I grew up believing in Santa Claus and at the same time I grew believing in Jesus and Mary, the angels, Bethlehem and the whole nativity story. And although sometimes we think that society will define what we would teach in our home or that it’s too hard to deviate, in actuality it isn’t. So as faithful “hard-core” Catholics, in our home we also embrace the story of Saint Nicholas which really evolved into the modern-day Santa Claus, who gave gifts without expecting anything in return. We want our children to know Jesus more than anything in this world but we also want them to enjoy their childhood, the excitement of the unknown,the mystery of Santa Claus.
I enjoy my children using their imagination, believing the possibilities and impossibilities. But at the same time we still pray our advent wreath, color the candle lit that Sunday at mass, make a cute nativity craft so they can understand the moments that lead up to the birth of Jesus. I also help my daughters with their letters to Santa but explain to them that only a few from the 20 or 30 gifts wanted will arrive for the simple reason that he still needs to make room to give gifts to Jesus on his birthday. My daughters (4 & 2 years old) say, “Mami, you get what you get and you don’t get upset.”
Another way we incorporate both in Christmas Day is following the opening of the gifts and the joy of having a new toy, pajama or new Frozen slippers; my sister brings a homemade cake with “Happy Birthday Baby Jesus” written on it, we sing happy birthday with the statue of baby Jesus in front of us, and then we go outside and hit the piñata, celebrating Jesus’s birthday party style! That day transforms into an extra special day, because not only did they have the excitement of Santa Claus coming but also the excitement of hosting a party for Jesus which we have prepared our hearts for all year long. We also talk to our children about what gifts are they going to give Jesus now that he’s born. Some examples of this are to show more kindness to my friends at school, be respectful to others during my mass, or pray more at night before bedtime or before eating.
In time they’ll know Santa Claus doesn’t fly through the sky with reindeers, but just like Santa Claus is unseen so is Jesus but in our home we believe he will be seen one day on a cloud in the sky and he is miraculously here with us every day.
We do Santa here, but we do Jesus bigger.