Maybe I should re-title this, “Bah Humbug.”
When I was a girl, I reveled in the magic of Christmas. Santa, reindeer, the North Pole… nothing was off the table when it came to what I believed to be true and what Christmas meant to me. Santa was as real to me as the ground beneath my feet, and he was a powerful force that could give me all my heart desired. Heck, I think I even prayed to Santa on occasion, mixing up his powers with God.
I remember when the walls began to crash down as the truth and harsh reality slowly sunk in. Questions began to plague me. How did Santa fit down the chimney? How did he hit every single house in just 24 hours? What about the families without chimneys, or even homes? When I finally mustered the courage to ask my mom if Santa really does exist, she said “Well, yes, but only in our hearts.”
Maybe this moment was an important rite of passage for me. Maybe it was the first step on my path towards adulthood as I learned fact from fiction. But it felt like I was being betrayed. By my parents, by Hollywood, by the whole world, really. I was angry and disillusioned. What else is everyone lying to me about? What else should I stop believing?
I decided a long time ago I did not want to put my kids through this same delusion. I want them to grow up to appreciate Christmas for what it really is: a time of giving, reflecting, being thankful, and making memories. I want them to discover magic not just in giving and receiving gifts from their loved ones, but in building traditions and in seeing family we only see once or twice a year. More importantly, I want them to know that the real reason we celebrate Christmas is because it’s Jesus Christ’s birthday. It’s a day of spiritual awakening and glorious redemption.
It won’t be as black and white as “There is no Santa, kids.” I’m not going to poo-poo the Santa story, or ban the wonderful holiday movies that I loved watching as a child and still love. But I’m not going to encourage the illusion either. Gifts will not magically appear under the tree on Christmas day. Cookies will not be left half eaten, with dirty boot marks near the fireplace. And I will not spend the season telling my kids to “Be nice, or Santa’s going to bring you a lump of coal!” What other mythical characters would I need to drum up to get them to behave the rest of the year?
Don’t think I’m not terrified by this decision, by the way. It regularly crosses my mind that I might be discouraging very special memories for my kids. Or stifling their creativity, imagination, and fascination with the world beyond. Or, what if my kids become the big bullies on the playground who spoil the fun for everyone else who do believe in Santa Claus? As parents, we can only do what we think is best for our children. Hindsight is 20/20, but without my crystal ball handy, I just have to go with my gut here.
And you know what? I might change my mind too. My oldest son’s not yet two, so we aren’t badgered by questions yet on how the toys get made and how many elves live at the North Pole. I’ve already learned through my still-early experience in motherhood that things don’t always go as planned, and as parents we sometimes have to roll with the punches and change courses. I’m okay with that, if new experiences and awareness present a better path for our family.
Despite my sad Santa fallout in childhood, I still believe in the magic of Christmas. I see it in the twinkly Christmas lights on every corner, I feel it in the family gatherings around the fire place, and I hear it in the beautiful Christmas carols. But I don’t think I need to entertain the falsehood that Santa is real to instill the joy of Christmas in my children. In fact, I want them to see the magic of Christmas for the beautiful reality that it is. Christmas is a special season of giving, sharing, and appreciating. I can’t think of anything more magical than that.