Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Why we don't do Father Christmas

A family Christmas tradition we have started is a trip to Doddington Hall where we will take a look around the Elizabethan house's traditional decorations, order a coffee and cake from the delicious cafe, pick out a bauble from the Bauble Barn, and bring home a Christmas tree grown on the estate.

This year, Doddington have also got Father Christmas waiting to meet children in the house's Great Hall. Almost everyone we met asked Rebekah, our two-year-old, if she had come to see Santa.

We were aware of the pressure with Santa - he is synonymous with Christmas in the UK now. So we are starting to think about whether we should introduce Rebekah to him or not...

1. Christmas isn't about presents

Maybe the reason Father Christmas is such a major part of Christmas today is his link with presents. Children who have been good end up on his 'nice list' and will receive gifts at Christmas time - even though it is the parents that buy them (spoiler alert!).

It's in the interest of large commercial companies to push this idea of spending on gifts each Christmas - as good as that is - so Santa indeed is a part of many advertising campaigns.

My worry with introducing Rebekah to Santa and his presents is that the excitement of Christmas becomes about getting stuff and what stuff she might get. Rather than it being about the one great gift that we have already received - more on that later!

2. Getting gifts shouldn't be the reason for being 'good'

The 'nice list' that Father Christmas keeps to decide which children should get presents is more sinister than first seems. And it's not just because it also comes with a 'naughty list'.

What about the child that has been good but doesn't get as exciting presents as the misbehaving child at school?

And should we teach children that they should be well behaved in order to get things at Christmas or should it be for moral reasons?

Many parents might use the reward of presents as almost a bribe to encourage good behaviour.

We'd like gifts to be given out of love - whether recipients have been naughty or nice. And we want to encourage good behaviour because it is right to think of others and listen to those looking out for you.

3. If we can't tell the truth about Father Christmas, how can we about Jesus Christ?

Indeed there is a greater issue at hand here - that Christmas is about Jesus and not Father Christmas. Jesus himself is the greatest gift, as cheesy as that sounds, through whom we can receive the most precious of gifts for free: eternal life (Romans 6:23).

So if this story of Jesus, the God that became a baby, comes mixed with the story of Father Christmas, giving presents to all children around the world in one night, how is Rebekah to know which is true or not?

And if we are found to be hiding the truth about Santa - even introducing her to men acting as him in an effort to play along - how would Rebekah know we are indeed telling the truth about Jesus?

Now, I don't mean to offend by saying these things - they are only my feelings. I love this festive season with lights, trees, reindeer, music, markets, food, drink, family, friends, and the other traditions that come with it. We know the Father Christmas question will come up with Rebekah so we plan to explain where the tradition came from - the story of St Nicholas.

And we won't banish Father Christmas from the house or anything drastic like that.

But it is my belief that this time of year would be better for everyone if our excitement truly came from the fact that it celebrates the moment that the Creator of the universe entered His creation. God became a baby that he might die on the cross, rising again so there could be a way for man to know God.

We are all on the 'naughty list' (Romans 3:23) but the baby whose birthday we celebrate at Christmas took the consequences of being 'naughty' for those who believe in him. God looks at Jesus' perfect record instead of their sinful one - this is the excitement of Christmas!