Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Q4U ~ What do you tell your children about Santa Claus?


{If you're new here, please allow me to explain a Q4U. It's simply a hypothetical situation ~ usually ~ written as a multiple-choice story problem. I'd love to have you join the conversation and leave your answer in the comments.}

Snow is just beginning to fall as you and your family hurry into the mall. It’s been a wonderful day of Christmas shopping, and you’ve found just the perfect thing for nearly everyone on your list from the book on survival tactics for your outdoorsy father-in-law to the pretty ceramic dish for your Great Aunt Gertrude to keep her hairpins in.


You’ve enjoyed a relaxed lunch at a nice restaurant where the Christmas music was loud enough to hear but not so blaring that you couldn’t have a conversation. Your thirteen-year-old and your eleven-year-old have been getting along, and the seven-year-old sang Jingle Bells only ten times in the van.

Now at the mall, you have just a couple of stops before you head home. Your family walks slowly, admiring the red and silver baubles and balls hanging in the evergreen boughs. In the center court, a white fence bedecked with garland surrounds the red carpet and fancy chair of The Man in Red. Your seven-year-old stops, mesmerized by the sight of Santa and his elves.

“Mommy, is that the real Santa?”

You pause, remembering your own childhood Christmases full of anticipation of Santa Claus. The stuffed Santa on the mantle, the reading of The Night Before Christmas, the cookies and milk left on the hearth. But since then, you and your husband have been saved, and now baby Jesus is the center of your Christmas traditions.

You – 
  1. Make a mental note to arrange for your Uncle George to dress up like Santa and pay a visit to your house. You don’t want to burst your child’s bubble.
  2. Say, as convincingly as you can, “No, sweetie, the real Santa is at the North Pole. He’s busy this time of year getting ready for the big day, so he has lots and lots of helpers.”
  3. Swipe at the perspiration forming on your brow and point to the cookie shop a few doors down. “Look, honey, how about a treat?”
  4. Grab your child’s hand and walk on, smiling at her. You say, “What do you think?” Your seven-year-old is quite discerning, and she says no. You seize the moment and ask, “Just what is Christmas all about then?” and lead her into a discussion of baby Jesus.
  5. Sit down with your child and tell her there is no Santa Claus. It’s all just pretend, and Mommy and Daddy are the ones who give the gifts on Christmas Day.

 What do you do?








What do you think? Is there a choice I didn’t include? I’m preparing a post for Monday, a list of ten about Santa Claus, and I’d love to know your opinion of The Man in Red.




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47 comments:

  1. My kids would never ask that question.

    I tell my kids the truth from the time they are little bitty and can understand. I tell them that Christmas is a made up holiday. That Jesus was probably not born in December because it's too cold in Israel for shepherds to be outside with sheep. That it was actually a pagan celebration that was Christianized. I tell them that Santa Claus was a man that once existed and gave gifts to children in Northern Europe and then Coca Cola marketed him in a red suit and there you have Santa Claus.

    We don't go over board with gifts or decorations. If the kids really want something special we get it together or surprise them. Sometimes we deliver them early. Why do we have to wait until the 25th??? If they want to decorate, we let them do it too. But we never go overboard, because we use this time to talk about Jesus and who He is and why He is important to us. We use this time to be together and enjoy each other.

    They think it's silly that their friends of their age think there are elves that move around the house, that a man in a red suit comes down a chimney and leaves gifts and eats cookies. We tell them not to say anything, because we believe it's the parents responsibility to tell their kids the truth. But when asked, they say they don't believe in Santa.

    My DD9 the other day told me she would have a hard time believing anything I said if I had lied to her about Santa Claus when she was little.

    Ps I am from Brazil and there Christmas time is all about going to the beach and enjoying vacation and family (it's summertime there). In the last 20 years people have adopted the Santa Claus and snowy decorations and it's funny to see people wearing their tans walking in malls where fake snow is blowing everywhere.

    As a joke, we will have a family member dress up as Santa and play games. We mostly play secret buddy during the party (which we celebrate on the night of the 24th, not the morning of the 25th) and nobody is really concerned about gifts, but laughter. :)

    On Dec. 25th, people get together again to eat the leftovers and go to the beach.

    So here at our house, we celebrate Christmas wishing we were in Brazil at the beach. :) Last time we were there was in 2005. Every year we hope to make it, but we haven't yet. Maybe next year. :)

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    1. It's always so interesting to learn about how different parts of the world celebrate holidays. I've seen Ken Ham from Answers in Genesis comment on Facebook about how it's now summer in his home land of Australia. I can definitely understand how you could long for that if that's what you grew up with. If I was in Brazil, I would long for the cold and snow. :) Thanks, Tereza!

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  2. We have chosen to say that it is a costumed man. Here in the Netherlands St. Nicholas is celebrated on December 5. He is something else than you Santa, I think. We tell the legend of this Catholic saint. But we as a family do not give gifts on that day. They only get some candy (chocolate alphabet). At Christmas they always get presents.

    My son collects various pictures of different St. Nikolaas' from the newspaper. So he knows that there is no real Santa Claus on earth.

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    1. It's so fun to learn about different traditions from around the world. The pictures I've seen of Saint Nicholas in his long flowing robe are so much more artistic than our American Santa Claus. So glad you shared!

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  3. It is never right to lie to your children. I begin with the truth and never have to apologize later for telling them a bunch of lies.
    I also want them to know if our family receives gifts, they ultimately come from God, and not Santa. We do thank the giver of the gifts(which is a person, not Santa) and most of all we thank God.
    Also, Santa does not know if they have been bad or good and cannot see them when they are asleep or awake. Only God can. Only God is omnipresent and omniscient.
    Hope those ideas help!
    Alison Wood
    http://pintsizedtreasures.blogspot.com/

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    1. A couple of those choices are obvious lies, aren't they? And definitely gratitude shouldn't end at Thanksgiving. Thanks so much for your input, Alison!

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  4. When my children got to the age of not believing in Santa they didn't ask if he existed. They all asked if I believe in Santa. My answer was and is yes. I believe Santa was a real person long ago who gave presents to children and every culture seems to have their own version of a similar person. I believe now we use Santa to honor the idea of giving without receiving or expecting to receive anything in return. All in all Santa plays a small part in our Christmas celebration. Because we celeberate CHRISTmas not SANTAmas.

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    1. What an odd holiday that would be -- Santamas. I wonder how long it will be before the retail stores start wishing everyone "Happy Santamas"? Excellent point, Jackie, about it being CHRISTmas!

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  5. My parents taught us right from the start that Santa is not real. Like my mom said, "Why should someone else get all the credit for gifts that I'm giving?" I'm not teaching my children to believe in Santa either and we don't go out of our way to make him part of Christmas (pictures with Santa). I've never actually had a discussion about Santa with my kids, but my 4 year old will point out Santa when we go places and then finish with a laugh and "But he's just pretend!"

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    1. Ha! I hadn't thought of Santa getting all the credit for the parents' hard work! My husband and I are honest anyway, and we get so excited about the gifts for the children that as we play and talk it just doesn't occur to us to say anything that would give Santa credit. We talk about why we chose it and where we got it without thought for Santa. Now I'm giving away my thoughts for Monday! Anyway, when we had only one child, we took her to sit on Santa's lap and she was terrified as most little children are. We never did that again. Just this Saturday at Walmart there was a Santa available for pictures. As we steered around him, that same daughter (now 13) said, "He's scary." She was serious! :) One other thought on pictures with Santa -- I'm not sitting any of my children on a strange man's lap! Thanks for commenting, Hannah.

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  6. We have taught our children there is no real Santa. If we teach them false things that are a lie , and they grow up and find out there not real. They will know their parents lied to them. Then they will question if God is real. I don't ever want to lie to my children. I have no santa's in the house. I think they make santa out to be a god. Think about the song santa is coming to town. He see's you when your sleeping, nows if you have been good, I hate that song. Just my thoughts.

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    1. We've talked about this before, Michelle, and I was hoping you would leave a comment! When I was a child, that song scared me a little. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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  7. My children have never believed in Santa. I decided when I was the age to find out there was no Santa that I would never do that to my children. I had such guilt for the toys that I didn't play with when I found out it was my parents hard earned money that payed for them.
    Then I became a Christian and it just sealed the deal. My husband calls Santa "satan clause" to my kids ... in a semi light hearted tone.
    We have explained to our kids that other kids DO believe in Santa and that is ok. We have told them why parents do it and that they do not intend to "lie" or do harm to their kids and that is ok for them but we are honest with our kids why we DON'T do santa.
    We do read books like the night before Christmas and the like as, they are just books.. just as Nemo is not a real live talking fish but a character in a book, that is how we view Santa in our house. A character in a book that once did exist but, not as he is today.

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    1. We do decorate for Christmas.. we just LOVE it. But, for gifts we do three (because well, the wise men brought three right?) and they are a "bigger" gift usually about 20 dollars.. this is the "gold" gift... something they had been checking out all year but couldn't get... we then get them a book and an outfit... This is the only time of year we buy them new clothes as all of their clothes are normally hand me downs or thrift store finds!

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    2. I like your comparison to Nemo! It does seem that the line between fiction and nonfiction is fuzzy to children. I've heard of others giving three gifts because of the wise men, and that seems like a fantastic way to keep stuff to a minimum. And I bet the children even get excited about the clothes! Thanks for sharing your ideas, Kristy!

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  8. 4 &5 but I don't have a problem with "the santa story". we will have books about santa and watch all the traditional movies, but we aren't going to pretend he's real. It's no different than woody, buzz, lightning mcqueen and other characters... fun story, but not real...

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    1. So you don't eliminate Santa, you just make sure he goes into the fictional category. Makes sense to me. Thanks for commenting, Paula!

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  9. My kids wouldn't ask that either. I feel like we have to go kind of overboard with the "there is no santa" thing because our society drills it into kids' heads so much. He's EVERYWHERE! Even at church my kids get asked what santa is bringing them and such. So the other day, my 5-year-old saw Santa on a commercial and said "There's santa." He quickly followed it with "Don't worry, mom, I know he's not real." lol.

    So, I guess you could see by that, we don't really do the "santa" thing. It doesn't fit with our views of Christmas and values.

    However, santa is an ever present figure, so we can't really ignore him. I've taught my children that "santa" is based on historical figures who represent selflessness, kindness, generosity, etc. and we talk about how those are good things that line up with what God calls us to be.

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    1. You're right, Crystal. You definitely can't ignore Santa. Even if a parent doesn't tell a child anything about Santa, they'll still know it all and have to answer those questions at some point in time. Thanks for sharing your practices.

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  10. We were convicted to tell our kids about Santa about 5 years ago. It's changed nothing about the fun, specialness and "magic" of Christmas (like our parents were so worried it would!) We still do stockings...we just tell them that we are going to fill them. The older ones who remember the "Santa days" call Daddy "Santa Daddy" just for fun. We don't go into the whole "Christmas is a pagan holiday" thing because we are redeeming this time of year for good---just as God does with so many things that Satan has had influence over. We let the kids know that we expect them to redirect conversations with their friends about Santa, etc. so that their friends' parents will have the opportunity to make the choice to tell them, rather than having our kids expose the "lie". We were really convicted about the importance about being honest with them about Santa, Easter Bunny, etc because we were concerned that, once they found out these "unseen beings" weren't real, their faith in Jesus (who is also, usually, "unseen") would be shaken. Our kids trust us and respect our honesty---therefore, they are fairly honest kids themselves. :)

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    1. Excellent points, Sarah. It's interesting -- and a little scary -- how fuzzy the line can be between fiction and real for children. Thanks for leaving your comment.

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  11. From the very beginning we've avoided Santa. With the approach of each Christmas, we read books about Jesus and his birth or other stories of Christmas past that have a biblical view (the "legend of" books, etc.) Nothing with even a mention of Santa and his reindeer. We sing hymns. We decorate with nativities, lights, and snow. I try hard, especially as they are getting older, to be sure there is explainable meaning behind any Christmas tradition... even the red, green and white we so often use in December! We talk about how Jesus wasn't actually born in December (but rather in Sept/Oct during Sukkot, most likely), but that people around the world celebrate his birth during this time. Because of this, we choose to be lights in the world, celebrating Jesus!

    When the children are old enough that they begin to notice Santa, elves, and reindeer around town, we address the issue with them, explaining who people pretend he is and what they pretend he does. We talk with them about how people choose to celebrate (and sometimes even worship) Santa and presents instead of Jesus during Christmas. We explained that other children think he's real, but that he isn't. (We also try to express that they shouldn't talk to other children about Santa, but rather let their parents decide when to tell them the truth... no idea what will happen at church if things go south on this one.)

    We've chosen not to even participate in the "fun" of Santa stories and decorations as they detract from the real celebration. But really, the kids don't know about any of the other popular characters from movies and shows either. When they see "Dora", or any of the Disney princesses for that matter, we call them "a girl" and move on. We choose stories that will teach them something real and grow their character.

    Thanks for the prompt... I'm inspired now to go into more detail on this topic on my blog. Hmmm... maybe next week. :)

    Blessings,
    Babychaser
    www.babychaser.com

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    1. You've really thought this through -- I'm impressed! And I'll look forward to your blog post.

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  12. Our kids are still young (2&4). I haven't received questions from him yet about Santa but I will address him the same as other fictional characters like Mickey Mouse and Woody when he does. Christmas in our house is all about God sending his son. The Christmas presents represent Salvation. Though we don't deserve them or did anything special for them, we receive them. Last year we started our tradition of Jesus's Birthday Party. On Christmas Eve, Carter helped me bake & decorate the Birthday cake. We made Jesus a Birthday card. The next Morning we Prayed, Sang happy Birthday to Jesus. (Carter blew out the candle for him)then before we had birthday Cake for Breakfast (a special treat) Carter released a Happy Birthday balloon with the Birthday card attached up into the sky. :)

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    1. We do a birthday cake for Jesus as well. My youngest daughter was born on Christmas Day, and so she thinks it's fantastic to share her birthday cake with Jesus. We haven't made a birthday card before. I think we'll add that this year! Thanks!

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  13. I agree with the commenter who said that Santa is in the "fictional" category. Our children have always been told that Santa isn't real, but he is a fun, fictional character that we can enjoy in small doses. I don't want him to take center-stage, but I don't want any fictional character to take center stage in my children's lives. We don't give gifts that come from Santa. For our family, it's a fine line. Clearly, retailers, the media and such want Santa to be "THE MAN". He isn't the man; there is only one who can be everywhere, seeing what we do and how we act, so we choose to make all the fuss about Jesus while enjoying a little Santa fun, be it through a movie, a book, or songs. Love your blog!!!

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    1. Love your word choice, Michelle, "small doses." Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, and thanks for reading!

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  14. Unlike most fundamentalist Christians (and I wear that title proudly), we do participate in Santa-related festivities during the holiday season. All of my children know, beyond a shadow of any doubt, what the real meaning of Christmas is, and God the Father's most precious of gifts - His only Son, is never ever superseded by presents or secular traditions. But we do believe that it's okay to use the myth of Santa Claus to teach our children about generosity, sharing, and kidness. Aesop's Fables and Veggie Tales are favorites in our home - but certainly animals and vegetables don't talk and behave in human-like ways. I consider Santa to be along the same lines - not at all the same as lying to your children in an attempt to deceive them. I believe each family should pray for God's leading indivually about how to (or if they should at all, because I think it's completely fine to skip it, if you feel led that way) incorporate secular traditions into your holidays.

    In Christ,
    Melissa

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    1. It's a good title, and you should be proud, Melissa. I agree completely that it should be each family's individual decision. Quite frankly, I had no idea I would receive this much response on this question or that so many people felt so strongly. But I'm grateful that everyone has been polite and respectful of the others. Thanks so much for sharing your family's practices!

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  15. fantastic question that I have actually been struggling with for 6 years (the age of my oldest child). I don't focus on Santa at all in our house. Although my kids speak of the jolly old guy. I struggle because I feel like I am telling them a lie. I don't want to lie to my kids!
    I choose #4. Ask them their thoughts, give them a chance to discern real from imaginary. And direct the focus to the real reason we celebrate CHRISTmas.

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    1. I share your struggle, Marlo. And I like your wording -- "give them a chance to discern real from imaginary." Encourage some critical thinking in our children. Thanks for commenting!

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  16. I have a two year old and I've been thinking about how we want to handle this. I think that I am going to approach Santa like I approach any other fictional character...like Thomas, or Mickey Mouse, or Elmo, or Dora. We can see them on TV, or people dressed up like them at the store. Thomas can come to our local train station, or we can see a big Dora at the mall. I hope that he can understand that it's a representation of something fictional, without sitting down and saying "There is NO SANTA!" ya know? I'm never going to tell him that Santa brings him gifts, or that he needs to be good, or that he needs to tell the Santa at the mall what he wants for Christmas. Those things "realize" Santa, which is not really what I want to do with him. But, I want him to be able to enjoy Santa as a fictional character just like he does Thomas or Elmo. At two, making those distinctions can be difficult...because he thinks that everything is real. :)

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    1. So well written, Aprille! I wonder just how many parents really tell their children about Santa or if the children just learn about him elsewhere, from friends, school, movies, etc. We never told our children, but they certainly had all the "facts". :) I think you'll be glad that you prepared, however it works out. Thanks for commenting.

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  17. While growing up, my family made a HUGE deal out of Santa. My dad would go up on the roof and stomp around and hope that one of us would be awake enough to hear him! So when we told my family that we weren't 'doing' the Santa thing, they thought we meant we couldn't afford to buy gifts! We had to explain over and over that we were telling the children that Santa was just pretend... It was sooo hard for them because Christmas WAS Santa to them.

    Our children are older now, but from the very beginning we told them that we celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas and that Santa was just pretend. They each had a stocking that was 'filled by Mom and Dad' and would get just as excited as if Santa had actually done the filling. They always knew that we bought the gifts, but God provided for them. (We never bought much... but they never seemed to notice!) I've love reading the comments! Thanks for the conversation!
    Mary @ Woman to woman

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    1. My family also made Santa the main attraction. Then, my husband and I never did. So when Grandma would talk about Santa and our children would just look at her, I could tell she was a little perplexed why they weren't exercised over Santa. It's amazing to me what sorts of things can cause difficulty in family relationships. So glad you commented, Mary. I have thoroughly enjoyed this conversation!

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  18. We don't plan on going the Santa route. Don't need to add confusion to an already confusing world. :)
    When I worked at a daycare, an 11 year was crying because his friend said there was no Santa, he's looking at me and begging me to tell him his friend was wrong. Still not sure if I handled it right, but I sat down with the 3 kids that were standing there and told them about the real Saint Nick. But since I also felt that telling them there is no Santa was the parent's job. I just finished with, "Santa is the spirit of giving, like Christ gave to us, Santa also gives."
    They seemed very satisfied with that answer and I didn't have to lie or compromise my convictions. But that was the defining moment for me. If I had considered going the whole Santa route before, I knew then that I wouldn't tell my kids Santa was real. Because guess what? The heartbreak in that child's eyes is what was real. Not Santa.

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    1. I would have done exactly the same thing. It's a sticky situation because you don't want to step on any toes. But what a blessing that it helped you define your stand and perhaps you planted a seed with those children. Thanks so much for sharing your story!

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  19. I remember being 7 years old and all my friends were starting to not believe in Santa because their parents had told them and I stood up with passion defending Santa. I remember how betrayed and shamed I felt when my parents admitted he wasn't real and they had been lying all those years (yes I felt like it was a lie). I never wanted to destroy my children's faith in me in that way so we have explained what Santa is from the beginning. I also worried because Santa and Jesus share so many of the same characteristics. Jesus is the giver of blessings not Santa. Jesus, like the santa myth, is someone you can't see but you have faith and believe in anyway. Also Jesus is the one I want my children to share their hopes and desires with not Santa. So we tell the children that Santa is not real and that some parents tell their children he is because they are trying to let the children have fun, but as for our family we don't tell lies for fun. Sorry if that sounded too harsh...just my own thoughts.

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    1. Not too harsh at all, Cara, and you bring up a good point that I wrote in my follow-up post. So many children are just looking for a loving, caring, joyful person who will love them unconditionally and give them gifts that are thoughtful and sincere yet also care enough to hold them accountable to good behavior. That sounds like a relationship with Jesus. The Christ child has so much more to offer than Santa. So glad you commented today!

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  20. This post was so engaging!! We never included Santa in our Christmas. We had lots of Christ-centered Christmas music as we didn't take away what the world has without replacing it with something better. We did stockings and the tree but the presents came from mom and dad. We always put the presents around the tree at night after they went to bed and they have good memories of us sneaking the presents out (or not so sneakily as they got older, LOL)

    Thanks for sharing and linking up with me this week over at WholeHearted Home Wednesdays. Your blog is such a blessing!!

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    1. Considering how crinkly those plastic shopping bags are, I've wondered how long until the children wake up to the loudness of us tromping down the hallway! :) Thank you so much for your generous words, Judith.

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  21. Meghan, I was taken back 20 years to when our children were little. I chose Something much like #4. It helped me to see what they has already begun to process. Thank you for sharing over at Deep Roots At Home! Excellent post!

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    1. Children are smart and can be quite discerning, can't they? Thanks, Jacqueline, and thanks for providing the link-up.

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  22. I used to celebrate christmas with Santa and the whole nine yards but I repented of that years ago. Santa is just an anagram for Satan and the entire "holiday" has its routes in satanic pagan practices. I do not believe that it is Christian nor does it, in all honesty, have anything to do with Christ.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=oZAL80TMLaE

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  23. I like # 4 best. :) I think because it makes the child stop and think for themselves. This is a great post - I love how you generate discussion here. Very clever! Thank you for linking this post up.

    p.s. I love your new header. You have such a joyful smile!

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    1. Thanks, Rosilind. I've always enjoyed discussion and debate and hearing other's viewpoints. Now I'm just bringing it to the web!

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I so much appreciate your time and effort in leaving a comment, and I try to respond to as many as time permits. :-)