Okay, you are all dying to know. Too bad…Ha!
As evangelical Christian types, we (Arwyn and I) do have issues with the whole Santa business. Aside from being an anagram for SATAN, Santa is the primary tool for the mass consumerism that is Christmas. You can gift card and skimp on adults, but your kids are a different story. Not many 6 and 3 year-olds are ready for a Buy Nothing Christmas. But I am exceedingly proud of my kids for being massively appreciative of every gift they got, even the clothes.
Arwyn and I deal with Santa the same way we deal with other issues. Mainly, we avoid, sidestep and bypass it. In this case, it has served us well. We are not telling our boys that Santa doesn’t exist. Who needs the ire of other parents? In addition, they’ve both been watching the Polar Express DVD almost everyday for the past week. We have pictures of them sitting on Santa’s lap.
But Santa does not figure in to our family tradition. There is no mad rushing at 4 a.m. to see what Santa left under the tree. No leaving out milk and cookies or carrots for Rudolph. We have stockings, but don’t make a big deal about them. My kids (hopefully) will not have to have their first crisis of faith over a fat man in a red suit. To them, Santa is as real as Elmo, Big Bird or Barney the Dinosaur. I don’t hear about kids crying and falling to pieces when they find out Barney isn’t a real dinosaur. I don’t hear about parents getting all upset when someone tells their child that Elmo is just a puppet. They’ll figure it out when they’re ready.
We have never threatened our kids, telling them they’d better be good or Santa won’t come. Since Santa is not visiting our house, there is absolutely no need to create and reinforce the whole mythology. We are well on our way to negotiating our way through this cultural minefield. Our tradition is to go to Early church on Christmas Eve, go home and change clothes and then we exchange gifts right then. It’s pretty simple and straightforward, and it has worked so far. The kids aren’t asking a lot of questions about Santa, simply because they have already gotten and opened their gifts. They are playing with their stuff, while other kids are tossing and turning in their beds, listening for sleighbells. They get tired, and are ready for bed. Christmas morning, they might actually sleep in. But if they don’t, they have their loot to play with and Mom and Dad can sleep in a bit without worry of missing wide-eyed wonderment.
Some of you probably think we are abusing our kids by depriving them of the Santa Experience. Arwyn and I both grew up waking to Santa Claus’s presents under the tree. We were both threatened with lumps of coal if we didn’t behave around Christmas time. But even Arwyn’s mother, who is staying with us this week, has remarked how much less stressful our household is. Oh, there is still pressure and stress. But we don’t have to satisfy the Santa Mythology. The kids know their presents came from Mom and Dad and Grandma and express thanks and gratitude.
Gratitude. What a concept! By the time the neighbor kids open their presents, Santa is back at the North Pole, sleeping off a hangover induced by the overconsumption of milk and cookies! There is no one there to thank. And why should they thank Santa? It’s his job! He’s just doing what he does, which is give out toys.
Okay, I am way off on a rambling tangent. I like the Santa bit in a lot of ways. But this is one time where side stepping and avoiding have served Arwyn and I exceedingly well. We started this tradition of opening presents Christmas Eve before the kids were born and it has stuck. We considered waiting until morning this year, but I’m glad we stuck with what we’ve been doing.
I’d be okay with hearing another point of view. I’d like for someone to get me to think about the good points of Santa and how kids and/or parents benefit from Santa Claus. FWIW, we do enjoy the music and the movies inspired by the rotund red fellow and his reindeer.
Merry Christmas and go easy on the Eggnog!