Thursday, January 13, 2011

Santa Struts and Frets His Hour Upon The Wrong Stage

Christmas is different as an adult than a child.

Las year I really created Christmas - in so far as I am able. I wrapped many presents, stuffed stockings, and made a big wall of wrapping paper covering the entrance to the family room which the kids were not meant to brake through until they came to get us. Of course the kids woke up and immediately broke through the paper like wild Christmas bulls and emptied all the stockings before coming to get us.

I'm not much of a creator when it comes to special events. Holidays come, holidays go and more often than not it was just a number on the calendar with a nod from the crowd in our house.

This is not the way kids want to experience holidays. They want the magic of twinkle lights and tinsel. They want the breathtaking possibility that a big fat man in red, or a little Irish man in green came to visit while they were asleep. They want tracks from the abominable Easter bunny leaving evidence of a hurried escape through the spring mud of our back garden. They want to plaster the walls with pink hearts before Dad gets home so he knows it is Valentine's day.

My problem is three fold:




We'll go with the last since time and money are obvious and boring.

We had some friends over for dinner several weeks ago who asked if we had any Christmas traditions. Aside from peaches and whipped cream on waffles for breakfast and . . . gifts (if that counts), we don't really have any traditions. Our friends were starting a new tradition with their children. A kind of advent activity where the kids open a small wrapped gift each day of December. Inside is an activity for everyone to do as a family, e.g. drink hot chocolate, sing Christmas songs, visit Temple square, read a story, play a board game, have a fire, etc.

This would provide all the magic of Christmas my kids could hope for at their age. It would make up for Caroline's disappointment that there were no packages under the tree with a tag that said "From Santa". Despite filled stockings she is convinced Santa skipped our house.

But the jury is still out when it comes to Santa in our house. I don't really talk about it. I am evasive with their questions. I confirm and deny nothing.

Sometime in December Caroline said to me "Mom, did you know that Christmas is not just about Santa, it's about Jesus too. You never told me that. My primary teacher told me that."
Yes I did!
And what do you mean too?
Christmas is about Jesus, not Santa.
Except Santa is fun, and the tradition is fun, and the possibility is fun. They just need to have their own holidays. It seems ridiculous and almost impossible as a parent to carry on these incompatible parallel holidays. Either we have a day to celebrate the birth of Christ, and a separate Father Christmas, gift giving day, or we just drop the whole Santa charade entirely.

The Scene:
Four innocent, guileless children sitting on the couch.
Me: Kids, there is NO Santa Claus. He is imaginary. Your Dad and I fill your stockings after you go to sleep on Christmas eve. There is only Jesus, the Son of God, and Savior of mankind.
Kids: Tears.

Truth comes in blows -- as they say.

Why does it have to be one or the other? Because we force them to share a holiday. They've got no business fraternizing. We should not thrust the imminent disappointment of a Santa-less world onto the same stage as Deity.

Matt told me a story (half the details of which I am sure I will get wrong) about a little girl who learned in a short period of time that Santa is not real, the Easter Bunny is not real and the Tooth Fairy is not real. Her next tearful question for the parents she had trusted so well was inevitably "Is Jesus real?"

How can children navigate the nature of our deception?
Should they have to?

I like getting presents.
I like giving presents.
I don't see how it relates to celebrating the birth of Christ.
In light of this Christmas dichotomy I propose a new tradition for my family. I would like to add a day to our celebration of the birth of the Saviour. A day that stands apart from the traditional, commercial version of Christmas. I'm not sure yet how to do this. I'll think on the details and see what emerges in December of 2011.

I'm open to suggestions. Have you figured out how to give your children truth and magic simultaneously?


Maren said...

This is precisely how I feel. I want my children to enjoy the magic and mystery of Santa Claus, as I never did. At the same time, as a mother, I have a hard time deceiving my children. I want them to learn only truth from me.

A tough spot.

The "Is Jesus real?" girl was my mom's friend Joyce Day. When she told my mom this story, that is when mom decided she'd never lie to us. And thus I was robbed of the childhood joy of believing in Santa Claus.

While I agree we shouldn't deceive our children, consider this: Santa is once a year. We teach of Christ on a daily basis. Cumulatively, we're teaching truth. That's what matters.

My husband declares he has had no spiritual damage resulting from his childhood belief in Santa Claus and the subsequent revelation of his nonexistence.

Of course, my mother only teaching me truth and refusing to lie to me didn't harm me either.

{B} said...

Hi Jessica :)

I feel the same way. Although I do agree with Maren. We can teach of Christ daily...santa comes once a year. Although I really despise the fact that the kids think that santa is this all knowing all accomplishing man. No matter how many laps you sit on child, you aren't getting a gaming system. That's what frustrates me. I want to provide a happy and fulfilling christmas for my kids. But when they have desires outside of my abilities then it just leads to disappointment. Another issue I have with santa is this: our girls get two christmases. Santa comes to two houses. Which leads to competition and anxiety and anger during what is to be the best time of the year. I honestly want to break it to them that there is no santa. That these gifts that you think will just appear out of nowhere come from your loving parents. This year we didn't make a big deal out of santa. He brought stockings and 2 gifts (totalling 20 dollars). The rest was from Mom and Dad.

You are not alone.
-Brie Imlay

Wayne said...

You know, I've thought for years that we should accept what we know to be true, and celebrate Christ's birth on or about April 6th.
Leave Christmas for Santa--we don't celebrate mass anyway--and start a new tradition for Jesus. C'mon, who's with me!

Jennifer said...

I like this topic. To be honest, though, I haven't even thought about it.

Well, what I remember from my childhood is that I never really believed my mom when she told me about Santa. She is a horrible liar. Or she really didn't take it too seriously.

Without fail, I'd catch her putting out the presents on Christmas Eve or I'd find her toy stash. She'd have my little brother and I write out our Christmas list to Santa then see it stuffed in her purse all holiday season.

In our home Christmas was about Christ. There was no doubt about it. While Santa was a fun idea to my family, Christ was the central message.

Every Christmas Eve we have a Christ centered Christmas lesson, the kids act out Luke 2, and have an impromptu testimony meeting. Christmas morning we'd open gifts from Santa, thank our parents, then spend the day with family.

There was never any competition or discrepancy in my mind what the season is about.

I'll probably do the same. Light-heartily consider Santa while saturating my kids with Christ.

I enjoy both.

aubtobobtolob said...

I have an answer, for us that is.
We don't do it. "Santa"
We talk about Christ.
We LOVE the lights, glitter, tree.
Presents come from each other.
Santa was presented when they were baby's as a wonderful MYTH.
We read stories and the kids giggle and say "OOOOHHH we know who that is! DAD!" We asked them not to tell others because..... well "lots of moms and dads tell their kids it is true" WHY they ask?
Who knows.
MY kids LOVE Christmas, I think that it is magic regardless of the Santa issue. Teaching about Christ every day and then building Santa up in a frenzy at Christmas time makes little sense in my mind. I don't think it is immoral, just plain weird. As you know mine are 13, 10 and or not they are broken due to us "telling" from the get go remains to be seen I suppose, but they certainly don't seem to care at this point.
I have all kinds of Christ centered traditions, we can just discuss them off line. :-)
love ya!
"Wild Christmas Bulls" Best line!

aubtobobtolob said...

whether or not that is!

One more oddity I see in the whole ting. I hear people saying "you better be good or Santa wont come"
I feel that behavioral compliance to our requests are far better taught as following Christ example and commandments, than a means to get junk.
We do stockings but they know we fill them up. They love opening them and they also put things to each other in them all month long.

JaeReg said...

Hi Brie -
Nice to find you here.
Yes, you face a particularly difficult situation. I think I might also be tempted to really let the cat out of the bag in light of the discord created by two Santas.

I too like Maren's point that Christ is something we teach daily. That is reassuring.

JaeReg said...

Ok, Aub, you are right. I don't like the "better be good, or Santa won't bring you presents" thing. As I said in the post we had no packages from SANTA under the tree but they each had a stocking from Santa. Jonah postulated later that it was because they have not been good enough this year, and they should try harder next year. This was only the conversation I heard. I can't imagine what Jonah and Caroline have talked about on their own.
I would rather they know that what the receive for Christmas comes from Mom and Dad, or Grandpa and Grandma.
Of course they are good enough to get presents.

shelley said...

As Maren's sister, I too was robbed of the magic of believing in Santa, and so I have made sure to provide the experience for my children. I wish I knew what it was like to feel the magic of Santa as a child. I also made sure they experienced the magic of Disneyland--that princesses and Mickey are real. And the Easter Bunny comes to my house too. And the tooth fairy. Not so much little green leprechauns though.

I never had a devastating "my mom lied to me" moment about Santa, because I never believed in him. But because I thought my mom never lied to us, I was more devastated when I found out as a young adult that my dogs that had "gone to the farm" when I was a kid had actually been taken to the humane society. My mom had figured that when I got older I would just figure out what it means to have your dog "go to the farm." I did learn that phrase, but I thought my dogs actually did go to a farm, because my Mom didn't lie. So if you're hung up on the deception thing, there just might be a lot of other areas that now need your attention, whether you realize it or not.

Each of my older children (20, 16, 15, 12) have gradually grown up and learned on their own what's real and what's not. There have been no devastating "my mom lied to me" moments. But there have been lots of wonderful, gleeful, exciting surprise-filled moments. I wouldn't give those up for anything. Except, of course, for Christ.

But the thing is, I don't think we have to choose. I love your Dad's idea of celebrating Christ's birth in April, but I also like that we think about His birth in December and His resurrection in the spring, which provides two different times of the year to focus on Christ. And focus is really all it is--it's not like we only have two times of the year that we think about Him at all.

Like Maren said, we talk of Christ, we preach of Christ, we learn of Christ...all year long. We pray daily. We go to church weekly. Christmas and Easter put a special focus or emphasis on his birth and the atonement, but we don't then forget Him until next year. With Santa, he's definitely a once-a-year kind of guy.

And personally, I've never used the "if you're not good, Santa won't come" idea as a threat, except occasionally in jest. I tell my kids that every child is good, and Santa will come even if you aren't perfect. Which leads nicely into a conversation about how Jesus also knows you aren't perfect and that's why he came here to pay for our sins. But Santa is just a nice guy who gives us presents. Jesus is the reason we can live together forever.

For me, the message of Easter is the atonement. The message of Christmas is that Christ came to teach how to treat each other. While it is true that you can allow Santa to eclipse that message, you don't have to. We make treats for our neighbors. We give gifts to our friends. Mom and Dad give us lots of presents because they love us. Santa brings us one or two to remind us to keep giving to each other. Which can be the answer you can give to your children who wonder why some parents keep the Santa story going.

Thanks for the post. It made me think about why and how I do what I do and to think of ways I can do it better. And, by the way, I completely respect everyone's personal ideas about the right way to do Christmas.