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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Jada - December 5th, 2011 at 5:39 PM
LOVE LOVE LOVE this post! Thanks for stepping out and writing about it. Our family has been heading in this direction for a few years, still making some adjustments, too. We just couldn't (and didn't want to) keep up with the Joneses anymore. And were so tired of the chaos and frenzy associated with this holiday...even in our Christian faith community. So, we make the changes that we feel necessary to make for our family... Sometimes, still feeling as if we were heading upstream, though.

Love this:
"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."
Kristin - December 5th, 2011 at 5:44 PM
This is so refreshing. We buy our kids a gift to open (my 4-year-old is getting a board game and my 2-year-old is getting some board books about dinosaurs). And then we fill stockings with other things (a movie, CD, socks, sippy cup, etc). We don't do Santa -- I want to focus on Jesus and teach them to be grateful. My favorite: We're having a birthday party for Jesus this weekend with friends: We will collect money and food for others, make an advent chain, listen to the story of Jesus' birth and sing some songs.

Thanks again for sharing this. It encourages me greatly.
Katie Patel - December 5th, 2011 at 5:49 PM
LOVE IT and preach it. Why in the world celebrate anything else when you have the SAVIOR and AUTHOR of the UNIVERSE coming down to live among us, because we had NO HOPE?? WORD to you, Jen Hatmaker!!
Leighellen - December 5th, 2011 at 5:54 PM
AHHHHHHH!!!! I love you, Jen Hatmaker!! Thank you for yet again giving us strength we need to nurture our families in faith. For years, I have felt saddened at how Jesus is lacking in so many Christmas traditions. I appreciate your suggestions and ideas on ways we get make an impact! I will add a couple items to your list:

- Our boys LOVE celebrating Advent. We use an advent wreath and light it before dinner. The boys take turns each week with lighting duties (4 weeks Christ Candle = 5 candles, you can divide duties weekly or nightly) Our boys always feel so honored and proud when it is their turn to light the candle and read a scripture passage.

- Our boys filled shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child. It is easy to do
Anna - December 5th, 2011 at 6:18 PM
LOVE this!!! We've been here, but say "Saint Nicolas" helps deliver the gifts to celebrate Jesus' Birthday... um, not going there anymore (thanks). We also do alot of the fun advent stuff from the book, "The ADVENTure of Christmas" by Lisa Whelchel. I'm not a crafty, creative, bring the Word in creative ways to my kids person by nature, and this book has helped me get that message to my darlings over the years. Thanks for continuing to speak the truth in love.
Melinda - December 5th, 2011 at 6:20 PM
Thanks, Jen. Thank you sooooo much. That's where we are this Christmas, as well. I have said over and over and over that I have an urgency this year like I've never known before to make Christmas ALL about Christ. Urgency is the only word I can use to describe it. I am overwhelmed sometimes because it is so real and deep and strong. I have found that for me, often the heart follows the actions. Things that I didn't think were "really" stealing my worship away from Christ have been removed, and I now am able to see more and more every day how much they truly were robbing Christ of His place in my mind and heart. We're doing almost exactly what you are doing, and that TV thing is beginning in a few minutes. I worry that sometimes it sounds judgmental to some when I am trying to explain my passion for making Christ the one and only focus of our attention, but it truly isn't that I am condemning others, it's just that I so passionately want them to experience this freedom, joy and totally fulfilling worship of our Savior, too Again, thanks for putting MY thoughts into words - how are you so good at that? :)
Kathleen - December 5th, 2011 at 6:34 PM
2012 is the year our family has chosen to be 100% grateful for what we have...PERIOD. We have started The 11 Month Project

11 Months of not purchasing a single thing that is not ABSOLUTELY NEEDED. It is a year of reaching for what we have, not wishing for what we don't. A year of teaching a daughter that every trip out of the house need not end with bags coming into the house.

Join us - it is going to be a year of being blessed by what we have.
Cynthia - December 12th, 2011 at 4:18 PM
This seems like an absolutely amazing idea!! LOVE IT!
Jessica - December 14th, 2011 at 6:45 AM
love you new project. Kathleen. Since I remember evrytime I go shopping I will ask my self, Do I really need these, or I just want it. what I will do with it.
It fells good to know there is people out there making changes, and Been grateful for what we have.
Shelly Eubank - December 5th, 2011 at 6:37 PM
I have been convicted about this for several years. Slowly but surely I continue to move our family this same direction. Thank you for sharing. Now I know I'm not the only one who feels this burden. Christmas should be filled with joy!
Carolyn - December 5th, 2011 at 6:45 PM
I grew up in a completely Santa free home and I have not required therapy over it :) We also had no TV for about 5 years and besides having a gap in my Trivia knowledge, I haven't suffered any lasting effects. Buck the trends - dare to be different - you just might raise kids who are individuals and leaders.
Marny Helfrich - December 5th, 2011 at 6:51 PM
Thanks for this! I'm waiting this Advent for my first child, expecting her to come home from China in probably March, and using some to the time to think about what kind of Christmas traditions I want to establish for her, and how much I am willing to fight with my own mother about it! She's Deaf, so she's going to have a lot of ground to make up in learning language and I'm already imagining that next Christmas (her first at almost 4) we may not have enough language and conceptual capacity for both Santa and Jesus . . .

In terms of favorite vendors and organizations, if you are buying gifts for grown ups, consider Thistle Farms,, which is a cottage industry/social entrepreneurship project that employs women right here in the US who are building healthy lives after being in prostitution (it's associated with the recovery community of Magdalene). The products are great and the project is better!

For donating that kids can understand and enjoy participating in, i like Heifer International and, which lets you make microloans to the project of your choosing and then reinvest the proceeds when the loan is repaid.
Jen Hatmaker - December 5th, 2011 at 7:15 PM
SHOOT! I meant to include Kiva and Hiefers! I can't believe I forgot to include those. So good, these folks... Thanks for the reminder!
Marny - December 5th, 2011 at 11:17 PM
I look forward to checking out the ones you mentioned.

And definitely check out Thistle Farms and read about Magdelene! Its amazing!
Anna - December 8th, 2011 at 9:19 PM
Awesome statements! These are great organizations that we have been supporting for years. Thanks for your post!

Try - December 5th, 2011 at 6:54 PM
Thank you Jen for stepping out, putting yourself out there and doing so in love. We have never done Santa in our home, I wasn't raised with Santa as my dad way back when told me that he didn't want to have to turn around and tell me one day that santa was a lie .. but oh, by the way, Jesus is real. And with today's commercialism .. the meaning of Christmas is quickly being lost. We have enjoyed "The Truth in The Tinsel" for our daily advent study .. a cute ebook with christmas ornaments to make with elementary aged kiddos .. and by the way .. we're also not doing The Elf on the Shelf : P
Cindy Jolls Kahland - December 5th, 2011 at 6:56 PM
What a wonderful letter to help all of us. My boys are grown, but for any of you who still have children at home, please take this to heart. I'm going to be doing this with my family now as well. Again, thank you for expressing this so well.
Cathie - December 5th, 2011 at 6:59 PM
WOW ~ YOU ARE AN ABSOLUTELY AMAZING WRITER ~ AND LADY ~ and I don't even know you ~ I LOVE what you write ~ Our 4 children are now between 20
Cathy - December 7th, 2011 at 5:55 AM
I'm with you - she is an absolutely awesome writer and lady! I don't even have kids but I will definitely be sharing this message with everyone I know. Wouldn't it be nice if we all shared it with everyone we knew, and the acted on it as well. This world just might become a better place thanks to Jen Hatmaker!!
Michele Nordine - December 5th, 2011 at 7:01 PM
Thank you!!! SO. MUCH!! I know you didn't do this just for me, but still I am very grateful. :) This year we are also breaking the news to our 5 and 8 yr olds. And also doing it in a way that honors St. Nick and how much he loved Jesus.
I choked a bit when you wrote about getting rid of all the Santa stuff...I have this beautiful Mary Engelbreit Santa on the rooftop quilt that is my most prized Christmas decoration. I hang it on a wall and it just makes it and I have been trying to figure out how to still make this work. I can't. You are right! I cannot make Christmas about Jesus and still hang a gorgeous santa quilt in my house. I am sad, but resolved. I will get over it.
I love your gifts for the children and LOVE the part about them giving to an org of their choosing, etc.
This year, we have finally given up on the material possessions. Three of four are inundated (sp?) with gifts from their mother and her family. Any gift we give them gets lost, trashed, broken within seconds of being in her home. So, we are foregoing all of this and going the experience route.
Praying for you and pray for us. God's most richest blessings on you and your family!
Molly Shockley - December 5th, 2011 at 7:05 PM
Oh man. This is why I love you. You are bold and brave and you speak it so well. This is our almost 6th year of not doing Santa, and let me's not easy. Our family did not appreciate this one bit and gave us a lot of crap about it. We have always done Christmas small because Blake and I aren't gifts people and it just didn't make sense to us. Last year we got all the kids gifts from Goodwill and I was so proud (but didn't share that fact to openly with their birthparents-they'd have known they picked some crazies!) What we haven't done right (and by we I mean me because I do the shoppin round here) is watch out and educate myself on slave labor. Thank you for sharing that!

-Something our family did last year instead of buy gifts for the kids' cousins was each family went together and purchased for foster kids in our local shelter. It's always a valuable thing to show our kids!
allison wilkes - December 6th, 2011 at 7:31 PM
Molly Shockley! Speaking of bold, brave incredible women.
Pauly - December 5th, 2011 at 7:08 PM
OK, so I was the kid who was seen as awkward and weird growing up (and quite possibly was both). We didn't have a Christmas tree, or lights all over our house, we had a simple manger, that we put gifts under for Jesus. I never had Santa, my parents argument for omitting this aspect of Christmas was that if they lied to us about him, perhaps we would think they were lying to us about Jesus. They weren't willing to take that chance. There wasn't a fancy dinner (like we have now), just a birthday cake for King Jesus, whom my parents made clear to us that he came to save us, set us free. and His birth was worth celebrating. We read the Christmas story from Luke, sang some songs, and my Dad served communion. As a child I hated it, these traditions embarrassed me. I wanted to be like the other kids.

At 44 I finally get it!
Nicole Quiring - December 5th, 2011 at 7:08 PM
Great post. We've never done Santa but man we have a long ways to go; don't we all? We ahve four kids and every year we do different things to focus on Jesus. You gave me some great ideas. One thing we've always done is 3 GIFTS. We connected it to the fact that Jesus got three gifts from the 3 kings. The limit on gifts actually helps me more than it helps them. I get in Toys R Us and I too see all sorts of things that i know would bring smiles and screams when they open it but with my plan of 3 gifts I make wiser choices. The combo of three changes every year, could be two toys and a book or one big toy and two small, whatever the combo it's 3!! Our kids also know the real story of St. Nick. That helped them understand that people aren't "bad" for doing the Santa thing; I didn't want them getting into a legalistic thing with it. One year though my son told a kid Santa WAS real but now he's dead. That went over well. ha. OUr kids each year participate in the shoebox gift from Samaritans Purse. You have to do it in November. But my kids LOVE it. We take the shoeboxes with us to Walmart and pack them as we shop. We watch the videos and that makes it more impactful too. Now you can even track it to see where your box goes in the world. I'm so stealing your idea of giving them money to choose to give away somewhere. Love love love that idea. The kids pour over the World Vision catalogs of animals and gifts to give and they pick a gift to pull money together to do. Some years we've done garage sales etc. to raise money for it. This year we are doing the traditional advent candles on Sunday night . . . talking about the meaning of each one each Sunday. My kids are 5, 7,7 and 10 and all four of them ask about it each week. We also have a huge nail that was given to us and turned into an ornament. It's the first ornament you hang on the tree - you hide it deep into the tree. It's a reminder that Jesus came to die for us. We talk about it each year when we decorate the tree. Any little thing we can use that is a secular christmas thing that we can connect to Jesus we do . . . looking at lights -- well Jesus came to be the Light of the world. That kind of thing.

I am soo challenged by your post because it's just a reminder that we have so far to come. The timing of reading this was amazing because tongiht I'll be doing the budget for all our holiday spending. Love how God works His way into that. THank you Jenn!!

Lynde - December 5th, 2011 at 7:14 PM
I love you. Freak.
Lori Grant Hendrix - December 5th, 2011 at 7:17 PM
Thank you so much. At Christmas I feel so isolated because we feel as if we are the only ones focusing on Jesus and not Santa. I have a 5 year old
Hayley - December 5th, 2011 at 7:20 PM
Beautiful. Love this. This is how my husband and I plan on raising our children! A lot of people don't understand and argue that our kids will miss out on the excitement and the fun of Santa. Not if we make celebrating Jesus just as fun and exciting. Fun and excitement need not be confused with getting things and stuff and junk. I actually have some posts on my own blog about materialism. (Which I like to call Tasaj - things and stuff and junk.) I wanted to do a post on materialism and Christmas, but I think I will just do a response to your post and link to your INCREDIBLE explanations. Love this post! Thank you for boldly sharing with us!
Rosemary Scoular - December 11th, 2011 at 7:20 AM
There is a good book called "Unplug the Christmas Machine" written more to the culture but with many good ways to go about it. I loose my focus way too easily. We have minimized spending but struggle to reach my children who do not yet believe in Christ.
Allie - December 5th, 2011 at 7:20 PM
EJ Phillips - December 5th, 2011 at 7:26 PM
We do Santa, but differently than most because I tell my kids that Santa is like Jesus. He breaks into our worlds and gives us goodness and there's nothing we can do to earn it or lose it. So no creepy elf or threats of coal. (Though I must confess there are times I'd like to say "Santa is watching" when the 4 yr old is whining about eating parsnips.) We also do advent in a big way. We light candles, read Scripture, color Jesse tree ornaments, count down with our Little People advent calendar and read the Jesus Storybook Bible Christmas stories at night. And as we save for our international adoption, we've paired down gifts. No, we aren't wrapping up a Chinese flag for our kids, but giving less gifts of junky stuff and more "good times" gifts--a big boy bike with training wheels, family passes to the Zoo and Children's Museum, a World Vision Ethiopia doll so our daughter can cuddle a cutie who has a rocking Afro just like her. For our extended family, we purchase "gifts" through the Bethany Christian Services gift catalog. One year we did Angel Tree for each other.
Also, I don't consider doing Santa lying to my kids anymore than I consider discussing Thomas the Tank Engine like he is real is lying. But thanks for swearing your kids to secrecy, we have friends who are persona non grata from Halloween to New Year's because their 5 yr old talks non-stop about all the parents who are liars and that Santa hates Jesus.
Jennifer - December 5th, 2011 at 7:40 PM
Have so much to say about this, but I'll stick to the tradition of the White Stocking. A friend shared it with me several years ago and I think there are a few ways you can use it. We hang a white stocking, Jesus' stocking, and every Christmas we write on a slip of paper what we want to give Jesus in the coming year (acts of service, devotional time, etc, but as specific as we can be). When we pull the stocking out the next Christmas we talk about how we did giving Jesus that gift. Others will use it during the Christmas season to record acts of service/generosity and slip it in His stocking.
Shelley - December 6th, 2011 at 7:54 AM
THIS IS SUCH A GREAT IDEA! I've never heard of it, but I want to make this a tradition in our home!
Sarah - December 5th, 2011 at 7:42 PM
Ha- I wrote a (much less awesome) post about this yesterday and included your friend Andrew's quote from your facebook status. He certainly spoke some truth. I'm thankful you wrote this post so I can just direct people here now when they ask why we're such weirdos. (Although the fact that we are missionaries in Peru means people expect us to be weirdos anyway.)

And I'll add our NGO to the list, We employ women living in poverty in Uganda and Peru and sell their hats in the States. We also do capacity development, provide mentoring, and just love on these ladies.
Amanda Barker - December 5th, 2011 at 7:58 PM
I love this. Have been feeling so off kilter this holiday season, not being able to pinpoint it, and this makes total sense. I maybe a mom losing her mind, but with good reason. Btw, I am pretty sure that when me, Jill, Dena and the 7th grade crew at IBC were there, you and the 9th grade were the coolest cats around and we looked up to you Big time. Thanks for posting this. Hugs and Love.
kelly - December 6th, 2011 at 12:21 PM
Sarah, I read your blog and bought your post was great! I wouldnt have realized this was the same "Sarah" except that I recognized the word "progeny" from that facebook quote. I really liked the idea that you don't buy your kids any gifts, right?

Jen, love this post. Found it through Marla taviano's glowing reviews :) I am thankful that my husband and I don't have kids yet - expecting our first in June - so we have a little time to figure this out before kids enter the picture, which makes it easier to set the standard ourselves!

A few things we have done:
- no gifts for each other
- gifts to family are donations through compassion, world vision, and Samaritans purse gift Catalogs. Were giving bakery training, part of a yurt in Mongolia, mechanic training, disaster relief kits, etc. We are still trying to decide whether to include a little something for the recipient too... A small gift beyond the donation. I just don't want them to resent being "forced" to give a donation. Last year we did both - a donation and a personal gift - but for now, we are just doing the donation in their honor and leaving it at that.
- last Christmas as we were packing up we eliminated almost all of our "secular" decorations... But it was too hard to get rid of the last few airplane and ballerina ornaments from childhood!

Some other fair trade sites to check out:

Fair ... Not all fair trade, but has a good section
jamie ivey - December 5th, 2011 at 7:50 PM
oh my gosh jen i love this.
i echo it all. love it all.
we do a lot of these, but i need a slap in the face every single year to remind myself that my kids DO NOT NEED ANYTHING.
i'm talking to aaron tonight about the giving thing. i would love to see my kids give money away. LOVE that!
Susana - December 5th, 2011 at 7:53 PM
We're big freaks in my house. We cut out the tree six years ago. Eek. That was hard, but it came from a conviction from Jeremiah 10:3-4, and we can't go back. We decorate with lights and decorations and nativity scenes. And we fill stockings with candy and little toys on Christmas, a tradition with a seemingly benign origin. This is the only present my children receive on Christmas.

We also have the benefit of some Jewish heritage, so we celebrate Hanukkah, too. The kids get little trinkets and ONE big present here. It's a totally separate holiday, but if Judah the Maccabee didn't preserve the Jewish people from the planned holocaust around 165BC, Jesus would not have been born in the manger and would not have been able to celebrate Hanukkah himself! (See John 10:22) Hanukkah is a beautiful festival of lights and celebrates the cleansing and rededication of the temple after it had been desecrated by Antiochus Epiphanes. The word Hanukkah actually means 'dedication', and we talk about rededicating our earthly 'temples' (ourselves) to God during this time.

So, it's a pretty cool set up. We rededicate ourselves to God during Hanukkah in preparation for Jesus to come at Christmas. And my kids aren't confused at all... ("Mom, maybe the Hanukkah turkey will bring us eggs and presents!")

Thanks for your strong word, Jen. Love every bit of it.
Natalie - December 5th, 2011 at 7:55 PM (great site with jewelry, purses, and clothing for sale) the jewelry and purses are made by women in uganda, and they earn a living through the sales. great company!
Damon - December 5th, 2011 at 7:58 PM
Jen, truly amazing insight, and hit me like a hard punch right in the gut. Definitely a call to dethrone Santa and put the King of Kings in his place forever and always. I'm saying to year, but do as much this year as I can. One way we've made giving to others and being Jesus to them this Christmas is to support an organization named Numana ( with enough food to save one starving person in Africa or Haiti for one full year. Check them out, I'm friends with the CEO and they're the real deal. Thank you for your boldness and everything you allow God to use you for.
Melissa - December 5th, 2011 at 8:01 PM
AMEN AMEN and AMEN!! COuld not agree more. I often feel like an outcast b/c I don't do Santa and I just don't get it why. Most of my friends are Christ followers too. I have had friends tell me I really hope your kids don't say anything about Santa I just hate for YOUR kids to ruin Christmas for mine. I am like WHAT! I posted something similar on my blog about this subject last week but it is not as eloquent as your post that is for sure.
Allison - December 5th, 2011 at 8:02 PM
Wonderful! We also do the three gift thing for our kids. It is so hard to raise our children with spirits of gratefulness in a world like this. Thank you for the conviction!

Also, SHBC has begun a ministry with women in Ghana. The women make bracelets use beads from Ghana, which gives the bead makers income as well. We pay them double of what they usually are paid, which gets them off the street and money to bring to their families. The best and most important thing is that each bracelet pays for netting to fight of malaria. We have given over 8,000 nets at this time. We have also drilled in fresh water wells and minister to surrounding villiages bring the gospel sometimes for the first time. The website is Please go and visit for wonderful gifts that are for a wonderful cause.

Thank you again for your wonderful message, it is so wonderful and very the I am not in my comfort zone kind! You are such a blessing, to so many people!
Lauren - December 5th, 2011 at 8:10 PM
yes yes and YES!!! Totally agree with ALL of it!
nana - December 5th, 2011 at 8:10 PM

Are you worshipping your tree? Didn't think so.
Nothing like being "convicted" by a Bible verse out of context. Have a tree or don't, but don't base your decision on one verse.
Susana - December 5th, 2011 at 8:41 PM
Thanks for the link. We don't do many of the accoutrements of a traditional western Christmas. (We've debated celebrating it at all, since we celebrate Jesus' coming and dwelling with us during the feast of Sukkot already, a more likely date of his birth anyway.) And the tree was one that we couldn't justify biblically. The Jeremiah verse was a validation of sorts, not the reason we don't have one. The tree's a touchy one for a lot of folks... so I understand your desire to defend it.

I also don't do Easter. So sue me.
brendon - December 12th, 2012 at 5:21 AM
Praise God for these verses in Jeremiah ! Could these words of Jeremiah introduce to the human mind the idea that God views decorated trees, and even more, having these trees in your home as something He does not want for His people? Yes, these words are effective in communicating that idea.

Further, are the origins of decorated trees displayed in winter from the Word of God, or pagan traditions. Both Christian and secular historians agree on their origins.

If you are interested in possibly confusing and/or frustrating your non-Christian neighbors who google the origins of Christmas trees, or doing the same to your children, don't worship your tree, just set it up and let it do its work.
Flower Patch Farmgirl - December 5th, 2011 at 8:15 PM
We haven't ever done Santa, mostly because my dad died a thousand early deaths when I was a young child and he first spotted that ceramic figurine of Santa bowing down at the manger. In hindsight, he may have missed the point. But I knew better than to ever go down that road.

I just bought my daughter a "retro" Barbie conversion van for $1.58 at the Salvation Army. I'm spit-shining and putting it under the tree. Yes, I am.

Last year we stopped celebrating Christmas traditions on Christmas day. We don't open any gifts or stockings. We don't have a big US party and then sing happy birthday at the end just to make us feel a tiny bit better about ourselves. We honor the day for what it really is. We take is slow and quiet and teary and goose-bumpy. Last year, we delivered breakfast along with some friends to low-income housing. We had lunch with our homeless friends. I don't know for sure what we'll do this year, but I know what we won't do.

I love this post.

Love the idea of giving the kids $$ to give as part of their gift. LOVE.
Jolene - December 5th, 2011 at 8:18 PM
~Woo~ You killed Satan...I mean Santa! Oops, typo, sorry about that. ~wink~ Seriously, though, I was so ready to be done with santa when my oldest was 6 and then we adopted two boys ages 4 and 6 and I couldn't stand the thought of keeping up the lies anymore...So, we killed santa and haven't looked back. We're getting ready to add two more children and I am so glad we're where we are at with this santa thing. Its just too important for us to not lose them to the world at such a young age.
Christa - December 5th, 2011 at 8:31 PM
Jen, first, I really enjoy reading your blog, even when it makes me say "ouch", I know it is the Holy Spirit and I keep reading. Anyway, are there websites you listed that do toys? I can find what I need (relative, i know) to give to adults for the holidays on conscientious sites, but my biggest challenge is kiddos. Even basic things like socks/undies, jammies, and the like. I end up at Carters or Target, because I can find what I need. Is there a way to tell from packaging at those places if the products are made ethically?

Love, love, your post. You are so honest and open and loving, and make me think. Christmas has looked different for us the last few years, in the dollars spent and angst over gifts. Now it is more about time together as a family because crazily our schedule actually slows down, and we have time to do stuff.
Christa - December 5th, 2011 at 8:43 PM
Duh! I just saw the Free2work app. Don't know how I missed that the first time.
michelle s - December 5th, 2011 at 8:32 PM
First, I have to say Thank You to the person who left a comment on Jon Acuff's blog about YOU. I adore your blog.

Secondly, we've been on the Christ back in Christmas train for 14 years now. We've felt the tension every single one of those years. But we persist. Can I tell you that we never got on the Santa bandwagon and our kids are still *HAPPY.* We, to the best of our knowledge, haven't caused them drastic pain by doing this... despite what our families and mothers might think.

We've also always found a way to give as a family: Shoeboxes, Tree of Sharing, Making Blankets for babies in crisis, etc. Our kids LOVE doing this. :)

While we have also cut our gift giving drastically I've been contemplating doing the checklist you mentioned (give, want, read, need, wear). So that's it. You've convinced me to be much more intentional about that.

Lastly, we are making a huge effort to be more hospitable this holiday season. Inviting people into our home. Feeding their bellies and hopefully their souls this Christmas.

Thanks for the push. I could weep. Fourteen years ago it felt pretty lonely making these changes. It feels like there is a shift happening and I am so thankful.
allisonchastain - December 5th, 2011 at 8:47 PM
i have been struggling with santa this much! mostly bc my oldest will be 6 on wednesday and is more aware of spiritual things, and when we tell him santa can see him, he will say "oh kinda like jesus can see me?" and i HATE that we are teaching him that this fake fat guy is kind of powerful like Jesus! (and God). So its nice to read this and realize i'm not the only weirdo who wants santa out of the picture! now to get my husband on board!
Christen - December 5th, 2011 at 8:56 PM
This pretty much rocked my world. As a mom to an 11 month old, this sure gives me a lot to think about. We have a chance to get it right :)
Lesley Gore - December 5th, 2011 at 9:06 PM
I kid you not, I almost broke down and wept when we got home from our last Christmas gathering of last year's season. My children were 3 and 1 and had received a mountain of toys and gifts and books and clothes and candy and games and pencils and...STUFFFFFF!!! The saddest part is that, prior to Christmas, they had not one single need and all my son was asking for was "a lion puzzle and a violin".
"When did Christmas become such a burden?" I thought (or screamed maybe?) to myself as I began trying to find a place to store everything. Not only is it impossible to keep a house tidy that is bursting at the seams with junk, it is increasingly difficult to raise up my children to have gratitude and humility and selflessness in a world that stuffs their pockets full of goodies at every...single...turn.
We have cut down greatly this year, and I am positive this is only the beginning. Thank you for continuing to be my own personal prophetess, publicly expounding upon what the Lord is secretly doing in my heart.
Merry Christmas - thanks for this gift of food for thought.
Jennifer - December 5th, 2011 at 9:07 PM
THANK YOU for writing this. My husband and I are expecting our first child in March, and I've really struggled with the idea of following the so-called "Christmas Traditions" that are so deeply seated in consumerism and selfishness. You've put words to my concerns, and you've given me a plan to work with. Thank you.
Tracy - December 5th, 2011 at 9:10 PM
Way to go, Jen! Thank you for speaking truth into a church filled with the practices of the world! We have committed to a Christ-centered Christmas since our three were tiny. They are all older teens now and they are happy, well adjusted and passionate Christ-followers. It was a hard road at times. We even had to stop going "home" for Christmas when the kids were little, because it was the only way to protect them from the hype. While my husband and I had to take a lot of grief for it, I would do it all again in a heart beat. I wouldn't trade the meaningful and deeply spiritual Christmases we gave our children for anything, but even better is that I don't think that they would either.
Kelly King - December 5th, 2011 at 9:13 PM
Thanks for the post Jen. I needed this today. Not sure if someone mentioned this one, but is a fair trade business based out of WMU. They work with artisans and missionaries around the world to provide opportunities to those who have been marginalized or helping them out of the sex slave industry. I also love giving books and the girls in my life are getting "Kisses from Katie". I also like the idea of gift-giving to your kids based on Luke 2:52, "wisdom (something to help them learn), stature (something practical they can wear), favor with God (something to develop their spiritual relationship) and favor with man (a game or something interactive that they can do WITH someone else).
cristie martine - December 5th, 2011 at 9:35 PM
I'd love to add a coffee company to your list ... my husbands. He is the roaster and all our coffee is fair trade. To add, we partner with ministries and adopting families and give 40% back to their awesome work so together we can bring a Hope and Future. We're right down the street from you in San Antonio. Check us out - You can order Christmas gift boxes there ... order them through one of your favorite ministries stores (AWAA, VO, One Child, No Ordinary Love and more) or find an adopting family and spread the joy this Christmas! Thanks!

Stephanie - December 5th, 2011 at 9:46 PM
It's a journey toward simplification, isn't it?
Need to get my hubby on board!
Elizabeth - December 5th, 2011 at 9:47 PM
great thoughts-we are keeping Santa but I love the gift giving policy!
Fair trade partnering together for Hope.
Stacy - December 5th, 2011 at 9:57 PM
I.LOVE.THIS. I have two very small boys and am hopeful I can learn some of these important lessons before it gets a lot harder. Thank you so much!
Julie P. - December 5th, 2011 at 10:01 PM
Thank you for this BEAUTIFUL post! It stirred my soul! Here are a few of our traditions to put Jesus first at Christmas (some just started this year!)
deanna - December 5th, 2011 at 10:04 PM
Amen. My entire family is giving up Christmas this year to go on a family trip to play in the snow. No presents for anyone. None. We hope to make it a permanent change to make time to be together since we live in different cities, and focus on Jesus. It has been a tremendous burden off my shoulders, to say the least, but most importantly my heart. My boys and I have been able to focus on Jesus and serving others in a way that used to feel like just another thing to add to our list of things to check off. Now we are present. Now we are focused. And now I can feel the anticipation of Christ the way my Savior intended for me to feel it. And it has made my longing for His return even greater!
I will not miss the mall, the shopping, the stress, the regret, and the shame of making this whole thing so crazy and outta control. I am so grateful for this new freedom and time to worship Emmanuel. He is enough.
Katie G - December 5th, 2011 at 10:11 PM
Great post, Jen! You have put words to exactly what's been rolling around in my head for so long now. And thanks for the list of shopping sites... This is exactly what I was planning to do for presents this year! I would like to add to your lost of shops. I love my ssekos, and I love the story behind them!
Lynsey - December 5th, 2011 at 10:13 PM
love love love this post. makes me want to scream "hallelu-yur".

down with santa. i'm totally there. he jacked me up as a kid. i blame all of my issues on him.

my sister in law (and awesome fam) works for Heartline ministries in Haiti. they are the bomb! love everything they are about.

they have a ministry in which they teach haitian women a skill and then sell their products. and since burlap is all the rage right now (if you don't believe me, check out pinterest. it will attest to this;) they have some pretty cute burlap purses and beaded jewelery as well.

check them out!
jill coen - December 5th, 2011 at 10:15 PM
Oh how I love this post. I just put on my FB status that the Elf on a Shelf creeps me out...anybody else?! We have a 4 yo and an almost 2 year old. We've never taken a No Santa stand and we've never really made a big deal out of him. The result is that my 4 yo thinks Santa hands out candy canes. That was easy.

We've been convicted for a few years not about the excesses of Christmas. This year we are doing the 4 gifts...need, want, wear, read. For years now, with exended family, we have only bought for the children in the family and the "elders", my parents and aunt. This year everyone agreed to give to A Glimmer of Hope...our campaign is called Clean Christmas. We are all adding up the dollar amount we would spend on gifts and we're donating it there. And that just makes me happy. The kids won't miss the gifts...hopefully they won't miss the importance of giving.

We are also doing a Jesse Tree for the first time and totally enjoying it.

I have fond memories of Santa as a kid and St Nick when we lived in Germany. But let's be honest...most of my memories are materialistic. I want better for my children. I want them to celebrate Jesus. The end.
J - December 6th, 2011 at 10:33 PM
Oh, the Elf thing is truly awful. How in the world did you get brave enough to put that on your facebook . . . I have many friends who compete with each other to see who can put up the funniest Elf pictures every morning!
Lori - December 11th, 2012 at 12:37 PM
The elf does bother me. I've seen two other advent ideas to have a fun family Christmas tradition that doesn't involve a North Pole entourage. Either an angel brings messages, since God does that. Or ( my personal fav) a daily meaningful search for baby Jesus. Since I want our children to be looking everywhere for Jesus in their lives we really liked this idea. Jesus in the bread box because he's the bread of life or by daddy's weights since he's a Mighty God.
erin - December 5th, 2011 at 10:16 PM
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
Doug - December 5th, 2011 at 10:18 PM
I loved the idea of giving money to the kids with guidance on giving it away. I am building a linked list of a few carefully chosen missionaries and charities to send to friends and family when they ask what I want for Christmas. A gift to one of these would be a great gift to me.
Beth Cupitt - December 5th, 2011 at 10:21 PM
OK, I'm hearing you and I'm with you, BUT I'm knee deep in it. Got any ideas for undoing it midstream?! Did you just say 'sorry, i lied'. How do you get out of Santa? I'm open and kind of wanting to go there, but don't know how to turn back.
Jen Hatmaker - December 5th, 2011 at 10:31 PM
I feel you, Beth! Maybe this year Santa gets a major back seat, and you pare down your presents to just a small handful. Do something really memorable to give or share or serve with your kids. Start Advent right now! It's not too late! Every day...something beautiful about Jesus. Maybe serve somewhere amazing on Christmas morning! Love to guilt! Starting somewhere counts!
Kari - December 10th, 2012 at 12:53 PM
Oh, we did that too! Get in "knee deep," I mean. And we're making great progress. My husband isn't a believer, but he's totally behind simplifying and not bringing in more STUFF. I do advent things with my kids, and we're still moving away from Santa and towards Jesus. The grandparents are trailing along behind, but they're moving with us too - towards buying less stuff and making Christmas more about time together. Jen's response is wonderful, and I just want to encourage you alongside her. You CAN do it, and it probably won't be nearly as awful for the kids as you think. It is harder to communicate with grandparents and other family, but talk to them as lovingly and gently as you can. Always point to Jesus. It's not about what you or your kids want (or don't want). It's about Jesus. Love to you and a little prayer for courage and wisdom!

Krista Box - December 5th, 2011 at 10:26 PM
Love this. Love, love, love this. Thanks so much for this post. We too are in the process of rethinking Christmas. Love the idea about giving!
Amy Winter - December 5th, 2011 at 10:28 PM
Fantastic.....I TOTALLY AGREE! I'm trying to figure out how to do this with my family. Thanks... Love it!
Meliski - December 5th, 2011 at 10:36 PM
Your list of fair trade sites is AWESOME! I just ordered 3 gifts for a family gift exchange, gifts I would have normally just picked up without much thought at Marshall's or Target. Thanks to this info, I (1) Picked awesome gifts! (2) Feel good about my purchase (3) Support causes that help/support/feed people! This is literally a win-win-win!
Suzanne - December 5th, 2011 at 11:01 PM
We already do a lot of the things you so eloquently wrote about, trying to keep it simple and about Jesus, etc., but thanks for the idea of opening our house to share some fun with a family--I am so excited about that idea!

Something we do that not very common is put a red dragon in our manger scene.... See our blog post last year for details ( He was there in John's account of the birth of Jesus....Rev 12:1-5

We put aside a small amount all year for Christmas and it isn't very much, but we always spend at least a third of it by picking out something from the World Vision catalog as a family. Then the kids also spend most of the $20 they each get from Grandpa on another item from the catalog. They look forward to it each year. If you asked them 4 months after Christmas what they got as gifts, they probably won't even remember, but if you asked them what they picked out of the WV catalog, they KNOW!

I have ordered some of the Ugandan necklaces for a few of my close friends this year from who help support Katie Davis ( This would be a great resource to add to your list!

Thanks again for your post--I always look forward to them!
Becky Bishop - December 6th, 2011 at 1:14 PM
Not in any way trying to be judgmental or anything, just kinda confused. I just read Rev 12:1-5 and it sounds to me like the dragon was I reading that incorrectly? "an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. 4 Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born." Why then would you allow him in your manger scene?
Suzanne - December 8th, 2011 at 10:37 AM
That's a good question. It's a reminder to us that Satan WAS there at the scene, doing his best to destroy the one thing that was going to destroy HIM. He was the reason Herod tried to kill all the baby boys (maybe even the reason there was no room in the inn?), but that didn't work either. The manger scene wasn't warm and cozy and easy and sweet--we all love our sweet little manger scenes. It was difficult and scary (I'm guessing at least a little trepidation for Mary and Joseph when they were about to give birth and there was no place that would take them in, esp w/pregnancy hormones and all! :), and there was an enormous spiritual battle happening to stop it all. Even the angels who came to announce the GOOD news were frightening in their power!

What I love about this account of the birth is that if I were reading it for the first time, I would get pulled into the story and wonder what was going to happen in the suspense of it all. Would the terrible dragon devour the innocent helpless babe??? But AS SOON AS the baby is born, John's account (figurative) has him wisked away to safety. No battle. No question. God is on His Throne and nothing is going to stop his plan of redemption.

Our family (and others--this is not my idea) want to be reminded of the bigger picture of how AMAZING this birth was in spite of the obstacles, and not get lost in the cozy firelight. Does that make more sense?

My New Testament Seminary professor is the one who introduced the idea to us. He is known around the world and was asked to contribute to the Quest study Bible, among countless other things. This is his blog post about it:
Tara - December 9th, 2011 at 2:56 PM
I kinda love this! It also shows that our life as Christians is not going to be all peaches and cream, but that we have a God and Savior who are bigger!
Brandon - December 11th, 2012 at 5:21 AM
Yes, there is a confusion about Rev.12. Some teach this is the birth of Jesus. Fortunately, He was not taken away to heaven immediately after his birth, but stayed to complete His work on the cross before ascending to heaven.
Leah - December 5th, 2011 at 11:05 PM
Growing up, Santa didn't fill my stocking, but I still believed just a little. Being raised Independent Baptist, where the outward appearance seemed way more important than my heart... I struggle with letting others opinions making me feel bad about how I celebrate Christmas, and how I train my children. I am grateful for Gods grace, and my inner brat. I now proudly have a tree with a great assortment of ornaments....including Santa. I also have an angel tree sitting next to a nativity scene.
MamaMimi - December 5th, 2011 at 11:20 PM
Love this!!! Thank you for sharing your heart on this echoes my thoughts.
Lori - December 5th, 2011 at 11:25 PM
First - I had the Forenza sweaters or something too - my memory is not as good as yours but it all came flooding back as I read your words. Ick.

Our family quit doing many things we just DID...when our 11 year old Haitian son came home. We have other adopted children, but our 11 year old opened our eyes to the ridiculousness of some of what we did for holidays. It started with the tooth fairy - he was very concerned about someone reaching under his pillow at night, then Halloween - he could not understand why people thought it was funny to dress as something scary, then Santa - his ? early in the Christmas advertising season - probably August - "is that guy in the big red suit really going to come in our house??? I thought Christmas was Jesus' birthday." Yes son - it certainly is - and that is what is CELEBRATED in our home after several years of undoing. We do many similar things as you mentioned. One thing we do not do that is not popular is - we have opted out of any name exchanges with extended family. It is silly - all of our family has EVERYTHING they need and most of what they want. We do not spend Christmas with any of them either so it just seems unnecessary to spend $ and visit the post office several times.
I am all for stopping the madness - let's quit rewarding our children for something that occurs naturally for everyone like losing a tooth, let's quit celebrating evil, and certainly let's say NO to satan's scheme of stealing our JOY at CHRISTmas. It is ALL about Jesus! Thank you for stepping up and saying SO!
Kodi Stephens - December 5th, 2011 at 11:27 PM
Very unique items from Burmese refugees now living in Austin - shopping local and helping an incredible group of women. The Sunbreak Collection is incredible!
Lori - December 5th, 2011 at 11:53 PM
I was also recalling the day that we first started thinking differently about how we were celebrating Christmas - we were at a Breakfast with Santa yearly event in which the children are invited to write a letter to Santa about what they would like for him to bring them on the 25th. Our daughter, 6 years old at the time, wrote:
"Dear Satan,"
Oops - out of the mouths of babes.
Lisa - December 6th, 2011 at 12:55 AM
I love, love, love this post - every single paragraph! Christmas around here (with a 5 year old and 1 year old) has also been progressively simplified over the last couple of's an ongoing process. I have silently followed your blog for awhile now and have never commented - yes, I'm one of THOSE people :) - but tonight I had to let you know how much I enjoy your writing. Thank you for using the gift God gave you to reach so many of us out here.

Oh, and on the advice of a friend I downloaded "Truth in Tinsel" as an Advent activity that we could work on each day, and my daughter loves it. Just a short Bible passage, discussion, and craft ornament - so simple and yet she asks to do it every day as soon as she gets home from school. These are the kinds of traditions I want to start, and want my children to look back on and fondly remember.
Danielle - December 6th, 2011 at 3:01 AM
My husband and I have given to Heifer International for the last 3 years instead of spending money on people I love who have more than they could ever need. His family is all for it, my family has never been on board. This year has been particularly hard because my family has decided there are a million reasons we're weird (adoption, serving the youth at church, having only 1 income) and now our passion for Heifer instead of junk has been lumped into the weird category. This year we also shopped for a local ministry that we volunteer with every Christmas and my mom laughed at us for spending the money that we did, even though that made it possible for moms and dad to provide one gift for their sweet kids.

I struggle with loving my family and not judging them for what in my mind is more Greed-mas than Christ-mas. I struggle with saying thank you when I feel sick at the amount of money spent on stuff I don't need when there are kids dying of starvation all over this planet. I have told my family for 3 years that there is nothing we NEED, and we just want to celebrate Jesus with them, and every year I have to muster up gratefulness for STUFF. I struggle every year, and every year I have to pray for help to know when to speak and when to shut my mouth. I'm already in need of praying for peace.

I think the need, want, wear, read, give is a beautiful idea. I love it!
Janmary, N Ireland - December 6th, 2011 at 3:02 AM
Doing the Truth in the Tinsel with my son each day - he is loving the crafts and Santa is definitely taking more of a back seat for us this year.
Hannah - December 6th, 2011 at 3:38 AM
Awesome - as a kid I grew up in a family that certainly did Santa but only after and very inferior to Jesus! We do Advent first - coz Advent comes first!!! We have a beautiful crib wooden scene that my parents put up at the start of the Advent season - just the empty stable with a few animals and the empty manger. During advent when we (i am one of 7 kids) were good we were able to put a whisp of straw (i think it was just torn up gold tinsel one year when we couldn't get any straw) when we did something good/kind/generous so that the baby Jesus would have a comfortable bed when He was born. We learnt without realising that our actions are what welcomes our Lord into the world and the more we are like Him, the better He can rest in us.

Also, we have an advent wreath with candles and at the end of mealtime prayers when after mum would say "come Lord Jesus" created a rousing chorus of "come quickly".

We never got chocolate advent calanders but rather shared one with a relevant crib scene on that we took turns to open and excitedly read out whatever the bible quote was. All my friends had chocolate ones but it never (well maybe only rarely) irritated me that we didn't get a chocolate one - it just had so much more meaning than what chocolate was behind the door.

On Christmas eve the last thing we do before bed is to make christingles ( and when we wake on Christmas morning, light them on the top floor of the house and process down with them to the newly completed crib (mum and dad always finished it off when we had gone to bed) and with the candles glowing sing away in a manger - a happy birthday to Jesus, the focus of the day. Then there is always Mass before coming home to do anything presenty. Our stockings always have an envelope sticking out the top with our names on - kind of so that we could tell whos was whose - the stockings are all the same! They are always the first thing we open and we always know that there is a £5 note inside and that the money is for us to spend on whatever charitable way we want to - there ensues a long and animated discussion over the top of each other and to each other (there are 7 of us!!) of who each of us is going to give the money to and how what we are doing with our bit of money is going to make the most difference ever (we are still a competitive bunch even with Jesus in our midst)

These are the things that mean Christmas to me and my family. Yes there are also a few more presents to be had - but they are things that are special to each of us or needed and useful - and mostly I couldn't tell you what I got several years ago because they weren't as important as the time I spend with my family and with our saviour.

Wishing you every blessing as you embark on sharing and really celebrating that same truth with your family.

Christmas = The Christ Mas = The festival of Christ
Scott - November 25th, 2012 at 9:00 PM
Thank you for sharing this. It's amazing what God can place in our hearts and minds when we are open to His leading and are conscious of the world we live in! I hope many people take the time to read this. I shared on FB, and hope everybody else does as well!
Chad - December 6th, 2011 at 5:52 AM
Wow. Great sermon. I'm sure nearly all of your readers are Christians, but nonetheless I still think Scripture is lacking in this post. A great rant, indeed, but let's not miss the bigger issue at stake.

I would suggest that the excess at Christmas that we Christians succumb to is an indicator of the values in our lives (biblical or not), not just how we celebrate the holiday. We largely need to adjust our entire worldview (according to Scripture), not just our Christmas practices, if we are going to start seeing real change.

Matthew 5:1-5 reads:
1 Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them, saying:

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.

Perhaps with more of a personal focus on the teachings of Christ (that is, teaching ourselves every day by abiding in the Word of God, in Christ) in the hearts and minds of parents, we will reap the rewards in our children who catch on to the love we have for Him. Then our entire calendar year can be transformed with Jesus Christ at the center.
Tray - December 7th, 2011 at 12:05 PM
Hi Jack!
Alice Klitz - December 6th, 2011 at 6:37 AM
This is my first time reading your blog actually, stumbled upon it, but for me things have changed this year a bit. I became a Consultant for Blessings Unlimited and their products have the true meaning this time of year at Christmas, and year round. Our gift giving has grown very small, and I am shopping from my catalog this year. I want people to get a gift with meaning, and reminding. My husband family takes a donation from each family and each family take turns each year giving it to an organization, family, whatever need that family picks. At heard at Swiss Colony they give a gingerbread house to a child with a purchase? Thanks for sharing and helping us all keep Christ in Christmas in our own way!
Amanda Hardin - December 6th, 2011 at 6:42 AM
You have actually made me think this morning, really think about our Christmas celebrations......thank you!!!! Question though, what do you do about your kids receiving gifts from Grandparents? Ours recieve a LOT and I've never loved that (I'm grateful, but you know what I mean). Do you have to deal with that at all, and if so, what do you do?

Alexandra - December 15th, 2011 at 8:45 PM
I think that is a hard one. She suggests (as did another friend to me when we had our son) to ask grandparents for experiences rather than toys. Ask for things like swim lessons, music lessons, membership to the museum, zoo, etc., special trips that the children can do with them. Maybe you can convince the grandparents that the gift of their time and these special activities are going to be what the children are going to remember for years to come (not some toy.)
Jerry Shannon - December 6th, 2011 at 6:59 AM
Wonderful Post! I love how you are rethinking Christmas and refocusing your attention away from consumerism to Jesus. Our family has been on a similar journey over the past few years and feel so free to focus on Jesus' coming rather than all of the other trappings. Thank you for sharing...may it be a word of freedom for many to more fully focus this year on The King.
Ursina W - December 6th, 2011 at 7:10 AM
I am European, so we have St Nicks day on Dec 6th. Today as a matter of fact. So they get a bag of peanuts, clementines, and some chocolate. Christmas is for Christ. They also don't get a lot of stuff. We tell family what they need and specifically tell them that is what we WANT. Books and often there is a big ticket item (car seats, bikes etc) that we collect money for and give it as a group gift. Plus, no stocking stuffers. That is generally cheap crap produced with slave labor. My husband got used to not having them, and I never started the kids on them. Less expensive, more joyful b/c the toy will still be there during the year (and thus we can remind them who got it for them and what a blessing this is) and we don't feel bad about family spending money they shouldn't. - Since there are barely any toys left at our house (except for some dress up stuff, and blocks of various kinds) we also streamlined the clean up process for everybody. Which is important with 5kids that are 4 and under!
Sena - December 6th, 2011 at 7:19 AM
This. Is. Amazing. Thank you SO much for writing it. I'm thrilled that my friend shared it with me. I wrote something similar (but much less good or thorough) last year on my blog. I share a great book resource there.

Melissa - December 6th, 2011 at 7:24 AM
I love your post and I feel most strongly about no.1. I've been wondering lately how and why 'Santa' was celebrated 100 years ago, before our extreme materialism. I mean, they talk about him in the 'Little House' books...why did seemingly good Christians ever buy into this stuff? And the saddest thing I ever heard on tv was about a family who was robbed during the holidays...the theives had taken 1000 worth of presents they had purchased the whole year...and the saddest part to me was that this lower income family had spent 1000 on presents when they obviously couldn't afford them. I love all your other ideas too and will hope to incorporate some of them!
Dee - December 6th, 2011 at 7:30 AM
Great article! I can't wait to start traditions like these with my family. :)

And I must pass along my all-time favourite responsible vendor: Ten Thousand Villages: (United States) (Canada)

Please visit their website, and if you live near one of their stores, check them out in person!
Bria - December 6th, 2011 at 7:39 AM
You have me in tears. I'm a young missionary living overseas for a long time now, feeling very hopeless for my country of birth as I watch what's happening to America from afar. I feel like Elijah at this moment...when God showed him the remnant and assured him that there are still people after God's heart on this America. God bless you
Janice - December 6th, 2011 at 7:55 AM
thank you for all the great ideas, Jen and all the commenters! We have never done Santa either, but I have been woefully guilty of focusing on presents, even though we don't really have the money for it. We are starting Advent this year, using a jesse tree. Next year I plan on making this even more prominent and exciting. I also am not going to sign up for any Angel Trees or other gift giving helps to my family - we will be much happier finding ways to spend time together and thinking of things we can do or make for each other! Thank you for the encouragement! I'm not as alone as I suspected.
Tessy - December 6th, 2011 at 8:00 AM
I am here. So here. Just this year we have stopped the Santa charade and my daughter actually threw a toy at my head and was so angry when I told her he wasn't real. The twins who are 4, took it as is. It didn't bother them. I am only doing three gifts per kid this year - suggested by someone based on that the wisemen brought 3 gifts.

My favorite tradition of all though is our Christmas Eve Jesus birthday celebration. We make him a cake and sing him Happy Birthday. We talk about "gifts" we can give to Jesus. This year I am going to write them down and have each kids wrap them and put them under the tree.

Janice - December 6th, 2011 at 8:02 AM
oh, here is another great company to add to your list. Great Christian clothing and "paraphernalia" and every order sends a bible to a child.
Tiffany - December 6th, 2011 at 8:06 AM
LOVED this post. I'm planning to refer back to it for years to come. We've already been doing some of these things, but I'm always looking for more ideas! I would love to introduce you to another organization whose products help free the enslaved and suffering: WAR. It stands for Women at Risk, and they sell incredibly beautiful jewelry and things made by women who were rescued from human trafficking around the world. Check out their site. You will be glad you did!!
Mike Lenda - December 6th, 2011 at 8:34 AM
Hi Jen -

Would love for you and your friends to consider buying cement for Christmas! Sounds crazy, but in Africa, it is among the main components of our water projects. It's a gift that won't collect dust and you won't have to return. It's a gift that can make a life changing impact in the coming year.

You can learn more at

Thank you for growing the visibility of gifts with a purpose.

Mike Lenda

Jamie Whittington - December 6th, 2011 at 8:39 AM
Nothing more to say, absolutely wonderful, I wish I could crawl into your head and have all those deep thoughts. Thank you for sharing,
Jen Ardill - December 6th, 2011 at 9:23 AM
It's so nice to hear that I'm not alone in this! Do we really need more stuff to celebrate the coming of Jesus? And thanks for the great links to information on fair trade - I've found it disappointingly difficult to find good sources.

Also, check out (the new little business I just started that seeks to create dignified, sustainable jobs for men and women in Northern India).

Hope you are doing well! I'm looking forward to reading your latest book! : )
Caren - December 6th, 2011 at 9:23 AM
Another local direct trade group is Hill Country Hill Tribers, a group of Burmese refugees creating beautiful products and new lives here in Austin.
Thanks for helping take back the true meaning of Christmas!
Cari - December 6th, 2011 at 9:34 AM
Wow. I can't explain how much I am in appreciation of this post. Praise GOD! This completely articulates (WAAAAY better) my every thought I've had and been trying to explain to people about my hesitancy with Santa. My kids are 3 and 1 and I KNOW that this is the best time to make that decision and I'm sold. I know this is right for our family. Thank you so very very much for stepping out and posting this. I will definitely be reading your blog!
Jan - December 6th, 2011 at 9:36 AM
Wow! I have a two year old and five month old so we haven't established our family traditions for Christmas just yet. I am so thankful for this post. It's really making me think. I love how you let your children donate $100 to those in need on Christmas Day. What a fabulous idea! Thanks for the link to the advent calendar as well. I'm going to forward this on to my husband....lots of wonderful discussion to come!
Tamra - December 6th, 2011 at 9:41 AM
Amen!. We've been scaling down for a few years now, and the beauty of it discover that YOU DON'T EVEN MISS IT!! On a side note - our tv broke a few years ago and we just never replaced it. We have Netflix and that is enough for us. We have discovered we LOVE not having a tv, hardly miss it(confess I miss FoodNetwork and a FEW other shows, but not enough to bring it back). You may just decide to leave the tv off after this month. It is so much more calm and less chaotic in our home.
erin - December 6th, 2011 at 9:42 AM
beautifully written. we celebrate st nicholas day (today!) and explain about the man whose story inspired santa claus.
i enjoy your "wear, need, and read" wishlists. we only give our children three gifts each (because Jesus was given three). Christmas is about CHRIST in my house.
snowman decor is so much more fun than santa anyway :)
Misti - December 6th, 2011 at 9:45 AM
I felt lots of emotions in this post...sadness, confusion to some decisions, ah-ha moments and ha-ha moments. And conviction. We "do santa" in a limited way. Our kids get a few gifts on Christmas morning (similar to yours). When I first realized Christmas was on a Sunday this year, I was excited - to be with other believers praising our Lord and Savior on the day we celebrate His birth...nothing makes for a better Christmas morning!! But, then, when I started shopping with my mom and picking stuff out for the kids (which we will actually be at my parents on Christmas morning)....I started thinking, "Maybe we won't go to church. I don't want to rush opening presents." Not. Cool. Present before Jesus? No, thank you.
One Christmas tradition....we have a birthday party for Jesus on Christmas day. We make cookies and do the "What Does God Want for Christmas" nativity and gifts (got it at LifeWay).
My kids "notice" santa things, but I am happy to say that what they are talking about most right now, is that Jesus' birthday is coming up!
lauren - December 6th, 2011 at 9:47 AM
wow, this post really spoke to my wants and desires as a mother to three very small children. My oldest is 2 and I already feel myself wanting to buy her so much. It's so easy to get caught up in everything SANTA, GIFTS and ME ME ME. I still have a chance to get it right but I'm scared. I worry too much about what others would think, about what their friends will say when the get older. I don't know how to handle traditions that are established with extended family and grandparents. How do you deal with the grandparents who want to spoil their grandkids for Christmas? I know what I WANT to do but feel stuck doing what everyone else wants to do. I don't feel brave enough to do this.
Jen Hatmaker - December 6th, 2011 at 10:20 AM
I get it, Lauran! Remember, we've been simplifying Christmas for five years! We set us a system with grandparents so that they get our kids one gift each. It's simple and everyone is cool. And then at some point, you get to say, "I'm the mom. This is my family. And this is how we're going to do it." You might be surprised how supportive your friends and family will be! Be brave, young Mama. Your kids are little. They'll follow however you lead them in these years.
Autumn - December 6th, 2011 at 10:23 AM
love ya Jen Hatmaker but for some reason-wasn't crazy about this post. I guess I think there are so many bigger issues out there on whether on not to have Santa part of your christmas or not. (which may not be your biggest point but that's what people seem to be responding to the most) To simplify is awesome-to give to others is awesome! to keep Jesus as the focus--yes! awesome. whether you put up a christmas tree--who cares? It's a long tradition that was actually started in a church to represent the garden of Eden. The original St. Nicholas was an extremely devoted Christian who gave to the poor. The retail industry has commercialized every single holiday to make the most money. It's all a balancing act and guess what? I don't think Jesus cares if we put up a tree or not or put a Santa stocking up on the chimney. I think He cares what is in our hearts and if we are trying our best to spread what Christmas is really about...and anyone who steps foot in my home will quickly realize WHO I worship and WHO I thank for the gifts I have from above.
Jennifer - December 6th, 2011 at 10:40 AM
Read about 2/3 down then scrolled over the rest because I just couldn't breathe. Thank you for being willing to say hard things...even if I can't stand to read to the end....
Jennifer - December 6th, 2011 at 10:46 AM
love this! and although you have removed Santa from your house, we have 1 Santa. A Kneeling Santa. Do you know of this? it is Santa kneeling in prayer at the foot of baby Jesus's manger. so sweet and it really drives home the reason for the season.
KATIE - December 7th, 2011 at 9:49 PM
Respectfully, a magical fictitious character is inappropriate to include with a story from scripture, kneeling or not.
George - December 8th, 2011 at 10:39 AM
Respectfully... You concerned about magical fictitious characters? Ohhh the irony.      Think about it. Religion has actually convinced people that there's an invisible man -- living in the sky -- who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever 'til the end of time!
     But He loves you.
     He loves you, and He needs money!
Roseann - December 12th, 2011 at 3:53 AM
Larry - December 12th, 2011 at 4:38 PM
Well, there goes the entire premise of Veggie Tales.
Paige Betterton - December 6th, 2011 at 10:59 AM
We are simplfying as well. Ours also corresponds with coming home with our new 3 year old from China. Although we have never given over 3 gifts to our oldest child (Jesus recieved 3 gifts from the Magi why should we recieve more?) it has definately taken the place of Jesus. So we're shifting the focus. Instead of birthday presents at our birthday party we sent home a note explaining we were accepting gift cards to Walmart and we bought 2 bikes and 3 helmets for our local foster care organization for Christmas lists. We, for the first time, are doing "The Truth in the Tinsel" with our oldest. So although we haven't completely gotten rid of Santa Claus....I feel us moving in that direction. Especially since our 7 year old is almost done believing. So thankful for your encouragment. And confirmation for something I've been praying about for a long time!!!!!!!
Jennifer - December 6th, 2011 at 11:18 AM
I'm so encouraged to know there are others who don't do Santa. My kids are 4 and 5 and Santa has never been to our house. My kids know he is a character just like Mickey Mouse and that Jesus is what Christmas is about. My husband and I don't go over board with presents..we get them their winter jammies and we do one bigger gift...of course they get enough from their grandparents. The one thing we do together every year though is go to World Vision..either online or through a catalog..... We talk about others who don't have what we do..even simple things like shoes or running water.. and then we pick a gift to bless a family...I think we did chickens last year. I absolutely want our kids to know that it's not about what we can get...besides Jesus' great gift.....but what we can give to others. To learn from Jesus' great example, to lay our lives down for others
Miranda - December 6th, 2011 at 11:20 AM

Another product that benefits previously enslaved prostitute women in India. I know not necessarily something we created or caused, but still a worth thing to fight. This company provides a savings account, fair wages, and care for these women.
Susie - December 6th, 2011 at 11:21 AM
What a great message. I find it a bit sad that we feel we have to defend our choices to teach our kids truth vs tradition and what the world says is right.
I've often wondered why we lie to our kids about Santa, and we work really hard to maintain this lie. And the same time we're supposed to be teaching them to be honest. Ah this messed up world!
Every year I get more fed up with the commercialization of Christmas. It makes me ill. When my son was 8 (he's 19 now) I asked what he wanted for Christmas. He said "I don't want anything. You guys give me everything I need, plus most of what I want." I could not accept a Christmas morning without presents so I persisted. "But there has to be something you want. Maybe if you look through some of these catalogs...?" He said, "Mom, I really don't see the point of trying to find something that I want, something I don't even know exists yet, just so you can buy me something for Christmas. It just seems like a waste of money to me."
I still fight with this every year because Christmas morning was a HUGE deal to my mom. She loved to shop and to give presents. For her, it was how she showed love. Not that she was buying our love, but she grew up in a very un-affectionate home, so she was not comfortable touching or being touched - imagine having 2 kids and feeling ashamed to hug them - Christmas morning was an entire year's worth of held-back affection.
Every year gets a little more low-key, every year we do more for others, do more for our church, do more for each other. I like our trend.
I would like to add though from a friend that works at a nursing home. A resident said to her the other day "I don't get it. I like when the people come around at Thanksgiving and at Christmas. I enjoy their visits. But don't they know we live here all year round?"
People need our love, Christ's Love, every day - not just during the holidays.

Kelly - December 6th, 2011 at 12:25 PM
I agree with everything you said, and love your comments about the nursing home. I volunteer at a nursing home and can attest that most of the residents are very lonely 365 days a year. It is kind of like the hoardes of people who volunteer to serve a Thanksgiving meal at the homeless shelter. They mean well, but someone who works at a homeless shelter told me that "We have way more volunteers than we need on Thanksgiving. People can only eat so much at one sitting; what we need are volunteers who are willing to help feed people on a regular basis--these folks need to eat every day."
Sonya - December 6th, 2011 at 11:29 AM
Pamba Toto


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Repair the World Now clothing

Made by Survivors

Stop Traffick Fashion

Freeset bags,

Divine Chocolate

Light Give Heat

Sseko designs

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Global Goods Partners

Wonderfully made jewelry

Amani ya juu

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OR you can buy some christmas gifts for those who really need them this year. Our family does this every year together as our gift for Jesus. We let the kids pick out what we should buy.

Africa New Life
Summer Craig - December 6th, 2011 at 11:31 AM
Great commentary and ideas. Thanks for sharing and being brave.
Roger - December 6th, 2011 at 11:34 AM
A friend on Facebook had a link to this post which I thoroughly enjoyed reading! Hope you don't mind if I put up a link on our Facebook Event: Advent Conspiracy: This fits so well with the conversations we are stirring up there. "Pulling out of the system..." Very well said!
Traci - December 6th, 2011 at 11:40 AM
Wow! This totally makes you pause and re-evaluate everything. My husband and I have been discussing the same thing. I have many many many Santa decorations around my house. I started collecting them when I was in high school based on the real story of Saint Nicholas. He has always been a symbol of selflessness, kindness and generosity that was based on his faith. The pretend Santa has symbolized the strength of belief, faith, giving and imagination that lends to a foundation to believe in something bigger than ourselves. That being said, it is why I have collected them, yet I have failed miserably in making my children understand the symbol of the man vs. the evolving symbol of "I WANT" or worse the entitled feeling that the next generation has that "I NEED" that iPAD or "I DESERVE THIS BECAUSE I AM ME"! Although I may not be removing my Santas from my home this year. I vow to change my children's perspectives of Christmas back to the true REASON FOR THE SEASON and understand my reasoning for collecting Santa...the faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
Jenny Meigs - December 6th, 2011 at 12:09 PM
Wrote a long response and it wouldn't post it for some reason, grrrr :) Anyway, you rock and this post is awesome!
Laura - December 6th, 2011 at 12:18 PM
Thank you, thank you! You have put words to my thoughts and musings.
Tammie - December 6th, 2011 at 12:27 PM
I am known to make Christmas a little different every year and this year my husband and I gave the choice to our 4 children to receive "One Excellent Gift" or "Many good gifts"...we have been talking a lot this year to them about having to say no to good things in order to experience the great things. The kids thought for a moment then all agreed that they wanted something "great". I plan to place a special gift tag on each of their gifts with scripture that references God as the giver of all good gifts. As I considered the idea of one gift the well known verse in John 3:16 confirmed my intentions. For God so loved the World that he gave his ONLY gift, the best He could give. That gift of Jesus is all we need. I am looking forward to the conversations and memories that we will have this Christmas as we talk about ONE GIFT- the best and most excellent gift we could ask for or imagine.
Amy E. - December 6th, 2011 at 12:33 PM
Lora Lynn - December 6th, 2011 at 12:37 PM
We've been trying to simplify things for several years. Our kids are still pretty young (all under 8) so we have the freedom to play around with "traditions" a bit more. Here's what we've done that is working and we've repeated at least once:

- Jesse Tree - we make this the focus, this re-telling of our need for Christ from the beginning of the world (Ann Voskamp's free jesse tree devotional is beautiful)

- We don't buy a tree. If we want a tree, we cut it down from our own yard (or somebody else's). I've had some absolutely beautiful naked hardwoods in my living room. Something about that bare wood points to Christ and the cross in His future. This year, we don't have one because we will be traveling, but we've hung a branch over our dining table for our Jesse Tree ornaments and I've sprinkled sparkly shiny things around the house. We're not total scrooges. We just want to keep things uncluttered so we can focus on Jesus.

-The Biggie: We don't give gifts in our immediate family. We don't give our kids anything. They don't give gifts to each other. We've discussed it, and this birthday celebration belongs to Jesus. So we focus on him. BUT, we also make birthdays a BIG DEAL, because it's a way to celebrate our many kids as Individuals. We, as parents, are responsible for really making sure those birthdays don't slip by. We felt like giving them gifts was just too confusing. They really do get it. We've done it 2 or 3 years now and they understand. Instead of gifts to each other, we choose a charity or cause we would like to help and we give our gift to Jesus by helping "the least of these." We take what we would have spent on gifts and we give it to Jesus. This year, because we recently adopted from Uganda, the charity we chose is in our daughter's birth country. It's something that's important to all of us and Means Something.

Our kids do get gifts from grandparents and that's fine. They know that some folks want to show their love through gifts this time of year. They certainly don't mind! But they do seem to understand that it's not wrong or right to get or give gifts at Christmas. But in our tiny little corner of the world, we've made a choice that's different.

Okay, I was going to blog all of this later this week. I guess I've got a rough draft... or a novel!
Dawn Wright - December 6th, 2011 at 12:39 PM
THIS IS ONE OF THE BEST CHRISTMAS POSTS EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We have never done Santa- we do the same - tell our kiddos about St. Nicholas, as well as the Legend of books- they are ALL GREAT! Legend of the Candy Cane, Legend of St. Nicholas, the Legend of the Stocking, etc. They kids love it!!!

WE DO NOT OPEN presents on Christmas. One time with 5 of our now 8 kiddos we watched them just like you did rip open and not even care......WHAT?? Totally disturbing!!!!!!!!!!! So we came up with a plan! We do have gifts throughout the Christmas season- ones that are FAMILY BUILDERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So things like board games, card games, books, family movies, microscopes- or other things we want for homeschooling. The kids love it. They take turn hunting down and finding gifts throughout the house- doesn't matter who opens it because it belongs to the whole family! We spend our Christmas enjoying these things together! And we don't go nuts because I buy everything 2 months earlier! NO TEMPTATION THEN!!!!

We too do advent devotionals and do the JESSE TREE from a holy experience!!!! YEAH!!!

AND we do - What Jesus Really Wants For Christmas!

And we are stealing some other GREAT ideas from others on focusing on Christ!

AMEN!!!! I don't care anymore - we are already CRAZY- so what's a little extra? So what if people think we nuts for not doing Santa? DON'T CARE I AM OVER IT!!!

*****other tidbits to consider-
We have children from Ethiopia- what are they getting for Christmas??? THAT IS REALITY!
We have children from the foster care system- what did most of them get before coming to us for Christmas- yeah another sobering thought!!!!!!!

Why do we lie to our kids about things they can't see- like tooth fairy, Christmas, Easter bunny, etc. and then tell them that God who you can't see is real? Then later tell them- ha ha ha sorry just kidding it was all a joke? What about God????

Merritt | LiveSimplyLove - December 6th, 2011 at 1:05 PM
We don't have kids (yet) but most of our friends do and I've been mulling over the "Santa" question for the last several days. How in the world do you perpetuate the lie to your children and still honor Jesus? Well, after this post, I feel like I have an answer - you just don't. Thanks so much for your deep, intentional, courageous words. I'm grateful to have read them and want to sincerely figure out how we can choose to do differently this yet.
christian - December 6th, 2011 at 1:21 PM
We have been given the most valuable, precious gift of all Jesus. Let's celebrate him.... He is the one who was born as a man savior who was a example for us to live by and died on the cross so we could have him in our sprit. He saved us. May we enjoy the Lord everyday and express him in our daily living. Amen...
erin mc - December 6th, 2011 at 1:33 PM
one issues we've run into is with the foster care system.. Well meaning churches pour toys into it at christmas and our 2 foster girls got literally a van fun of toys combined. Like other foster families we've had a hard time figuring out what we were going to do for our other kids... and sort of ended up just wrapping a couple and packaging some up for shoeboxes, and dispersing the other toys quietly in their rooms etc etc,.. It was pretty hard... For one thing, if/when foster children return to their homes they can develop this huge sense of expectations for christmas (and in general)... sure doesn't seem to be what the kids need.... Not that I'm ungrateful that churches picked up a bit of interest, but like the great 'nursing home' comment earlier, the kids are here all year.. and toys aren't what they need.. They need love, homes, security, mentoring etc etc.
Kathy - December 6th, 2011 at 1:38 PM
Awesome. You vocalize- so brilliantly- what I am feeling conviction about. This year, we are serving dinner to leaders of an inner-city church on Christmas Day. By design. We have moved our gift exchange to January- Three Kings Day.
Thank you for even more ideas to be "weird" and "radical" Christ-lovers....

Aprilbratt - December 6th, 2011 at 1:42 PM
Jen~ I too got rid of "santa" in our home! I decided that our decorations would be more "wintery"!! This year we told our 12 and 9 year olds the truth about santa...the little one isn't too happy but he will get over it!

I didn't know about the app for slave labor but I will be getting it!!

Thank you for sharing and taking a stand for Jesus!!!
Laura Ingalls Gunn - December 6th, 2011 at 1:52 PM
Every Sunday I write a blog post about something that people perhaps don't agree with. December's posts of course center on Christmas.
Early on our family decided to decorate with natural elements and a few Nativity scenes. We're big on handmade or homemade gifts from the heart.
But the biggest difference for our kids is that December 24th is ALL about Jesus. We bake him a cake, sing praise music, attend church and give all glory to Him.
Then on the 25th my children get ONE gift from Santa and two gifts from us. Three presents that's it. If it was good enough for Jesus, get the idea.
Jennifer McReynolds - December 6th, 2011 at 2:00 PM
WOW! I love all of this. I am attempting to regain what has been lost this year at our house. We have a manger scene in lieu of a tree and I'm trying to convince my husband to nix Santa. Thanks for the encouragement.
Anita Kay Head - December 6th, 2011 at 2:06 PM
Oh, thank you for this encouraging post! We have chosen not to "do" Santa with our little ones, and even today I have been feeling tense over how comparably little I've spent on them for Christmas. But as my four-year-old preaches to me, "Christmas is all about Jesus." My heart is full after reading this post--thank you, and Merry Christmas!
Conni - December 6th, 2011 at 2:24 PM
What an excellent post! We stopped doing "Santa" in 1996, when I became a Christian. Our initial reasoning, was "lying is lying." Over time I studied and learned more and more about the traditions we hold to as a society, and where they came from. I decorate for winter, with a small "tree," snowmen, and snow-related/winter-related decorations - all decorations are seasonal with the exception of a beautiful nativity that my mother-in-law made for us. (She does ceramics) I am a Christian, with very strong beliefs, but they don't include Christmas as a religious holiday...for both historical and scriptural reasons. I have taught our children about the historical "Saint Nicolaus" and the origins of the stories, but only so they would understand the history behind the myths. (BTW Why is St. Nick's day TODAY, but society does "Santa Clause" on "Christmas"?)

Great read.
beth lehman - December 6th, 2011 at 2:29 PM
Jen - thank you, thank you - and thanks to Marla for passing the link on!! I will be sending this post on and pinning it too. profound words and ideas for this season. it reminds me of ann voskamp's writing the other day about renaming christmas the best giveaway ever.
Shelley - December 6th, 2011 at 2:31 PM
You've shared a lot of really great ways to make Christmas more about Christ! I will definitely be starting some new Christmas traditions after reading this blog post.
April Hollingsworth - December 6th, 2011 at 2:35 PM
Thanks for that post. I get grief from lots of family members on why we don't do Santa. "It's just pretend, and it's fun for them." Don't they get enough pretend when they are playing dolls or watching Disney? Besides, it's only pretend to the parents. The kids think it's real...there's a big difference. My 4 year old knows that the Chick-Fil-A Cow is a person inside a costume. I tell her the Santa at the Mall is a person in a costume. But on another note, Christmas is all messed up probably because it didn't originate with Christianity. We stole it from the pagans and used their traditions and tried to make them about Jesus. Gift giving included. How well is that working for us?
Susana - December 6th, 2011 at 5:13 PM
April, you and I could be friends. The end.
Angel Angell - December 6th, 2011 at 2:36 PM
Beautiful! Thank you for your biblical perspective and for not mincing words. I am inspired, girl!
-Mommy of three
vintage truth/ reframed
Allison - December 6th, 2011 at 2:37 PM
I have been thinking on similar things this Christmas season. Thank you for writing and sharing from your family.

Women At Risk (WAR) International is an organization dear to my heart. They create circles of protection around women who have been rescues from trafficking or are at risk for being trafficked. At their safehouses women learn how to make jewelry and other fine gifts which are brought back to the US and sold online or in WAR Chest parties you can host in your home. The product is BEAUTIFUL and all of the proceeds go directly back to the women. They are given the dignity of earning money and supporting their families. Best of all, the women learn about the God who loves them and redeems them.

I love wearing WAR jewelry!
Kelly - December 6th, 2011 at 3:08 PM
And I thought our family was all alone in not "doing Santa Claus." I feel like a freak each year trying to explain to others who question why we have made the choice to focus on honoring Jesus on his birthday. I have so-called friends tell me that they don't want my children around theirs because mine don't believe in Santa and might spoil the "fun and magic." Your post gives me boldness and the affirmation of knowing I'm not crazy. (Well, I am crazy, but for different reasons;)

Last year, we added up the cost to buy Christmas cards, make copies of our family newsletter, and pay for postage--it came to $150. So, in lieu of cards, we donated the money to "Water is Basic," a charity that drills water wells in Sudan. We sent friends/family an e-mail with a picture of our family, a picture of some VERY joyful Sudanese children splashing in clean water from a well that had been drilled, and a short explanation of what we were doing and why. We closed with this quote:

"We tell the story of Christmas with our lives. It can be about the prophets or the profits. It can be about a newborn King or a gift-wrapped box and a thing. It can be about time spent with our families and clean water for the least of these, or about shopping lines, payments, and fines. It can start at a manger and end with redemption, or start at the mall and end with convention. It's not that there's something wrong with the shopping mall--it's that the better story is about loving all."--Advent Conspiracy
Summer - December 6th, 2011 at 3:17 PM
I love your thoughts! Thanks for sharing and thanks for the websites. I now have a lot of ideas running around my brain about possible new traditions to implement in my family.

You said that you and your husband don't exchange gifts. Why is that? My husband and I didn't exchange gifts, mainly for economic reasons. Plus, we really don't want or need any more stuff. However, my mother scolded me about a nice way, of course. :) She said it's important for our kids to see us honoring each other...especially their dad honoring their mom. So, now we make a big deal out of the daddy to mommy and mommy to daddy gifts. They're never extravagant, but it requires some extra effort. Our favorite gifts to each other are personalized coupon books (with mushy, gushy stuff put in there to embarrass the kids...LOL!). Or, another favorite gift is tickets to an event for date night. I've also made personalized calendars for him with pictures of his favorite people (me and the kids, of course).

My mom is right. I want my kids knowing that the most important relationship in the family (outside of our relationship with Christ) is the mommy/daddy relationship because that's what stabilizes the family. Plus, I want my son to see his dad honoring his mom...because I want to see him honoring his own wife when the time comes. We're their main role models for their own future marriages.

Thanks, again! I love this post. I'm off to download the free2work app!
Dorean - December 6th, 2011 at 3:22 PM
When our first child was born we went through the whole soul searching thing of figuring out how to handle Santa. I realized that in order to allow her the "fun" of it all, we'd have to make a conscious decision to lie to her. And continue to lie to her, until in just a few short years I'd have to tell her "You know Santa that you see everywhere? He's not real. Mommy lied. And you know Jesus, Who you can't see? He's real. Trust me." Um, yeah.... Can't see that going so well!

We never made a big deal out of talking about Santa, or about St. Nicholas, either. When they reached the point they had questions (I think about age 3 or 4) we just told them Santa was a game some families liked to play. We told them the things that go along with Santa (flying reindeer, going up and down chimneys, etc.) and said, "Isn't that a fun thing to imagine?" Later, when they were in grade school we got into who St. Nicholas was and how the whole thing got started. (We handled the tooth fairy and Easter bunny the same way.)

I will admit, watching Christmas movies caused me a lot of strife, worrying if we were raising children who would be jaded and not know how to have fun and end up needing lots of therapy some day! I'm relieved to report our children are in their 20's now, and they are happy, well adjusted adults, serving Jesus as missionaries. They are smart, creative, and have awesome imaginations, in spite of what Christmas movies would have you believe.

I guess I say all of this to say, if you have worries like I did, or if you face conflict with family members, or whatever, if my family is in any way "normal", your kids will be fine. They really don't need to believe in a lie from their parents to become awesome individuals who love Jesus and life. They just need to believe in Jesus. I applaud you all!
Kelly - December 6th, 2011 at 3:42 PM
Thank you Jen for such a wonderful post. We've been working on simplifying this year, and I think you do a great job of tanking it to the next level. I really appreciate how you allow God to speak truth through your life.
sheila - December 6th, 2011 at 3:55 PM
wow! what a thing to live up to. to me all the christmas celebration is in hope of the magic the wonder the hope of the greatist gift that came and each Christmas as i have candy canes and kneeling santas and christmas trees and gifts i look forward to giving my family a foretaste of the mystery and wonder no eye has seen or ear has heard. the taste of joy you feel inside anticipating something specail was wrapped in a gift just for you. to me is similar to the joy the hope set before us. sometimes playng santa is a shadow of something better. just saying...
Gayle Deas - December 6th, 2011 at 4:26 PM
You are not as radical as I am. I have been studying the Hebraic roots of my faith for a while now and my family no longer celebrates Christmas at all. You said “give Christmas back to Jesus”, when in truth, Jesus (Yeshua) was Jewish and did not and would not celebrate His birthday, even if it was on December 25th, which is incorrect. We have been lied to, not just about a little fat man in a red suit and magical reindeer, but about every other aspect of the pagan holiday. Yes, I said pagan. Every single tradition involved in Christmas has its origin in pagan practices. Even the truth of the miracle birth written about in the Gospels has been twisted. Here is one very informative article , but there is a plethora of informative and factual teachings available to anyone who really wants to gain wisdom. But then, you face a crisis as I did several years ago; what do I with the knowledge? A decision must be made. I am not a middle-of-the-road type, and I certainly don’t want to be held accountable for continuing in what I know is sin (once I was no longer ignorant). I am certain most everyone who reads this will be angry and have nothing but disdain for what I have written here. It’s okay. I’m fine with it—you don’t know me and I don’t know you. However, if you think wearing a Walmart sweatshirt was hard in 6th grade, just try taking this stance as a Bible-believing follower of Yeshua/Jesus. Although I never say unless asked, many of my church family and friends know we do not celebrate Christmas. It has not made me very popular—but then again—that’s not my objective. I am not trying to please man, but only my G-d.
Jean - December 6th, 2011 at 5:02 PM
Thoughtful post. Also, if Christmas is to celebrate Jesus' birth, why do so many Christians stay home from church when it falls on a Sunday and why are so many churches closed?!
Jill - December 6th, 2011 at 5:11 PM
Jen, I am new to your writings, but a fan ;)

Long ago - when I had just a couple kiddos we established a 3 gift rule (gold, frankensence and myrh) to keep the spending down and the focus on. It has been so nice as the kids grow (we now have 5) they know what to expect and they respect the choice and stand we have made.
Kim - December 6th, 2011 at 6:11 PM
Reading your post took my breath away. Our family has also risked the negative feedback and wide-eyed looks over the decision to give Christ back ALL of Christmas. We were even accused of robbing our children of a healthy childhood memory. I beg to differ...Christ is the best Gift our children will ever receive and He is due the honor. We will not apologize or feel the need to explain ourselves...because His opinion of us is far more important than what people think. But hopefully in this proccess our example will cause a ripple effect among our communities and cause the scales to fall off people eyes. This will be our first year without Santa and already our home is filled with more JOY of the season. We thought we would go through a grieving process by giving up 'Santa'...but that has not been the case at all. It's been incredibly easy...not to mention the burden that has been lifted.
btw, this was my first visit to your blog and I will certainly be back.
Blessings from Arizona.
Delaine - December 6th, 2011 at 6:22 PM
I am sitting here with my thre kids and i cannot stop tearing up. This is everything that I have not had the eloquence to say, nor the backbone to follow through with.
In a nutshell, my husband and I decided we along with our 2 (a the time) children would not "do Christmas" as we always have, that we were called and challenged to treat it as a Holy Holiday. Needless to say, we got NO support from our family. They didn't even give to the ministry we recommended in leiu of giving gifts. we got a Wii that we NEVER play with :(
My heart is broken right now. The countless people, mainly children, that have slaved over the merchandise... The way we've spoiled our witness by ignoring our Savior... The double-minded way I've taught my children to be honest, love God, and write to Santa. And worst of all, I've taught them to love being a part of this world more than loving being close to God.
As far as support from family, forget about it. Here's when "forsaking mother and father to follow" Christ comes into play.
Travece Duenas - December 6th, 2011 at 8:39 PM
TY -all the way from Guam! ;) I am 28 years old with 3 children and I wish I read this months ago. While this has been on my heart in not wanting to be "traditional" in so many aspects, I have yet to really know what it is I want to build as a tradition for our family. I love the idea of ONE want, need, read, wear, and give item! God Bless to you
Natalie - December 6th, 2011 at 8:57 PM
Love this post! This is right on target with things that I have been feeling and dealing with lately. We don't do Santa and my 3 year old just informed me yesterday that she told a preschool classmate that Santa is not coming :) It looks like I will need to talk with her teacher and possibly the other girl's mom- oops! Reading this reminds me of why we have chosen to raise our kids the way we do and that we are not alone! Thank you- this is so refreshing!!!

We decided a few years ago that since it is Jesus' birthday we should ask Him what He wants. We felt lead to give the money we had set aside for Christmas gifts to a ministry that is literally His hands and feet to children in Africa. He said that when we do something for the smallest, most insignificant in the world's estimation we are doing it for Him! So a few months before Christmas we wrote a letter to all of our friends and family explaining what we were doing and asking that they do the same- instead of buying us gifts, send what they would have spent on gifts to our ministry or another of their choosing. I was so unsure of what the response would be, but who cares right? I was obeying what I felt Jesus leading me to do. It went over much better than I had anticipated and we felt amazing! I was not stressed with the rush of the holiday but could instead spend more time with family and doing things that were more meaningful. This year we are giving our kids a few carefully chosen gifts at Christmas and are involving the 3 year old in our giving to the ministry. She knows about the children who don't have so many of the things she enjoys and has compassion towards them. She understands that she will not be getting as many toys this year as she usually would so that they can receive things that they need and also learn about the love of Jesus. It is never easy to go against the grain, but so very worth it!

Thanks for this beautiful post- it is so encouraging to know we are not alone in our choosing to be intentional in how we live and celebrate such an amazing gift- our Precious Jesus! God bless you Jen!
Kirt - December 6th, 2011 at 8:58 PM
A very thoughtful and challenging word. I have never considered myself a materialistic person (certainly compated to others). Yet my experiences (e.g. I work part time for World Relief - another great organization to add to your list of those who work with vulnerable communities - or from my time oversees in the Army) have convicted me all the more of the gross self-indulgence of our culture (include our CHURCH culture). As a pastor and leader in the local faith community, I will plan to pass on this article. Thanks!
Karen Dawkins - December 6th, 2011 at 8:59 PM
Our kids have always gotten only three gifts and a book at Christmas. They do not feel deprived and we've never sent our finances out of whack over this aspect of the holiday season.

We also serve -- and have served -- together as a family each Christmas season. For the past 10 years we have bought Angel Tree gifts and helped deliver them. The past couple years our extended family has gotten in on it. Instead of swapping gifts with the extended relatives, we get together for a weekend, dedicating one day to serving at a shelter or food pantry. Eleven people serving together -- we have a blast! (It does take some advance planning to schedule a large group like this)

Jesus is the reason for the season. With just a bit of effort and some common sense, we can make sure He stays front and center.
Megan - December 6th, 2011 at 9:13 PM
This is awesome! Thank you for putting it into words that flow so fluently. We have three children, ages 7,4 and 2. And it occassionally is difficult as family members roll their eyes at our emphasis of Jesus instead of Santa at Christmas. Often times, they still try and teach of Santa despite our asking them not too. I love your gift philospophy as well as the envelopes you open each night. Did you purchase these pre-made or did you create your own? I'd love some pointers. One of the most enjoyable traditions that we have is getting up Christmas morning and making our pancake breakfast. We stack all the pancakes up, top them with a candle and sing Happy Birthday to Jesus. It is a simple gesture that captures the true meaning of the day. Thank you again for this post. I'm going to forward it to every person I know! Merry Christmas and God Bless!
Krystyna - December 6th, 2011 at 9:14 PM
This is awesome! I have slowly been moving in this direction for the past few years since my husband left us the children adn I have been trying to make sense of it all and focus more on Jesus. We had the no Santa talk from the time they were little, I didn't feel that it was right to lie to them and moreso it didn't feel honoring to God and His precious gift Jesus, so Kudos, I hope you have a blessed and relaxing Christ centered and filled holiday season!!!!
Melanie - December 6th, 2011 at 9:39 PM
Wow. (In a good way!)

That is a lot to digest. I agree--I find myself disgusted with the consumerism surrounding Christmas, and I'm starting there with our family--trying to focus on things besides the 'wants.'
Natasha - December 6th, 2011 at 9:44 PM
Thank you!
Susan - December 6th, 2011 at 9:48 PM
I can't tell you how encouraging this is to read your blog, then the volume of moms positively responding to this wonderful rethinking of Christmas. I'm a fairly young grandmother who raised 5 children, and am now watching them raise their babies. They were all raised in this same way of thinking ~ no Santa, a very simple Jesus-centered celebration. They will all tell you today they're glad they have that mindset, as they are now teaching their children the same thing. I can't wait to send them this link, for the extra ideas you had that I loved, like giving money to give away. I commend all of you who are going against this selfish grain and doing it right. You won't regret it!
Sarah - December 6th, 2011 at 10:22 PM
One thing I want to do with my kids every year is leave a plain, brown box under the tree; on Christmas day, we will each write what our "gift" to Jesus is for that upcoming year: More time spent volunteering, pledging to give more money to charities, trying to be nicer to siblings, etc. :) I LOVE the idea of it, because it teaches our kids to look at something other than receiving. I am SO against the Santa thing and spoiling our kids with presents. Let's give them more gifts on THEIR birthday, but on Jesus' bday let's focus on giving to others and sacrificing to help others!
Ellen - December 6th, 2011 at 10:30 PM
You said it so well! Thank you for putting it into words.
Janice Cole - December 6th, 2011 at 10:48 PM
Whe never did the Santa thing at our house, and our now grown kids turned out to be wonderful adult Christians. Instead of a Christmas tree, we had a "Chriatmas Table". We put a manger scene on our coffee table and surrounded it with angels. We also hung a star from the ceiling over the manger, and hung bella on the drapery rods. Gifts were placed under the table, or all over the living room when necessary. The kids always looked forward to setting up the table every year
sarah - December 6th, 2011 at 11:27 PM
wow. We try different things each year - but we've never done much shopping, or even let the kids think this is what we do for Christmas... by sneakily keeping them out of malls and stores at this time of year (and since we don't have t.v.) they don't really seem to think Christmas is supposed to be supercharged with fantasies of toys and doo-dads. The really fun stuff is driving around looking at lights, sometimes going caroling and last year we did some elf-ing (dropping off homemade cookies on someone's doorstep you know, but signing it from the Elf). Simple pleasures, excitements and family times as well as reflective time - aiming to keep their innocence and joy and keeping the junky, irrelevant stuff out of their lives. They are 10, 8, 5, 2 and 3 mos - for the record! :)
Amy Hanson - December 6th, 2011 at 11:30 PM
1. Thank you for reminding me of Outback Red...sigh...loved that stuff!!!
2. This is fantastic! Thank you for putting so much good stuff down here.
3. Now what will I do with Santa...praying about that one. Love the great food for thought.

Blessings on your Christmas season!!
Alexandra - December 7th, 2011 at 7:18 PM
1. Yes. Also in 6th grade in 1985
2. Yes. Have been thinking about it for two days since I first read it. (Especially my purchasing decisions and the implications I don't think about on the other side of the world).
3. Yes. Have never considered being a Santa free home, but will certainly make sure he is not the star of the show.

Way to sum up my comments Amy.
Mary Ann Day - December 6th, 2011 at 11:40 PM
woman who have escaped sex trafficking in Nepal make this beautiful jewelry:
wonderful post. thanks.
Bonnie Schilling - December 6th, 2011 at 11:56 PM
Amen! We have always spent Christmas celebrating Jesus' birthday, no Santa Claus, no hype. The few presents we give are all about Jesus. It might be a new Bible, A Worship CD, a Christian video .. something about Jesus on His birthday.

As far as organizations, ours is Rivers of Living Water ~ Helping Orphans and Widows in Need. We are doing a fundraiser to purchase 101 lambs for each 101 Sponsored Orphans in the village of Gojjo, Ethiopia, to be raised in a flock as an ongoing source of food. Each lamb costs $30. To purchase a lamb for an orphan, go to

Amen again.
Mandy - December 7th, 2011 at 12:39 AM
Thank you.
KC - December 7th, 2011 at 12:54 AM
I might buy it if u were talking about Easter, and maybe this is my conservative CofC upbringing coming out in me, but nope, I'm not all that concerned about my daughters devoting December 25th to Christ. That is to say that I'm just as concerned about them devoting the 24th to Christ as much as the 25th, and any given Wednesday or Thursday, or get the idea. I totally get the desire to reject the consumerism, but that doesn't mean you have to reject Santa and the whole lot. I think we would all agree that Christianity has been perverted in countless ways, so are we to reject Christ because people are broken and abuse him? Quit doing things that are "American" and instead do things that are "Christian." Really, what purposed did that jab serve to underscore ur argument and win people over? All in all, u r well-meaning no doubt, but I don't think I'd want to get stuck in an elevator with u for an extended period of time. It is "ok" to have fun while being a Christian. Further, I'm willing to bet that Jesus is a bit more concerned about what we do the other 364 days of the year and can likely let a bit of consumerism slide--as well as our infantile obsession over a fat guy in a red suit--that ONE day a year. Count me as one who NEEDS a little escapism during the month of December, and NEEDS an excuse to be overly generous b/c I am all too often not. Also, if Christmas was as dogmatic (uninteresting?) as u wish it to be, would as many people participate? Wouldn't the collective awareness, even if ever so small and brief, that a savior came into this world be diminished? Is God so small that He can't use Santa Clause and consumerism and Walmart for His purposes? Merry Christmas!
Aimee - December 7th, 2011 at 11:05 PM
I have to comment on this post because it upsets me. When Jesus was willingly dying on the cross in an excruciating display of devotion and unconditional love for us, how dare we think He's okay with letting one day "slide" so we can take our focus off of Him.
Does He want us to enjoy life? Absolutely! THIS is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Psalm 68:19
Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation.
Ecc 2:24 There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God.

Enjoying our blessings in Christ is true joy and I'm not sure what you need escapism from~
I take delight in Christmas and the holidays because I'm spending time with family and my kids.

This is definitely a personal decision that needs to be dealt with individually through prayer and guidance from the Holy Spirit. However, I don't want to stand before the Lord one day and tell him I spent 364 days of the year focused on Him and spent one day on myself because I NEEDED to~
However, all that to say, do I spend 365 days focused on Him? No. And I'm very convicted as I write this. So I appreciate the comments from this writer because it makes me realize that even though I don't agree with her thoughts, my actions prove otherwise and I need to strengthen my devotion/commitment to Him because I want to stand before Him one day and tell him that I absolutely loved Him with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. He loves us SO much and longs to spend time with us EVERY day to pour His love/attention/blessings/wisdom and so much more on us! How can we take a day off from that?!?!
Romans 12:2 "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may know the good, acceptable and perfect will of God."
emily - December 8th, 2011 at 12:02 AM
i think you missed her point, and also the reference to her church of christ background.. i have found that quite a few people who grow up in strict religious homes go the opposite direction when they have kids.. not saying KC is doing this... just something to think about.
Aimee Young - December 8th, 2011 at 3:13 PM
I don't think her religious affiliation is tied to her idea of Christmas and I didn't miss her point but thanks for writing!
emily - December 11th, 2011 at 11:18 PM
my father grew up church of christ, and it was definitely tied to his....i didn't mean to be defensive, you just seemed to have a strong response
Meggan Huntoon - December 7th, 2011 at 1:36 AM
Since coffee is on the list of products made by slave labor, and many of us love us some coffee(!!!), check out this ministry:

I love their coffee and their heart for the orphan...'A cup of coffee change change a destiny.'
Tanya Johnson - December 7th, 2011 at 4:16 AM
First of all, I was in sixth grade during the Christmas of 1985 too so I burst out laughing at the Espirt/Guess comment, especially being the ticket out of 'dorkville' because I bet the majority of us felt that way! We didn't have a Walmart in town but Target back then wasn't as 'cool' as it is today for clothes, so I can empathize in many ways. :)

I think that the traditions and routines you establish are what are going to leave the lasting memories and grow the faith in your children that will last into adulthood. God wasn't kidding when He said for us to train a child in the way he/she should go and when they are old, they will not depart from it. The proof? I hear my own mother's words coming out of my mouth all the time! Eeek!

I don't have any Christmas memories that AREN'T about Jesus -- going to Christmas Eve worship, singing "Holy Night" as the light dim at the very end of the service and then go dark for a minute before the light came back on. Silent. Stillness. Holy time.

Even the routine of decorating for our house -- all the quirkly 1960s/1970s decorations that my mom had but then the nativity ornaments that we received every single year in Sunday School.

I have a 4 year old now. It can be a struggle with the whole "Jesus and Santa" thing for her. She goes to a Christian school for Kindergarten and will talk about, sing about, act about, etc Jesus and God and the Bible all the time. I love this. I know that this is where her heart is. But I decided this year to do a type of "Elf on the Shelf" thing for her -- I bought a small stuffed animal and each day he shows up somewhere new with a puzzle piece (a nativity puzzle) and tiny ornament (angels, hearts, crosses) for her tiny tree. His note tells her about how she needs to treat people with love like Jesus does, etc. Santa is watching, but that's not really the most important thing because this is her Christmas list: a blanket and coloring books. This girl is an only child; she's the oldest of only two granddaughters on my husband's side (and his parents waited a LONG time for grandchildren!); and my family would buy her just about anything under the sun. She does not lack for anything but she does not have everything under the sun. And yet this is her Christmas list: a blanket (she saw Tinkerbell fleece and asked for a blanket) and coloring books. Wow, I love this kid. She is thrilled and squeals with delight each morning when she sees the tiny ornament and puts together the puzzle. She's already figured out that it's probably the nativity scene and she's thrilled.

I love your suggestion to limit gifts to specific categories and to also look for opportunities to give to others. I did this for Father's Day -- neither my dad, stepfather, or father-in-law has want/need for anything else. I'm tired of buying stuff that I *guess* or *think* they might need when they usually go out and just buy what they need when they need something. So I decided to donate money to buy chicks for people in Haiti instead. They received an email and a card that said, "20 Chicks have been donated in your honor". No one complained. :)

I am the teacher adviser at my (Christian) school for Student Council. We are raising money with a 'babysitting night' and instead of using the money for something at school (which we could use some more things), I'm going to suggest that we either pool the money for more animals through Lutheran World Relief OR Feed My Starving Children.

At some point in your life, you come to realize that it's OK to banish your children to 'dorkville' if it means that others will be fed physically and spiritually. :)
Lori - December 7th, 2011 at 6:05 AM
AMEN! Well said!
Lorraine - December 7th, 2011 at 7:20 AM
We do some of that. We have never done Santa, we tell the kids it's like a game, if they want to play it (and put cookies out for dad to eat, LOL) they can play the game or they can not play the game. We also tell them that they will be in trouble if they mess it up for other kids who believe it's real because it's their parents job to teach them. Our first Christmas with our son who was the first grandchild on both sides was almost a blur for me. He was sitting on my lap and people were throwing gifts at us. (we were at my mother in laws home) and in five minutes it was over. I remember thinking that the months of thinking that had gone into this had been reduced to this? So I changed things. Christmas eve is big at our house. We do a careful schedule. (written down and held onto by our oldest who was later diagnosed with Aspergers and who loves having the written schedule) The evening starts with church. Right now we attend a church that doesn't do a Christmas eve service. So we go to another one, a small historic church with no electricity. When we get home they get the first gift. It's from me and its always pajamas. The kids then run and put the new pajamas on. Then the scheduled stuff starts. Dad and the kids gather in the living room. We start with a book. We have a pile of special Christmas books, Mostly religious but with a few traditional ones thrown in. (Night before Christmas and the grinch) We also have a couple of movies. Alabaster's Song and Charlie Brown. The schedule goes something like this: First the youngest child gets to give out his gifts. We do one gift at a time and take our time making a big deal. These are usually either home made or bought from the school's little shop of dollar items or purchased at the dollar store with money the kids earned. Then we have a book (read by dad) or a movie. Sometimes two. Before the next child gets her turn. During the books and movies I am busy. I make frozen pizzas. ( a family favorite, but one I don't make often, plus I add toppings) and hot chocolate with candy canes to stir. I deliver to each child. They actually get to eat in the living room. I do have a plastic table cloth our youngest sits on. (Rad means he will spill) And I later make cookies. (slice and bake, but they don't care) and also bring those and refill the hot chocolate. Some kids prefer hot cider so I make that too. I serve them, which they love. Anyway, it goes back and forth from stories to gifts until all gifts are given out. The last story is read from the Bible and then they go to bed. IN the morning the first thing they find is their stockings are hidden. They have notes and clues all over the house to find them. When we had littler ones the older kids last clue would say something about helping your younger siblings. Once they find the stockings they go to the table with them and look at the stuff while I serve breakfast. (Cinnamon rolls, also something we don't usually have) Then we do the gifts from mom and dad. I love buying them stuff, and they know it. Anyway the gifts are numbered. No names. So they have to find number one and then I announce (from my secret clip board) who it goes to. The first ones are usually socks, toothpaste and toothbrushes and other such things. I like it to stretch so I get a lot of little stuff. One year they all got rolls of bubble wrap I found at the dollar store in the mark down bin. They loved it. The main gift is always the last one for each child. In between are little gifts for dad and some gifts for the family (games and movies and such) It's not unusual for a kid to get a box of their favorite cereal or a can olives or something else they like. It takes the entire morning. Then we drive to my mother in laws and do her Christmas her way there, but my kids have already had it my way at our house. Lots of laughs and lots of fun and lots of Jesus.
Kim - December 7th, 2011 at 7:57 AM
Thank you thank you thank you! This is wonderful and so true! I am so happy that there is someone else out there who agrees with me!
Jen - December 7th, 2011 at 8:00 AM
Wow! So much food for thought... in the post and in the comments... I began feeling this conviction last year and this solidifies it. I am overwhelmed at how far down the rabbit hole we have run and trusting the Holy Spirit will show us the way out. NOW comes the hard part, the obedience to change!!!! Thank you for the revelation.
Jordan - December 7th, 2011 at 8:22 AM
Amen Jen! We are doing this with our 4 year old twins and 19 month old. We are not a big hit! haha But this is something we, as Christians, desperately need to hear. Thanks for having the courage to say it and be different!!!!
Angela - December 7th, 2011 at 8:43 AM
Jennifer - December 7th, 2011 at 9:18 AM
Your writing cracks me up and makes me cry all at the same time. We have 3 little ones 5 and under (I think - some days I swear there are 14 of them), and we're trying to focus their little hearts on Jesus. Our daughter is the one who makes the other kids in Kindergarten cry when she screams, "SANTA'S NOT REAL, PEOPLE!" So maybe we need to work on that.....but since my husband's a pastor and Christmas is on a Sunday, we have the opportunity to REALLY focus their hearts on Jesus before we do any of the gifting. So we made a decision to hold off on presents until after we've worshipped together with our church family. In addition, we have so many stinking family members to buy for (and little money to go around) that we decided to completely jettison the traditional gifts this year and give to those who actually need something. All of our adult family members are getting a picture of the missionary and orphanage in the Ivory Coast where we donated our Christmas money this year. We're asking them to pray for the orphans we've supported instead of enjoying some crap that will be thrown away by the time we do this again next year. We are hoping to adopt in the next few years (with what money I don't know), so we figured if we expect God to do big things and provide thousands of dollars for an adoption, we ought to do big things with our money. So that's what our Christmas looks like this year. And as far as all the mountains of crap for the little ones who can't even wipe their own butts, they're only getting one small present from us this year. And one of them came from Wal-Mart. Oh no she didn't.
Beth - December 7th, 2011 at 9:39 AM
Our main focus is Jesus but you can celebrate the fun of Santa and not be a bad person. The reason we celebrate is the birth of our Savior and my children know that first and foremost. We focus on giving not receiving but as long as you have things in the right order there is nothing wrong with giving gifts receiving gifts and sharing in some of the other childhood things. Just always hate when people make others feel like they aren't a good Christian if they celebrate Santa and give gifts. Giving to others is a blessing
Eduardo Hope Jr - December 7th, 2011 at 9:42 AM
It seems pretty obvious what obscures the reason for Christmas for Christians: the materialistic sense of entitlement for asked-for or 'cool' gifts (a focus on the gifts) and who got them for us. There’s a secondary problem: that of deserving gifts.

Against this blog’s current, I throw in a good word for traditional Christmas culture: as Jen hints at it in her blog essay, Santa Claus has a back-story worth knowing: Nicholas, a Christian priest of the early Church, was an ordinary person who early in life learned to practice unselfish, secret gift-giving without regard for whether the person(s) deserved the gift(s). This is useful as a didactic complement to God giving us the gift of Christ, and Christ giving us the gift of his life (John 3:16). Do we deserve the grace of God? Ought we to publicize our unselfish behavior and store up material treasures? (Matthew 6:1-21). Santa Claus as a proxy angel in the battle of good against evil (rewarding the well-behaved-- a focus on the deserving of gifts) is not in the true spirit of Christmas.

It was not Coca-Cola's caffeinated, commercializing hands that invented Santa Claus. Our colonial Dutch forbears (from when New York was New Amsterdam) brought 'Sinterklaas' to North America. But the first time 'Santa Claus' in his winter fur makes an appearance is in the early-19th-century poem "The Night Before Christmas," which re-imagines St. Nick as still giving gifts after all this time. And as the poem hints, the best answer to ANY question of how he does it is a wink.

In other words, being literal about Santa Claus and his reindeer is beside the point, which is that he was originally Nicholas, an ordinary person who gives unselfishly and in secret. Everything else is the creative imagination, stuff kids enjoy. Teaching genuine gift-giving (and gift-accepting) can be done with and without Santa Claus, of course, but why fight against a benign spirit of Christmas? The key take-away is gift-giving in secret, which we must all meditate.

Maybe poetry and imaginative play is not for everyone, but then again, some of us enjoy it; it is fun and games, and does not imply the loss of Christ as the heart of the season if it is done consciously. To think about it differently, it is adults playing hide-and-seek with their young children, in the interest of teaching to give in secret, as Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount. When the kids grow up, they will wonder what’s really going on and figure it out. Of course, there are always those who ruin it for everyone else, but life is not perfect. We deal with it.

In other traditions-- my wife's originally from Spain, I'm originally from Panamá (Central America)-- we exchange gifts on the Day of the Three Kings (Jan. 6), which in other traditions is called the Feast of the Epiphany (Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican), or Theophany (Eastern Orthodox)—the idea being that is when God’s gift was recognized by the shephers and the three wise kings (hence, the gifts). But, because of American commercial culture, Santa Claus has reached every corner of the world. In childhood, among my friends, we had fun speculating that the fat, old guy flying around with reindeer was a fourth king from the north who got lost, so to make up for that, he had to bring gifts to children for the rest of his life, mostly in cold, northern countries like the USA-- he'd melt or suffer hyperthermia if he came down to the tropics in that furry-red getup. Things children say :)

When we learned that it wasn’t little baby Jesus (‘el niño Dios’, as we called him) or the three kings who brought our presents, but rather our parents, there was no trauma. We had learned the lesson about going to all the trouble to give someone a gift. It was no trouble at all.
Jen Hatmaker - December 7th, 2011 at 10:09 AM
Oh dear...this made me laugh so hard: "we had fun speculating that the fat, old guy flying around with reindeer was a fourth king from the north who got lost, so to make up for that, he had to bring gifts to children for the rest of his life, mostly in cold, northern countries like the USA-- he'd melt or suffer hyperthermia if he came down to the tropics in that furry-red getup. Things children say :)"
Shae - December 7th, 2011 at 9:42 AM
you just articulated everything in my heart that God has been stirring this year! Thank you so much, you just gave me a Holy Spirit game plan that I WILL use and I don't even have my own family yet! Thank you so much for expressing such truth!
[email protected] - December 7th, 2011 at 10:01 AM
Oh this is great! You are not weird, so don't let anyone think you are! There are more people living this way then maybe you think. We have never done Santa with our kids. We don't even watch TV ever (ok- maybe a little hulu with the hubs every friday night to catch up on our faves- we're not freaks, people!!!).
I was totally prepared to do Santa with our first. Loved the idea! Until I looked into her eyes on her first Christmas morning and decided that I just couldn't lie to her. No sir. Couldn't do it.
Keep sharing ideas like this. The more of us that are doing it, the less weird it will seem. And maybe, just maybe, we can give it back to Jesus.
Victoria - December 7th, 2011 at 10:59 AM
Jen, as I see it, this issue is not that Satan has hijacked Christmas or that we need to "give Christmas back to Jesus". The real issue here is the heart and soul of the gospel. Please allow me to expound a bit...

Fewer (or more practical) gifts, frugality, or purging any item that may have to do with the mythical Santa will not change the heart. Let's be clear: Shopping at Walmart is not morally superior to shopping at The Limited. 1985 Jen had a heart issue, not an economic one.

Have you heard Van Til's quote "Culture is Religion Externalized"?

People who are dead in sin will of course, celebrate with hollow, selfish and pagan festivities. Their religion is reflected in their culture. Not just at Christmas either-it will be all year long. That's because unless their hearts of stone (that are an enmity with God-and under his wrath) are regenerated by repentance and belief in Jesus, they are *not* going to get the meaning of Christmas no matter how many ways we tweak our Christmas traditions.

And if we know the gospel, which, forgive me, is not that Jesus "managed to rescue humanity" (there is a vast number of humanity headed to hell without the gospel!), we will desire to worship Christ with gratitude and reverence in every time and every season of the year-including Christmastime. (We don't do the Santa charade, butf we happen to have a non-hypothetical Santa Snack bowl sitting on our counter that a dear, sweet friend brought over filled with popcorn, we will view it as a playful holiday decoration, not a threat to or statement about who we belong to or who we worship)

When you use words like "egregious consumersism" associated with a particular dollar amount that you consider to be obsene (without any qualification), on what scale do you base your standard? Do you realize that there are folks who would look at your darling envelope display with the trendy paint and cute picture frames (that don't appear to be Goodwill purchases), and your ownership of a sound system who would classify that as egregious by *their* standard? Jen, no one should be judged by an arbitrary standard. The only true standard comes from a distinctively biblical understanding of economics, possessions, wealth, blessings and the heart. And that, is accomplished by a study of scripture as a whole, not scriptures taken to support a heartfelt viewpoint.

No one has hijacked what we celebrate at Christmas-it is still the simple, beautiful truth of God coming in the flesh, securing eternal life for those who believe. That said, if our focus as Christians is on what Jesus has done for us and how we can share that good news with the lost Christmas, it will follow that the allure of the world's counterfeit Christmas will not attract us.

L - December 7th, 2011 at 11:05 AM
Amen! Agreed! Love this , all of this, etc. I have 4 children and my husband and I have never done the santa thing, we actually get grief about it form other christians. Everyone we are around-Its all about santa and elf on shelf. :( Our God is a jealous God. I hope w , as a country, as God's people can get back to just pure loving-God, to letting His word BE enough, to know what less is more and good is GREAT!
Joe - December 7th, 2011 at 11:24 AM
Noticed 95% of the replies were from women, I'm assuming your main readers. If I may, I'll add to the few posts by males and say 'Thank you'. We struggle with this with family members each year whether or not to buy gifts for all the nieces and nephews when we gather as a family. There are so many other things we could do and NONE of our children need a thing. I'm so glad to hear/read there are others out there that feel the same way.

Putting 'Christ' in Christmas. Thanks for the advice and the great read.
Jen Hatmaker - December 7th, 2011 at 1:38 PM
Thanks, Joe...way to REPRESENT THE FELLAS!! ;0)
Sarah - December 7th, 2011 at 11:38 AM
Gosh I'm so glad that I was raised in a home where Christ was the center for every Christmas. Where my parents (for the most part) refused to go into debt to finance our Christmas- which meant one Christmas we wrote down on a piece of paper what gift we would give them if we had all the money in the world (it was fun) and then one spiritual gift we would give accompanied by Bible verses.

Now, as a 34 year old- I can't but help carry on this tradition. I guess growing up that way has made me astounded that so many people who love Jesus "DO" Santa. We never did and guess what? Christmas was still as magical and wonderful without him.

I love your heart- glad to know there's someone else out there who's going against the flow.
vickie - December 7th, 2011 at 11:51 AM
This is very moving. Congratulations for taking a stand. I have a story of my own to share. Our only child is 23. He is an adopted son, and after waiting so long for a child, we were very fearful we would overindulge him and lessen the importance of Jesus at Christmas. My husband and I started a tradition in our family. Since Jesus received three gifts at Christmas from the wisemen, our son would also only receive three gifts. After all, should he receive more gifts than Jesus? So each year our son consternated and thought carefully as he decided what he needed or wanted for Christmas. Some years one of the three gifts was an inexpensive book, while one year one gift was a bike. But there were never more than three gifts, all carefully budgeted. The grandparents and other family members gave gift donations in his name to the less fortunate, and we would go with them to present the gifts.

Our son now serves as an assistant youth minister and church camp counselor, while completing his university senior year in engineering. He is the least materialistic person I know. I share this because it is heartwarming, factual story. Merry Christmas to all.
vickie - December 7th, 2011 at 11:53 AM
This is very moving. Congratulations for taking a stand. I have a story of my own to share. Our only child is 23. He is an adopted son, and after waiting so long for a child, we were very fearful we would overindulge him and lessen the importance of Jesus at Christmas. My husband and I started a tradition in our family. Since Jesus received three gifts at Christmas from the wisemen, our son would also only receive three gifts. After all, should he receive more gifts than Jesus? So each year our son consternated and thought carefully as he decided what he needed or wanted for Christmas. Some years one of the three gifts was an inexpensive book, while one year one gift was a bike. But there were never more than three gifts, all carefully budgeted. The grandparents and other family members gave gift donations in his name to the less fortunate, and we would go with them to present the gifts.

Our son now serves as an assistant youth minister and church camp counselor, while completing his university senior year in engineering. He is the least materialistic person I know. I share this because it is heartwarming, factual story. Merry Christmas to all.
Rachel - December 7th, 2011 at 12:03 PM
Amen Amen Amen. Wow. SO thankful to have stumbled across this!!
sandy - December 7th, 2011 at 12:15 PM
Not weird at all! Thanks for sharing with others! We don't do Santa either and focus on Jesus and giving to others. Our daughter (6) gets so excited about helping others. When we get the Samaritan's Purse catalog in November, she loves to look through it and talk about what we are going to do this Christmas.

We give (3) gifts to her and she is grateful for those! :)
Rhonda - December 7th, 2011 at 12:44 PM
Thanks for your post - so needed and as I looked at what I had bought my 3 boys I realized that all I need is a couple books and I am done with your 4 gift suggestions - DONE! And I LOVE the "something to give" portion.

Another great place to purchase gifts is - jute bags made by women in India that have been rescued from prostitution. Got 3 nieces the cutest bags from there for Christmas....
Amy - December 7th, 2011 at 1:48 PM
Great post. I was raised in a family that didn't teach or believe in Santa and I never once felt I was missing out on something. I've always been thankful that my parents didn't teach us to believe something false but were up front about who Santa is/was and that Jesus is really who is important and real. Props to you for making a change mid-stride!

I've been challenged by your comments on avoiding slave labor brands and companies - thanks for the resources. I know I need to look into those. Another company that is worth supporting (they sell crafts and other self-made items from fairly paid artisans around the world) is Ten Thousand Villages and you can learn more here:
Rebecca - December 7th, 2011 at 1:52 PM
Thanks for this. I won't echo everyone else's comments but I wanted to put a good word in for The Father's House, a home for rescued child slaves in Ghana.
Jessica - December 7th, 2011 at 2:15 PM
Thank you for writing this!!!!! I am passing this on.
Laura - December 7th, 2011 at 2:58 PM
Love love love this post. My husband and I are expecting our first this coming April (Easter Sunday!!) and we have recently been talking a great deal about what to do with Christmas. This post really solidified our thoughts and desires....and made me not feel like the grinch! Growing up, we always celebrated Christmas but with a twist. We put up a tree, but there were no presents under it. Every night we celebrated Advent. Then on Christmas Eve right before bed time we all went to our stockings and would pull out coal (it was about this point that we always lost the respect of our neighbors....) to remind us of what we deserve, which is the wrath of God as we can do no good things on our own. Then we would sing "O Come O Come Emmanuel" and go to bed in silence. The next morning we would wake up to gifts under the Christmas tree, which would represent the grace that God extends to His people - total undeserved favor, then we would sing "Joy to the World." Christmas Eve was what we deserved; Christmas morning was a celebration of a King that has come to save, rescue and redeem. Christmas gifts that were totally undeserved yet given anyways. Even now, so many years later, Christmas means a good deal to me because of those traditions. It's so nice to know that our young family will not be alone in putting Christ as the main focus at Christmas! Thank you!
Pieper - December 7th, 2011 at 4:10 PM
Thank you thank you thank you.. It's as if you took the jumbled thoughts I've been stewing over right out of my head and wrote them here. I'm glad you did the work for me because now I clearly understand what needs to happen. The trick is how to get my husband and his family on board. Last year, I wanted to start a family tradition in our family every December (Christmas season) on a Saturday to do something for others as a family. I am unsure though of what to do since many things these days needs ample screening to help. Do you know of a website that provides info on places that need volunteers? We live in Austin TX and my children are still very young, (3 and 1) although I want to start now. Thanks again!
Vanessa Habben - December 7th, 2011 at 9:03 PM
Shauna - December 7th, 2011 at 4:28 PM
Pretty much agree with every.word. We are still trying to figure it all out. We, as Believers, have been given the greatest gift ever…. now is the time to celebrate! The question is, as we break out of the culture mold we are so use to, how… how do we celebrate in an honoring-Christ way. Still working on it here. :)
Tori - December 7th, 2011 at 4:33 PM
This is awesome and extremely convicting. Thanks for sharing this. I'm not married and I don't have kids yet, (only 21) but this is definitely something I'm taking into consideration when that time comes, and even now when buying for family and friends. Thanks so much for your insight and how you made Christmas about Jesus and not about each other.
Tiffany - December 7th, 2011 at 4:35 PM
It's so funny I read this today, of all days! The Hubs and I just decided earlier this week that we weren't doing Santa anymore. I want my kids to grow up knowing that JESUS is the focal point of Christmas! We're basically approaching it the same way you do. There was a man long ago that did nice things for the poor, but the Santa of today is pretend. And we're also scaling back on the spending and not going crazy. =)

This was a very well written and much needed post!
Karen - December 7th, 2011 at 4:50 PM
I LOVE this post!! I have so much more work to do (and undo) in this area and I'm excited about working on that.
I share your same thoughts about Christmas and what it has become. Here are a few of the traditions I've been doing with my four little ones over the past few years:
1. Beginning Dec 1 we read Luke 2 (the first section) every single night. By mid-Dec they can recite it.
2. They receive 3 simple gifts from us representing the gold, frankincense and myrrh.
3. We light the advent candle each week and try to sing every song we can think of that has the word of that week. Hope, Peace, etc.
4. I ask my kids every year for my only gift(s) to come from the World Vision or Samaritan's purse catalog. Then every year when we decorate for Christmas, I tape all the cards I received from these organizations (showing what was given) all over the windows. I want them to see/know I CELEBRATE these gifts and treasure them.
5. My husband and I give each other FREE, thoughtful gifts. For example, one year we wrote letters to each other--I treasure that letter to this day. And another favorite, my husband called and arranged for me to sing the National Anthem at our local university's baseball game in the spring--an item on my bucket list for years and it was FREE!
I look forward to reading through these comments and getting more ideas in addition to the ones you've given.
Thank you for working so hard to bring the LIGHT to the world!
Carolyn - December 7th, 2011 at 5:37 PM
Thanks! This was great! You explained skipping Santa in a way that made sense. It is so true that as Christians, the birth of Christ is the most important thing to us. But that we would rather talk about Santa. Our son is 2.5 this year and I had started talking to him about Santa... And about Jesus. Did I just prove your post?? So glad that we didn't get too far down the Santa road.

I always feel the tension between the jolly holiday of Christmas and the holy holiday of Christmas every time I pull out the decoration box in December. Does Christmas come out of a box? The other thing that has bothered me this season is the emphasis most Christians put on the importance of saying "Merry Christmas" instead of "Happy Holidays." It's not as if our commercialized version is much different at all, but we are still going to make a big deal about all the secularists who are trying to ruin Christmas. We have done it to ourselves! We didn't need anyone else to do it for us.

A tradition we started last year is that instead of the traditional overeating fest, we had a very simple meal for Christmas Eve. We had candles out and did an Armenian meal of lamb, green beans, and pita.

Oh, and can I say- we unplugged cable service 2 years ago and have never looked back!

Anyways, thanks for the great thoughts! It really articulated where we are this year. I also thought it was great that you had the list of giving resources. It's hard to find good information sometimes.
Amy B - December 7th, 2011 at 6:12 PM
Great post. Of course after coming home from Ethiopia I'm paralyzed and have purchased nothing for Christmas-can hardly buy groceries. But we give 3 gifts representing the 3 gifts given to Jesus by the Magi. I figure, if that was enough for Jesus that's good enough for us. It also causes us to be thoughtful in our gift giving to buy needed and meaningful gifts. This year we will add the give away money. Kels will have fun with that and I can't wait to see what she does with it. Great idea!!
Tamika - December 7th, 2011 at 7:43 PM
Came across this post on facebook, and so glad I did. Thank you for the sharpening. Thank you for telling it "like it is". I absolutely love your style of writing.
Patti - December 7th, 2011 at 8:17 PM
Very inspiring! We purchased many gifts from TRADEASONE.COM. Great products and a very speedy delivery.
The only item that I would disagree with is the matter of spouses not purchasing gifts for each other, My mom taught us to always give gifts to our spouses. Not expensive plastic card purchases, but remembering each other is a great example to our children. Children need to see mom and dad cherishing each other, and placing each other in high regard. A simple poem, writing a song (if musical), or a material gift, all show our children that after our love for God comes our love for each other.
Jenni - December 7th, 2011 at 9:13 PM
I'm not a practicing Christian and haven't been for some time. I actually put myself in the agnostic corner, and don't really agree with organized religion. I say this so you know where I am coming from - your message is inspired and beautiful. Even if you took Jesus out of the picture totally, and presented this to a non-believer, it makes so much sense. I can't explain how much I appreciate what you are saying here.
I grew up being a weird kid too - we were never "allowed" to believe in Santa. As an adult, I know why my parents did what they did. And I can see how this will be such a lifestyle change for you, but stick with it. Your message is true and your heart is in exactly the right place. Thank you!
Jen Hatmaker - December 8th, 2011 at 8:45 AM
Jenni, this comment is so meaningful to me.
Kristi - December 7th, 2011 at 9:15 PM
Thank you, thank you!! Thank you as a mom of young kids that is still working out how to help our family 'downsize' Christmas. Thank you as an advocate for ending human trafficking. I help out so that more women can be freed from human trafficking in Calcutta, India.
We might be kindred spirits, my friend!
Jake - December 7th, 2011 at 10:13 PM
Hi Jen.

I love the ideas and the thought of keeping Christ at the forefront of our minds at this special time of year is great. I think the focus there will help us keep Him in our minds throughout the year as well, not just in December. So often I see families who only attend church at Christmas and Easter and go about their regular lives the rest of the year and feel like keeping the true message of our Savior in our minds and hearts will help us live more like him all the time.

The only other comment I have is with regards to your use of omg. It's so common to hear that these days, yet it grates on me as I think of our Father in Heaven whose name is included in that acronym. Sorry for that bit of constructive feedback, just felt like I had to share that as well.
Jen Hatmaker - December 8th, 2011 at 8:16 AM
Thanks, Jake! Hand to the heavens, when I write OMG, my brain is thinking 'oh my goodness'. (I prefer my alternative favorite phrase 'oh my stars', but people don't understand OMS!) Maybe I'll be a trend setter and bring OMS into the spotlight. It can be the new thing!
Daneen - December 7th, 2011 at 10:24 PM
Thank you for sharing Jen. I applaud your candid and raw words and I appreciate your opinions and mission for justice in ALL that we [as followers of Jesus] do in life!! Thank you for challenging your readers!! Beautifully written!!

Below are some fabulous fair-trade gift products which support vulnerable communities (women and children) in northern Uganda where I lived for a year and a half! I personally know the people who run these organizations and I support their vision.

31 Bits - Uganda - designer necklaces
anne - December 8th, 2011 at 2:53 AM
Wow. I really loved this post, you write really beautifully Jen. To be honest, I'm a little weary of twitchy-eyed Christians who hate everything about the world and wish they could live in a bubble of holiness (can somebody say 'irony'?), but you write in a way that gets through my defenses. I heard you. Thank you. I will certainly be re-evaluating our traditions.

To bring Christ into Christmas, we have a few traditions... we have a tree, and we remind our kids that Jesus ultimately was born to die on a tree to save us (there's a cool crafty project you can do whereby a paper tree gets folded into a cross). On Christmas night, after the crazy day, we sit quietly together, review the day, share communion and thank God for giving us THE greatest gift - himself. We also try to keep the 26th as low-key as possible, and our kids spend it going through their stuff and working out what they are going to give away (this stops excessive build up of stuff - new toys come in, older ones must go out). Then we try to let them be a part of giving those gifts to people less fortunate than themselves.
Jen Hatmaker - December 8th, 2011 at 8:12 AM
You'vepaid me a very high compliment, Anne. Thank you for not lumping me in with the Christian isolationists, because nothing could be further from the truth for me and my family. Love Jesus, love all the people he made. Blessings to you...
Shae - December 8th, 2011 at 3:54 AM
This post is beautifully written- We love the joy, imagination and magic of Santa in our home and we love, celebrate and worship Jesus and we don't even have any kids! You raise a lot of very good points about consumerism, ethical shopping and giving, so much giving which I LOVE! Most of my friends do not 'do Santa' with their children and I support that decision just as they love me despite my secret 'Santa wrap' that only turns up on Christmas morning in the stockings! I think my favorite part of your post is about the five gifts you give your children- I think that is definitely a take away from this post. For ethical gifts that support Rwandan youth get job skills check out I write a blog about youth work and gave 12 examples of holiday projects to do with youth groups, although you could easily do them as a family as well, and they are all about fundraising and volunteering this holiday season. Thanks again for the fantastic post
Jen Hatmaker - December 8th, 2011 at 8:19 AM
I am in love with the tone of this response, Shae! Can you give lessons???
Shae - December 13th, 2011 at 5:00 AM
Aw, thanks! I'm in LOVE with your blog having just come across it the other day, I posted on Quirky too- I hope you write more so I have more to comment on :)
Tina - December 8th, 2011 at 4:29 AM
I struggled so much with my mother building up Santa and then getting SO angry with me for being selfish. Is Santa a toy dispenser or isn't he??? Anything you want for Christmas? Christmas was awkward always and still is, and I'm much older than you are.

I enjoyed your post and laughed aloud in places!

These are great pajamas!
Thomas Mathai - December 8th, 2011 at 5:13 AM
Dear Jen, I was sent this by a friend and all I can say is Thank You I agree Fully , Let us be Chistians on Christmas. It is too important an event to had over to Mammon. Thomas . India.
Angel - December 8th, 2011 at 7:47 AM
Did I write this!?! Thanks for writing ...will def. share!
Crissy - December 8th, 2011 at 8:05 AM
1st off, wow! Do you have someone help you read all these comments. Love how you get people thinking and talking. I'm starting to pay more attention to what I buy, especially since a friend tipped me off about the chocolate industry prior to Halloween.

YES! finally someone who is a believer and agrees with me about that fat man Santa!!! I've been so quiet about not having the big S in our house, that I almost sometimes wondered if I was squashing my 4 year olds imagination. I didn't want to stir up that lie in him because of personal experience. I asked Jesus into my heart at 7, it was 6 months before Christmas, so there was time for spiritual warfare to take root (nevermind the fact that I was being raised in an un-Godly house) so come Santa time, I knew for sure that this guy was a sham, but I then started to think "well is Jesus another lie that someone sold me on and one day there will be a moment when someone breaks it to me that He was just a magical thing to believe in too". I also struggled with the whole idea of being good to get gifts......fuels a bad case of the Gimmies, and the part of that song that goes "he sees you when your sleeping, he knows when you're awake" makes me think of a creepy pedophile peering into my kids bedroom at night while smoking a cigarette and hiding in the bushes. Clearly only God can do those things, not some fat man in ridiculous red clothing.

We also started the 5 simple gifts: something to 1: eat 2: read 3: play with 4: wear 5: small for stocking. I like your idea about something to give, tho. Makes so much more sense.

I'll try to wrap it up, this is turning into a book report. I just want to add that I moved here in Jan of this year with my husband and 2 little boys (3 and under 1). It was isolating, lonely and completely miserable. I found your book Innterupted by chance, and it kicked my small thinking mind wide open. I love your books, your blog and your wit-----I love me some fun sarcasm. I know that God keeps me from your church because I would set you up as an idol and would not have discovered who God really is. God had to rip friends from my hands because I gripped them more tightly than my Bible, augh, such a hard way to learn about idols. Thank you for being VERY transparent and bold. You've encouraged this lonely girl in so many ways. My life looks completely different than a year ago and you've helped me love God's word in a way I didn't know could happen. I'm also reading Barefoot Church right now, and am praying for God to make ways for our little church out by Wimberley to start partnering with those in need.

I come from a broken home and there's a lot of damage that needs repaired, but just jumping in and serving has been one of the best therapies I've discovered. Small babies bound the feet of a momma (we just found out we are surprisingly expecting #3.....not my plan by a long stretch) but I've discovered Little Helping Hands. My 4 year old and I will be serving for the 1st time this Sat and he and I could not be more excited.

PS I only have one Santa thing and I'm having a hard time parting with it. He's from 15 years ago when those hip-shaking Santa's 1st came out. My 1 year old loves it and will dance with it for hours.
Jen Hatmaker - December 8th, 2011 at 8:23 AM
Well, welcome to our neck of the woods! So thrilled to hear what God is doing in your life. Blessings to you in Wimberley...
Amanda - December 8th, 2011 at 8:14 AM
I was forwarded this blog post from my sister, who found it on some one else's FB page. Thank you for offering your personal insight on something we have JUST been talking about. I enjoyed everything you wrote and appreciate your willingness to share. I have reposted it now too. Thank you!!!!
abcdefg - December 8th, 2011 at 10:44 AM
I appreciate this, as a new mother who is going to have to deal with this one day, and I love the idea of involving children in the spirit of giving and in being more conscious on just how much and exactly what we are buying and why. But forgive me for commenting here that I find this a little simplistic. I'd like to start a discussion.

Yes, we can all agree: Teaching children to be materialistic = wrong. Spending money you don't have to keep up with someone else = wrong. Ignoring those less fortunate - wrong. Not thinking about the underlying and conflicting messages you're giving your children = wrong. Taking seriously, the task of shaping your children's strength of character = good. Etc., etc. Yes, agreed. Great ideas, great expressions.

But shouldn't we be celebrating Jesus' birth and be humbled and motivated by His sacrifice throughout the year? And if we are, if we are truly living this, why not enjoy cultural traditions, such as modern-day "Santa clause" in the same way we approach the tooth-fairy? These things are temporary, and even without them children find their own way to imagine and make "magic" of their own, with or without our suggestion or intervention. I did not grow up to be materialistic because I believed in Santa Clause. The woman who is materialistic is so maybe because of her upbringing or maybe because of something else entirely. But certainly not because once a year for a few years she believed in Santa.

We must take our responsibility as parents, shaping our children's character seriously. But if we've really instilled the importance of Jesus' birth and sacrifice year 'round -- then Christmas is just another opportunity to do so, and to celebrate it. I think actually there is an error in expressing and sharing this joy and reverence only once a year, or even "especially" once a year. Our faith should be woven into the fabric of our every day lives, so that when our children our confronted with "Santa" -- by their friends, at school, or otherwise -- they're not adopting a self-righteous "That is so wrong - haha, I know the truth" attitude, but rather are able to recognize it eventually as what it is -- part of the God-given joy of childhood and innocence and imagination. Thoughts?
Laura - December 8th, 2011 at 1:42 PM
Shannon - December 8th, 2011 at 11:02 AM
My daughter is now 16 years old. Omitting Santa did not hurt her at all. This made me so glad I never did do Santa with my daughter. Although I sacrificed my relationship with my grandmother because of it. She is an atheist. I see that I did do the right thing. Thank you for this blog.
roxann - December 8th, 2011 at 12:11 PM
We have such a large family there are 13 kids now. I suggested that we have the kids pick one name to buy for this year out of the 13. Over the years we were buying for all kids in the family and one adult. It was getting costly. I am glad this year we are scaling back. So happy we are finally!! I suggested making a family donation to some kids in need but there has to be baby steps. I am not so sure the kids understand that they are not getting so many presents this year.
Katie Schnack - December 8th, 2011 at 12:27 PM
Jen! Love the post. My old church joined in this movement every Christmas and I loved it. My Christmases will never be the same - they are now so much richer.

Thanks for sharing!

Kirsten Lin - December 8th, 2011 at 1:11 PM
Thank you so much for this post, which I came across as a friend "shared" it on facebook. My husband and I have been trying to figure out how to make sense of Christmas for our children, and you have given some very thoughtful, concrete ideas. I agree that we need to band together as Christians and say "enough" to consumerism and encouraging our children to worship false idols (which unfortunately Santa has become). Let's make the incredible miracle of Christ's birth the center of Christmas! We are blessed that in our Catholic tradition, Advent has always been an important 4 weeks of *spiritual* preparation. In addition to Sunday Mass, our church has Wednesday evening events, for example Advent Bingo. One other idea I've had is, instead of exchanging gifts on Christmas, exchange them on the Feast of Epiphany (3 Kings Day, January 6th)...that way you could connect the gifts we give each other to the gifts given to Jesus by the 3 kings.
Thank you again for having the courage to post your ideas. Look at the overwhelming positive response you've had!
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