Christmas with Kids: Santa, Gifts, and Other Traditions from a Christian Perspective

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Today we’re talking about Christmas with kids!

Christmas, and how it is celebrated, can be surprisingly controversial, even among Christians! In this episode, we talk about some principles for you and your spouse to think through when it comes to deciding how to intentionally celebrate Christmas with your family. We also talk about how we have decided to celebrate Christmas as the Sibley fam. The point of this episode is to just initiate a conversation about it and to show how we think about this so you can have a convo with your spouse.

Let’s dive in!

Casual Conversation

We’ve talked a little bit about how we celebrate Christmas on our Instagram, but we wanted to talk about it on the podcast. This won’t be a deep theological dive, but more like a casual conversation. The point of this episode is not to say to do what we do, or to say that what we do is right. The point of this episode is to urge you to be intentional about how you choose to celebrate Christmas with your kids before you allow our culture to dictate it for you.

“Intentional living is the art of making our own choices before others’ choices make us.”

Richie Norton

This is the whole idea that you are the sum of your five closest friends. We follow the current normn in our society if we don’t make a conscious effort not to follow it. If you don’t intentionally think about how you do things (especially how you parent), you will default to how you were raised or how you see others around you raising their kids. We have a lot of conversations about parenting and things like discipline and screen time. Sometimes you may stumble into something beneficial, but most of the time this ends up poorly. Failing to plan is planning to fail.

Let’s dive into some principles when it comes to Christmas!

1. Remember what Christmas is about

This may seem simple, but too often, we allow the business, the family, presents, etc… to dictate what we value about Christmas. These can be good things, but they are not the point of Christmas. It isn’t about family gatherings and seeing people you haven’t seen in a while.

Christmas is meant to celebrate the birth of Christ. Do you spend more time in this season stressing about gifts, family, money, etc…? Or do you spend more time reflecting on and celebrating the birth of Christ? This gets down to the importance of the Advent season. It is a time to wait on Christ in hope and anticipation. If you aren’t conscious of awaiting the birth of the Savior, then Christmas is just about planning logistics for a single day. It really becomes more of a festive Fourth of July!

Secular culture as a whole celebrate Christmas (for the most part). They get a Christmas tree and celebrate some of the other traditions. But Christmas should look drastically different for the Bible-believing Christian than it does for the outside world. But does it really? Are we more worried about budgeting for gifts than we are anticipating the arrival of our Savior?

2. Who you are the majority of the year outside of the Christmas season is more important than who you are during the Christmas season 

What we mean by this is that a lot of people are kind, generous, and happy during the Christmas season, but if you are rude, stingy, and grumpy the rest of the year, then that is who you TRULY are. For some people, the Christmas season comes and a switch flips and their personality is completely different.

We’re glad that people are more joyful during this season, but where is that joy coming from? Is it because you like hot chocolate and lights or is it because you truly are joyful about the true reason for celebrating? It can be so easy to put on a show during the Christmas season as well. Is it coming from a genuine and pure heart?

3. Experiences over material gifts

A study done by the University of Illinois-Chicago found that younger kids (age 5 and under) value material gifts more than experiences while older kids (ages 13+) value experiences far more than material gifts.

Obviously, take this with a grain of salt, but if you are like us and value experiences more than material gifts, photographs and memory books can provide a happy medium. Also, as your kid gets older some may have the “gifts” love language and value a deeply meaningful material gift.

You must decide what is best for your family and each individual kid. Again this isn’t to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do but to urge you to be intentional with how you celebrate Christmas and what kind of gifts you give, etc…

Sibley Fam Christmas

Now that we’ve talked about the principles, let’s talk about some of the intentional decisions we have made about how the Sibley fam will celebrate Christmas. To give a caveat, we don’t know for sure that this is what we will always do. We hold all of this with loose hands.

No Santa

It might be a hot take, but we have decided not to do Santa. This is a big nuanced conversation, but honestly, this isn’t a super deep decision for us.

We both grew up with Santa (Nathaniel was the kid that tried to spoil it for all the other kids, though). Xan grew up hearing that Santa is best friends with the tooth fairy and God. Again, Santa isn’t inherently good or bad and if you want to do it for your family, go ahead! We aren’t saying that is wrong or sinful at all. If you choose to do Santa…. don’t do that though. What happens when they find out that Santa and the tooth fairy aren’t real? The naughty/nice concept can get so entangled with “works-based” salvation and it can get really dangerous.

One family value that we have (that isn’t in our mission statement) is to embrace openness. We want to be as honest and transparent with our kids as possible (obviously age appropriate). To be honest, we have a two-year-old and a one-year-old at this point, so we’re not necessarily having these big open/honest conversations with them yet. But we want to cultivate openness with them from the start. Part of embracing that for our family was to not do Santa. We want to be as honest and transparent with our kids as possible.

Or, if your family really values excitement or mystery, maybe you should do Santa! Check out this podcast episode by Phylicia Masonheimer, where she discusses Discerning Christmas. She talks about how you could frame the idea of Santa, and still be honest, by portraying it as a game.

Whether you do or don’t do Santa, it will only work if you have intentional conversations with your kids as they grow up. For us, we need to be able to explain to our kids why we don’t do Santa. If you choose to do Santa, you may have to explain to your kids why you fibbed to them about him.

Side note: Santa and Elf on the Shelf are kind of creepy when you really think about it… He’s watching you when you’re sleeping??


We decided to open gifts on New Year’s Eve instead of Christmas or Christmas Eve. Again, we’re not telling you what to do/not to do. But for us, we really want the focus and emphasis of Christmas to be on Jesus. An outward focus on Jesus’ birth rather than an inward focus on what gifts I will get.

It makes sense for us to ring in the new year with gifts! You can separate Christmas and New Year’s. Christmas focuses on the birth of Jesus. New Year is a celebration of a new year and the idea that a new year = new gifts. Our human nature is so materialistic, so we want to try and prevent that as much as possible for our kids!

Conversations with Our Kids

Finally, we have agreed to have conversations with our kids as they grow up. We truly want our kids to get as much of an inside perspective on why we decided to do what we did.

We want to foster a home of deep conversation, even if we don’t agree. Again, this needs to be age-appropriate, and only works as the kids grow up. Nathaniel once read a coworker’s paper about the development of teenage girls and she mentioned that when kids are really young, the focus is on obedience. But as kids grow up, our focus should be on reason and explanation with our kids. We feel as if our parents’ generation as a whole did a really good job on the “obedience” part, but not on the reasoning/why/understanding part. Obviously, this is a generalization, but they instilled the value but not the why of the value/practice.

receive a gift, give something away

In the future, we are going to implement some sort of “receive a gift, give something away.” We haven’t decided on this yet, and aren’t doing it this year because our kids are so young, but this is something we deeply value and want to implement with our family. At the end of the day, we don’t want our kids to hold on to material things tightly. It’s not inherently wrong to want things, but at the same time, we want them to practice giving things away. Practically, this also helps to minimize the clutter!

Open Hands

We are willing to talk, pray, and change our minds if necessary on some of these things. We want to approach these topics with humility, understanding that there are numerous areas of growth for us. But this is where we’re landing now!

One Degree Shift

Have an intentional conversation with your spouse about how you want to celebrate Christmas, what traditions you want to do/not do, etc…

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