So God Made a Mother Collection ➔

Who would have guessed a nice old guy bringing presents to the delight of children across the globe could end up being a divisive figure? Today along with not talking about politics or religion in polite company, we probably ought to add Santa to the list. I do not wish to add to that debate by defending the right jolly old elf or by passing judgement on those who do, but it occurs to me that for those who have grown up in Santa celebrating homes, maybe you’re not sure what it even means to leave Santa out of Christmas. Maybe that seems grinchy or gloomy or heartless. Since I grew up in a home that didn’t “do” Santa (and yes—I was that kid in kindergarten that let the cat out of the bag) I thought I’d just give you an overview of what that looks like in case you’re curious.

WHY: We ask our kids to trust us on a lot of important issues they can’t verify for themselves. Especially because I am a mother of adopted kids, I put a high priority on them believing the stories we tell them about their origins although until they are adults and can read their own paperwork, that is an act of faith. So we have chosen not to confuse them by asking them to believe something that eventually we’d have to admit isn’t true.
We have no problem with the fact that you might include Santa as part of your Christmas traditions and we ask our kids to help keep the secret for your kids. We tell them never to lie, but it is not their responsibility to explain it to another child. They know that some kids believe in Santa and we’re all okay with that.

OUR HISTORIES: I didn’t grow up with the idea that Santa was real. I never even considered it was a possibility that anybody did. In fact, I think in disproving the idea of Santa to my kindergarten class I tried to explain that it was just like the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. Yes. The trifecta of innocence smashing. In my mom’s family her mother as a child believed in Santa long past the appropriate age and her dad ended up mocking her for being so gullible. My grandma was so crushed by this that she didn’t want to mislead her kids so my mom didn’t grow up in a Santa family and was pretty passionately honest with us about it.
My husband’s family did Santa with all the traditional gusto and he survived just fine. He remembers that being a fun part of Christmas, but not really what was important. He has expressed that there were some problematic aspects of Santa as he looks back at that experience. If you are a family with very limited finances, it can be confusing for a child— why does Santa love some kids more than others? My husband also feels like he was less grateful than he should have been for the sacrifices his parents were making to give him an extravagant Christmas. When I asked for something outside of my parents’ budget my mom would say, “We can’t afford that. How about this?” and give an alternative. It’s just a little less complicated than if a child has their heart set on being good enough to earn a really pricey toy.

1472267_10152198245197784_247242163_n
All Photos by Rebecca Tredway Photography

WHERE’S SANTA: So here’s where you’ll find Santa in our house— everywhere! We don’t have a problem with the Santa imagery and we don’t teach our kids that it’s scary or wrong. There’s a great Veggie Tale on St. Nicholas that we’ve watched and we talk about how St. Nicholas is a man worth admiring for his bravery and generosity. They love to have us read “A Visit From St. Nicholas”, although it isn’t what we read the night before Christmas. We read Luke 2:1-20 with our kids to emphasize the birthday we’re celebrating. Here’s one thing I love about Santa— he can be whatever color we want! We have African Santas on our tree and around the house. I get a little uncomfortable about black Jesus and blonde Jesus, but Santa is imaginary— we can have fun with that. We don’t do the traditional picture with a mall Santa, but that’s mostly because I’m cheap.

PRESENTS: We do presents! We do a birthday cake for Jesus on Christmas Eve and explain how we give each other gifts because of our joy at The Gift we’ve been given. We talk about the Wise Men and how we’re imitating them as the first gift givers of Christmas. They know who bought their gifts and even love having a few gifts that mysteriously come in the mail from Nana Claus and Papa Claus. They know they’re from Nana and Papa, but think it’s funny to imagine them as Santa and Mrs. Claus. They express thankfulness to the people who bought their presents. Brian and I have also started our own family tradition of taking them shopping after Christmas to pick one present they want. We don’t buy them anything before Christmas since they get so much from their grandparents and this way we can find that one accessory to what they already got that would make those toys even more fun. They get to shop with us, talk about what’s on sale, what gives them the most value for their money, even add some money from their piggy banks if it’s outside the budget we’ve established. They don’t get a lot of experience with these concepts, so we’ve found this is a fun way to help them learn.

JOY AND FUN: We are not aiming for a boring Christmas. We want this to be a time of joy and laughter and even a little extravagance as we think about how extravagantly God showed His love. By removing the element of a fictional Santa, we aren’t trying to remove the mystery or playfulness or fun. We’re just choosing the mystery of the incarnation and the fun of a family gift exchange. I never felt deprived because my family didn’t “do” Santa and I’m not sure it would have been possible for the Christmas experience to have been any more joyful or fun than it was for me.

NO PRESSURE: So here’s the bottom-line— if your conscience feels clean about how you handle Santa (whether that’s celebrating or not), be confident that you’re doing the right thing. I don’t believe this is a moral issue as long as you’re handling it well. I’ve never tried to talk anybody out of doing Santa and I don’t plan on starting today. I know when I read “anti-Santa” stuff sometimes I feel like they’re sucking all the joy and fun out of Christmas and I don’t want anybody to feel like that’s an either/or situation.

So have fun this Christmas! It’s a birthday party, People!

Maralee Bradley

Maralee is a mom of six pretty incredible kids. Four were adopted (one internationally, three through foster care) and two were biological surprises. Prior to becoming parents, Maralee and her husband were houseparents at a children’s home and had the privilege of helping to raise 17 boys during their five year tenure. Maralee is passionate about caring for kids, foster parenting and adoption, making her family a fairly decent dinner every night, staying on top of the laundry, watching ridiculous documentaries and doing it all for God’s glory. Maralee can be heard on My Bridge Radio talking about motherhood and what won't fit in a 90 second radio segment ends up at www.amusingmaralee.com.

Fall into the Arms of Jesus, Little One

In: Faith, Kids, Motherhood
Child walking

I have three younger brothers, so I know how crazy and wild boys can be. Lots of falls, cuts, scrapes, bruises, broken bones, and even a couple of head stitches. My husband has two younger brothers. He’d always tell how they used to jump from the banister down two floors onto the glass coffee table. Why anyone would do that, I have no idea. Pure madness and chaos.  Right now, I have a little baby boy who’s only seven months, but I know he will probably be just as wild as his uncles and dad. But that doesn’t mean I’m...

Keep Reading

10 Tips to Banish Teenage FOMO

In: Faith, Motherhood, Teen
Teen with red hair smiling

Do you ever feel like the whole world is having a party—and you weren’t invited Maybe you worry about being included in the right groups or invited to the right sleepovers. Maybe you envy the relationships you see at school or youth group or feel jealous of the perfect social media posts showing others making memories together. If you’re a teen in 2022, you’re probably well acquainted with the fear of missing out. Knowing or wondering what you’re missing or who is getting together without you can leave you feeling lonely. It can leave you lonely and a little blue....

Keep Reading

I’m So Thankful For This Little Family

In: Faith, Marriage, Motherhood
Toddler boy and infant girl, color photo

I remember my teenage self dreaming, hoping, and praying for a life like I have now. Praying for a man to love me, to be loyal to me, to want a family with me, to provide for me, to show me what stability felt like and what it felt like to not ever have to worry . . . and here he is right in front of me. I remember my teenage self dreaming, hoping, praying for a house I could make a home and raise my family in. Here it is right in front of me. But most of...

Keep Reading

How I Like My Coffee

In: Faith, Motherhood
Mother and daughter drink coffee

I like my coffee with hazelnut creamer and a dash of almond milk. I like my coffee cold and neglected on the countertop because I’m busy soothing my new baby boy, the one who has made me a mother. In my long robe and slippers, I pace the kitchen floor and hold my swaddled son close to my heart. When his fussing grows quiet, I can hear the ticking of the big clock in the den. The dawn slowly reveals itself, brightening the kitchen in increments. It’s hard to imagine keeping my eyes open until he’s ready to nap again....

Keep Reading

Compassion Holds My Heart

In: Faith, Living, Motherhood
Child hugging mother

I lean my head in through the window of his van. The first thing I notice is the funny smell. Like cigarettes. And maybe body odor. The second? His tired, wrinkle-lined eyes. They’re dull, lethargic even. My daughter scrunches up her nose. I give her that look and try to hide my own misgivings. But Compassion climbs in the car with me.  And as the taxi driver guides the car toward our destination, I ask him about his story. Turns out he’s been driving all night. Till 5:30 this morning. Taking people home who were too drunk to drive themselves....

Keep Reading

I Was the Girl Who Ran Away From God

In: Faith
Woman standing in grass, black-and-white photo

I was the girl. I was the girl who’d do anything to get high as a teenager. I was the girl who craved love and just wanted to be wanted. I was the girl who wasn’t afraid of anything. I was the girl who stopped believing there was a God. I was the girl who said I would never go back to church. I was the girl who was certain none of it was real anyway because I was wasting my time going places like that. I was the girl who let the heartache and disappointment of this old world...

Keep Reading

I Prayed for You Before I Knew You

In: Faith, Motherhood
Mother holding baby, color photo

Baby, I have prayed for you—even before I knew who you would be.  I prayed I would be a mom one day when I was too little to know what I was praying for and again when I really thought my body would not be able to carry a baby. I prayed for you.  I prayed every day as you grew in my belly that you would be healthy, happy, and strong.  I prayed at every doctor’s appointment and scan that I would hear your heartbeat loud and strong.  I prayed for your arrival—for you to be safe and for...

Keep Reading

Dear Mom, I Miss You

In: Faith, Grief
Grown woman and her mother, color photo

Dear Mom, Yesterday I went over to your house. I was hoping you would open the door, but Daddy greeted me with his sweet smile. Yes, he still has a mustache. The one you hate, but I did manage to trim it up for him. I cut his hair too.   We talked about you over coffee and waited for you to join us, but you never did. He’s doing his best to do this life without you in it, but his eyes are clouded with memories and mixed with pain. He misses you, Momma. RELATED: I Didn’t Just Lose...

Keep Reading

Spaghetti Sauce Faith

In: Faith, Marriage, Motherhood
Mother and little girl holding a bowl of spaghetti, color photo

It was Sunday afternoon, and I was loading my grocery cart higher than I ever had in my life. My husband and I, along with our two kids under two years old, had been living with his parents for three months. We moved from our Florida home to look for a house in Georgia, and they graciously took us in. This was the day I loaded up on groceries—filling an empty refrigerator, freezer, and pantry. My shopping list was all the things. I needed to buy the smallest of table ingredients like salt and garlic powder to the big things...

Keep Reading

Dear Introverted Mom, Take that Break

In: Faith, Motherhood
Woman outside with book and food

I am alone, in a hotel room, 20 minutes from home, lying back in the crisp bed, feet propped up on billowing white pillows. A good book is in my hand. The large window beside me overlooks the Mississippi River as the sun slowly sets and people unwind for a southern Louisiana evening in downtown Baton Rouge. I’ll probably order room service for dinner. I spent the afternoon at the coffee shop across the street, sipping on a deliciously caffeinated beverage carefully made to my liking. I ate a delicate snack filled with fruits, fancy lettuce, and expensive cheese while...

Keep Reading

5 Secrets to the

BEST Summer Ever!

FREE EMAIL BONUS

Creating simple summer memories

with your kids that will  last a lifetime