Friday, December 6, 2013

Santa was seriously injured, but he doesn't have to die

Photo from
Author's note: This contains my frank feelings about some Christmas traditions and will shatter the illusion for some younger readers. Parents be advised.

Our kids have stopped believing in Santa.

I told my daughter that if she stopped believing, he'd stop coming. Amelia didn't like that. Neither did my daughter. She has the Malibu Dream House on her list this year.

It was probably harsh of me. I was trying to joke about it. It's not like Christmas is canceled. But my point to them—that was missed—was when you stop believing in the Tooth Fairy, you're out a few bucks. When you stop believing in Tinkerbell, she can't fly. When you stop believing in Santa, Christmas Eve is a little less magical. Christmas morning is a little less anticipated. The Christmas spirit is just a little less bright. So, I tried to smile and laugh it off and then I went into my bedroom and cried.

I didn't always have such a pro-Santa agenda. When I was single, I had this idea that when I got married and started having kids, I'd never perpetuate the existence of a real Santa. I thought that maybe, if I read the myths and traditions surrounding Santa leading up to the holiday, made it clear they were legends, and then left a few gifts from "him," that Christmas could always be focused more on family and Jesus. My kids would know from the beginning that he was a part of Christmas tradition but not Christmas itself. But I married a woman with two kids who already believed and I wasn't about to stop that. I've never been logically sold on the idea of lying to my kids about a mythological man shaped by department store and Coca-Cola marketing. In our home, we've never used the jolly old elf as a bargaining chip, a behavior monitor, or threat. When there have been little questions, we've been vague. When the questions got specific like, "Are you Santa?" they have gotten the truth. So it's never been this huge dedication to the guy.

Here's a question: When we perpetuate this myth, what stops kids from reasoning that, perhaps, the other kind, gentle, loving Man they've also never seen is fiction? They both take the exercising of faith yet one turns out to be mom and dad. There's not a lot of physical evidence of God. For kids, at least Santa drank milk and ate cookies. One thing that helps is the The Spirt and, thankfully, that can be powerful.

So, is it better to not start the myth or is it good for them to practice this belief in someone they can't see so they can do it for other things? How should I have approached the Santa Let Down of 2013?

Someone shared this on Facebook and it intrigued me. Martha Brockenbrough wrote it for her daughter and it later appeared in the New York Times. Here are a few excerpts and you can read it in full here.

"I am the person who fills your stockings with presents ... the presents under the tree, the same way my mom did for me, and the same way her mom did for her. (And yes, Daddy helps, too.)

I imagine you will someday do this for your children, and I know you will love seeing them run down the Christmas magic stairs on Christmas morning. You will love seeing them sit under the tree, their small faces lit with Christmas lights.

This won’t make you Santa, though.

Santa is bigger than any person, and his work has gone on longer than any of us have lived. What he does is simple, but it is powerful. He teaches children how to have belief in something they can’t see or touch.

It’s a big job, and it’s an important one. Throughout your life, you will need this capacity to believe: in yourself, in your friends, in your talents, and in your family. You’ll also need to believe in things you can’t measure or even hold in your hand. Here, I am talking about love, that great power that will light your life from the inside out, even during its darkest, coldest moments.

Santa is a teacher, and I have been his student, and now you know the secret of how he gets down all those chimneys on Christmas Eve: he has help from all the people whose hearts he’s filled with joy.

With full hearts, people like Daddy and me take our turns helping Santa do a job that would otherwise be impossible.

So, no, I am not Santa. Santa is love and magic and hope and happiness. I’m on his team, and now you are, too."

I guess that's why I cried a little. I didn't want hope and happiness and magic to leave our home during Christmas. But it doesn't have to. It won't. It will still be in our Christ-centered activities. In how we treat people. In how we give to each other. And I bet, just maybe, there could be a little magic in our daughter's eyes when she drowsily, yet exitedly, opens that ...

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