It’s the most joyous time of year and yet, I struggle. Every year the commercialized Christmas and attention on the myth of Santa Claus makes my heart crumble. While Santa Claus was based on St. Nick, who shared his fortune with the poor, it has changed over the centuries to include more than the story of giving it originated from.
Now, this jolly ole’ guy we call Santa Claus who disperses gifts to all the children who have been good has become the focus of Christmas. We warn children that they better be good because he is watching. Children are told to behave accordingly so they can earn Santa’s favor. We attempt to manipulate their behaviors with threats of his gifts being removed.
I have felt convicted for some time about the principles this teaches my children: the selfish quest for gifts, performed for the sole purpose to get something they want, the constant allure of having the latest, greatest item. It also fills me with guilt for the constant deception I exhibit when I talk about details of Santa Claus that just aren’t true.
For years, my husband and I stayed neutral on the subject. When one of our children asked if Santa was real, we would respond with a question such as ‘what do you think?’ We would allow our children to draw their own conclusions and never completely answered their questions.
Until this year.
The conversation occurred when one of our children lost a tooth. As we were discussing the tooth fairy, we asked everyone at the table what they thought of things such as the tooth fairy and Santa Claus. They began analyzing, conversing and asking questions. My husband and I let the conversation unfold as all the kids discussed their opinions on the topic.
Within a few minutes, they were in agreement these things HAD to be fictitious characters since none of it made sense nor did these stories align with the faith based principals our family has laid. Together they rationalized these stories were just that, stories. And you know what? Not one of my children, even my little ones, were heartbroken or even really surprised.
It was no big deal.
Now, I realize this would not be the case for some kids. Maybe it wasn’t a big deal because we tend to draw clear lines between fantasy and reality, so our children tend to be pretty factual. Or maybe it wasn’t a big deal because we’ve never promoted Santa Claus in our home. We don’t do pictures with Santa. There are no presents from Santa or cookies for him.
As we dug deeper concerning the stories of Santa Claus, my children were able to articulate why they felt like people magnified him and that they understood the good intentions behind it. However, they also understood why it could cause some concerns.
They admitted they were confused with the idea of some jolly guy, a stranger nonetheless, entering our home at night. Elves working around the clock to make toys for them just didn’t add up. My very methodical kids were conflicted with all the details.
What happened to Christmas being about the birth of Jesus?
Isn’t Christmas about giving to others?
What happened to Christmas being a time to refocus our eyes and heart on what is really of value in this world?
Christmas is a sweet and joyous time, but it is not about our children and the gifts they receive. My children were able to empathize with how it would feel if their birthday was forgotten in order to celebrate someone else’s birthday. And that, that is the heart of the matter for us.
As a parent, I continually ask myself ‘why?’
Why do I teach them this?
Why do I believe this?
Why does this matter?
Just as I don’t want my children to answer me with ‘because that’s what everyone else is doing’ or ‘I don’t know,’ I too don’t want that to be my answer to hard questions. At the end of the day, it is a personal choice for your family. This was a tough issue for us and this is how we chose to tackle it in our family.
Maybe you disagree and you cherish the fantasy of Santa Claus for your children. Don’t worry, my children have been warned not to alert your children to the truth and take away their joy. We absolutely respect your wishes for your family and would never violate that.
But maybe, just maybe, you want to draw your family to the heart of Christmas rather than the traditions we have all blindly accepted. It begins with asking yourself some hard ‘why’ questions. Above all, may your answer always be firm in your beliefs and never swayed by society.