Dear Liam & Duncan…
Merry Christmas! Saint Nicholas here, and I wanted to leave you boys a note.

It was after dinner, last night, when Liam asked me if he could get the snowflake letter down and read it. I was surprised he remembered it. I told him I’d go get it, but he was adamant about getting it and saying he’d be careful. I said he could get it. He ran downstairs to the living room, got on his tip toes, reached up and grabbed the snowflake letter off the top of the fireplace.

I heard from your mother and father what wonderful boys you are. You are loving, share with others, and are fun boys.

What is the snowflake letter? It’s a letter written on a snowflake. A snowflake like most of us made out of folded paper when we were younger. When you unfold it, you will see the letter written on it. Liam and Duncan received the letter on Christmas morning from Saint Nicholas. Yes, Saint Nicholas. This past holiday season I found myself adjusting on the fly my perspective about Santa Claus with the boys. This was due to a number of reasons.

I hear you love Jesus, which is great! Jesus is the reason why we celebrate Christmas! Jesus is a gift to everyone, and that is why we give gifts on Christmas. A reminder of Jesus giving His life, and God giving Himself, to us.

Around Christmas, we always tell the boys about Jesus, Jesus’ birth, the nativity, and the reasons why we celebrate. We’ve also included some other traditional Christmas elements as well, including Santa. We were never intentional about pushing Santa, but we didn’t dissuade it either. We rolled with it. It’s a fun tradition, and one I grew up with as a boy.

You boys give to others. I hear of how you gave money out of your piggy bank to kids in need. You even gave your Halloween candy to kids.

I don’t know what it was, but as Christmas drew closer I wasn’t excited about the Santa element. Jana and I had decided in year’s past to tell the boys the gifts are from us, but the gifts in the stockings are from Santa. I didn’t even want to do that this year. Partly this was due to the minimalism approach we were taking this Christmas. But also, what do we want to highlight about Christmas? We highlight Jesus, and Liam and Duncan both know the nativity story exceptionally well. When we drive around town during the Christmas season, they both point out to us various nativities that are set up in people’s yards. They can recite the story, and are excited about celebrating the birth of Jesus.

Santa is a nice part of the holiday, but I didn’t want it to be highlighted I guess. What do I do, then, since we’ve told the boys in the past about Santa? I could just come clean, but being so close to Christmas I didn’t think that would do much good. I decided on a different path, even though I didn’t have a plan at the outset of it.

Both of you have the spirit of Christmas, which is the spirit of Jesus. You make Jesus, your parents, and me so happy with your giving and love.

I started referring to Santa as Saint Nicholas. Liam corrected me at first, but then he started allowing it. What’s the difference? Well, Saint Nicholas was at least real and the basis for Santa Claus.

Then, less than ten days before Christmas, Liam asked for a puppy. Jana and I told him to write a letter to Santa/Saint Nicholas asking for a puppy. I was excited about this because I had in mind what I would write back. Liam started writing the letter, but stopped. I asked why he stopped. He said, “I’m sure I’ll be happy with whatever gifts Santa brings me”.

Your parents and family got you lots of presents. Your dad told me not to worry about leaving gifts.

It was nice to hear Liam say he’d be fine with whatever he received, but it also revealed something. I couldn’t be passive about Santa. I couldn’t just roll with it. Santa is everywhere in our culture this time of year. While we highlight Jesus, and explain why we celebrate Christmas to the boys, the Santa element is always there. I needed to be more intentional in addressing it or the cultural opinion of Santa would creep in more to the boys’ thinking.

Do I think Santa is evil? No. Do I think imagination is evil? No. I just thought we needed to tailor a bit what we were doing and saying to the boys with Christmas.

He said we should make sure kids who don’t have much should get these gifts. A great idea! Giving to others in need is what Jesus would want. When we give to others we can celebrate Christmas all the time.

I decided to write a letter to the boys as Saint Nicholas. Where did the idea come from? J.R.R. Tolkien. Tolkien would write letters to his children as Father Christmas. They were always elaborate designs, and would tell stories of what was going on at the North Pole. I thought it would be fun to do the same.

I had planned to do an elaborate design, but before I could think it through it was Christmas Eve. Instead, I made a snowflake and wrote the boys a letter on it. There would be one gift from Saint Nicholas with the letter. An old McDonald’s Toy Story 2 toy I bought back in late 1999. It was a push puppet of Woody on top of Bullseye.

I’m sure some people would think, “This is improving the situation? This is his tailoring of things? Really?!” Yeah, I know. Who knows, I might do something completely different this next Christmas with them. I’m improvising to a degree.

Christmas morning came, and Liam was ready to open presents. He was out of his bed and in Jan and I’s room in a second when his clock struck 7 AM. He then left our room and peeked down into the living room. He saw all the gifts under the tree. And, he also saw the Saint Nicholas gift and letter on top of the fireplace. He came back to Jana and I’s room, excitedly telling us about the gifts under the tree and the Woody toy on top of the fireplace.

When we finally had our snacks and drinks, we all headed downstairs. I told the boys that it looked like they had a letter. I unfolded the snowflake and read the letter to them before we opened the gifts.

When I was done reading it, Liam was waiting to open his first gift. I don’t think it would’ve mattered what I said, he was ready to open his gifts. I smiled, put the letter on top of the fireplace, and proceeded to watch Liam and Duncan open their gifts. The letter was quickly forgotten.

Last weekend we put away the Christmas tree and decorations. For some reason, the letter still remained on top of the fireplace all folded up. It was there until last night when Liam randomly caught sight of it and asked for it.

When he brought it up to the kitchen, he asked me to read it. So I did. Whereas before nothing registered, this time everything registered. He wanted to celebrate Jesus’ birth again. Liam asked if he could go get his piggy bank. He wanted to give money to children who needed food, water, or toys.

He got his piggy bank. Liam wanted to count all his money. I started counting and I thought it was roughly $13. I asked him how much he’d like to give. “Well, we could give all of it!” I was taken aback by what he said, so I asked him again. “We could give all of it to children.” Yes we can.

Again, he asked me to count the money, and it ended up being around $14. I asked him if he wanted to give all of it, which I said was fine. He said he wanted to keep a stack of quarters and pennies, but the rest he wanted to give away. So, he kept $1.10 in change. Then he asked for one of his dollar bills. He ended up keeping $2.10, and giving away just over $12.

To act on this, I took his money and then got my computer. I went to the Open Door Mission site. Liam asked if he could see who he was giving his money to. We looked at some pictures of kids and families, on the site, that would be receiving his donation. I logged into their donation site, and asked Liam what he wanted the money to go toward. “Clean water and food,” he replied. So, I gave $12 for food. I had Liam press the button to submit the donation, and that was it.

I was practically numb seeing Liam act in such a manner. I wanted to record every thought, feeling and emotion I had. Liam? He was ready for me to read a book. I put the computer away and read a book to Duncan and him.

Merry Christmas indeed.

You boys are wonderful. Jesus loves you and is happy that you celebrate his birthday by giving and receiving gifts! God bless!
-St. Nicholas

One more thing, the Woody and Bullseye toy is from me.


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