People keep asking my son whether he’s been good this year and whether he thinks Santa will come and visit him this Christmas. They’re always awkward moments because he doesn’t understand what either of those things have to do with Christmas and often the questions are followed by silence and then he walks away. It reminds me of what Christmas is for a some people and how Christmas for us is not about some of those things.
In our home, receiving at Christmas time has nothing to do with whether or not you’ve been good and you certainly won’t get threatened or punished for not being good by getting less presents or having to listen to a fake call to Santa telling him how bad you’ve been. If you’ve been behaving badly we won’t attempt to stop that by saying Santa won’t bring you presents. We don’t see threats and punishment as a useful way of dealing with bad behaviour. Instead, we see unpleasant behaviour from you as a way for you to let us know that you’re struggling with something or that you need something, like food, sleep, extra understanding, the chance to cry, more love and care … perhaps you’re needing to feel more connected to us or to your world and your self. And so, we may not always find the best way, but we will do our best to help you find yourself again.
Also, Santa doesn’t come into our home on Christmas eve or any other time. And we don’t talk about him as though he’s just one man who makes it to every house in one night. Instead we talk about how anyone can play Santa at any time, for fun – you can, I can, even the kids can. And playing Santa doesn’t have to wait til Christmas day. You could embody Santa all year through if you want to.
We’ve had a lot of fun playing Santa in the last few months. Sometimes I randomly turn the Christmas tree lights on and hide tiny little animal biscuits on the branches while my son’s in another room. When I’m done I’ll call out, “Hey! Someone’s been playing Santa!” and he’ll run through. The joy on his face as he searches the tree for little surprises is too cute. Sometimes we wrap up toys he already has and put them under the Christmas tree, opening them minutes later.
We do talk about what we’d like for Christmas, as far as presents go, but we also talk about what we’d like to give to other people for Xmas (most people are getting a toy digger!) or what we think they’d like most. We talk about how we can play santa for others – and it doesn’t have to include getting dressed up in Santa gear, but that’s fun too. A few weeks ago my son dressed up and got to play Santa at a local aged care home where a bunch of us sang carols while he and another kid handed out pressies to the residents. Now that was fun! But playing Santa doesn’t have to be only about giving presents – it could simply be about being kind to others, being generous towards them, helping them, leaving something for them on their doorstep anonymously, bringing in the parcels that arrive for them through the post when they’re out. It can include caring for them whether we know them or not.
When it recently felt as though christmas presents were becoming too much the focus for us we shifted that too. We started speaking about what else is really great about this time of year. Top of our list were that dad’s off work (not just for a weekend), I’m working less and my son’s not got preschool, so we get to all hang out together a whole lot more.
I used to wonder whether our approach to Xmas would take the fun out of it for our son, but so far it’s been more fun than ever.
I’d like to leave you with a beautiful quote by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Founder of the Art of Living Foundation: “A christmas tree bears the gifts and the lights not for itself. All the gifts you are carrying in your life are for others. Anyone who comes to you, offer them your gifts.”
Wishing you a really beautiful Christmas. May it be a time of love, connection, inner stillness and joy.