 6th, 2013 at 7:05 PM
If we 'love' God, then let us listen to His words: "Do not inquire about the traditions/religion of the heathen; do not say 'let us honor our Elohym in that way'." Walk out of Babylon; learn the Name: YHWH / Yahowah; celebrate His called-out appointed times: Passover, Unleavened Bread, FirstFruits, Weeks, Trumpets, and Tabernacles.. Yahowsha was born on the first day of Tabernacles, 2 BC.
Christina Vander Pol - December 8th, 2013 at 8:32 AM
My favorite Christmas as a child was the year my mother wrapped little trinkets in toilet paper tubes and brightly colored tissue. I remember only a couple of the items, but what really sticks out is the quiet magic my mother created and somehow it all pointed to Jesus. We would read our advent devotional, have a special treat by candle light and open one of our tubes - it was all glorious and humble at the same time and to this day that place in my heart it full of Jesus, because of my Mom. It had nothing to do with how grand the gift was or the excitement of a jolly old elf bringing my heart's desires and had everything to do with the deep knowledge that Jesus was real, was coming, and was here. That's what the celebration was about. I don't know if it would have been different if my folks had had money, but I am grateful today that they did not. Keep up the truth-speaking, Jenn. You are hitting it.
Shannon - December 12th, 2013 at 1:24 PM
I enjoyed your post, and have been focusing this year on being intentional about how we celebrate. I was wondering if you could e-mail me so I could ask for some more information on how to combat human trafficking?
Anna - December 13th, 2013 at 10:30 PM
I live in China. They have very recently begun 'celebrating' Christmas as they have with 'Halloween' and 'Thanksgiving' . I don't get it, but most of China seems to want to be America. They try to do things just like it's done in America. So , Christmas here is all about Santa. The teachers in kindergartens tell the kids The Santamas Story. It's because Santa ends up being the centerpiece of Christmas and that's what they see. It's sad as this would have been the perfect opportunity to reveal Christ. I think Jen's blog is her opinion and isn't judgmental. No one has a problem when people write about spreading cheer, and loving and giving , without mentioning Jesus. Why does it always cause an uproar when someone really is being courageous by standing against certain aspects of culture and tradition for her convictions? How many of our non-christian friends see Christ in the season?
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KB - December 30th, 2013 at 3:58 PM
I guess I can see how some people as kids hit the moment where they had to ask "Is Jesus not real if Santa is not real?"; however, I was a little surprised the first time I heard of this. I never had that problem. I guess since we focused on Jesus so much throughout the whole, family conversations, behavioral principles, scripture reading and memory...perhaps in the back of my little grade school pea brain I figured Santa was not on par with Emmanuel.
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