Photo: Pixabay

Going down the aisle at the grocery store we were walking toward a short, round man with white hair and a white beard.

Yeah! Santa Claus right there in the frozen food section! He looked at my young son and made the “I’m watching you” gesture and said “Be good.”

My immediate reaction? “Uh…creepy.”

This akward encounter got me thinking about the Santa tradition and how we can approach it as parents.

Santa Claus has gone through a lot of evolution. And over the years he has become more and more commercialized and all about the gifts. But the origin of St. Nick started with a man who became a saint because of his kindness, selflessness and generosity to others.

This benevolent spirit gave to people because they needed it and they deserved it. It had nothing to do with what they wanted or making sure they had the next big thing. But, somehow this message of generosity and compassion gets lost. 

We’ve all heard people say, “Be good or Santa’s not going to bring you presents.”

But, being “good” should be something we teach our children to aspire to all the time, not just when they think they’ll be rewarded. And “being good” is a vague concept for developing little minds. If they don’t know why we treat people with kindness, generosity and consideration “being good” will mean very little.

Let’s teach them not only to be good but to do good.

Doing good involves the golden rule. If we want others to treat us with kindness, compassion and respect, then we show that to others. It’s as simple as that. 

We can challenge ourselves as parents to teach our children a new way to do good every holiday season. 

That could look like: 

* Handing out gift cards to community service workers

* Putting together a shoebox of school supplies for local kids

* Bell ringing

* Volunteering at a soup kitchen

* Participating in a hat, coat, mitten drive

Christmas can really be a magical time! 

So let’s teach about Santa Claus not as just a jolly man who brings gifts, but a symbol of doing good and the spirit of Christmas.  If we stay connected and are in touch with what the season really means, we will feel that spirit everywhere. We’ll feel the spirit of Christmas because we believe in it.

So the next time I run into Santa in the grocery store I’ll greet him with a smile. And we’ll know in our family that Santa will visit because of our doing good not because of our being good.