I’ll admit. It seems like an odd family tradition. I mean, with all the Christmas commercialism, why would you encourage your kids to write a letter listing what THEY want for Christmas?
I beg you. Please don’t click away. Hear me out. By the end of my post, you may even end up taking up pen and paper to write to the ol’ guy in the North Pole yourself.
Years ago, as our family began to grow in numbers and beyond the walls of the Mora homestead, our Dear Santa Letter tradition was born. Over the years, my husband and I have seen the benefits of writing to Saint Nick every year.
Our tradition isn’t just for the littles of the family. The bill-paying adult children and their spouses also write one. Children have an innate gift of being in touch with what makes them smile. However, we adults often lose ourselves in life’s vortex of responsibilities. That’s why everyone participates.
A quick side note about Santa…
As a young child, I grew up thinking Santa actually came into my home and delivered the presents. In second grade, I had a heated argument with a fellow classmate over the “Santa Issue”. My justification was sound and, I thought, irrefutable. Point one, there was no way MY PARENTS would ever buy me expensive gifts. Point two, MY PARENTS wouldn’t lie. Ouch and ouch. Don’t worry, I’m over my disappointment and realize my parents were just having some fun with us kids.
So Forrest and I took a little different approach to Santa. Our children grew up knowing about the “Real Saint Nick.” We read stories, watched movies, and admired his selfless traits. Santa embodies the spirit of generosity, and we held him up as an example to follow. So, for our family, Santa became a kind of hero, someone who thinks of others before thinking of himself. Side note: a little history lesson about Saint Nicholas.
Without question, the birth of Jesus is the centerpiece of our Christmas holiday!
However, “Santa” became our family’s “let’s pretend game” that we enjoyed through the Christmas season.
10 Reasons to Write a Dear Santa Letter Every Year
#1 Knowing what makes you uniquely happy is important.
In my experience as a marriage lay counselor, I often found myself in front of hostile partners who would spew examples of how their spouses failed their expectations. Each love tank was profoundly hollow and dry. One partner would desperately plead with the other to fill it up. Expressing raw marital pain is the first step in the healing process, but it’s messy. It takes raw courage.
At the end of the first session, I usually ask each partner, “What would fill your love tank?” More often than not, I received answers such as “he or she should know” or blank stares. Sometimes, I would get, “I have already told him or her.” To which the other spouse would respond, “No, you haven’t” or “I’m trying, but nothing makes you happy.” Occasionally, one spouse admits, “I don’t even know anymore,” followed by a lowered head and tears.
The couples sit for a moment in silence, processing the weight and results of not knowing what makes personal happiness. We spend the next few minutes exploring the difference between superficial happiness (based on circumstances) and deep happiness or joy (based on the fruit of the spirit and the unique individual preferences and desires that uniquely make you…YOU.)
So one of the first personal assignments I give to a couple is to write a list of what makes each happy and joy-filled. In the following session, they spend time discussing their lists. It is NOT an easy assignment. It requires thought and prayerful soul-searching. It is always easier to blame someone for your unhappiness rather than spend time discovering the desires of your heart.
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12
When I’m filled with joy, I am more loving, kind, respectful, and yes, happy. But boy, oh boy, when I am lost in the “nobody and nothing can make me happy/joyful” feeling, look out! My household and my marriage begin to crumble under the dark cloud of my Eeyore attitude. I have a responsibility to bring my happy self to our marriage and my family. I need God’s help, and I need to make time to sit with my Creator and discover it for myself. It is no one’s job but mine.
Many years ago, I applied for a job with a company that “gets this concept”. On the application was an unusual question, “What $10.00 gift would make you happy?” The question stumped me more than all the other questions! It was easy to answer queries about my experience or education. But If I can’t answer the $10.00 gift question, who can? This company knew that a happy employee is one who knows what makes personal happiness and joy.
#2 It helps to restore the love language of gift-giving.
Doesn’t writing a Santa Letter encourage selfishness? Isn’t wanting a gift selfish? Shouldn’t we be teaching our children to be unselfish? Shouldn’t the “perfect child” only want socks, underwear, a Bible, and peace on earth?
Unfortunately, our culture has twisted the idea of gift-giving and receiving. Society has turned it into either an “all about me” idea (Give me what I want) or shuns with fake humility (Oh please, don’t give me anything.)
Gift-giving and receiving is God’s idea. God’s very nature is giving, and He wants you and me to receive the gifts he has designed for us. When we practice the same in our family and community. The Light of Christmas shines brightly.
“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”-James 1:17
In the Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, he outlines five different love languages;
•Words of Affirmation
•Acts of Service
Chapman asserts that one personal love language dominates over the others. Although I understand his point, I firmly believe that all five love languages must be practiced. (Five Love Languages: Take the quiz)
After taking the test, one of my sons ranked high in the love language of gift-giving. At first, he was a little embarrassed. “Does this mean the way I feel loved is by receiving a gift? It makes me seem kind of selfish, ” he asked. I assured him that was not the case. In every culture around the world, gifts are given to show love and appreciation.
Gift-giving is a way to show love and support. Encouraging Christmas gift-giving and receiving is one way our family accomplishes this ideal.
“You have given him his heart’s desire and have not withheld the request of his lips.”
#3 It helps to shape a child-like heart.
Kids get it. They ask without guilt. They receive without shame. What freedom! They understand this aspect of love.
The purpose of the Dear Santa Letter is twofold: one to preserve the child-like attitude as described in the Bible in our young children and offer a reminder to us as adults to become like little children with no guilt and no shame.
“And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:2-4
#4 It’s fun!
On Thanksgiving Day, the call goes out to write Santa a letter. In the past, we usually wrote the letter by hand. Then I would type all the letters and send it to everyone in our family. This year, we established a private family Facebook page where we all posted a selfie and our letters. Writing creativity always racks up extra points with Santa. Our children know this and deliver hilarious and often heartfelt letters. This year, our college boy, who is studying computer programming, put his color preferences in code. We had to look up each code! Our son, who lives in Colorado, posted his selfie with the saddest face and holding up his broken ski bindings. He pleaded for new bindings. I posted a question, “Which ones?” He replied, “Mom… Santa knows everything. He watches me when I’m sleeping. He will figure it out.”
#5 We learn about each other and ourselves.
Before the pen hits the paper, many of our kids tell us, “I don’t know what I want.” Forrest and I struggle too! It takes thought and introspection. When the pen finally hits the paper, we all learn about each other and ourselves. Part of the letter includes updating sizes, favorite colors, and fashion preferences. We include our current hobbies and new hobbies we would like to explore. Sometimes, our kids include their future hopes and dreams. When we read each other’s letters, we always learn something new!
#6 It’s a time to count blessings!
Peppered in many of the Dear Santa letters is an attitude of gratitude. We take a moment to be grateful for the things in life that make it sweet, such as friends, family, and daily provisions. It’s the little things that bring joy. It helps us focus on what’s important during the Christmas season.
#7 It makes it easier to find the right gift.
In our Dear Santa Letter, each family member includes links to personal Amazon Wish Lists or Pinterest Boards. Forrest and I love looking at our children’s wish lists. It’s a snapshot of their personalities. Scrolling down their lists helps us as parents to take a moment and appreciate each of our children’s God-given individuality. We have a wonderfully eclectic bunch! The Dear Santa Letter helps us all with ideas to find the perfect gift.
#8 It creates more Christmas memories.
We reminisce about Dear Santa letters from long ago. We laugh….. a bunch.… about past posts. One year, some of our kids jumped into harmless family banter about who is “the favored child”. Forrest and I stayed out of that open discussion! Another year, the plea to Santa was to please bring our son/brother home safely from Afghanistan. We remember the good, the bad, and the heartfelt wishes year after year.
#9 It puts you in the Christmas mood.
After I have intentionally racked my brain for the things that bring me joy, it puts me in a terrific mood and just makes me so…well, joy-filled and happy. Somehow, just identifying my desires fills my heart with gladness. After reading our family’s Dear Santa letters, I can’t help but smile. It’s something we share as a family that brings us together despite the miles that may separate us.
“Desire realized is sweet to the soul,” Proverbs 13:19
#10 It reminds us of God’s grace and helps us practice humility.
Unless you’re a child, requesting a gift feels awkward. Grace (undeserved/unmerited gift receiving) requires humility. Christmas is all about the greatest gift ever given: God the Father giving His Son to the world who does not merit His gift.
Years before Jesus’ entrance into the world, the prophets of the Old Testament expressed their heartfelt desire for a Messiah, a Savior, a Wonderful Counselor, a Prince of Peace. They wrote passionately about mankind’s wish list.
God the Father answered their prayers by sending Jesus to the world.
But unless we (the gift receivers) humble ourselves and receive God’s gift, the moment is spoiled. Gracious gift-receiving is a beautiful way to learn humility.
“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37: 4
I can’t think of anything I could recommend more to you this Christmas than to sit down today and write to the “Jolly Ol’ Man with a Twinkle in His Eye.” Help your kids do the same.
Start a family tradition that will fill all of your hearts with joy and will help you learn what makes each of you uniquely happy.
From Our Home to Yours,