A few thoughts. First, I think it's really really good for out kids to realize that not everyone is as well off as them. Even most of the poorest people in the US are still in the top 5% of the world's wealthiest people. How will our children learn gratitude, respect, compassion, service, and responsibility if we allow them to believe that it's normal for them to have such abundant blessings while the rest of the world doesn't? Every night my little Girl prays for the kids in Thailand to have enough money for mosquito nets so they don't get malaria. She knows that one of the reasons I don't buy her a toy every time she asks for one is so that we can have more money to give away for things like that. And even in the middle of a whine session she will stop and become sober when reminded of it. If a 5 year old can understand that, why can't any child who is shown the reality of the world they live in?
Second, I wasn't raised to believe in Santa Claus, so I don't have any experience compared to a grownup who did believe and has pleasant memories of the experience. I don't feel as though I am missing something because of this. I'm only aware of the possibility by talking to other people of different experiences. I doubt children miss what they don't know is missing.
If it really concerns you check out St. Nicholas Day, on Dec. 6. Still observed by many who follow the traditional church calender. Gifts in stockings to remember a man who was generous and good. But simple gifts, not built on make believe, but instead to inspire us to do kindness wherever we find it in our power to do so.
I like to use birthdays to give my kids the exact same special delight. They wake up to decorations and gifts all laid out for them and everyone singing happy birthday.
I also don't think it's good for children to have too many things. I don't think they are able to enjoy what they have as much if there is too much of it, if there is too much clutter. There is much good to be found in the hour spent entertaining them self by cutting up and taping back together a cardboard box to make an airplane.
I hope I don't sound like I'm being all preachy and talking down to people in these posts. I'm not saying that you should do what we do. I'm trying to offer a lot of different ideas for celebrating that don't buy into the rampant commercialism of the holiday season and bring it back to what's important to each of us.
A lot of people feel pressure to do things the way they always have, even if they can't afford it, even if they find it exhausting and stressful. I'm hearing a lot of people this month talk about how overwhelmed they feel by all of the shopping, cooking, relatives, parties, etc. This isn't what a time set aside to remember the birth of Christ ought to be. Hopefully these posts can relieve some of that pressure, and stimulate imaginations in new directions.
With that in mind I will direct you now to Brant Hanson's post on over spending at Christmas that contains the best line ever, "
You are being bullied by a bunch of advertising majors."I thought it was pretty funny, as well as practical.
Ideas for a Non-Commercial Christmas #2-What about the family?
Ideas for a Non Commercial Christmas
Why We Don't Do Conventional Christmas