the santa dilemma

I don’t consider myself a scrooge but I will admit that I’m totally against forcing kids to believe the Santa myth. Ok, yes I mine do, but only because their dad insisted.

I love the history behind the figure. I also love the concept of a giving, kind soul who just wants to make children happy. And of course the biggest bonus: the ability to force small children into obedience with the threat of telling Santa. (I actually convinced my kids that when children are born all parents are given the secret direct line to Santa!) So what’s my problem?

Well, first of all – the holiday becomes far to “I want” focused. This isn’t totally Santa’s fault mind you, but I think he has perpetuated a good deal of it thanks to all the letter writing. I know parents who literally try and get their kids every single item on their Santa list. I make it a point to not even have mine write him a letter. It’s not about how much gets checked off your list – it’s that you got anything at all. Oh yeah, and don’t forget to give a little to – and no, gift cards don’t count. You have to actually think about the other person (don’t get my boyfriend started on this one!)

Secondly – Santa has actually nothing to do with the reason we celebrate Christmas. There is nothing inherently Christian about him. Now that’s not a problem per se. I know here are a lot of non-Christian families that adopt the ritual of the Christmas tree and Santa Clause. That’s all well and good for a secular celebration of the tradition of giving and remembering to be generous. Maybe we should move the tree/Santa tradition to another day so that Christians remember that the day is actually a celebration of the birth of Jesus (plus whatever the original pagan holiday was for).

So the argument might go something like, “who cares that it’s more secular than some might like – it’s still celebrated in a good, generous spirit for the most part…Jesus wasn’t actually born on this day anyway and Santa makes a nice nonpartisan spokesperson, etc”. I can agree with that. But as someone who was raised as a Christian I want it to mean more; I want to feel like there’s more than presents and jolly fat men in red suits. I want to help my kids understand the “real” meaning of Christmas.

This brings me to my next dilemma. What is the “real” meaning of Christmas? To me the Christmas isn’t about celebrating that a baby was born to a virgin in a manger. The traditional narrative of Jesus’ birth isn’t even one I’m certain actually happened. But that doesn’t and shouldn’t dilute the very real and in my mind more important symbolic nature of the holiday.

The birth of Jesus symbolizes for me humbleness, giving of oneself to others, and being thankful. This is what I try to teach my children about his holiday. Hopefully there’s more than one day a year that we practice these virtues, but this is the day we celebrate them – we bring them to the forefront of our thinking. That is very worthy of a celebration no matter what your faith. Santa to, can encompass some of these if not all of these virtues. If only we could get rid of the wish lists!


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