What sort of family traditions did you have growing up?  I almost hesitate to admit what we’ve got planned for fear of the backlash.  Then again, that’s rarely stopped me before, right?

So here goes.

In an effort to keep our focus on Christ during the holidays, our family (Brian, Bennett and I) will each receive three gifts in remembrance of the gold, frankincense and myrrh that Jesus received from the wise men when he was born.

I very much look forward to putting a limit on the number of gifts for a few reasons:

  • Christmas isn’t about being greedy.  Mommy Square Piece doesn’t want to raise a “me me me” child.
  • Our house is small.  We simply don’t have the room to hide and store rooms full of presents.
  • By creating a numerical limit, we’ll then be able to teach future lessons in self-control and sacrifice.  For instance, I imagine that one day I’ll sacrifice one of my “gold, frankincense and myrrh” to give Bennett that fourth gift.  Hopefully that will help create a greater understanding of what it means to give of yourself for the sake of someone else, a lesson easier learned when we possess limits.

But… but… What about Santa?!


We live in a culture that celebrates St. Nicholas, don’t we?

I promise that I’ll never be able to sell Santa with a straight face.  This girl is way too sensitive to be dishonest, even in the name of magic, wonder and holiday.  Not only that, but the lie gets layered so thickly through the years that I know my frazzled brain won’t have the capacity to keep tabs on all of the various ways in which we’ve reconfirmed Santa’s ability to fit down our chimney.

So then what?

Well, we’re going to teach Bennett the “game” of Santa.  He’ll know all about St. Nicholas and Santa Claus and Rudolf and the elves.  He’ll know that parents play games of make-believe and pretend with their children, masquerading as this jolly giver.  Bennett will be taught that Santa (A.K.A. Mommy & Daddy) will leave presents in his stocking, but that he has to pretend and play along with our Santa “game” or those stocking presents don’t get handed out.

My hope in this approach is to

  • build his trust in us.
  • enjoy the fun of Santa and his Christmastime stories.
  • allow Bennett to assume that when parents and children are referencing Santa, they’re all participating in the great game of pretend, leaving no desire to clarify the particulars on the school playground.

While this might be unconventional, I’d like to get Bennett in the habit of giving to others in need at a very young age.  Eventually he’ll end up asking why we’re giving toys to children instead of Santa.  Square Piece ain’t gettin’ mixed up in all that.  Nope, gonna keep it clean, light-hearted, silly, special, honest and wondrous.

What are your traditions?



  1. December 5, 2013

    That is an awesome picture! 🙂

    For our readers who may not be familiar with this story of the wise men. This story is found in the New Testament book of the Bible, in Matthew chapter 2 and occurs some time after the birth of our Lord, possibly a year or so later. I like to think that their visit may have coincided with our Lord’s “birth”day, either His first or second. The Epiphany (visit by the wise men) is generally celebrated around the world on January 6, especially in Orthodox churches.

    As you know, I leave my Nativity up all year round, because, for me, Christmas isn’t something to be anticipated/celebrated on one particular day of the year. Christmas, for me, should be lived in the heart, all year long, and celebrated every day. Much like you play the Thankful Game, we can find gifts every day, if we open our eyes and look for them.

    I’m enjoying all of this … watching you create/plan your own ways to celebrate each season of Bennett’s childhood.


  2. December 5, 2013
    Laura Stone

    Right now we like to focus on family togetherness and fellowship. Every week in Dec we do something special as a family, bake cookies, go on a sleigh ride, have friends over for coco and singing. around it all we talk about how the Lord gave us so much because of his son and we talk about who Jesus is and why we celebrate his birth around this time of year. We are not doing the santa thing either because I think it focusus too much on presents and santa getting you everything and has the ability to keep it on the wrong focus. Now we approch it the same way you do. He is a part of the magic of kindness and goodness and love as he loves children. So if caden wants to visit santa he can,

  3. December 5, 2013
    Aunt Manny

    I’m with momma. My nativity is up year round. My heart swells with joy this time of year. My King, came as a humble babe. I love Him. I love the story. What an honor for Mary. <3

  4. December 5, 2013

    GREAT idea!

  5. December 5, 2013
    Becca shaw

    Love it! We do the limited gift thing too…although it is harder than i would like to admit as they get older 🙂 mommies and daddies just want to spoil their littles!!! We are starting something new this year: 4 gifts each…

    Something to read
    Something to wear
    Something you want
    Something to share

    People may think it spoils the fun to have categories but i really want my kiddos to value books and be excited to receive them, i like buying “things to wear”, and i feel like so many things should be shared in a family….i feel like it helps them not be so possessive over their toys/games/puzzles.

    As far as the “santa game” i am all with you. Be honest from the beginning and treat them with respect, while letting them have fun with it too. Elf on the shelf is in the works too. I hate the idea of “eyes watching” to report back to the fat man who gives you gifts :-/ but a mischievous creature who creates laughter and mystery…i am all about it. We will morph it somehow .

    Family advent is turning out to be grand fun for us too! I highly recommend it 🙂

  6. That’s been our approach to Santa as well, and it’s worked so far! We also limit gifts. I really don’t like the focus of materialism and getting instead of giving that is so prevalent nowdays! One neat thing we like to do is give a gift to Jesus for his birthday–we pick out of like World Vision or one of those other catalogues where a certain amount of money will buy chickens or ducks or whatever for people in other countries. The kids like to give out of their money, and they love to help pick out what we give.

  7. December 5, 2013

    Love giving a gift to Jesus for his birthday by sending money to a charitable organization. Can even be sent in his honor.

  8. December 7, 2013

    I love this!!! I’ve been torn this year on the “Santa” thing, as I don’t want to “spoil the fun,” but I don’t like lying to my kids and letting them get any inkling whatsoever that Christmas is about Santa. They’ve done really well with realizing we celebrate Jesus, not Santa, but it’s always a sticky situation. I think I will adopt your game, as I think it gives the perfect solution to my problem!!! Thank you!!!!

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