Why My Children Still Believe in Santa Claus . . . and Why I Do, Too
"Mom, these kids say to me that Santa isn't real and Santa is really just Mom and Dad," she said the other day. "I told them that's crap and the only reason their parents have to buy their gifts is because they stopped believing."
She looked to me with conviction, and a touch of hesitation. I could tell her thoughts went something like this: Please back me up here, Mom. Because I still believe. And it's true, she does believe strongly in the magic of Santa Claus, all my kids do, from age 11 down to age 3.
"You're absolutely right, " I said. "That's the way it goes when a child stops believing. They have to get their gifts from their family." That was as true a statement as I could make.
I know there are a wide range of opinions on the subject of Santa, ranging from "it's a form of lying to kids," to "it's the commercialization of what is supposed to be a spiritual holiday." Many people feel that there's an age where kids find out "the truth about Santa," and from then on they accept that the child has moved past childish things, like imagination and belief. Sometimes, that same child is recruited to keep the Santa secret for the benefit of the younger siblings.
But whatever the view of Santa is, it seems to be universally accepted that at a certain point, kids grow up and the magic is over. Until that point, Santa is an integral part of many families' celebrations, like it or not.
The Santa we promote in our house is not the don't-be-naughty-because-he's-watching-Santa, or the you-got-a-bunch-of-gifts-because-Santa-brought-them-not-us idea.
Our Santa is a mixture of part childhood nostalgia, part merry fun for us adults, and part magic.
It's the "magic" that I think is most important in our house. There's so little magic in the world for our kids, and almost zero for adults. Everything when you're a grown-up is so serious: survival, finances, health issues, strife, drama, crime, and heartache. More often then not, our kids are exposed to the things we deal with as adults, no matter how hard we try to shield them from it. Even if we do create a safe environment at home, we can't guarantee that there won't be bullying at school, intolerance, or hardships out there in Reality Land.
That's why, for one month out of the year, we let our family give in to the feeling the Christmas season brings. We go to a Christmas tree farm and cut down our own tree (the kids saw it down, I swear!). We decorate it among bickering, photo-taking, and way too many sticky candy canes. Dad and I take one night when all the kids are elsewhere to travel to the North Pole to meet with Santa Claus to talk about the kids. There's even a special photo of this event from last year:
The belief our kids have in Santa is so strong that the kids wrote their letters to Santa this year before Thanksgiving, because they wanted to make sure there was plenty of time for them to reach Santa. What did they ask for? Gadgets, clothes, games and toys? Not exactly...
"Dear Santa Claus,
For Christmas, I want my sisters..."
I want Macy and AJ here for Christmas."
I would like to have my little sisters for Christmas. And that is all I would like for Christmas. And a Rubik's Cube."
Ok, so they're still kids, you can't fault them there. But these are the letters that were handed to us. We didn't tell them what to write, we just said it would be time to write to Santa soon. We have three older kids who believe that up there in the cold and snowy North is a grandfatherly person who can help them make life right again with a little conviction and a lot of hope. Is this not so different from believing that there is a divine and spiritual entity who loves and cares for people on the Earth, too? We are never to old to become more spiritual, but somehow we have to outgrow the embodiment of that hope during the Christmas season, and all the magic that goes with it?
When you stop to think about it, Christmas requires a real suspension of belief . . . or does it?
Do reindeer fly? They do if we put them on a plane. Do snowmen come to life? Through animation, or movie magic they do. What about the logistics of one person delivering a gift to each child in the world? It seems impossible when you think about it, but what child have you met lately who did not get a gift on Christmas if their family celebrates the holiday? All of the impossible and "childish" beliefs surrounding Christmas are actually made possible, either through technology, modern advances, or good, old-fashioned people with big hearts. I have yet to see any of the traditional ways to celebrate the holiday season not yet made "real" in some form or another.
Which leads to the ultimate gift of belief: the certainty that we are in the care of loving hands, that we can make it through any hardship with faith and conviction, and that there is a plan for us, even though we can't always see it.
I want my kids to explore the possibilities of this:
"Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day . . . a savior which is Christ the Lord."
So why should they not also enjoy the magic of this?
"His eyes-how they twinkled! His dimples how merry! His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry! His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow, And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow."
I can't truly ask my kids to only believe in certain things, at certain times, but not others, right? They only have the true magic of belief for such a short time, and if I can help them hang onto that for even one more year . . . you're damn right I'm going to!
So we will make sure there are cookies and milk out for Santa that are eaten by morning.
We will devise a way for them to hear banging on the roof and jingle bells right before they drift off to sleep.
We will provide them with the hope that there is magic in the season of Christmas, just a little bit more than any magic that exists other times of the year. It's the magic they will need to use in the future to believe in themselves and their dreams, and to believe that with hope, all things are possible.
Is it childish to promote this to my kids? Is it silly? Will it harm them in any way?
To anyone who would think that, I say:
How dreary would be the world if there was no Santa Claus! There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. ~Francis P. Church