Guiding Children to Associate the Holiday Season with Giving

Leave it to Wikipedia to present a great page on the origin of Santa including early Christian and pagan origins and his evolution in America, along with old and new thomas-nast-and-clement-clark-moores-1881-depiction-of-santarituals, criticism, etc.  According to, “It is said that [St. Nicholas] gave away all of his inherited wealth and traveled the countryside helping the poor and sick.”

Somehow, in recent history at least, it seems like children have come to associate Christmas solely with receiving a ton of presents. They may also love the magic of holiday lights and music and perhaps even gain an appreciation for spiritual traditions related to their family’s religious faith.  But so often in our culture, it seems like the focus remains on Santa Claus and gifts.

Honestly, I’m still undecided how the heck to explain Santa because I don’t like the idea of lying to my children about anything. But I also don’t want to be the hum-bug Scrooge Mama of our neighborhood either.  My sense is that there’s a solid split of opinions within the AP community about whether to embrace the fantasy or not.  I am leaning toward fully celebrating the spirit of Santa Claus with my daughters, explaining his history and encouraging the fun of pretending to have him visit the house on Christmas eve.  When we see a man in a Santa costume around town, we’ll have another opportunity to gleefully observe someone else “playing Santa.”

While I work out the big Santa introduction, the one thing I am very clear on is wanting my girls to experience Christmas as a very special time of year with family and friends in which we give to others that have needs greater than ours.

The recession has impacted so many families, including ours. We are eliminating many of our holiday traditions this year simply because we can’t pay for it.  But I choose not to focus my energy on lamenting that and instead want to focus on doing what we can to help others who face greater hardships, and embrace the original spirit of St. Nicholas who gave somuch to the poor and sick.

I put together a list of holiday giving opportunities in Austin where I live which may inspire you to discover similar organizations in your town.  There are many, many opportunities to sponsor a child or a family for the Holidays.  We did so last year and were able to deliver presents to the family ourselves, which I think is particularly valuable for children to fully experience the act of giving.

My short discovery list of giving opportunities includes:

  1. Capital Area Food Bank
  2. Safe Place – sponsor families and/or children with holiday gifts.
  3. Coats for Kids – providing new or gently used coats to low-income children.
  4. Children’s Shelter
  5. Life Works
  6. Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children (CASA)
  7. Blue & Brown Santa – toy drives
  8. Salvation Army
  9. Christmas Bureau of Austin – This is my personal favorite simply because this organization gave us the opportunity to reach out to people directly to provide an uncooked holiday meal and toys/clothes for the children.

There are currently over 1800 families requesting holiday sponsorship through the Christmas Bureau in Austin!

This is Monica’s first post on API Speaks.  She also writes about attachment parenting on her web site, Attachment Mama.

One thought on “Guiding Children to Associate the Holiday Season with Giving”

  1. I love that nearly 3 years later I found this post. I have felt like the pariah of Christmas and all “Holiday” celebration for years. I have been advised by my wonderful husband that I am no longer to state outloud that I Hate Christmas. (I do still take pride in not having had a tree for 8 years running.) But I am not Scrooge. I love Christmas Eve mass and it is the only time during the year that I will not just lipsync the words to the hymns. Here at Ft Hood we have Christmas in Lights and I thoroughly enjoy the displays. My disdain for the season is best represented in 2 parts. One, courtesy of a large chain dept store that will remain nameless, was their ad campaign in late 2008 Don’t Give a Gift, Grant a Wish. The premise being that the __________ (one outfit that the daughter wanted, one tool hubby wanted, etc) was not enough. Instead __________ (buy her a new wardrobe, outfit his garage with Craftsman EVERYTHING) was the goal. This was at the beginning of the recession when people in this country were losing their jobs and homes left and right. It was also a campaign that they shockingly at least to me, continued in 2009. Number 2 is the contant loss of Thanksgiving to the consumerism that is now Halloween morphing directly into Christmas. Apparently the grocery bill for Thanksgiving Dinner isn’t big enough to keep our attention (or to be adequately exploited).
    Anyway, I tell you all of that to lead up to this. When we were pregnant with my daughter (now 17 months) it became a concernm this energy that I have for the season. We discussed it and have begun the tradition with her that her Big Present is actually money that is to be spent on Angel Trees, charitable giving, etc. Her big Gift is the ability to give to others. As she gets older I hope to have her do as I have had the privlege to do and actually deliver some of the gifts to families. These few times have been the only evidence of the true spirit of the season that I have seen in a long time. I fully realize that at 1 1/2 years old this is an easy thing to do. When she is 12 it will be interesting. I’ll do my best to get back to you on that. What I pray will happen is that though there will be some resistance, it will be minimal because this will be all she knows of the season; that it is a time to Give Unto Others this Night.

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