I’ve felt conflicted for some time about the role of Santa Claus in Christmas.
Here’s the source of my conflict. I love the magic of Christmas. I love that Santa embodies possibilities and dreams. I know there is a lot of symbolism that can be found in Santa’s story that further supports the true meaning of Christmas. But I hesitate to build him up too much with my boys. Maybe I’m over thinking things (a nasty habit of mine) but I worry about them confusing a perpetuated myth with a system of faith.
So when my boys ask about Santa I often deflect the question. “Oooh, I don’t know how his reindeer fly. What do you think?”
With this full conflict brewing in my mind, I was struck when my father-in-law very sincerely and even tenderly declared to my children that he still believes in Santa Claus. I was puzzled a bit, but soon I came to see Santa as he does.
I believe much of it goes back to the Christmas of 1980. My father-in-law had been out of work for a few months during that summer, and when he was finally able to find a job, it was one with very long hours and emotionally draining. On top of that, he was going to school on the weekends to open other options for employment. Their home was in a slow-motion renovation as they worked to add on to their two bedrooms that housed a family of eight. As Christmas approached, things were tight, to say the least. And then Santa appeared.
First, a letter arrived from the North Pole, indicating that the carpet for the living room in their addition was paid for as soon as they were ready to lay it. Then another came saying Santa had paid for some things my mother-in-law had ordered for their home. A third note arrived informing them that Santa would be visiting shortly before Christmas Eve with gifts for all six of the children.
My husband still vividly remembers that special visit. Sure enough, the man in red showed up at the door, with several garbage bags full of gifts. His parents were both crying and he remembers trying to figure out if this was a good thing or a bad thing. Another scan of the pile of presents and he quickly decided it was a good thing! It’s been in the years since that he has realized the actual magnitude of the events of that Christmas.
And it didn’t end there. Santas, both known and anonymous, sent envelopes of money to help with bills, renovation costs, and other necessities. It was the magic of Christmas, the possibilities of dreams being realized, of worries relieved.
It made me think again about when my children are ready for “The Santa Talk”. I think when they’re ready, I’ll tell them the story about their dad’s Christmas in 1980. We’ll talk about the opportunity they have not just to receive from Santa, but to be Santa for someone else. That Santa represents giving and service, but also the act of giving without calling attention to self.
And now, every time I hear – or even declare myself – that Santa is real, I know that it is in the hearts of those who love, who give without hope of reciprocity, and who serve in anonymity where he resides.
Top photo by alpeviolen.
Louise at Ouyen Kinder says
A lovely post – opening up the possibilities of real emotional growth and understanding from a time of so much pressure towards the selfish and the material for children. Thanks for your inspiring thoughts!
Thank you for sharing this story, I teared up as I read it and thought of what that holiday meant and still means to that family. Thank you also for the insight to believe in Santa, in being him for others vs. just receiving.
I teared up writing it. I’m glad you enjoyed it. We’ll miss seeing you this Christmas!
I too struggle with this. In general, I try to draw a distinct line between truth and fiction as the world is full of so much that tries to pass itself off as the Truth. I’ve taken a lassez-faire approach of late, trying to neither encourage nor discourage his belief in the red suited man. I don’t use him to encourage better behavior (i.e. “you don’t want to be on the naughty list”) nor have we written letters. I’ve come to rely on the old “what do YOU think?”
We recently stumbled upon the Veggie Tales St. Nicholas story, which really fascinated him and plants the seeds for the telling of the true story of St. Nick. The movie does a good job of telling the truth while leaving enough unsaid that if your child was a real believer he wouldn’t be crushed. However, if your child were on the fence it might push him into the truth. It has kind of inspired me to do more about it next year –St. Nicholas Day is Dec. 6 and there is a great website with info about the real St. Nick at http://www.stnicholascenter.org.
Good luck and enjoy Christmas love in all its disguises!
Thanks for those resources! They sound perfect!
Thank you so much for this fantastic post. As a Jewish mother in an interfaith relationship this is the first year that I am having to deal with the Santa issue. My son is now four and recognizes Santa and is starting to “get” Christmas time. I did not grow up celebrating Christmas at all so I haven’t been sure how to handle this. Do I treat Santa like the Tooth Fairy? I’m not a fan of creating a mythic persona that has to come crumbling down in a few years. Your post was perfect!
I still believe! Probably most of my family does – we can thank Kenny for that!
Maybe that’s it. I need more child-like faith like Kenny! Steve says there’s a strong line of belief in the Morgan family. Mable and Iris made sure of that! :0)
Thank you for such a wonderful post!
Thank you all for your comments. It’s sometimes hard to share these more personal posts. I’m glad to hear it’s been well-received.
This is not an issue for me. I believe strongly in Santa Claus. I don’t believe in a man dressed in red who actually climbs down chimneys, but I’ve witnessed so many miracles and wonderous things happening at Christmastime that I can’t NOT believe in the spirit of Santa.
similar story happened to us in our youth, and once, my mom even video taped Santa leaving gifts and disappearing up the chimney! I still get chills when I watch the video, it is so special,. especially since my father has passed on.
Oh, we also got the book called, “A Special Place for Santa” by Jeanne Pieper, it ties in the spirit of Santa, the history of him and the love of the baby Jesus all in one touching story.
Thank you SO much. I’ve just been pondering this issue. My son is only two, so he barely starting to identify Santa for the first time, but doesn’t really get anything else about him. Mostly, we have talked about baby Jesus and then one day I decided to include Santa. Anyways, I’ve been trying to think about how to balance the two as my children get older. This post was PERFECT. I love your blog- it’s my fave. 🙂 Thanks for sharing so many wonderful things.
P.S. Love the e-book. It’s really causing me to pause, reflect, think and adjust. And I haven’t even finished.
Thanks, Andrea! I’m so glad to hear you’re enjoying the ebook!
That was lovely. I have 4 children, ranging in age from 10 – 21, with a 6 year gap between the first two and the last two. We have had two very polar experiences!
With the older ones I was staunchly against Santa. I was convinced that it was “lying.” (I had baggage.) I still encouraged them to play along for others, so they would not burst anyone’s bubble.
When my two youngest were born, my oldest asked if we could just pretend, and not tell the “truth” right away. She felt she had missed out on that magic you mentioned. Her father and I agreed. I told her that if her younger siblings asked her if Santa was real, that she must tell them the truth.
That day came (far too early, as far as I am concerned!) and I deflected! I had become a magic-maker, and I did not want the magic to end. My youngest (very inquisitive, very direct) kept pushing. I asked “Do you want me to tell you, really?” She nodded. I told her that Santa represents the spirit of giving in all of us. He is a good example of Jesus’ love. Selfless, all-knowing and larger-than-life. I was very pleased with my answer. My youngest child was not. She asked again, “Mama, is he real or isn’t he?” LOL! I admitted that he was pretend, but I also emphasized that I really liked believing in Santa, and I would appreciate it if she would please let me!
Thanks for sharing your story! :0)
I usually only lurk here and don’t comment. But I had to say thank you for this story. I too am conflicted about Santa, especially because I personally want to emphasize that Jesus is the reason for the season. But the myth is everywhere and I have struggled with how to present it to my children. This story reminds me of the true nature of what Santa is all about, and a great lesson about BEING Santa for other people anonymously. Thanks, and Merry Christmas!
Thank you for sharing this story. I also believe in Santa.
Love and Lollipops says
Love your thoughts on this Amanda.
Thanks for sharing,
Love and Lollipops says
I have linked back to this post here:
Thanks for sharing, Georgia! Have a very Merry Christmas!