As a parent, the joy of Christmas lies in the eyes of your children. But I say we should be reticent to dispel that Santa magic. Disclaimer: Kids, this is boring parents’ stuff. You wouldn’t be interested.
Christmas is around the corner. Truthfully, I get really excited about the silly season … maybe even more so than the kids. I remember as a kid standing on the back steps searching the starry Christmas Eve sky for Santa and his sleigh. I actually convinced myself that I saw him!
I think most people remember that moment when they found out “the truth.” I wasn’t very old, maybe four or five. I had left Santa a gift under the tree. An eraser from the church bookshop that said “God Loves You.” He needed to know! Anyway, later on in the year, I happened to find that same eraser in my Mom’s wardrobe and I just put two and two together.
My kids have grown up believing in the guy in the red suit. If they asked me directly if Santa was real, I wouldn’t lie to them; they just never have. Every year, we thought it would be the last.
As a nurse, I try to distract patients with chatter while changing dressings or jabbing them with needles, etc. I’d had a discussion with one patient, an elderly man, about when I should tell my son about Santa. I never thought we would be the ones to break it to him … I just figured childhood would take care of it for me. But he was getting older and more than anything I wanted to prevent some major embarrassment at school. The patient said, “Oh no, don’t tell him. Let him believe while he is a child. Once you take that magic away from him, you can’t get it back. Let him be a child for a bit longer.”
Not so long after that, I said to my husband that I think it may be time to give our oldest the birds and the bees talk (he is currently 10). My husband who has the remarkable talent of seeing all things clearly said, “He can’t know about sex and still believe in Santa.” So true. So, he told him about Santa. Talking to my son about it later I asked if he was disappointed. He said “Kinda. I figured the Easter bunny wasn’t real, or the tooth fairy (because that’s ridiculous), but Christmas is so magical, I’m a bit sad.”
We have so few traditions that I have decided to milk this one for all its worth … that includes Santa. If you don’t want your kids to believe, that’s fine, but can you tell them to not ruin it for everyone else?
I know some people are firmly against the big guy in the red suit. They don’t want their kids to have trust issues because they lied to them about Santa. To each their own. I’ve yet to meet an adult who links their trust issues to their parents actively promoting Saint Nick. If anything, people seem to enjoy reminiscing about the excitement and anticipation they had as a Santa-believing child. Adults would pay good money to be able to experience the same kind of excitement and glee that kids get out of Christmas. I feel like this is an opportunity that exists only in childhood and I don’t want to rob my kids of that. I mean, if adults really remembered having a traumatic experience learning the truth about Santa, you’d think that there wouldn’t be so many adults willingly putting their kids through the same “trauma.” I think adults just remember the anticipation and delight that the belief in Santa allowed.
If you don’t want your kids to believe in Santa, that’s fine, but do me a favor, can you also tell them to not ruin it for everyone else? Last Christmas, we met this little girl at a party. The first thing she said to my kids was “Santa isn’t real” … ahem. Some hours later, I saw her run back over to her parents and say, “No, we had it wrong, Santa is actually real, he really is,” all the kids standing behind her like excited chipmunks. The other kids at the party had infected her with Christmas magic. The Dad’s face was hilarious as he looked at his daughter and the ten other kids behind her. I gave him my best “go ahead, I dare you” look, but he didn’t.
With all this Santa talk, I don’t want to take away from the real reason for the season, the birth of Jesus. My kids are well aware of this fact and love celebrating Jesus’s birthday. I remember singing Silent Night and Away in a Manger as a girl thinking they were the most beautiful songs in the world. The words really painted a picture for me of the miracle that took place in that stable all those years ago.
Jesus really is the reason for the season. Over the years (or millennia), cultural and religious traditions have formed around Christmas. I know there are lots of people who will tell me I’m wrong, but I feel that we have so few cultural traditions that I have decided that I’m going to milk this one for all its worth … that includes Santa.
One strategy that I have heard of and that I like, is that when they do ask you if Santa is real (in a direct and knowing kind of way), you congratulate them on figuring out the secret of the Christmas magic. It’s the parents that make Christmas magical and now they can help to do it too. It’s so fun as a parent recreating your favorite Christmas memories for the next generation.