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The Great Santa Debate (or, magic v. reality)

December 13, 2010

In the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I want to celebrate Christmas with LM and specifically how I want to approach the idea of Santa Claus.  A small, withered part of me wants to go whole-hog with the mythology, putting out cookies for “Santa” to eat and using it as a way to get LM to behave better for one month out of the year (mostly kidding).  But then I recall how disillusioned I was when I discovered that Santa wasn’t real.

What’s odd is that I can’t remember exactly when I made the discovery, but it involved finding some hidden presents with From Santa on the tag and realizing that Santa has the same handwriting as my mother.  Maybe I was a cynical child but I felt really betrayed when I discovered that so many wonderful (read: magical) life experiences were lies, pretty much designed to make me behave.  If there is no Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny or Santa Claus, then what was left besides going to school, eating everything on my plate and getting the crap kicked out of me by my big brother?  Nada.

DH has fond memories (and I do too, from before the Great Lie was discovered) of believing in Santa; his belief was allowed to fade gently with the onset of puberty and he helped his mother continue the magic for his younger siblings.  He wants to let LM believe in Santa, and he pretty much has me convinced as well, in a way.  It was wonderful magic while it lasted.

My current plan is to allow LM to soak up the mythology of Santa from the culture and her friends (and DH, no doubt), without actively encouraging it.  I will be evasive with vague questions, giving vague answers like “Santa Claus is the spirit of Christmas who brings presents to children all over the world.”  I won’t support the more extreme measures of realism, like the plate of cookies or tracking Santa on Google Maps.  And the day that my little girl comes to me and asks if Santa Claus is a real person, I won’t lie to her.  I have decided what I’m going to say, because I think I’ve come up with an adequate metaphor to explain the abstract concept to even a fairly young child.

“Santa Claus is like Dora the Explorer (or whatever annoying, over-commercialized children’s character will be inescapable at the time).  Dora is real, in that she looks a certain way and talks a certain way and does things in stories, but she isn’t a real person the way that you and I are “real” people.  Dora is a character, she doesn’t change.  Santa Claus is also a character, who looks and talks a certain way and does things.  Santa is based on people who were really real a long time ago but aren’t alive anymore. Santa Claus represents love and sharing and giving, which is why the character of Santa gives presents.  But it would be impossible for one person to go to every house and give presents to every child, so your daddy and I represent Santa Claus for you.  You know how you pretend to be a cowgirl/astronaut/princess sometimes?  We daddy and I pretend to be Santa Claus every Christmas because we love you, so we give you a present from Santa, as well as presents from us.”

I want to have non-present-related traditions as well, including my happy/thankful jar.  It’s a gift shaped cookie jar that I try to put little slips of paper in with happy thoughts, loving thoughts or things I am thankful for written on them.  On Christmas morning, DH and I pull out the papers and read them out loud to each other.  It’s sweet and makes a natural break in between opening stockings and opening presents.  I want to revive my families practice of giving a new pair of pajamas on Christmas Eve, and hopefully a favorite Christmas Breakfast food will present itself.


3 Comments leave one →
  1. December 13, 2010 6:39 am

    Could be worse, my sister and I set up elaborate traps to determine if Santa was real (starting when I was maybe 6 or 7). Luckily, by the time I was able to prove anything we’d had plenty of time to get used to the idea. As for Christmas breakfast ideas, growing up my sister and I were allowed to open our stockings on our own before waking up my parents. My mom also had a rule that we eat breakfast before we could open our presents and would generally put some fruit and a pop tarts in our stockings (it sounds horrible, but for us it was a special treat as those were the only pop tarts we got in a year). Once we’d eaten our “breakfast” we would wake my parents and open the presents before trundling into the kitchen to have a brunch of eggs benedict (with champagne or mimosas for anyone old enough to drink). We are still trying to figure out what works best for our own family (my mom was suggesting some Joe’s O’s and a pear in Audrey’s stocking this year to keep up the tradition), but I’d love to hear more about what you guys are doing once you decide.

  2. December 13, 2010 4:52 pm

    This one is an interesting subject in our household too. I grew up in a Jewish household, and I did just fine not believing in Santa my entire life. There’s no Hanukkah fairy or anything. Same for the Easter bunny. And since we’re not doing a tree or anything ourselves either, I see no need for Santa. But…enter my in-laws. They do put up a tree every year and have a big extravaganza for Christmas. And my MIL is OBSESSED with Santa. Santa is everywhere. So, I guess Cecilia is going to get Santa exposure anyway, because there’s no way she will not give her presents from Santa. I guess we’re just going to have to roll with it until Cecilia starts asking questions.

  3. December 13, 2010 7:18 pm

    Last year Audrey not only got presents from “Santa” via my in-laws, but a present from “Rudolph”…

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