Friday, 3 December 2010

Santa: the great debate

I had an interesting conversation with a group of women (mothers) yesterday at a bible study. We all discussed our take on whether or not Santa was a part of our Christmas growing up, and whether or not we then instituted him as a part of Christmas within our own families now.

I was amazed that in 8 women, there were 8 completely different answers.

On the "no Santa" side, the reasons were both about the issue of lying and the attempt to keep the focus on the birth of Jesus. One woman said her mother had felt so betrayed by her own mother at being lied to for so long, that they were very emphatic about telling the truth, including about the myth of Santa Claus. Another woman said that she didn't want to confuse her children between the fact that while Santa is made up, Jesus is real. She mentioned that children often stop believing in both God and Santa around the same time. Because you don't see either of them, kids can find it tough to understand why one is real and one is made up. A third woman said that she found it too difficult to balance the secular and the religious aspects, and she felt Santa would win out every time, so all the presents under the tree were from family instead of Saint Nick.

On the "yes Santa" side, most people either mentioned the magic of the season or roots of family. One woman talked about the glitter and decorations and the happy glow that comes along with the holiday side of Christmas. Another said that her family weren't Christians and so they wanted to balance both aspects so they didn't alienate their family relationships, which they felt were just as important to nourish.

One woman in the group caught my attention. She just gave birth to her first baby, a beautiful little girl, about two months ago. I could see her taking in the conversation, her eyes focused and her mind trying to capture all the positions. You see, it is at this exact moment in life when you really start to ask yourself what position you are going to take on different issues. Before children, there really is only one person at play - you. Flip-flopping on things is no big deal, because you can handle it and it doesn't affect anyone else. Once there is a child in the mix, all of a sudden you realize you have to take a stand on all these issues. Santa or no Santa? Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy? What about Halloween - will you celebrate or not? Let your kids go out? Until what age? Even things around the home like how much TV to watch, what sorts of movies, or will you have a video game system? Although you can change the rules once the kids are around, it's much easier to examine the issue and decide where you stand before the kids are old enough to know any better.

Going back to the great Santa debate, I just thought it was so interesting that among eight women there were eight different stands taken, and for eight completely different reasons. While there was a minuscule amount of tension present (everyone wants to think that they have the right answer, and that everyone else should see things in the same light!), I just loved to see that everyone had thought about the issue, considered the different routes to take, and then had consciously and firmly taken a stand. That is what parenting is all about.


Kevin said...

Well for heaven's sake! -- the tension is unbearable -- Santa or no Santa, Terri-Ann?

Are your kids going to take part in one of the magical traditions of Christmas (in addition to the mythical/spiritual tradition of celebrating the birth of Christ) or are they going to be the ones on the playground loudly spoiling it for the rest of them? "No, you guys, there [i]is[/i] no Santa Claus! My parents told me so, cuz they said they don't want to lie." : )

Terri-Ann said...

I wondered who would be first to ask my position! I thought about including it, but what I really wanted to write about was the importance of the decision making of parenting.

We celebrate with Santa. We embrace the magic of the season. Although we don't put a huge emphasis on it, especially since Caleb answered "Santa" when asked whose birthday we celebrate this time of year. We attend lots of celebrations, both secular and spiritual in nature. We don't attend a Christmas day service (at our church, it is held the Sunday before Christmas, so that Christmas Day can be spent with family). But we do read the Nativity story Christmas morning before the gifts are opened, and we have decided to always keep the amount of gifts the kids get in check - 5 or 6 for each child, and only one from the big guy in red (plus a stocking).

We are very clear, as filmmakers, about the difference of reality and make believe. I think our boys might figure it out sooner rather than later, due to so many viewings of the Polar Express movie. I think they will quickly make the connection that Santa is very much like the other make believe characters they see. And if they ask, I won't lie to them and tell them he's real.

We also try to give the gift of ourselves at Christmastime in service projects. While it is difficult to involve the boys much right now, as the boys grow we plan to increase the amount of service and decrease the amount of gifts for ourselves. We area already WAY WAY WAY below the national average of how much people spend at Christmas, and I hope in the future to put most of the money toward those who are really in need.

Anonymous said...

Do you remember your experience when a friend's mom told your friend's brother (with you in the car) that Santa wasn't real? You were so sad and I was so sad for you and so upset with that parent. We had a good discussion about what different people believe. Like you, I didn't want to say that Santa was real, but didn't want to take away from the magic.

Love, Mom

Nancy said...

I just chanced upon your blog when I clicked the next blog button and had to comment because only this past week my oldest (nine) told me he no longer believed in Santa. He was fine with it -- not upset or anything. But he did say something that made me feel a little bad. He sad, "I just don't really get why a bunch of grown ups want to trick little kids." I have actually never wanted to lie to them, but I've always just been vague -- which, by default meant that Santa came into existence for my oldest three (two of whom still believe). I loved the magic of Santa on Christmas Eve -- wondering if I'd hear him coming, etc. And I never felt it conflicted later with my true beliefs of God and Christ, but my son saying that has made me wonder if with my younger two I should present Santa as part of Christmas -- but just as a fun silly part that we celebrate for fun not because it's real. But, it may be too late with older ones passing the Santa-ness along. Anyway, I loved how you presented this on a wider scope about the whole issue of raising our children and deciding how we will do things (rather than making it about one right opinion).