True confession time: I don’t love the idea of Santa Claus.
Let’s be clear. I don’t have a heart of coal. I didn’t have a bad experience of finding out that Santa was not real. I don’t even remember how I felt when I found out that Santa did not exist.
But I do have other issues with Santa Claus.
My husband is the opposite. He is all in on Santa Claus, and we are raising our boys to believe in Santa Claus, so we thought it might be interesting to have a dialogue via writing about what the big deal is.
Taylor: First things first. I do not lie. I just don’t. I don’t like how it makes me feel and I can’t even dance around the truth very well. If you ask me a question, I am going to tell you the answer, no matter how embarrassing it might be. Santa Claus feels like a big lie. I want my kids to trust that I am telling the truth, and to lie to them about Santa feels like I am setting us all up for failure. I don’t like lying to them, even for their own “enjoyment.”
Paul: One of my Christmas Eve traditions is checking in on NORAD’s Santa Tracker (http://www.noradsanta.org/) to follow the sleigh’s progress by radar. Santa Claus isn’t a lie. He’s an elaborate game of pretend. It’s good to imagine Santa because it’s fun! Is it possible you don’t like pretending Santa brought the presents because you want the credit?
Taylor: That IS part of my issue! This is going to make me sound bad, but hear me out. I spend a good deal of time thinking of and shopping for presents to give the boys, and then the credit goes to someone that’s not even real. But it’s not even that I want all the thanks for myself! I pick out presents for my mom to give the boys, and she then gets the admiration and love associated with those presents, which is fantastic. But why are we setting up someone for the win who does not even exist? If we weren’t talking about Santa Claus, everyone would agree with me. Santa has a great PR elf on his staff.
Paul: Everyone loves jolly Old St. Nick! That’s part of the fun as well. How often in life do we get to participate in an act of mass culture that is so wholesome and joyful? We can all agree that Christmas became too commercial long ago, but traditions like writing letters to Santa Claus, sitting on Santa’s lap at the mall, and leaving a snack out for Santa and his reindeer are NATIONAL…even GLOBAL traditions. In a world that feels more divisive by the day, isn’t it good to let our kids be a part of something so big and unifying?
Taylor: Ok, you’ve got me there. Part of the reason that I am onboard with having our boys believe in Santa Claus is because I want them to be able to be a part of the universal experience. But there is a part of that universal experience that is tough. In a world obsessed with material things, we (like many of you I’m sure) are trying to teach our boys that material things are not what matter in life. One of the ways we do this is by not getting them a million things at Christmas. Right now, they don’t know otherwise, so we’re in the clear, but what happens when they get older and they have friends who get a million bright and shiny things at Christmas? I have a friend who, when she was younger, asked her mom why Santa Claus loved her cousins more because they had gotten better and bigger things than her for Christmas. Doesn’t that break your heart?
Paul: Oof, that’s rough! I’m not sure how I would answer that if I was your friend’s parent. “Well, dear, maybe if you are as well-behaved as your cousins next year, Santa will bring you bigger presents!” Santa’s nice/naughty angle, that part of the story doesn’t sit well with me.
Still, I think there are part of the Santa story that are powerful. What it comes down to for me is that Santa is part of the larger Christmas story. Like Christmas, Santa isn’t as pure as he should be anymore. But no other holiday comes to like for little kids quite like Christmas. It takes a while for kids to figure out reality. In the meantime, they navigate the world through stories. Stories they hear and stories they imagine. Like any made-up story, Santa Claus has some built-in truths. Truths about love. Truths about giving AND receiving. Christian truths and human truths.
Santa is just another story we tell our kids. But it’s a story our kids can live inside. It’s a story they can be a part of while they’re little, until they get to the age when we decide its time to fess up. Or until they do a quick Google search to confirm their suspicions.
Taylor: Checkmate. Thanks for reminding me about the power of story and how important narrative is to all of our lives, especially the lives of our children. They live for stories and learn from stories.
We pulled out our Christmas box this morning to decorate our tree, and the stack of Christmas books came out first. My older son immediately asked me to read “The Night Before Christmas”. Knowing him, we will read it every day until Christmas, and I will enjoy watching him light up every time we do.