Santa ornament

Last Christmas, I wrote a post about how all five of my children still believed in Santa. I wrote about the magic of the season and how special our traditions were able to stay because all the children were still believers.

At the time, their innocent belief felt like a blessing. Especially for my oldest two girls, Christmas and Santa seemed like the last vestiges of little kids on the brink of tween-hood.

Not a month later, my fear of losing them to reality became, well, a reality. Oblivious friends spilled the Santa secret. My two daughters were immediately heartbroken.

It wasn’t just that they felt the loss of Santa, but his friends, too. The Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy were officially out of the bag. The grief was real.

I had been surprised how long my girls held onto the magic of these myths, especially since their make-believe heroes weren’t even that great at their job. In our house, Santa brings one present for each kid and it’s never the best one. And the poor Tooth Fairy regularly got caught up in “back orders” and would sometimes show up months behind schedule.

Their sharp heartbreak made me nervous for this coming Christmas. Would it be ruined for them? Would they give up feeling the warmth of the season and the special magic that hangs in the air no matter how old you are?

I was so worried about how they might be disappointed, I forgot to look for reasons Christmas would get better for them. Instead of wallowing in grief and lost imagination, they’ve crossed over into how fun it can be to make Christmas special for someone else.

Their mission this season is to give their three younger brothers the best Christmas ever. They’re officially in charge of Christopher Pop-In-Kins — our version of Elf on the Shelf — which is wonderful because they remember to hide him way better than I ever did. They’ve also appointed themselves head of the Advent calendar, making sure every sibling gets a turn opening the right square for the right day.

When we braved Christmas shopping at the mall, they were the two taking charge of introducing their youngest brother to Santa. And at home they’ve made sure to protect their brothers from any slips from Zach and I or questionable movie quotes that might accidentally give away misinformation. They’ve even started wrapping presents for me.

My favorite way they’ve continued to make this season sweet was when my second daughter, Scarlett, organized a sibling Secret Santa gift exchange. They each drew names — unbeknownst to their parents — for a special present Christmas morning. This way they still get a gift from someone secret.

And they’ve made it even more special by coming up with the presents themselves. They’ve bought their gifts from the school store, where store money is earned from their teachers. They’ve used their allowance and paid for gifts out of their own pocket. Or in one case, the “perfect” present was won by saying all the required verses at Sunday School and selflessly saved for their siblings Christmas morning.

Santa might be missing from Christmas for my girls, but the magic is more present than ever. I’m just glad they don’t feel like they’re missing out. They’ve discovered more of a reason to celebrate the real meaning of Christmas than ever before.

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Rachel Higginson is a married mom to five kids. She is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author who has received a Utopia Award for Best Contemporary Romance and Penned Con Award for Best Novella Series. She lives in Omaha.

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