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Balancing the Magical and the Mystical

Date: December 9, 2020

By: Kimberly C.

My childhood was filled with memories of Christmas morning: gifts delivered through the chimney, gloriously lining the walls from the immaculately decorated tree to the base of our stairs. My sister and I would be awash in shiny wrapping paper, overwhelmed by exhaustion from the sheer effort of unwrapping so many parcels. However, my favorite part of Christmas was my stocking. All wrapped presents had to wait until Christmas morning (and when my parents could peel their eyes open) to be opened, but it was permissible to wake up and bring our stockings to bed with us. What joy it was to open all the delights by flashlight under the covers!


Fast forward a few years later, at age thirty-three with two adorable children, I converted to Catholicism. I was already in the full throws of passing on the tradition of my childhood Christmas of excess to my own daughters, filling large stockings to the brim and keeping the magic of Christmas presents alive. From time-to-time Jesus’ birthday would ebb in and out of conversation and thought, but commercial magic was the theme of the day.


One day around Advent, as I hid in my closet where the stocking factory grew, (I had many stockings to fill as my family grew larger) I stopped. I began to think to myself, “Over the past ten years I have grown to resent the Red Old Elf. That Red Elf is really overwhelming the mystery of God’s Christmas miracle. I should be in the womb with Jesus, waiting for the greatest birth. But instead, I am madly making mall purchases with the soundtrack “Santa Baby” playing in my subconscious… And I’m not just ruining Christmas for myself. What am I teaching my children? What is central here? What does our faith tell us?”


Our faith tells us that gift giving represents the true present God gave us when He humbled Himself and became man, and then made Himself available to us in the form of bread and wine. The ultimate present being our salvation. Santa Claus is a saint who through gifts to the poor was able to save lives (although, truth be told, my personal favorite story of Saint Nick is when he punched a heretic during a counsel!) That is the Santa I want in my house this year.


I have begun the journey of changing Christmas in our home. The first step was saying, “NO” to Elf on the Shelf and placing a manger on our coffee table instead. We are waiting for Jesus, making His bed ready. We are decorating a Christmas tree and an Advent tree. We are praying more as a family. Each child is only getting one gift, but those gifts are given by an exchange of names between the siblings. The most magical part of my childhood Christmas, the stockings … they stay. Santa Claus still fills those. But now they are being filled for the love of the Child Jesus.