How We Explain Christmas to Our Kids
Bernie Rosquites, Host: You’re listening to Faith and Family, a Christian Family community that aims to provide Christian family values. I’m Bernie Rosquites. As members of the Church Of Christ, we uphold beliefs [that] guide both our public and our personal lives. But how do we teach that to our kids, when it means taking away seemingly fun and widely accepted holidays, and perhaps, alienating them from their peers? What do we say to our kids when it comes to explaining why members of the Church Of Christ don’t celebrate events like Halloween or Christmas? And what do we tell the grown-ups around them? With me today to talk about all of this is Emirick Haro, Jewell Buenavista, and Mariel Gutierrez. Welcome back, ladies.
Bernie: Okay, I was like, what happened? [Laughing] So holidays are just around the corner. Literally, one of them is literally just around the corner. Now for you, ladies: Are there holidays—is there a particular holiday that your kids ask the most questions about?
Emirick: I got to them before anybody else could. I would tell them…
Bernie: You’ve got to, yeah.
Emirick: Yeah! What the holiday was, what it was called, and I would always tell them it’s a celebration of a fake god. And God will be mad at us if we do that, so we don’t do that.
Jewell: There was a time that…it was during Halloween that [my daughter] Jasmine—I think she was like only three or four—we had to go somewhere during October 31st, so we had brought her to my in-laws, and she [came] home, she’s like, “Oh my gosh! Halloween was so much fun!”
Everyone: Oh nooo! [Laughing]
Jewell: And then we were like, “Why what happened? What did you do? We don’t celebrate Halloween!” And she’s all, “I know, I know, I know, but we had so much fun giving out candy…”and, you know. For me and [my husband] Harmony, we…it was more like okay, it’s…we explained to her, and then, of course, we had to remind our in-laws that we don’t celebrate Halloween.
Jewell: But now, it was just kind of that one time, but then, now it’s honestly not…
Bernie: … not a big deal?
Jewell: It’s not. Yeah.
Bernie: Yeah. How about you, Mar?
Mariel: Umm… okay. Now I feel bad!
Bernie: I was going to say you dressed your son up like Woody, didn’t you?!
Mariel: When the costumes go on sale! And it’s not Halloween!
Bernie: You know I have to say, I’ve done that. When a costume goes on sale, I…
Mariel: I know! Your son loves to dress up, right? I see those posts. Yeah, that’s not Halloween, right?
Bernie: Mhmm, no. He knows it.
Mariel: Yeah! I got my daughter…I think she had caught [on], when she was really small, she had watched, I think, Polar Express. Are you guys familiar with that movie?
Mariel: Yeah! So, she saw it on TV, and… but she was really young, we’re talking like two or three, and I was like, “Aww man!” you know? Because she was so like…it was so magical for her! You know what I mean? And I, unfortunately, didn’t get to her, before it got to her, and so I had to explain to her, well, you know, I had to be kind of the bad guy. I was the parent that was like, well, I don’t know, Santa doesn’t really exist, you know? And like, this is what Christmas is, but we don’t do that as members of the Church Of Christ. And it was hard for her, you know? Now she…
Bernie: … did she ask questions?
Mariel: She did! And for a while, she would say, like, because she was only three? You know?
Bernie: Yeah, mhm.
Mariel: I would say, “Do you understand?” And she’ll be all like, “Yeah.” But then she’ll be all like, “Buuut…” [Laughing] You know? She’d be like, “Yes, but… can I still get presents? But I’m not celebrating,” you know?
Mariel: Yeah. Or like, “But, can I…” She’ll ask like it was like a jumble of questions: Can I still have hot chocolate? Yes, you may have hot chocolate. Can we still go to places with snow? Yes, we can still go to places with snow.
Bernie: That’s too cute.
Mariel: You know what I mean?
Bernie: That is adorable.
Mariel: And then she was like, are you sure that Santa doesn’t exist?
Bernie: Because last I checked, he was giving out gifts right now!
Mariel: I know, because I just saw him at the mall, you know?
Mariel: It was a little hard. I wish I had gotten to it before it did. You know, like I thought that because she was two or three, it was too soon anyway, because they weren’t at school, blah blah blah. But I was wrong! You know what I mean? It’s true, like they are… these holidays are being marketed so early, right?
Mariel: You know? Even like…it’s in their programming, their television programming. It’s in commercials, it’s everywhere!
Bernie: Girl, if you go to Starbucks, everything is pumpkin flavored, pretty soon it’s going to be mint flavored.
Mariel: I know!
Bernie: Everything is based on those things, so it’s unavoidable. Now, are there special things that you do to avoid the inevitable exclusions from their peers? Because I know a few parents who when, for example, when it’s Halloween, they have their, their school has their Halloween parade. Some of these parents—I’m not saying it’s wrong or right—but some of these parents, they just don’t bring them. They exclude them from school, just so they don’t have to see any of it. Or there are some who take them out to the movies while the other kids are trick-or-treating, or give New Year presents instead of Christmas presents. I mean, do you do any of that?
Emirick: I used to! I used to when I was a stay-at-home mom. I was a stay-at-home mom for a while. During Halloween, I would volunteer at the school to take care of those kids who don’t celebrate.
Mariel: Aww…that’s awesome!
Emirick: Because you know…
Jewell: I think it’s a great idea! I think I wanna do that!
Bernie: That’s an amazing idea. That’s a great idea.
Emirick: Because we’re not the only ones who don’t celebrate.
Bernie: That’s true.
Emirick: Now, if we were, then I would probably be like, okay kids, we’re not going to school, or something else to say. But I would volunteer. I would talk to the principal and say, do you have other kids who don’t celebrate Halloween? And so, it would be offered to the teachers. If there were any kids who, you know, it’s against their beliefs to go out and do the parade or whatever. Mrs. Haro will take all those kids to the library, and we would make paper airplanes; we would do a little science lesson, and have a lot of fun! And so, I would do that every year with my kids.
Mariel: Oh! You made a community for those kids! I love it!
Jewell: I love that idea!
Bernie: I love that. I mean that is…
Jewell: Yeah! I mean, when [my son] Hayden was in TK. So TK, what is that?
Jewell: Yeah, transitional kindergarten. He was five years old so during Christmas time, the teacher took us aside, and said, “Oh can I speak to you real quick?” And then she was like, “I know you guys don’t celebrate Christmas, but Hayden has to stop telling everybody that Santa is not real.”
Bernie: See! I’m afraid that’s what my son is going to do!
Emirick: I’m about to have a special conversation with my kids about that, yeah.
Jewell: And so, of course, we had to [tell him], “Hayden, you can’t…you still have to respect…”
Everyone: Right, yes.
Jewell: So…but in a way, I’d rather him be confident that way, and tame him down, versus like, he’s embarrassed to be the outcast. Do you know what I’m saying? And I think that’s what parents need to remember. When I was a Children’s Worship Service teacher, I would purposely ask the kids during service, because I feel like kids need to embrace being different you know?
Respect others’ beliefs, while still participating in learning
Jewell: And I don’t think we should dance around the topic? You know what I mean? So we could sugarcoat their feelings? No, I feel like we need to…I feel like we need to teach them how to be confident.
Emirick: I feel like believing in those, you know, things like, Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, I feel like those kinds of things kill faith, because kids grow up thinking that stuff is real. Yeah, and then they grow up thinking those things are real, God is real. They lump them all together.
Bernie: Oh gosh no, right.
Emirick: And when they grow up they realize… wait, Santa Claus isn’t real? And the Tooth Fairy isn’t real? Oh, then God must not be real either. So, you know, I made it very clear. I feel like those things kind of are killing that faith in God, and they think that it preserves wonder in a child, and I’m like, there are so many things that you can wonder. I mean, all of God’s creations, and all the things God does? That’s wonderful! [Those are the] things you should have your wonder in!
So, when you put your wonder in these fake things, and they think, oh, you’re not preserving wonder in a child, you’re killing a child’s imagination and creativity, I think, absolutely, that is the wrong thing. You’re not killing their imagination and creativity…you’re killing their faith. You know? And you can believe in God, and not believe in those fake fairy things, and preserve wonder, and teach creativity and imagination.
So, from a very early age—from the minute my kids could look around, and see things and understand what I’m saying to them, I told them this is Christmas. It’s in honor of a fake god. Do we honor fake gods or do we honor the real God? And they’ll say, oh the real God! And then I go, so we don’t do that. As they got older…and so you know little kids are very bold. Like you said, Hayden would tell everybody! So, [my son] Russell was given a gift from his teacher for Christmas one time in first grade. She wrapped up books, and gave a wrapped up book to all the kids in our class. And when I came to pick up Russell one day after school, and he hadn’t come out! And I was looking for him! And so I went to his classroom, and he was very angry at his teacher. And I’m like, what’s going on? And the teachers all like, Russell is upset because I gave him a Christmas gift. And Russell is all like, I told her! I told her so many times!
Emirick: I don’t celebrate Christmas! And then, so I was like, oh man! So I had to like, pull him aside! And I told my other kids, too, like you have to understand this is a truth that we know, but it’s not a truth that everybody knows yet. And so, we do have to share it, but we have to be sensitive with…
Everyone: yeah, right, right
Emirick: …how they’re going to take it, because maybe they’ve lived their whole life believing this, so we have to be gentle? And so I had to explain to Russell! I’m like, so you know, I’m like…we took the book, and apologized to the teacher, and I’m like, Russell, you can’t be angry at her! She was just trying to be nice to you! And he’s like, but I told her! I don’t celebrate Christmas!
Bernie: Well, you know, we do get a lot of that side eye from other parents for this. Other parents, other adults, and we become that super weird, and lame… you know, parent, real quick when we’re missing from the Halloween parades, and holiday parties, you know? How do we explain our beliefs to teachers, and surrounding adults that may think it’s quote, unquote “not a big deal” to include our kids in things that are against our beliefs?
Jewell: I think for me, I don’t know…for me, none of this is a big deal, to be honest. I just straight up tell the teachers, we don’t celebrate it, and that’s it! And then I think we live in a world now that…
Bernie: …a little bit more accepting?
Jewell: Yeah, that there [are] a lot of different beliefs, and so teachers are a lot more accommodating.
Emirick: And I tell my kids, we are not going to make any excuses not to do something, because we still want to learn, and we still want to let our teachers know that we are here for the learning. Even though it goes against our beliefs, we’re going to make accommodations, so that we’re not offending God, but we are still learning.
So, they were making leprechaun traps in kindergarten, and they had to make a family project with your family, you were going to make a leprechaun trap, and they had to bring it to school, then they were going to trick the kids that they had a leprechaun, or something like that, right? And [my son] David was in kindergarten, and he told his teacher, you know I don’t really believe in leprechauns, and it goes against…in my Church, I’m not allowed to celebrate Saint Patrick’s day, so is it okay if I just make a mousetrap? So he made an accommodation! He’s like, I’m not saying I don’t want to do this, I know this is a family project, but I’m not going to make a leprechaun trap, I’m going to make a mousetrap instead. And she was like okay, sounds good! So we made a mousetrap! And then he told me in kindergarten, he’s like, “I wanted to tell everybody that you didn’t really catch a leprechaun, it was just the teachers tricking you!”
Bernie: I love this kid!
Emirick: So if there’s like a Christmas worksheet or anything like that, my kids have done in the past, and said, you know, is it okay if I do this worksheet instead?
My mom found this worksheet online, and it’s like the same content, but it’s just something different. And then, they’re like okay! You know, they’re still able to participate in the learning.
Bernie: Sure! There’s a solution!
Jewell: Can I ask Emirick a question on that real quick? So…and maybe I don’t know if I’m doing this right or wrong, you know, because same thing with me. I believe, you know, I let my kids participate, you know, in activities. Just the same thing [as] yours, you know, during Halloween time, it’s arts and crafts, you know what I mean? They still have to do the arts and crafts. So, that’s what I mean. I don’t completely take them out, they still do the activities like in arts and crafts. Even in the holidays they have a holiday program where they sing songs, you know, for the holiday program. I mean, I actually allow my kids to participate.
Emirick: We take the seasonal approach. So, I’ll ask the teacher, because there have been programs, and they’ll say, is it okay if your child participates in the program? And I’m like what’s the song? And then she’ll tell me what the song is, and I’m like oh okay that’s just winter. Like, I believe that Jingle Bells is just a winter song, and they’re just going through the snow or whatever like that, and I’m like oh that’s okay.
But when they start singing about Santa Claus, and all that stuff then I say, “Nah, we can’t really participate in that.” So yeah, and when they do their crafts, like, for example, when they did 12 days of Christmas craft? So, they were counting down to Christmas, and David said, can I count down to New Year’s? And they’re all like, ok. So then he made those rings where he was counting down to the New Year. So, we’re always accommodated, and they were very clear. So, the teachers knew that we don’t do this, but we’re still here. We’re not trying to excuse ourselves out of these activities, we’re still here for the learning.
Bernie: Those are great examples!
Mariel: You know what’s funny? Is that, I know my son had an encounter with his friend, where he was doing that thing! Being really loud, and say like, “We don’t celebrate that! Why do you?” You know, and like, of course, I’m over here trying to calm him down, you know. And then, like so, his friend turns to him, and says, “Do you celebrate birthdays?” And my son turns to me, [Whispering] “Do we celebrate birthdays?”
Mariel: I was like, “Yes, we celebrate birthdays, and New Year’s.” It’s funny because they’re like, he’s still defining where the line is, as well.
Do your kids have spiritual integrity?
Emirick: I take the academic approach to it, you know? With my kids, we’ve gone and went back to the history of all these holidays, and we’ve Googled where did this come from? Or where did this come from? And…we’ll read! And like, we’ve read where does Thanksgiving come from? And then I’ll ask them, is that okay? Does that offend God? And they’re like I don’t think so. And I’m like yeah I think it’s okay to do that. And then, we’ll…you know, we’ll Google where does Christmas come from? Actually, we’ll use the shows on INC Media. We use a lot of That’s In the Bible.
Jewell: I like that.
Emirick: You know, they have a lot of good shows explaining the history of a holiday. And then, I’ll say, “Does that offend God?” And then they’re like, “Yeah, because, you know, it dates back to a pagan God, a pagan ritual.” I’m like, so then, we don’t do that. So they are very clear as to which holidays, and why. You know? So that they can defend themselves, too, when they go there. It’s not just something “my mom said.” It’s not just something said at Church.
Emirick: You know? It’s actually being…I have a reason for it. And we will rehearse, you know, because I know that there are going to be people out there, although there are many people that are kind and tolerant nowadays, you know? I grew up where people were rude about it, when I was a kid. And so in case you encounter this, which you might, let’s practice what you might say, so that you’re not offending somebody, but you’re actually hopefully, enlightening them.
We would approach it with a question, you know? So, we would rehearse that with my kid. If someone said, why don’t you celebrate Christmas? Then I would tell my kids to say, well why do you? You know? Because the burden of proof is not on us, because we don’t celebrate it. They’re the ones who celebrate it, so they should be the ones to justify why they celebrate it.
Mariel: You’re so smart!
Bernie: I’m taking notes right now.
Jewell: Me too! I really like that approach. Really, instead of the kids just… especially when you… when your kids are a little older? Where they can really understand. I like the academic approach where they are trained to always go back to the truth.
Emirick: So, the burden of proof is not on us, it’s on them. Because they’re the ones who celebrate it!
Mariel: I love it.
Bernie: I feel like after this, Emirick should just drop the mic.
Bernie: Though we’ve talked about what to tell our kids, and their teachers, in regards to why we don’t celebrate certain holidays, and yes, the exclusion of our kids from any activities that are related to the events. This discussion is really about teaching our kids spiritual integrity.
Bernie: It’s their first real battle, with real Christian hardships, like persecution, like choosing God over what’s popular, and sacrifice. We’re not only paving the way, we’re leaving bread crumbs, so that when our kids grow up, out there in the real world, as adults facing questions like: Why don’t you join us for happy hour? Why can’t you date him because he’s a cutie patootie?! Then they’ll look back at these moments, and remember what we’ve taught them. About that spiritual integrity. So, I’d like to thank the listeners for joining us this evening, and also, thank you to our panelists: Jewell, Emirick and Mar. Thank you, ladies!
Everyone: Thank you!
Mariel: Thank you! So informative! Bernie: I’m going to be looking over these notes later, trust me! I mean, everybody has come up with some really great information. So, I’m Bernie Rosquites. You’ve been listening to Tired Moms! A podcast brought to you by Faith and Family. We’ll talk to you all again, next time!