Our family never "did" Santa Claus. When I was a kid, I'd heard of him but I knew he was fictional. I knew he wasn't real and that was ok with me. I'd never known any different. My friends, however, were told he was real. I very distinctly remember the first time I heard of him.
My friend told me about Santa and how you had to be good or you wouldn't get any presents. I was confused because I'd never gotten any gifts from Santa before, just my family. She told me he came down the chimney after you go to bed on Christmas Eve and puts presents under the tree and stuff in the stocking. So that year, I snuck downstairs after bedtime and peeked around the corner into the living room...and saw my parents putting stuff in the stockings. I wasn't horrified because, of course, I'd never heard of this weirdo before.
I told my friend Santa was just your parents, she told her mom, and my mom got a call (apparently I did this with sex later...I was a blabby child). According to my friend's mom, Santa Claus was an important part of childhood and how dare we ruin that for her child. Believing in the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus were all magical joys for children. My mom calmly told her that if we lie to our children about these magical beings, when they find out that they're NOT real, what are they supposed to think about Jesus?
It makes sense. All those creatures are magical and give us things, even if we haven't really earned them...sort of like Jesus. (Work with me.) If we teach our children about mystical rabbits who bring eggs or fat men who break into our house to give us presents or fairies who break into our house and steal our teeth in exchange for money (now that one is horrifying) then why should they believe us when we tell them about Jesus who was born of a virgin, performed miracles and then died for our sins and rose again? There's nothing in it for us, so might as well lump him in with the other mystical beings.
If you choose to do Santa with your kids, that's fine. I'm not judging you. You raise your children how you feel best. Austin and I choose not to have those guys around. We don't have Santa anything in our house. I'm not going to hate you if you give me a gift bag with Santa on it, or if the boys get something at Easter with bunny ears on it or whatever.
The lack of Santa wasn't our only "tradition," though. For a few years, we brought foster kids home for the holidays, and that was kind of fun. More people around (because five kids isn't enough, obviously) and more presents opened and all that. We also had one that my soulmate says is sad. I find it amusing.
We dumpster dove for our Christmas tree. Every year. Not even kidding.
We lived on ACU hill and right before Christmas, a lot of the college kids would go home and throw away perfectly good Christmas trees...and we'd come along and scoop them up for free. Sometimes they still had ornaments or lights on them. Lots of them had stands. You had to know the right areas to look and we got pretty good at it. Except one year. One year we waited too long and we didn't find a tree. We decorated a floor to ceiling lamp.
That was the year the foster kids felt sorry for us.
I must have been about 7 and I wasn't just horribly disappointed. It was kind of cool that we decorated something different. I remember going out with my older brother to look for a tree and complaining about how cold it was. I hadn't thought to grab a jacket and he wasn't willing to wait for me to grab one. He kept telling me to think warm thoughts. It didn't work. I shivered until he finally got fed up and we went home. Our parents waited too long to load everyone up to go look for a tree and so we didn't find anything. Hence the lamp. The next year we all went out and we ended up with three trees. I think one was fully decorated with a stand and everything. Silly college kids.
The first year we moved into the house on Orange, 1993, my parents went out and bought a very nice fake tree and it was used for about 15 years. Once Mom and Dad hung a gold star over the family cradle, and that was pretty nice. I think this year will just be a pile of gifts with no focal point...and that's ok too. The tree/star/whatever isn't the main point of Christmas. It's the family togetherness.
And really, that was the best part about looking for a discarded tree. We'd all seven pile into the Suburban and drive around, looking at the lights and saying, in tiers, "OOoooh" "Ahhhh" Ohhhh." We'd enjoy cookies and hot chocolate and marshmallows roasted in the fireplace and movies with everyone piled on the fold out sofabed (the only time we had a tv...another post). We'd go see my grandmother and aunts and open more presents.
We've given up the foster kids, the dumpster tree, and, occasionally, the tree itself. Our family has started our own little traditions, and they're fun: movie and pizza on Christmas Adam (December 23). I'm excited to see what traditions we start in the years to come. And yes, soulmate, I'll stay out of the dumpsters.