Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Santa Claus is Coming to Town...Not!

As you may know from past Christmas posts that I've written, and despite hanging up stockings on the mantle for the first time this year, we are not Santa people.  I've always told Matthew (and now Seth and Lizzie) that Santa is a good story that found its roots in the real person of St. Nicholas.  I think it's a fun story and I am totally ok reading about Santa as such...I just want them to know that it's fiction, like many of the books we read.

It hasn't always been easy to maintain this approach.  Santa is heavily promoted in our society and every year umpteen people approach my kid(s) and ask if they've been a good girl or a bad boy and is Santa going to have a reason to land on our roof on Christmas Even.  Just yesterday someone asked Seth if he was a good Santa's helper; he looked at me and said "what should I say?" to which I responded to the woman, "Well, for sure he's a good helper for his Mommy."  She frowned, dissatisfied.  Seth beamed.

Two or three years ago, a waitress sat down at a table where Matthew and I were waiting for our lunch and told him that I had misled him because there really was a Santa...this in response to Matthew saying (after she'd asked about the good boy bad boy thing) that Santa was a story and not real.  You can imagine my conversation with Matthew on the way out of the restaurant a bit later, when he was questioning whether I had been lying to him!  Needless to say, we have never set food inside that restaurant again...I couldn't believe her nerve!

It's so ironic that Matthew would question me about my truth telling, when I'm likely one of the only moms in the northern hemisphere who has actually told him the actual and firm truth since his first Christmas on earth.  We argued on the subject for a few years about whether I'm telling him the truth.  Seriously!  Arguing about Santa and I'm on the side of telling him that Santa. is. not. real!  Even last year was touch and go, in terms of whether or not he was going to believe the truth!

Thank goodness this year he is talking as if he has conceded that battle.  I overheard Seth asking Matthew the other day, "Do we believe in Santa?  I forget.  I hear other kids talking about Santa."   Cute.  Understandable.

Matthew's answer:  "It's a terrific story, Seth, just like The Gingerbread Man. But no, we don't believe that he's real.  Mom and Dad give us our presents."  Couldn't have said it better myself...and I thought throwing in the reference to a favourite book was a great idea.

I've always been rather curious about why people promote/encourage the Santa thing so much.  Pre-kids I used to think that maybe encouraging a belief in Santa was a way to foster imagination; but post-kids I realize that kids typically have huge imaginations anyway...even Seth and Lizzie have learned to play in imaginary worlds and can do so spectacularly given the trauma of their past and without the need of a Santa.

I've also wondered if it's a magical aura that surrounds the whole Santa/reindeer thing...and maybe there is a bit of that which draws the masses.  But I've have to say that there's something pretty magical that appears on our kids' faces when they decorate the tree or wonder about what's in that gift under the tree with their name on it and when they hear the story of the Christ child who was laid in a manger and who grew up to be a Saviour.  There's something about twinkling lights and shimmering candles that does it for me and seems to for the kids, too.  Christmas is a magical time of year, Santa or not.

Then I've wondered if the Santa thing is such a draw because there's not (commercially) a whole lot of Christ in the Christmas season any more and so maybe folks who aren't Christ-believers use the notion of a Santa in place of a Jesus.  I know that this can't be entirely right either, though, because I know many Christians also encourage (or allow) their children to believe in the Santa story.

So I'm left a little perplexed in my wonderings about why people use Santa to celebrate Christmas.  Any insights??  Why do you, perhaps, incorporate Santa into the season?

There are a couple of reasons for my refusal to do the Santa spiel.

One of the reasons is purely selfish:  I don't want Santa getting the credit for the labour of love that Geoff and I invest in getting ready for Christmas.  Those carefully chosen little stocking stuffers that I'm lovingly choosing for my kids this year?  Those larger gift items that we're thinking through to get just right?  The conscious choice we've made not to spend a ton of money on Christmas gifts?  I want the kids to know that we thought this through...that it wasn't some guy in a suit who did all of the thinking and the work.  So much about being a parent can be hard and I sometimes feel like I'm the 'bad guy' a little too often.  I want them to know that I've been rushing around a little picking out things that I know will mean something to them.  Silly?  Perhaps.  But when Matthew, or Seth, or Lizzie look Geoff and me in the eye after opening up their gifts and thank us, I want them to know that it was done with love.  From their Mom and Dad.

Undoubtedly, another primary reason I feel rather strongly about this issue is because I remember as a child of about Seth's current age finding out that Santa wasn't real and feeling jaded and lied to and foolish for having believed all of the propaganda.  I know many people don't have this experience but it was very real for me.  I don't recall my parents actively promoting Santa, but I certainly believed in him and finding out that he wasn't real hurt enough that I vowed that I would always tell my kids the truth (along with cautioning them not to spread the truth to other kids!).  It's also important in these very days because I'm working hard with my beloved middle and younger children on truth telling; just the other day I asked them during one fragile moment how they might feel if Mommy or Daddy lied to them and they both stated a shocked "no."  Things are improving dramatically on this front, but it's still an issue that I would not want to confuse by perpetuating the Santa story with them.  I consciously commit the truth to them in a way that they will probably not experience from most of the world.

I must say that I don't feel one iota judgmental about people who do the whole Santa thing...I know lots of people have lots of fun with it and that most kids are just fine upon learning the truth.  I just know it's not for us...and I'm glad that my kids (finally) seem inclined to believe me!


  1. I have to tell you that it will be a sad for me when my kids no longer believe in Santa. I love everything about it. I have such fond memories of my childhood and Christmas. Writing letters to Santas putting out cookies and milk...laying in bed with my counsins and listening for reindeers on the roof. It was magical. When I found out that there was no Santa, I was not jaded. I was just disappointed that a bit of the magic was gone. Now with the next generation, it is back. I sent my kids videos from Santa (www.portablenorthpole.com)and the looks of surpise and delight on their faces was priceless. I actually got chocked up and I am not an emotional person. It is people's personal choice butI am pro-Santa. Right now, it represents in part my children's innocence that won't be here for long and a reminder of my innocence as a child.

  2. Lianne, you actually got me teary-eyed, too! Amazing how different our experiences can be, and it sounds as if this is the most magical thing ever for your kids. What a great memory (for them and for you)!!

    Thanks Lianne.


  3. I love Santa Claus. It is the magic that persuades me that it is wonderful. I think there is such a short period of time where children can believe in what is not real. The whole season is magical with twinkly lights and particular smells and songs, so Santa is just an extension of that. Santa left me one or two unwrapped presents and the rest came from family. I continued that tradition for my own child. My own knowledge about Santa not being real came gradually and without trauma. I never thought of it as my mom lied, she was just continuing a tradition of make believe. I have discovered in the last decade that there are many parents who don't do Santa. It's not a big deal to me as long as it doesn't spoil the magic for the believers. :) And if someone asks your kids about Santa they can always say "we don't do Santa in our family". After all you could be Jewish or Jehovah's Witnesses.

  4. That's lovely! And I like the idea for how the kids could respond...though when I have said something very similar, I've been very surprised by how much push-back we get on the subject!

    And yes, there are many things that build the magic - the smells of Christmas, too, are perhaps amongst the most significant for me...pine needles, gingerbread, etc etc

    Thanks Ramona!


  5. I didn't ever believe in Santa, and I don't recall my parents trying to convince me one way or another. Christmas was and is still a cozy time for me.
    As to why Santa? Santa is saint in Italian, I believe. Claus come from Nicolaus (if you say it quickly it makes sense). Like the saint you mention, Santa gives gifts and Christmas is about gift-giving, whether from a religious or 'secular' perspective, whether tangible or intangible gifts. One of my favourite Christmas songs is titled "God's Love Made Visible"... Sorry for my rambling thoughts.

  6. Ramble away, my friend. And yes, having done a little research, I believe you are right about the terms and definitions...at least, this is part of what I'll be telling the kids about when we talk about the Santa story next week.

    I don't know that song...will look it up.

    Hugs, Joanne.


  7. In our house we always said, "We pretend that Santa is real, and it's fun to pretend he's real. Grown ups like to pretend Santa is real with children." We had fun pretending Santa was real, just like we had fun pretending space ship, NHL hockey etc...and they seemed to like being in on the secret...with just enough wierdness about the phrase for there to be a little mystery about it. This approach helped me be clear that we pretend Santa is real, but Jesus, whom we may not see, is really real.

  8. Well, not having children of my own and really never having given it a moment's thought, I've no idea if I'll be pro-Santa or pro-truth. I do think this has been quite an interesting post though with some great comments! However, the one thing that I do know is that I'll be spending the rest of this month fixing my sister's version of the true Christmas story. She wasn't keen on any holidays until a couple of years ago. Then, the combination of newly-discovered language and some better sleeping habits left our family with a young lady who will celebrate anything now! During our weekly "Happy Saturday Party" (otherwise known as lunch on Saturday), I asked her what she could tell me about the Christmas story. Well, she paused for a long while, the suspense around the table grew, and then we waited some more. She sat up straight in her chair, folded her hands in front of her, and began to speak. She assured us that she "knows 'cause she gots a big brain in da head". We assured her this was true. She assured us that we had already said grace. We assured her this was also true. Then, she began. The first five words were truly magical. Everyone looked awestruck as she began the story in a completely appropriate way. "There was Mary and Yosef (very close to Joseph, of course)..." Our lovely lady was on to something and then, well, then it derailed, when she finished with "and da beanstalk, deee end". We have a ways to go, but I figure with a promising start like that, we can definitely get things back on track by Christmas. Sorry, couldn't help but share. Not entirely related, but we too will struggle with what is fact and what is fiction. For you it is the Christmas story and Santa, for us it is the Christmas story and Jack & the Beanstalk!

  9. Oh Janelle, your story made me laugh and laugh and laugh...that's just too funny!! Mary, Joseph, Jesus and Jack!!! I'm still laughing - what a great way to end my day.
    Thanks for sharing that!!! Gotta meet that sister of yours someday.