Here's one reason I'm looking forward to participating in the "Elf on the Shelf" this year: it encourages imaginative play.
I know for some "The Elf on the Shelf" seems creepy, cumbersome, distracting, and so on and so forth. "To each his own" tends to be motto in such circumstances.
I'm not offended when someone tells me that they don't participate in all the same holiday traditions as me because I know that each family decides for themselves how to celebrate this time of year. In return, I hope you're not offended when I share some of the ways we like to celebrate Christmas. It's a time of year that is celebrated and recognized worldwide, no matter the religion. For our family, we recognize it as a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus and how he was the fulfillment of God's promises to his people throughout the whole Old Testament. In addition, we take part in other fun traditions like decorating the house with lights, putting up a tree, exchanging gifts, watching Christmas movies and, starting this year, meeting the Elf on the Shelf. I don't plan on putting a lot of emphasis on the elf. I just think Little Man will really enjoy trying to find the elf and seeing what he's been up to.
Both the Mr. and I have fond memories of setting out cookies for Santa, trying to fall asleep so that he would come, and popping out of bed bright and early to find out what he brought for us. As it turns out, neither of us were traumatized for life by the fact that dear, old St. Nick was ::spoiler alert:: our parents all along (sneaky sneaky).
I also never recall questioning whether or not Jesus was real when I found out that Santa wasn't really the one eating my cookies and leaving me notes before he went up the chimney. I vividly recall the day I inquired about Santa. It was actually on Easter and I questioned the Easter Bunny's existence. My mom answered honestly so I went through the rest of the list:
"And Santa Claus?"
"That's me and your dad too."
"So the Tooth Fairy..."
"Yes, also us."
And that's where I stopped. I didn't continue on with "...and Jesus??" Sure, I was a little disappointed. But at that age, there were other things that made me equally disappointed. For example, I was also a little disappointed to find out that running through the woods barefooted wasn't as easy and painless as Pocahontas made it out to be in her movie. Live and learn.
I think the reason that I didn't follow up with a question about whether or not Jesus was real was because I never placed Santa and Jesus in the same category. My husband and I were both brought up by parents who spoke of and taught about Jesus all year long. Santa always seemed to fit more in the category of fictional characters to me, much like the Disney princesses I grew up watching (who also, like Santa Claus, have real people dressed up, pretending to be those characters at theme parks). Even as an adult, I still get excited when I meet Mickey Mouse, Woody, Ariel, and the rest of the Disney gang. I'm not excited because I believe that I'm meeting the real characters I grew up watching on TV, but because there's enjoyment in embracing the make-believe and pretending there isn't a person inside the suit. You know it's all pretend but you still take part in it and enjoy it for what it is....IMAGINATION.
We haven't introduced Little Man to Santa Clause yet. I think we'll wait until the time comes that Little Man asks about him. You can't exactly dodge the fact that a plump, jolly, bearded-man in a red suit is everywhere you look. When that day comes, we'll tell him all about the man that St. Nicholas was and how his character is represented today. We'll tell about his life and explain that make-believe pieces of information have been added to the story about St. Nicholas throughout the years.
...And that's about as far as we've gotten with that plan. How we will incorporate Santa has yet to be decided. That will be a bridge we'll cross when we get to it but it doesn't hurt to be prepared for the "Who is Santa?" question. You never know when little inquiring minds will decide to verbalize their questions.
A friend of mine told me that even though her son knows that Santa doesn't really come during the night, he still has fun pretending that it happens. Another mom told her kids about Santa and said there was one more secret about him that they had to figure out on their own. Each year they received small gifts "from Santa" and tried to guess what his secret was. Finally, one particular year, they solved the mystery. "It's YOU!" they exclaimed with excitement after finally figuring out their parents had been playing the part of Santa all along.
I have friends and family who have a variety of Santa Clauses sitting on shelves around their house and I also have friends and family who choose not to use Santa Claus when decorating. I have to admit, at first I felt like I should be offended when people didn't share the same fondness I did for certain Christmas traditions. Now, I'm thankful for all of the different opinions I've heard from people over the past years. It's helped me and the Mr. to determine what traditions we'd like to carry on as a family.
One thing I'm certain of, pretending is okay. God created us with the ability to have an imagination and I definitely want to encourage pretend-play in Little Man's life, whatever form that might take. One article I found helpful on the topic of "Santa" was this one by Pastor Mark Driscoll: What We Tell Our Kids About Santa. I also appreciate the words of wisdom in the post, To Mamas of Littles During the Holidays, as I contemplate what I want to do and accomplish each year during the holidays.
For this year, we'll try out the elf and see how it goes. There are a few parts about the "Elf on the Shelf" that I plan to tweak so that it fits how we celebrate Christmas, but other than that, we're all looking forward to meeting Elfie...Mr. Elf...Elfvis...He-Who-Has-Yet-To-Be-Named ...this year :-)
I've set up a calendar to help me stay on track and not forget what I want to do for each day. Feel free to download and use the calendar as well! I've made it specifically for my toddler who is a boy and he's 2 years old. If you have a girl that's the same age, you might have to change some of the ideas. Same goes for those of you that have a toddler who's a bit older. Even so, most of these ideas are good for boy and girl toddlers of varying ages. I also included a list of materials you'll need for the activities.
Download a copy by .
I'm curious to know, what do you tell your children about Santa?
(remember, I won't be offended if you have an opinion different from mine)
Since I know this to be somewhat of a sensitive subject, I'd like to give this reminder:
"If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."
Our opinions might be different but there's no need to pass judgement or "throw stones", so to speak.
Thanks for keeping that in mind before commenting! :-)
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