7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 108)

— 1 —

Guilty confession: We do Santa at our house, but I have misgivings about it. In theory, I think it’s a great tradition. Dan Lord has a good post about it from a faith-based perspective, and I agree with it. I’m trying to like Santa here. But in practice it just feels kind of weird. On the one hand, I don’t want to associate Santa too closely with Jesus, since, well, one is more real than the other. On the other hand, it’s a constant battle not to let the guy with the shiny gifts overshadow the humble baby in the manger. As much as I try to emphasize Santa as Jesus’ helper, a Christian saint, etc. the pop culture images of him as THE AWESOME DUDE WITH THE INFINITE GIFT-GIVING POWER seem to trump in my children’s collective subconscious.

I’m not anti-Santa. I’m sure other families can pull this all off flawlessly. But, to be honest, sometimes I wish we’d started with some simple St. Nicholas Day traditions, and skipped the Santa stuff at Christmas.

— 2 —

You know what I wish Santa would bring me for Christmas? Lovenox. Our health insurance changed, and these shots I have to give myself during pregnancy are going to cost me over $1, 000 per month until we meet our deductable. I told my husband to get me a month’s supply and wrap it up in a Tiffany’s box and put it under the tree.

— 3 —

I’m fascinated by the Tiny House Blog. I loved this video they posted of a family of three (soon to be four) who lives in a 500 sq. ft. home:

— 4 —

Just to make sure you don’t get anything done for the next half hour, here are some other awesome tiny home videos:

(Note: I watched most of these with the sound off because it’s the kids’ quiet time. The people all looked lovely and pleasant, so I assume they were talking about their small houses and not shouting profanity. Hopefully nobody said “This is my $&%*^%! drawer, where I keep my $*#$@! shoes that I wear to my job as a pro-pornography advocate…”)

— 5 —

So I had the big conversation with my agent about the book. He read it for the first time a couple of weeks ago, and told me his thoughts. The plus side is that he had glowing things to say about it and was very enthusiastic. The, uhh, painful side was that he suggested that I make some pretty major structural changes. After all the work I’ve put into it, I guess I kind of thought he’d say, “I have no feedback! Let’s send it to the publishers!” I never thought I’d be looking at so much more work, though I do think his advice is sound. Every time I think about it I kind of feel like I’m going to hyperventilate, so I’ve decided to put it aside until after Christmas.

— 6 —

One of the most interesting things I’ve learned in the book writing process is this: you don’t need to feel good to write well. Some parts of the book about which my agent had the most glowing things to say were written or heavily edited a few weeks ago, when my morning sickness was the worst. Other good parts were written when I felt so tired and uninspired that even looking at the keyboard made me want to gag. I’ve come to believe that age-old truth that the creation of any kind of art is simply the channeling Something outside of yourself (Steven Pressfield would call it The Muse; I call it the Holy Spirit). In order to produce good work, you only need to be healthy enough to take dictation.

— 7 —

Have you ever heard the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s version of The First Noel? If not, you should.

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Comments

  1. says

    Jennifer,
    First, congratulations on the wonderful news of being pregnant. I’m sorry you aren’t feeling so great… and those shots… no fun! Best wishes on the revisions for your book. I look forward to reading it when it is on shelves! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Kristina says

    You probably know already, if you go to a decent pharmacy, that there is a generic forLovenox now. Could save you a few bucks!

  3. says

    We don’t do Santa at our house and never have, but it’s been a bit of a struggle each Christmas to remind our kids of what we DO believe! It’s usually not too bad, since we homeschool and they’re not in school or stores all the time having it pushed on them.

    Having said that, this year in particular, has been BAD.

    My 7 year old daughter has had a really hard time. Her BFF at church keeps telling her that Santa IS REAL and she’ll get no presents if she doesn’t “believe” so she insists that we’re wrong and it’s come to crying and melt-downs that she’s long outgrown. She’s just totally devastated (in a 7 year old kind of way).

    We’ve always told our kids that Santa is a character, just like Winnie the Pooh or Elmo – but not a real person. He’s fun to watch movies about or read stories sometimes, but he’s just not REAL LIFE. We’ve also told them about Saint Nicholas and how “Santa” got started. Overall, my older kids (8 and 10 year olds) have done okay, but this year has been a nightmare.

    We don’t want our kids “ruining” Santa for every other kid at church, but what do you do?? My husband and I question our decision and always wonder if we could/should handle it differently, but there just doesn’t seem to be a perfect solution. I’m interested to see what everone else has to say and I plan to read the articles you linked to in the morning!

    Anyway…I’d just like to say Merry Christmas to you & your family! Thanks for all of your inspiring writing!! Oh, and I didn’t mean to post such a LONG comment!

    • Marie says

      I come a completely different point of view. I love Santa Claus. I love the imagination and mystery of it all. It doesn’t have to contradict Christianity. I tell the children of the real story of Saint Nicholas. We have a Santa statue on his knees before the manger. I Christianize Santa to the utmost and enjoy the love and joy and mystery of the whole season. And when the older ones realize that Santa is not “real” I tell them it is never to be discussed. Santa is real in our home and his spirit abides in the love and gifts we are to each other and the thoughtful gifts we give to one another..

    • says

      I’m with you Rose- I grew up with Santa, but I’m adamantly anti-Santa now. It doesn’t help when kids at church are all into Santa and spreading the lie around, just so everyone can have a bit of their innocence killed when they find out their parents were lying to them “in fun”.

      I’ve heard too many people talk about the day their child found out Santa wasn’t real… and then asked, “So, Jesus is a lie, too, right?” I have enough trouble raising Christian kids, I don’t need to risk that problem, too.

  4. says

    “Iโ€™ve come to believe that age-old truth that the creation of any kind of art is simply the channeling Something outside of yourself”

    Sounds a bit like, “when I am weak, then I am strong…” ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for that bit of encouragement this morning. I keep thinking I need to be strong before I get writing. Could be just the opposite. Thanks again!!

  5. says

    Good luck with the insurance, Jen!

    In re the Santa question, I still think it still presents a big challenge to Christian parents. It’s hard to get them to take your word on Christ if you’ve used similar justifications, language to talk about both. Particularly if they become comparable moral guardians. If you’re interested, I wrote more on this topic here.

  6. says

    Until last year we spent three years living in a 900msq. home with ten of us. My friend lives in probably something smaller than 500msq with a family of 8. It is doable, but some days it is hard.

  7. says

    Probably because I was crushed one year when I recognized my mother’s handwriting on Santa’s thank-you note for milk and cookes, I told our children that Santa is just a story. I believed it was crucial not to lie to the children, and I passionately felt that supporting the Santa myth was equivalent to a lie.

    We introduced them to St. Nicholas, but to try to justify Santa on the basis of the saint seems too far to go, especially as our culture has developed the notion of Santa Claus as a magical figure.

    We explained that it was important not to upset their friends by passing on their knowledge, and there was never a problem. The kids agreed to keep it in the family, and I remember our son was offended one year when, through a bulk purchase of wrapping paper, some of his presents ended up with Santa on the giftwrap!

    I asked them as adults if they felt they had missed anything by not believing in Santa, and they said no, on the contrary, they were happy not to have gone through the disillusionment of finding out later that he didn’t exist.

    Would I do it the same way if I had it to do over again? Yes, I think I would. I dislike all the “nudge nudge wink wink” that goes on among adults about not telling kids the truth about Santa. I find it disrespectful of the children.

  8. Magnificat says

    Concerning #3 and #4 …
    In Europe it’s a common thing to live in small flats. Most singles I know live in 430 sq.ft.flats, and families (2-4 kids) in flats 600-700.

    • says

      Wow, I really couldn’t imagine that. Spoiled American here. I can handle that space as a single, but with kids? Sheesh… I need to readjust my idea of luxury.

      Great piece! I vote that Betty Beguiles hacks onto your blog to post a donate button.

      • Magnificat says

        It’s a good thing, actually. It easyt to clean your flat regularly :-)). And you are “forced” not to own 90 shirts, for example … if you want a new one, you must give some of the old ones to friends or to charity :-)))

  9. says

    Santa is a vexing problem with no good solution. The commercialized Santa has little to do with St. Nicholas. Good stuff on tiny homes (I have seen them before but will watch again later). I love your well put comments on the Holy Spirit and writing.

    My entry this week… 7 year old Rhema Marvanne sings Amazing Grace. Father Barron comments on leaving the Church. Dominicans have their playful side. UN climate delegates jump on almost any far left proposal. Just for public schools โ€“ The 12 Days of Winter. The nativity explained for the under-25 crowd. A thoughtful quote of the week.

  10. says

    Jen,

    With regard to Santa, we get each child a gift from my hubby and I and we also have other presents that we put all together with no tags on them. The presents tend to be ones that are for the whole family. Things that we all would like. This can be movies, computer games and electrical items that everyone can use. We don’t talk about Santa but there are gifts that are given anonomously. Probably the children know we get them but like the idea of santa and if you asked them who they were from they would say Santa. I have friends that are really anti saying anything to their children and friends that go overboard making their house look like Santa has been there. I try for middle ground.

  11. says

    It’s not too late to start St. Nicholas day traditions! We started when our eldest was 8 (the others were 5 and 2). We just told them that some parents request that St. Nicholas bring gifts on his feast day instead of Christmas. They were totally OK with that! They think it is great to get some gifts early. We keep it fairly small, though, none of the “big Santa” gifts.

    Congratulations on the pregnancy – hope you are feeling well soon!

  12. says

    My husband said yesterday, “This whole debate is crazy. No one is LYING. Santa IS real. He’s a mythical character who represents the spirit of anonymous giving.” Pretty wise, I thought.

    We’ve always done both Santa AND Baby Jesus (of course), with St. Nicholas making an appearance when my kids were about the ages of yours, Jen. No one has ever doubted which one of these guys is The Big Deal at Christmas. Santa is cool and all, and it’s fun to get gifts, but the only reason we’re getting gifts at all is because it’s Jesus’ birthday, right?

    Heck, this year it seems like our 5 year old is almost as excited about St. Juan Diego as Santa, I think. Now that our oldest are 12 and 10, I can’t tell if they believe in Santa or not…but I’m hoping for a smooth transition!

    Merry Christmas Jen!

    • Mary says

      “Weโ€™ve always done both Santa AND Baby Jesus (of course), with St. Nicholas making an appearance when my kids were about the ages of yours, Jen. No one has ever doubted which one of these guys is The Big Deal at Christmas.”

      Oh my gosh, I could have written this word for word!

  13. says

    I like the German tradition which has the “Christ Child” bringing the Christmas gifts to the children…we sort have a strange, eclectic combination of Saint Nicholas/Santa/ and Jesus here….Jesus is the reason…Saint Nicholas was/is His faithful servant who “delivers” things for Him and “Santa” is the Americanized watered-down version of this whole process…I’m with you…it sort of bothers me each year, right up there with the whole “Halloween” thing…I finally ditched that…so maybe “Santa” will become more and more Saint Nicholas and Jesus for us soon. Sorry about the expense of those shots…did your doctor try/mention/consider “Glyburide” before resorting to the insulin shots? Just curious…it worked well for me last time.

  14. Lynn says

    I blame Santa for my 10 years of atheism. My BFF told me there was no Santa when I was 6. I was devastated. As I got older, I figured that if grown-ups would lie to me about this, they would lie to me about anything. So I became an atheist at 14 (when I figured out that there couldn’t possibly be a God, since there was so much evil in the world) and regained my faith when I fell in love with my husband and realized that God was real. I was welcomed into the Catholic faith last Easter.

  15. Kelly says

    Your kids are still young enough that you could start transitioning your traditions if you want to. We do stockings on St. Nicholas’s day and they get chocolate coins, oranges, a Christmas book and maybe some little gifts like Christmas socks or pencils. Usually when the children are 3-5 then they assume it is from Santa because they have picked up on it from the culture. We read the story of St. Nicholas each year and say the gifts are in his memory and they realize on their own what we are saying. At that point we tell them that Santa is a sort of fun game that many parents like to play and they shouldn’t tell anyone that he isn’t real. This has all worked out well for us. Having the stockings earlier in Dec means that Santa doesn’t overshadow Christmas and when people ask what Santa brought them then they say what was in their stocking.

  16. says

    My First Communion children last year, most of whom were Hispanic, told me that in Spanish-speaking countries also the Christmas gift-giver is the Nino, the Christ Child.

    We “do” Santa, but have always stressed that a) he’s the historical figure of Saint Nicholas, ie a saint, ie a servant of the Christ Child doing His work, and that b) the Christ Child has many, many servants, and that c) the whole reason for gifts on Christmas, no matter who is giving them, is to demonstrate God’s desire to give to us.

    I have teenagers as well as younger kids, and though we’ve had conversations, we’ve never had some big moment when Mom and Dad ripped away the veil and exposed the whole charade. The big kids obviously get what’s going on and now enjoy being part of the secret for the younger ones. And of course we all know that the larger culture is at odds with us on many things; we just try not to do the whole glitzy commercial thing. Our Christmases have always been pretty simple.

    And the idea is always that whoever it is, that gift-giver is a servant of the great Giver.

    (in my scheme of decorating throughout Advent, by the way, Saint Nicholas Day is when all the little Santa figurines appear.)

  17. says

    Oh, whoops! I didn’t mean to link myself twice! If there’s any way to remove one of them, feel free to. I was just having a . . . uh . . . post-childbearing-years kind of moment, in which I saw my info in the little linky box, and totally forgot that I’d already hit the button. So sorry.

  18. says

    Not much to say except…I had morning, noon and night sickness last season and today I am sat with a 4 month old baby who is an absolute joy. Thanks as always for the 7 quick takes and I hope you get some Christmas joy from your little ones Jen to compensate for how sick you are feeling xx

  19. says

    We don’t do Santa at our house for entirely selfish reasons. If I am going to buy my kids presents I don’t want someone else getting all the thanks!

    My kids quickly figured out that while Santa does not come to our house, he does go to Grandma and Grandpa’s house. We have not discouraged them! And Grandpa LOVES buying presents and Grandpa LOVES being Santa, so everyone wins.

  20. Mary says

    This is a little ‘ranty’ b/c I have recently been arguing this with friends, but it really grinds my gears.

    First of all, you shouldn’t have to worry about “the secret message you’re sending your children” because if the primary message you are always sending your children is LOVE, then nothing you teach them is going to destroy their lives. And I feel bad for parents who worry so much about the potential consequences of the decisions they make for their children. My parents made loads of decisions with potential consequences – every parent does. And most of us managed to turn out fine.
    This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t worry at all; but it does mean that we shouldn’t be so scared to do something “in case my child feels lied to” later in life. I’m sorry, but if your child ends up hating you because you did “Santa”, your child has bigger issues with you than just Santa.

    I grew up with parents that did, “OMG JESUS IS BORN! HE CAME! HOORAY! oh and Santa brought gifts to celebrate too.” Now, as children, course presents trumped Jesus sometimes in our minds. I don’t get this…giant burden of responsibility to feel like we have to raise our children so that every moment they’re aware of every single piece of theology related to a celebration, or that somehow if THEY don’t ‘get it’, then the PARENTS are doing something wrong. Kids are kids. It is okay for them to believe in something that doesn’t exist. It’s okay for parents to play along. What, do parents never use their imagination with their children anymore? No tea parties, sword fights, fake Masses (yea those were popular in our house)? What if everything my mom did with me was a…lie??? A giant lying world constructed to make me feel happy, to teach me the spirit of giving, the love of God, the responsibility of good behavior, dear God NOOOOO!! How could my mom do that to me!??!

    Obviously I’m being overly dramatic. But my point is: WHY does it have to be “Santa v. Catholicism”? Do they not work just fine in tandem? They seemed to work just fine in my home. My three siblings and I all managed to learn the truth of Santa without losing our Catholic faith, we never felt lied to by our parents. So the answer is: either my parents were spectacularly awesome parents outside of that whole “Santa” thing, OR, they managed to find a way to do Santa AND Jesus that worked just fine within our faith.

    And when the heck did this “No Santa” thing start?? I have never heard of people not doing Santa until this year. Is this a recent thing – some new parenting philosophy that tells us that what our parents did wasn’t good enough, was wrong, that we SHOULD feel lied to and we should never do that to our children?

    I know I sound gruff and mean, but I really have nothing against parents who don’t do Santa. It’s their right to raise their children as they see fit. And there’s plenty of potential consequences to not doing Santa, so I hope they consider those as well before making a decision.
    I just hope their children aren’t the ones who snidely remark, “Santa isn’t even real!” to mine.

    • Erika says

      It’s so nice when another commenter writes out everything I was thinking so I don’t have to : )

      Agree with everything you said. Well put.

      • Rebecca says

        Awesome! I agree too! One other thought … what made me decide to “do Santa” was a Chesterton passage that, conveniently, I now can’t remember, but the gist of it was this … letting kids believe in Santa primes their imaginations to experience with awe and wonder the majesty of God when they are older. It trains their brains to look beyond what’s material, that there’s more to the world than meets-the-eye. If we’re stuck on a literalistic view of the universe, how can we appreciate the Real Presence, for instance? The vast majority of children will not conclude that if Santa is a myth, then so is religion. Just my 2 cents. ๐Ÿ™‚

        • Mary says

          Was it this? http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?_r=2&res=9405EEDF163FE633A25751C2A9649D946396D6CF It’s a pdf I think.

          I really like: “…when the faithful in any real religion say that a certain thing historically happened once, they do not feel it as inconsistent with the idea that it actually happens constantly. … if there is anything in Mr. Littlewood’s ingenious suggestion that Santa Claus bringing presents has a trace of the Wise Men bringing gifts to Bethlehem, there is no inconsistency in the Christian mind between his historically and literally having brought gifts on that occasion, and his really and truly bringing gifts every 25th of December.”

          It’s long and convoluted, and I wouldn’t dare let a child try to figure that out with a 10-foot pole, but it makes sense to adults, whose brains tend to grasp theology much more easily.

    • Jill says

      I love this: “…but if your child ends up hating you because you did โ€œSantaโ€, your child has bigger issues with you than just Santa.”

      I think it’s entirely possible that we can be Catholic and still “play along” for a while with Santa. I figure my kids will let me know how I screwed them up about the time they’re 22 years old. I can’t imagine a child growing up thinking EVERY thing their parent did for them was perfect. We are not perfect, but if we teach our children the perfect Love of Jesus, beginning from the birth of the Christ child at Christmas, our children will know that, though we sometimes fail, they can rest in the Love that never fails.

  21. says

    In college I interned at 826 Valencia, a nonprofit writing center. They had edited pages from a variety of books, screenplays, scripts, short stores framed and hanging throughout the center. There would be huge red slashes through literature I was familiar with, proof that even award winning authors have to rewrite, edit, and rewrite some more. It was quite encouraging.

  22. Tracy C. says

    Please do not feel bad about Santa. I really think the Santa guilt has gotten way out of hand the past few years, we’re not Puritans right? My kids are 2-12 and we ‘do’ Santa. By that I mean we don’t talk about it too much one way or another. We have discussed St. Nicholas just as we talk about all the saints, as real life folks. Occasionaly people would ask them stuff like what are you asking Santa for Christmas and they would say a few things and then we just move on.

    Questions came up very rarely like how does he get in and I would just say Hmm I don’t know- and then move on. On Christmas morning we leave one thing unwrapped and that is from Santa-and then we move on. We leave cookies when someone thinks of it. Right now my 8,8, 11, and 12 year old know that Santa isn’t real. But my oldest reminded my 8 year old at the beginning of the season cause she forgot! She just laughed, “Oh that’s right!” My 5 year old is the believer this year and still it has not been a big deal this season. We are trying to go visit Santa, but we may or may not make it (I have been battling morning sickness also) it’s not a huge deal to her.

    Seriously, over time, the big deal to my kids is following the family traditions that we do like the Jesse Tree, caroling with hot chocolate, reading favorite Christmas books and so on. The kids remind me and BTW if we do things two years in a row? Then forever it becomes a Family Tradition written in stone and they expect it every year lol!

    I remember being concerned with my oldest kids about how they would react when they found out. I was asked about it and said, well what do you think? They just reasoned it out at about 7 or so. It was not a big deal maybe because we had not made it one, but I am glad we didn’t abandon the whole thing all together. The Santa thing is a part of the American ‘culture’ and while totally secondary to our religious traditions these things like Easter Bunnies, Thanksgiving and 4th of July help bond us with our fellow worldy travellers. I think of them as benign and safe pathways to relate, which are rare in this heated and divided atmosphere all around us.

    I’ll pray that you can find peace about the Santa Issue. Happy Advent and Merry Christmas!

  23. says

    Yes, we do Santa. It was something we disagreed on. I wanted him to be as fake as Superman, but Hubby was raised believing in him so we let her believe. We do emphasize that the celebration is for Jesus’ birthday and that Santa’s role is to take presents to others because we can’t give them to Jesus and he loves it when we give. I’ve also told Hubby that when someday she asks us why we lied to her, HE gets to tell her why.

  24. Amanda says

    I tell my kids that since Christmas is Jesus’ birthday and Jesus lives inside all of us who believe, it’s like a birthday for all of us because He is our everlasting life. We do hide the gifts away and put them out after the kids have gone to bed Christmas Eve.

    On Dec. 6th the kids wake up to filled stockings, because that is St. Nick’s Day.

    Merry Christmas, God bless!

  25. says

    Jen, I would not worry too much about the Santa tradition as long as Christ is firmly planted in your kids minds as the true meaning of Christmas. Think of Santa as an imagination exciter; the anticipation that some hugely fat man would be coming in his sleigh to deliver presents to my siblings and me always made the night before impossible to sleep and Christmas twice as exciting, even though we went to mass and Dad read from Luke, etc.

    Writing when you don’t feel like it is music to my ears… Oh, I know. Writing my thesis was possibly one of the hardest and most rewarding processes! And I can’t wait to do it again in book form. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Good luck with your pregnancy and taking medications!

  26. says

    In my family, Santa always brought the “big gift”…the rest were from our parents. Why would Santa bring socks & underwear??? When the kids got up (and this is true for my kids, too) they are allowed to open their stocking and play with the unwrapped Santa gift. We do the other gifts one at a time youngest to oldest in rotation. This makes the morning event calmer and happier. Each child gets three gifts from us (my parents did more) to represent the 3 King’s gifts. Of course, I link things like a group of star wars figures are one gift. Santa is pretty generous in the stocking, too…but I’m trying to cut back.
    Being of German heritage, we celebrate St Nick with stockings. St Nick is fond of Veggie tales and a small game (the kids got peg games from Cracker Barrel this year).
    My girls 12 & 10 started questioning several years ago, but they WANTED to believe! They know now and don’t seem to feel let down…they are having fun keeping it going for my 6 & 1 year old boys. : )
    Have fun with the whole thing & relax!
    Pax Christi!

  27. says

    Well, that is some perspective. Now my house doesn’t seem so small. And I know we need to get rid of more stuff.

    I hope there is some kind of solution to the insurance problem. You would hope things could be worked out, but I know that is rare.

  28. says

    You always make me smile, Jen. And laugh, and cry! Good luck with the book edits, I’m sure it will be great. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Thanks for the links to the videos – they make me feel better about our 1200sf house for 7 people. One, I think we have less STUFF than some of those people! (maybe not books….but clothes, toys, esp. per person). We just need a better laid out house and organization!

  29. says

    I grew up with both Jesus and Santa in the home; Santa was only designated for gifts in our stockings. I don’t remember there being any confusion since it was kind of obvious that Santa was fake (how can he be outside of every store in town at the same time…) and thankfully Jesus was the central focus in our home. i think it’s something that every family has to consider but I wouldn’t worry too much about it. That small home video is awesome!!

  30. says

    I feel the same way about the Santa thing. In addition, my husband’s birthday is Christmas Eve so I hope every year that he doesn’t feel slighted by the holiday (he assures me he doesn’t, but I still wonder).

  31. says

    I’m totally with you on the Santa thing. We also do Santa, but I’ve evolved my thoughts about him since we first had kids. Now I’m just excited to see the light at the end of the tunnel as far as he is concerned. My oldest figured it out and we had the “Spirit of St. Nicholas” talk and how he was a religious man. My daughter (who just turned 8) started asking questions this year but is still on the Santa bandwagon because she wants to be. The younger ones are 4 and 3 so we still have a good 4 years of Santa to go. I’ve spent the last few years elongating and expanding our celebration of Advent and downplaying Santa. We’ve never visited Santa at the mall (except once when my older two were very young) and don’t make a big deal about writing letters to him, etc. We also do a lot of giving and serving as a family to counteract the cultural selfishness and greed of this time of year. I see the fruit of this, but I may have done it differently had I had these thoughts are a new mom. We’ll just ride it out for now!

    And I had to shoot myself daily with Lovenox also. I was lucky enough to have it covered under my insurance but I know how expensive it was!!! You’ll get through it! God will provide to make a way for this precious new little one!

  32. says

    Jennifer, I love the Tiny House Blog, too! My husband spent two years after college doing a service program where he lived in voluntary poverty, and we’ve been having conversations about, well, poverty. The Tiny House blog gives me encouragement that, on an objective level, it is possible to live with less. (This says nothing about my own personal detachment from stuff, whatever amount of stuff I own.)

  33. says

    We always celebrate St Nick’s Feast Day – he would bring little gifts in our stockings on December 6th! Then we also have Santa Claus come on Christmas. As a kid, I probably thought Santa Claus was cooler – he brought bigger gifts! – but I really like continuing the St. Nick’s tradition now that I’m on my own too!

  34. says

    I just realized I posted my blog title as “Musings of a Catholic Moc.” LOL! We did Santa at our house until the boys stopped believing in him.

  35. says

    $1000/month? Oh no!!! That’s a lot! Good luck with that!

    And I love the small homes. Seriously, sometimes I wonder why I think I need so much space. I’d much rather have a “just enough” space house and spend the rest of the money on a big plot of land to enjoy space outdoors!

    • Mary says

      I agree! I’d rather have the land. Now, if only I can convince that pesky husband of mine… ๐Ÿ˜‰

  36. says

    Re: the Santa issue
    I don’t understand why it has to be one extreme or the other? Full blown Santa wonderland with reindeer and elves or “Santa’s dead and in Heaven. No, he can’t bring you a jump rope”. We placed limits on the Santa issue a long time ago and they seem to have worked well. The good saint shows up on his feast day to pick up the notes the children have written to him in which they make some small Advent resolutions and he leaves treats and notes for them (in their shoes or slippers) asking them to work on a particular virtue or bad habit. He says he will return on Christmas Eve to reward them for their hard work and perseverance. When he returns, since we have already established his footwear fascination, he fills their stockings. And that’s it! Which means that if they know that he is only going to put something in their stocking, it limits what they can expect (and ask for) from the “big guy”. If there is something that is slightly bigger than will fit in a stocking, St. Nick has been known to leave it under their stocking with the stocking draped over it. Anything else, under the tree, is from us or grandparents or godparents, etc…. And they know that those are not gifts they can request because gifts are freely given. I’m not saying we have the “right way” figured out, but we have been pleased with the way this approach has addressed all of our concerns. Proper focus on Christ, respect owed to the saint, encouraging the childlike magic but still controlling the greed.

    • Whimsy says

      There is a story of a woman asked a little boy he wanted Santa to give him. The little boy said, “Santa is dead.”

      The lady gave the mom a very bad look!

      Of course, the 4 yo boy had, ahem, condensed Mom’s explanation!

      Every time I have a 5 yo in the house, s/he asks me if Santa is real. I always say that Santa is a fun part of Christmas, and it wouldn’t be the same without him.
      Now all of my children have a great love for the Divine Infant, so Jesus and Santa are not in competition at all. The kids love presents at Christmas, and I’m okay with that, too.

      • says

        We have always told our kids the truth of St. Nicholas that he was a bishop and a saint who embraced Christian generosity in a heroic way and even to this day, inspires heroic generosity and love for the Divine Child. The “Santa stories” that they see with Rudolph and elves and the North Pole are just fan fiction about this saintly helper that we can enjoy the same way we enjoy lots of other stories.

  37. says

    I laughed so hard at your note to number four that I almost cried. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    The Santa thing is tricky, that’s for sure. We never encouraged it, but the kids just latched on to the idea. We only just finally told them a few weeks ago (they are 6, 9, & 11). My six year old then said earlier this week, “I have a hard time believing God is real.” After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I said, “Why do you say that?” She said, “Well, you told us the Tooth Fairy and Santa were real, and they’re not. So, it’s hard for me to believe God is real.” It was like a knife in my heart. We had a long talk about it, and I think she’s fine now, but it definitely made me see where issues could come up.

    • says

      Santa is real, just as God is real. But one is metaphor and the other is the real deal.

      Properly understood, “Santa” is not the commercialized guy of the materialistic modern world, but is instead an icon of Son of God Himself and, hence, a model for us.

      See more in my comment below.

  38. says

    **My husband said yesterday, โ€œThis whole debate is crazy. No one is LYING. Santa IS real. Heโ€™s a mythical character who represents the spirit of anonymous giving.โ€ Pretty wise, I thought.**

    This is largely right. A better word would be metaphorical or symbolic, rather than mythical.

    “Santa Claus” is indeed real — he is a symbol of the giving and joy that we are each called to, and which originates in God giving Himself to us on Christmas morning.

    The only problem is in not locking yourself in by presenting Santa in such a fashion that one cannot then later explain exactly who “Santa” is. Yes, he was an actual real historical person by the name of Nicholas. And the clothes that he wears (red suit, white lining) are the real historical clothes worn by bishops. But the “Santa” of today is you and me. Santa is us, who are called to give to others.

    Thus, it is probably wise, when kids see all the various “Santas” at the mall, to explain that that is not really Santa, but “Santa’s helper.” That can bridge the gap to later telling the children that “Santa” is symbolic, that the real Santa is each of us and, more importantly, that they are Santa too, they are called to self-giving.

  39. says

    I have to say something about Santa. I grew up with a plurality of Santa experiences I guess, and I firmly support Santa. We did Slovenian traditions (100 year old ones, from when my people came over, a bit more intense than modern Slovene ones I think) and so I knew from a small age that Santa Claus=St Nicholas=Miklavz (the Slovenian name for him). I knew that he was the patron saint of children, and I knew that he was a real person, and that Christmas was only one part of the story. My mom told us great things about him – I guess I have to explain some traditions for it to make sense. Basically, St. Nick comes at midnight on the turning from 5th to 6th December with angels, blesses the house (thus turning all the devils around into, well, devil-shaped biscuits), fills our bowls by the door with nuts, candy canes (for the bishop staff- knew that growing up), oranges and chocolate gold coins (both representing the money he gave to a family with debts and/or marriageable but undowried daughters). In the morning, we wake up and go hunting around for them – it was a bit unnerving but joyous to see how ‘close’ some devils got! But best of all, he also brings the Christmas tree while we sleep. It was beautiful to find it waiting, like a real miracle.

    My mother told us he brought it from his special orchards on the North Pole. She also told us he would never come before Midnight Mass because he started at Midnight Mass in Bethlehem every year and it would take more time to get to Massachusetts. And we knew that we received presents because Christ was the best gift of all, and every gift reflected the joy of such a wondrous gift. We never received gifts from our parents, and it’s only in the last few years we’ve given gifts among the siblings. Mom and Pop wanted it to be ‘magical,’ and I agree.

    And pardon the self-quotation, but there was a debate about this on CMR a couple Christmases ago, and I don’t think I can explain myself better now, so here is part of what I wrote:

    In our day and age, Santa Claus teaches kids that the intangible (the saint) and the tangible do intersect. It teaches children that believing is seeing, and not the other way around. It doesn’t “give wonder to a wonderless world”; it gives us eyes to see just how full of wonder our world is. The faithless and materialistic have no such eyes, just as the New Age can glimpse only the surface of the deep pool of mystery and faith. Some have made Santa about the empty myths of pleasure and gratification, but at the heart of Santa, and in the hearts of those who truly understand it, the Santa myth points to the Truth, as Tolkien argued in his poem “Mythopoeia,” but because Santa knew God faithfully, he reflects it much more fully and truly.

    Also, I can recommend 2 things – one is this lovely book-video from the Daughters of St Paul where children can pray with Santa a lovely prayer– http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=168502933186262&oid=327117106528&comments

    And this is a lovely article by a young women I think I’d be friends with if I lived anywhere near her (close age, lots of younger sibs, cogent thoughts on Santa)

    http://www.integratedcatholiclife.org/2010/12/walker-the-ambassador-from-fairyland/

    I understand not wanting to lie to kids, but I think there are all sorts of little lies parents tell to no great harm and without a second thought- Santa is just a lightning rod because of some stupid Rankin Bass Christmas specials.

  40. says

    My husband and I have had actual, heated debates about Santa vs. St. Nick while our 2 month old baby sleeps, blissfully unaware of his ridiculous, first time parents and their attempts to plot his future mental and spiritual health by means of the “doweordontwesantaclaus” debate. We’ve come to a somewhat convuluted solution whereby Santa, aka St. Nicholas, the good bishop himself, lives at the North Pole with 8 reindeer and dresses all in red, (complete with his miter and crosier of course) and when he isn’t too busy b*tch-slapping heretics, he’s delivering presents in honor of the arrival on earth of the greatest gift of all: Jesus Christ. I’m sure our kids will turn out just fine…

  41. says

    Maybe this is where the Easter Bunny can play an invaluable service.

    Like Santa, the Easter Bunny is filled with Christian symbolism. But, generally, it is rather transparent that the “Easter Bunny” is mom and dad, what with him leaving the very same eggs that the kids were painting a couple of days before. Nevertheless, there is, in the Easter Bunny, that symbolism and message of giving (even if it is the giving of eggs and candy). And if kids can “believe” in the Easter Bunny without having a crisis of faith, knowing that it is really just fun and games, that he is really mom and dad, perhaps the example of the Easter Bunny can be used to later explain how Santa is really representative of Jesus and us.

  42. says

    Glad to know you don’t have to be feeling your best to write your best! That’s sometimes my excuse for not writing–that I’m in a bad mood, don’t feel “inspired,” etc. There is something to be said for the discipline of writing whether you *feel* like writing or not. Thanks for the inspiration–if a sick pregnant lady can do it, surely I can do it!

  43. Emily says

    I find that it’s easier to handle the possible All-About-Gifts feeling of Christmas morning without guilt when I know that we’ve already been to Mass and our Parish’s Christmas pageant and that we’ll be singing Christmas carols (or at least playing them) and reading Christmas stories for the rest of the Christmas season!

    I think it helps a good deal to be lighthearted about Santa, whether you choose to have him or not.

    He’s only one of the multitude of Christmas gift givers celebrating Christ’s Birth by remembering ‘what you give to the least of my brethren…’ and thus giving to children. (my children and I spent some time recounting all the Christmas gift givers St. Nick, Santa Claus, Babushka, Father Christmas, the Christ Child, the Three Wise Men, ….)

    BTW My twelve year old daughter has told me that if I don’t hang up a stocking for myself on Christmas Eve, she’s going to hang one up for me even if it’s only an old sports sock! None of this Christmas stockings are only for the children foolishness! [I think Santa has a new helper this year as she knows that her parents only discuss children’s gifts during their consultation with Santa ;-)]

  44. says

    I have to say, I don’t see anything wrong with doing Santa – so long as it doesn’t go overboard. Yes, he’s shiny and attractive to the kids, but with your reminders of what Christmas is really about, he won’t take center stage.

  45. says

    I’m late to the congratulation party, but congratulations! You and your family (not to mention your fun times with Lovenox) are in my prayers.

  46. says

    As always, love your blog. Thanks for the Tiny House blog link and other links w/ regards to the same- we are a family of 5 living in 783 square feet.
    e

  47. says

    We did St Nicholas day for the first time this year, and the kids were so cute! I plan on skipping the Santa at Christmas stuff. Oh, and your disclaimer for #4 made me laugh out loud! ๐Ÿ™‚

  48. says

    Oh, I had to add that we DO stockings, I have great memories of stocking from growing up and my parents never did Santa. We knew the gifts were from them, I think the charm was having a kind of sack of little gifts and treats that was all your own. Pretty cool!

  49. says

    I should add — and I think something Charlotte said reminded me of this — that we don’t encourage our children to *ask* for specific things for Christmas. We pay attention to things they like/want, and when they see something they want, I will say, “Well, maybe that’s something you’d like for Christmas,” mostly meaning that I am not buying it right then. Santa might remember that we saw this thing in the store in September, or he might have better ideas.

    I’m not necessarily averse to having them visit a Santa in a store or, as it happens in our town, in his little both on Main Street on Saturday mornings. I figure I might learn something by listening to what they say they want. It’s not really wrong to want things, after all. But we try hard not to stoke those fires too much, and generally the Santa gift is something *we* want to give the children, which we know they’d like and use and profit from, but which we kind of feel we need an excuse to give them — something out of the way and un-everyday. Last year it was an aquarium for all four of them, for example. *They* would not have thought of wanting an aquarium, but we have enjoyed it and learned from it every single day since last Christmas morning (we have learned, for example, that algae eaters are bad news if you don’t want the algae eater to be the only fish in your tank).

    Anyway, I think that formulation, that a gift is freely given, not demanded, is spot on. And the nice and useful iconic thing about Santa is that the gift he brings does seem to come from outside, out of a mystery. That seems imaginatively important to me.

    (we do do Saint Nicholas Day, too — then he brings oranges, nuts, and money, either candy or, as happened this year when we didn’t get to the store in time, a dollar bill for each child, in that child’s shoe.)

  50. says

    Jennifer,

    I’m not one of your regular commenters but can I just say, I am in awe of you! I’m also way older than you are but I have had four pregnancies (ages ago), so I know what that’s like! Your Faith is truly inspiring. I have also had to inject Lovenox recently (I’m on Coumadin for life due to atrial fibrillation) and I hated it! Also, hated the price of it! Even though I have Medicare Part D, it barely covered half!

    In truth, you really do inspire me. And I will pray for you, that all goes well.

  51. Denise says

    Great links, I hope you are doing OK, and we all must pray about your medication costs! God’s blessings be on you!

    And please don’t feel guilty about Santa. We don’t do Santa, we do St. Nick on his feast day; but very good, very orthodox Catholic friends have done Santa from the beginning and it’s all good. There are lots and lots of great comments above about how to handle it when the kids are older; or how to phase back and/or phase Santa into St. Nick now when your oldest is probably going to follow your lead without much question.

    Two thoughts: our kids are JUST as excited about Christmas presents as their friends in “Santa” families; and my daughter (7) started asking questions about St. Nick this year. But just as with most Santa-believers, she doesn’t really want to know yet. ๐Ÿ™‚ So you get to do the “symbolic of Christ’s gift-giving” at some point either way…

  52. Rebecca L says

    A few thoughts:
    1. I have three year old twins who are terrified of Santa. If they wake up Christmas morning and find that he was HERE, only a few feet from where they sleep, I’m afraid I will have bedlam on my hands. I told them he will bring them presents and they just say ‘Tell him to leave them on the porch!’ Yikes. I can’t be too upset, their instincts are right. Strangers who magically pop in and out of people’s houses ARE pretty scary. I defend Santa, and explain that he really is very nice, but they’re not buying it. Now, the Easter Bunny – some 5 foot two legged bunny with giant soulless eyes, I’m not even gonna TRY to defend THAT guy. I’m grown and he still kind of scares ME!

    2. I think we will just have presents around on Christmas morning and hope they didn’t ask where they came from. Kind of like when baby brother shows up on Tuesday. ๐Ÿ™‚

    3. I’m fascinated with the idea of small house living. I really like all the clever ways people manage to run a household with very few things, and very little space.

    4. Right now, we have some things that I just can’t part with that I need to figure out, namely 18 tubs of outgrown girls’ clothes. We don’t know if we are done having kids, I would hate to get rid of their clothes only to rebuy them later. But man, I could sure use the space.

    4. I once visited my friend’ family’s “cottage”. By cottage, of course they meant a home on the lake, formerly owned by a professional hockey player with six baths, six bedrooms and three floors. His mother never answered her cell phone while she was there, because by the time she got to it, it had stopped ringing. Isn’t that the funniest thing? She would look at it from ALL the way from where ever she was and just say ‘Never gonna make it’ and go back to what she was doing. Ha!

  53. Rebecca L says

    I should also add, I vividly recall my 6 year old nephew standing outside on Christmas Eve one year, in the freezing cold, waiting, with a piece of paper in his hand, for Santa. Everyone thought it was adorable that he was waiting to give Santa his wish list. I kept him company on the porch and he showed me his paper. It wasn’t a wish list. It was a birthday card for Jesus and he figured Santa could get it to him. It all makes sense, really, Santa shows up when Jesus does, he’s got that big sleigh full of bags, he could just as easily drop a letter as a video game, right? I thought it was the sweetest thing.

    Another time, my dad dressed up as Santa for my nieces. The oldest one, at 6 years old, wasn’t buying it for a second. She said ‘I know who that is’ and I said ‘Of course, he’s Santa’ and she said, dryly, ‘No, it’s uncle Larry’ and she went to go tell her little sisters who were LOVING every minute with Santa. I grabbed her by the ponytail and whispered ‘You keep your mouth shut, and I will get you all the candy you want tonight’. It was right then that my dad decided to egg her on and said ‘Now, why are you all the way over there? Have you been bad this year? Should I leave you coal?’ You could see the rage building in her. The nerve! This fraud was calling HER out! I could tell she was about to blurt out the truth and I whispered ‘There is chocolate in this for you. Remember. Shutty.’ She said nothing, just squinted at my dad with her angry little eyes and didn’t budge. Whew! Crisis averted!

  54. says

    I have no Quick Takes this week, but I do have a suggestion about Santa. Your kids are (at the oldest) around the age when we started this.

    When we moved to Virginia, we discovered that I’d radically miscounted how much money I’d been making in my part-time work as an interpreter/captioner at the local college. I was making 50% more than I thought, and we were SERIOUSLY struggling. Even before we started Dave Ramsey’s plan, we knew we couldn’t be as extravagant at Christmas as we’d been in the past. Our older daughter was six or seven, and the younger one would have been 3 or 4, when we sat them down and said, “Santa has been worried about you.” We’d already set up that Saint Nicholas and Santa were the same guy (and fortunately, they weren’t putting much thought into the old claymation movies vs. Saint Nicholas). Santa is Catholic, kids. We’d gotten that much through.

    Anyway, Santa said that he was worried that they were WAY too into presents and not enough into Jesus’ birth, which is the point of Christmas. Sure, the Veggies and Linus reminded us of this fact every year, but when the fat dude in the suit showed up and exchanged a boatload of gifts for a plate of cookies, it was really hard to remember that we were exchanging gifts to remind us of the Magi.

    So we told them that Santa had talked to us about a custom some families had of exchanging three gifts at Christmas, and we decided that was a nice idea. There would be three gifts from Saint Nicholas and one or two from Mommy and Daddy. (The stocking doesn’t count – that’s just there and always from Santa.) When they objected a little – okay, only my older daughter really objected – we reminded them that Jesus only got 3 gifts. It only took one year of misgivings about it before they realized it was okay.

    This year, with some medical bills and a new A/C for my Jeep that involved ripping the entire dash out (think labor costs!), we are simply having 3 gifts each. We also had to talk to our younger daughter about Santa. (Someone had told her, and she was starting to really think of ways to work things so Santa could get us a German Shepherd. The idea made perfect sense if Santa was really bringing the supplies and dog; unfortunately, Santa’s money all comes from our bank account.)

    Anyway, in case you’re looking for a nice summary after my babbling there: Try the 3 gifts from Santa idea. Veggie Tales has a neat movie from last year about Saint Nicholas that might help start that conversation. And, really, how many times can parents tell the story about loading up with gifts only to find that the kids play with the boxes or an old coloring book and crayons at the end of the gift opening? Less can be more.

    (I’ve been praying for you, Jen, since you announced being pregnant. I’ll add the intention of the medication, too. Sorry you have two different years’ deductables – that is SO hard, and I did that with Little Girl.)

  55. says

    I love Tiny House Blog. I’ve been reading it for a few years now. My kids would like to have WeeBee Tumbleweed houses in the backyard when they grow up. ๐Ÿ™‚ I went through a “Down with Santa/Up with SAINT Nicholas” phase, but he’s back in my good graces now, and my kids have a pretty good understanding of both the real and imaginary facets of this tradition. And you’ve read Simcha Fisher (blog “I have to sit down”) on this very topic today, right? That will give you a laugh. Merry Christmas! (almost)

  56. says

    Maybe I’m not as pious as I should be, and being the haphazard sinner that I am, I’ll just say this: I support Santa.

    Yes, Jesus is the reason for the season..blah blah blah blah blah. I get it. I don’t not respect that and I don’t not love Christmas for that very reason.

    But there has to be something to be said for the non-religious traditions that blend itself into one’s family, culture and community. I am Catholic, but I am also Ukranian, Scottish, English, the oldest daughter of a mother who loves the kid part of Christmas, from a long line of Santa lovers.

    Christmas is about Jesus. But it’s also about family, culture and traditions which is the heart and breath of Christian living. Gift giving is part of the Christmas story (refer to 3 Wise Men).

    And I think the “Christmas is the Reason for the Season” quote is becoming commercial in itself. I could think that, or for $29.99, I can buy a sign to put on my lawn and show off my piety to my neighbors. I could get my panties in a bunch about the word “X-mas” or “Happy Holidays” because it’s not “Christian enough”, or I could educate myself with the fact that X is the greek letter for Christ, and the world “Holiday” is derived from “Holy Day” and you can’t get more Christian that that. So if my employer, in the spirit of ecumenism and interfaith charity, wants to send a card that says “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings”….I’m ok with that. I get the love behind the meaning, and I don’t get all arms in the air because the world Christ isn’t plastered somewhere on a $2.49 card.

    Sorry..off tangent. But yay Santa.

  57. says

    I can COMPLETELY relate to good writing coming from “bad” days! I have had some days in the past when I REALLY did not feel like writing, but set a timer for 30 minutes and forced myself. I have been amazed at the results! (Not to say that I was writing award-winning material, but it is usually at least readable and not as bad as I may have felt!)

    I do like Saint Nicholas, but am not wild about the way he has been portrayed via Santa Claus. Saint Nick is a great role model.

  58. says

    Jen, take 6 about taking dictation…that is brilliant. EXACTLY. Though I cough and roll my eyes, because, well, I’d LIKE IT not to be true. You know, because as a wonderful writer (haha), I want it to be all about me. But…it’s not. And that’s the grace of God at work, at least for me. Very wise of you to put it aside til after Christmas. Praying for your revisions and can’t wait to read the finished work. ๐Ÿ™‚

  59. Marijo says

    Jennifer: Congratulations on the new baby and the upcoming book! Saying prayers for you as you continue with these two ventures :-). Merry Christmas and God Bless!

  60. Julie says

    I know a family who has Santa bring each child exactly three gifts because that is how many gifts the magi brought the Jesus. Any other gifts are labeled as from the parents. I like the direct tie from Santa to the birth of Christ – and it’s simple. The kids get it. “Jesus got three gifts, so we get three gifts.” It also helps to prevent kids from being too greedy with their wish lists!

  61. says

    “And thereโ€™s plenty of potential consequences to not doing Santa, so I hope they consider those as well before making a decision.” Care to elaborate on this? I was raised not to believe in Santa, and the anger and devastation I saw in a few extended families members when the truth about Santa was actually revealed made me very grateful to my parents for always playing it straight with me. Christmas is already full of plenty of magic and wonder. Just read the gospel of Luke!

  62. Alice Dunn says

    We never celebrate christmas with santa. I just don’t like lying to my children. If I would lie to them about santa, what would that teach them? That I can’t be trusted? That it’s ok to lie? What would they think? Santa was a lie, what else is a lie.

    The fantasy of santa is cute, but not that innocent.