Posted by: urbanadventurertales | December 10, 2010

Navigating the holidays and the choices we make

I’ve been reading a lot of blogs recently about the different traditions that certain families choose to participate in/forego…and it got me thinking about the choices we’re making with our children now that they’re reaching an age where they’re starting to understand more.

I would say (for the most part) we’re following the same traditions as our families.  There are a few exceptions which I’ll highlight and then I want to expound upon the “Santa vs. no Santa” debate.

1.  Thanksgiving:  Pilgrims and Indians.  Though not discussed at all this year, this is a tradition we will not be celebrating in our home.  Having spoken with First Nations (Native American) people, we want to be sensitive to the deep-seeded pain that is associated with the origins of the Thanksgiving holiday.  Though I’m sure there were some amicable relationships formed between the Europeans and First Nations people, it is also signal of the “beginning of the end” for their way of life.  With the European flock and claim to their land came an extremely horrific genocide of an entire nation of people.  Somehow the frivolty of dressing up as pilgrims and Indians during Thanksgiving has lost it’s luster for me.  I’m not quite sure yet how we’ll approach this holiday with our children (suggestions are welcome!)  We won’t be encouraging them to play Cowboys and Indians either.

2.  The Nativity scene.  We have very little religious paraphenalia in our home, quite intentionally.  It’s not that we don’t want our children to be exposed on a daily basis to Christianity and the stories and life of Jesus.  We talk about him and pray to him every day with them.  What we are being very intentional about is the images of Jesus that we display in our home.  It might be a somewhat trivial thing to many of you, but we feel strongly that it’s important that the first images of Jesus that our children see are as close as possible to the true origin of Christ.  In our country, we are littered with images of Euro-Jesus.  And I have to say that having grown up with that image, whenever I pray, that image is what pops into my head first.  Why does it matter?  Jesus loves everyone and it doesn’t matter what color he was, right?  I would beg to differ.  While ultimately his color won’t matter (in Heaven), we live in a fallen, prejudice, and racially-driven world.  White is often viewed as good/right.  Dark is seen as bad/wrong.  In developing their identities in Christ and view of the world/compassion for it… we want them to have an image of who Jesus was, a man with darker skin.  We are on the hunt for children’s bible stories and artwork that will depict this more accurately.  Please let me know if you have anything!  The one piece of Christmas art that I display is this beautiful stocking that the Chef had made for me when we were engaged.  It’s a nativity scene that depicts the darker-skinned version of Mary/Joseph/Jesus.  I treasure it. 

3.  The Santa vs. no Santa debate.  Often times the argument against Santa is that parents believe that they are lying to their children and why should they trust them about Jesus, when they lied to them about Santa.  Honestly, I’m yet to meet someone who was raised to believe in Santa and Jesus that turned away from their faith in Jesus when they found out Santa was just a story.  Both the Chef and I were raised to believe in Santa (and Jesus) and we have very fond memories as children of the magical feeling at Christmastime and the excitement over the story of Santa.  This in no way took away from our belief and reverence for Jesus.  It’s fun to see the beautiful child-like faith that the boys have in both stories right now.  I’m confident that as they get older they will be able to differentiate between what is real and what is a story.  In fact, if we really believe in the Holy Spirit, we know he will guide them as they have a relationship with Him to know that Jesus is true, regardless of the child-like stories and traditions they grew up with.  Again- not judging any parent and what they choose to do regarding this debate.  Just stating what our opinion on the matter is 🙂 

And we finally have a fireplace this year (though not working)!  The boys helped me put up our stockings yesterday and we had a great time.  They love to recite whose stocking belongs to whom. 



  1. Hey Hol –

    We’ve faced the same questions… I love the Jesus Storybook Bible’s art and just found another by Desmond Tutu called Children of God storybook bible. I’ve ended up buying either abstract nativities (I like abstract art anyway), and I also try to get nativities when we travel b/c it’s a great way to find a variety of skin colors.

    I’ve been pondering the question lately (b/c of some Amazon reviews on the aforementioned Bibles) about what is ‘accurate’. Some of these reviews claim that the multicultural illustrations (also biracial couples) aren’t Biblically accurate. Makes me wanna scream, “And a WHITE Jesus is!?!?!” but as I calm, it also makes me wonder if the spirit of the illustrations is of equal importance. That’s why some white Jesuses are hard for me – the spirit comes from a place of passivity and disregard of other people. But I love the illustrations in Desmond Tutu’s bible of children from every race dancing at Jesus’s feet even though it’s most likely not accurate – the spirit of which is that Jesus loves all children.

  2. Question on the light/dark skinned Jesus thing—kind of disagree on you there…all my Israeli friends (I had a ton of them in college) were light-ish (for sure lighter than my Italian husband) with beautiful blue eyes and dark tight curly brown hair. I understand that there are some darker skinned Israelis…but I guess I just think it’s odd that you would go so far the other “way” when we really don’t know the color of his skin…since you and I (as parents of biracial kids who are all three very different shades) know that people come in a wide variety of colors 🙂

  3. Rachel- If you talk to Historians (my husband and I have both been in bible classes in college- and him in graduate school), they agree pretty Universally that Jews in Jesus’ time would have been pretty dark-skinned (similar to Arabs these days). While we certainly don’t know exactly what he looked like, it is pretty safe to say that he did not look like Euro-Jesus. We personally feel that it is important our see images that are more similar to what Jesus really would have looked like. Perhaps this comes mainly from my husband (though I agree and support 100%), being a darker-skinned biracial person, growing up seeing only images of a white Jesus…along with various other cultural factors in our society…that his understanding of himself as a darker skinned person in relation to Jesus (a white figure) and how that affected his self-worth/identity.
    Jody- thanks for the tip on Desmond Tutu’s bible! I’ll be getting that for Christmas this year for them 🙂

  4. I really liked the more recent Nativity Story movie ( because it actually depicts Mary and Joseph and everyone as Middle Eastern! They all actually LOOK like they probably did. 🙂

    I totally agree that while some modern Israelis certainly have European looks (how could they not after the massive emigration there especially after WWII??), in Jesus’ time they most likely looked more Arab.

    I never gave much thought to Thanksgiving being about Pilgrims and Indians; we never made that any part of the holiday as I grew up. I think it’s turned into more of a holiday to be with family and give thanks, but I suppose at some point kids do learn and want to know how a holiday started…

  5. Yes, Tara! We own that movie actually! I don’t think my children have the attention span for it just yet, but we’ll be showing it in our house as they grow older.
    And to clarify the Thanksgiving thing- I remember growing up that we would make dolls or put on plays depicting the Indians and Pilgrims. Nothing really wrong with that, in and of itself, but we were never really exposed to the perspective of the Native Americans and how they feel about the holiday. Now that I have been, I am wrestling through how to approach the holiday with our children.

  6. Are there any truly realistic stories about the origins of Thanksgiving? So you can share what really happened with your boys as opposed to the fluffy version that doesn’t honor the Native American perspective?

    You can possibly approach Thanksgiving the way my mom did Santa. She actually was one of those kids who felt betrayed and lied to when she discovered Santa wasn’t real, so she wouldn’t do Santa with us kids. But she did read us the story of the real Saint Nicholas so we knew what Santa was all about and who he really was. I’d think there’d have to be some good stories out there for kids explain Thanksgiving from the Native American point of view. I hope so anyway! 🙂 If anything, you can get really creative and write and illustrate your own book for them! 🙂 That’s a good idea for a kids’ book now that I think about it more…

  7. I love how thoughtful you and your husband are about things like this – I really miss your old blog, in fact!

    I hope you won’t mind me making this comment – I really value what you have to say about topics like this and want to jump in on the dialogue…But things like Santa and the Tooth Fairy ARE actually part of the reason why I stopped believing in the Bible (I don’t know if you even know this about me, H…I’m not religious any more at all.) It dawned on me at some point that I have no proof that any of these stories are true. Stories about Jesus began to seem just as fanciful to me as stories about Santa Claus – myths (some more elaborate and institutionalized than others) that adults taught me when I was a kid.

    To be fair, I’m sure I would still feel the same way about religion as an adult even if my parents hadn’t taught me about Santa. I think no matter what you decide to do with your children, they’ll grow up and be able to sort out what they believe and don’t believe, no problem.

  8. I think that’s a great point, Brady. And maybe it’s how we decide to handle these things with our children. I guess in our home (the way I was raised and how I’m raising my children), we talked about Jesus all the time and Santa/Easter Bunny etc were just seasonal characters. I was about 5 or 6 when I started questioning those characters and my parents let me figure it out on my own. When/if my children ask about it, we’ll defintely tell them the truth. I suppose I always knew that the reverence we had for God and Christ was different and more real than what we had for Santa. And ultimately as a believer, the Holy Spirit is what sustains my faith in Christ, regardless of how my parents handled things.

  9. Hey Holly! We have always had a carved wooden nativity scene that I love! That might be an idea because it doesn’t show any particular skin color–just brown wood for all the characters, sheep, camels. 🙂

  10. Holly–
    I am really impressed how thoughtful you and E are being about these things. A lot of this stuff I hadn’t really thought much about. Its good I have a friend like you to spur my thinking on. Its wonderful how intentional you are being in parenting your boys. They are lucky kids!!
    To weigh in on the Santa thing…
    I always knew that Santa wasnt real but our family still enjoyed reading “The night before Christmas” every year and visiting Santa at the mall. We never thought Santa was real but enjoyed the magic none the less. I am kind of glad my parents didnt tell me he was real bc that wouldnt have been true and the trust of a child is something to not be taken lightly. That is just my experience. I think when children are raised in a loving, safe home they can BELIEVE or not BELIEVE in Santa and it will be fine either way.

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