Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Should we perpetuate the Santa myth?

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It's 9 days before Christmas, and I'm at a crossroads.

Bronwynn is finally old enough to begin understanding the holidays--she notices Christmas trees and lights all around her. She is singing the lyrics to several holiday songs I've been playing on the stereo. She's fully appreciating the wonder of a plate full of Christmas cookies.

She has not, however, met Santa or made any requests for Christmas gifts. I've barely mentioned Santa, actually. Mostly, it's because I haven't had the energy to schlepp a toddler to the mall to sit on a smelly, bearded stranger's lap.

But it could also be that I'm not talking about Santa because I'm ambivalent about his role at Christmastime.

I did try to have a heartfelt conversation with B about what Christmas symbolizes--I waxed poetic about God, grace, peace, sacrifice, unconditional love. She listened intently for, oh, about 14 seconds...and then asked me to put the ears back on her Mr. Potato Head. Trying to regain her attention, I said, "...and Christmas is also baby Jesus' birthday!" to which her face lit up and she squealed "Yay! Happy burt-day! We have burt-day cake??"

I asked Kris if he wants to teach her about Santa, and he said absolutely. Santa, to him, is about giving, and fostering a sense of wonder and mystery in children. "You can't have Christmas without Santa," he argued.

Is he right?

The cynic in me says that Santa is a big fat lie. And why would we deliberately deceive our children? Especially with a lie that implies that this mysterious person has unlimited access to every child's material desire? That toys magically appear under a Christmas tree and don't cost anyone anything? In this economy?! Ho Ho Noooo way.

Yet, I remember fondly the anticipation and excitement I felt around Christmas and Santa. It did serve to spark my imagination and sense of wonder and mystery. (That is, until I learned the truth and felt let down...which one could argue is another rite of passage).

So here I am. I have two gifts to wrap for each child, one of which is something I made (Kris and I wholeheartedly agree that we will keep the commercial part of Christmas very small). What do I put on the tags? "From Mommy and Daddy"? or "From Santa"? One of each? Or maybe Santa should only bring goodies like chocolate...something that health-conscious Mommy and Daddy rarely ever provide?

And if I choose to give Santa the boot...what will Bronwynn think in a few years when she sees her friends getting gifts from the jolly old guy?

What do you think? How do you handle the Santa myth?

4 comments :

  1. I struggle with this topic, too, Gina. I came from a family that did a fantastic job of letting me experience the joy and wonder of all that is Santa without the eventual let-down of finding out that they lied to me. I wish I knew how to recreate that. Brett, on the other hand, remembers finding out that Santa was a myth and being upset by it. We chose to let our kids "believe" for the first few years of their lives, but try really hard not to ever outright lie. Now that they are 4 & 6, that gets harder and harder. Lilly asked after sitting on the mall Santa's lap if there was more than one Santa because this one didn't look the same as others she had seen. I took the cheap way out and just asked her what she thought. I kind of want it to just be over already, and I kind of enjoy the wonder in their eyes while they imagine his magic at the same time. This is tough. I just pray that I am teaching them the true meaning of Christmas, and that they will never feel I deceived them. My mom eventually taught me that there wasn't an actual Santa-man, just a wonderful tradition of love and generosity that moms & dads pass on to their kids. So I will search for stories of how Santa came to be and hopefully begin teaching them soon. And then I'll have to worry about them not telling other kids that grown-ups are all lying... Does it ever get easy??

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  2. Santa is just a fun little guy. somthing that makes children's eyes light up. He was derived from Saint Nicolas - an actual person - who believed in giving what he could - and even once - dropped a bag of gold coins down a chimney. He was arrested and imprisoned once because he refused to denounce Jesus, Who is the real reason for the season. I don't think Santa himself is a bad thing. He is the spirit of giving - and that can only enrich peoples' lives. As long as he remains a strong giving spirit - and is balanced with the truth of Jesus' birthday - I don't see the harm. I still believe in his spirit - as do my children - who are all grown - and are happy, well adjusted, God fearing, Jesus believing,caring adults. The faith of a child is awesome - and healthy imagination is good. And they are forced to grow up so fast. She's going to follow your lead for the most part anyway. If she sees that the Santa story brings you joy - she'll feel joy with you. Enjoy and treasure this time with your babies. And Merry Christmas!

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  3. Think about the movie, Miracle on 34th Street. Do you want B to be a 3 ft tall adult? Or do you want her to enjoy the wonders of the season through the eyes of a child?

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  4. Thanks for the thoughtful comments. We decided to let B believe in Santa, and we plan to emphasize giving to others who have less than we do. She'll be getting something she REALLY wants from Santa this year: Elmo underpants!

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