This past Monday, at a restaurant…
Waitress at restaurant to Lydia: Have you been a good girl this year? Is Santa going to bring you gifts?
Lydia: (nods with a confused expression; speaks when the woman walks away) But Mommy, Santa isn’t real.
I was raised by a Jewish mother and non-practicing Catholic father. We never followed any set traditions. During the holidays, we would get a Christmas tree, but not a menorah. Gifts were given on some random day near Christmas time. Sometimes Christmas Eve morning, sometimes that night, sometimes the day of Christmas. Basically, whenever my mom gave in to my nagging. There was never any talk of God or Jesus or why candles are lit for Chanukah. It was a jacked-up tree (whatever was the least expensive), beat-up ornaments, gifts, and time together as a family.
My husband was born and raised Catholic, but would probably consider himself Agnostic. I am Agnostic and Jewish (culturally). I value truth in what I see, feel, and experience. I don’t teach my children (Lydia, 4, and Bryce, 2) Christian doctrines any day out of the year, and if I don’t feel comfortable telling my children that a virgin mother was impregnated by a man in the sky and gave birth to our savior on December 25th, I’m certainly not going to share with them the amazing coincidence that an old man who lives in an uninhabitable climate with his wife and a whole swarm of small children with pointy ears creating toys will hop on a sleigh with wingless flying reindeer to deliver toys through our non-existent chimney (and everyone else’s around the world) on the same exact day.
Santa Claus is a lie that millions of children believe every holiday season. We disguise it as a fun, harmless tradition, but at some point, we have to tell our children “Hey, guys, we’ve been lying to you your entire life thus far. There is no Santa Claus!” This is not a discussion I ever plan to have with my children.
This got me thinking about all the things we teach children to believe that just are not true, like the Easter bunny and tooth fairy. These are often Pagan traditions that somehow attached themselves to Christianity. Tradition, family time, and history can be taught to children in a fun way without the lies. My children think it’s fun to see people dressed up as Santa and take pictures. It’s fun to talk about flying reindeer and elves making toys. It’s fun to buy and decorate a real tree, make Christmas art projects, bake holiday cookies and treats together as a family. But it’s also fun to recognize that these are all a part of our imagination and creativity.
All of our gifts come from real people who love each other. People who saved the money and took the time to pick out really special presents for each other. My children know where to direct their appreciation. They will be taught to show gratitude toward others for their generosity and thoughtfulness. And… it doesn’t matter if they have been “good” or “naughty” because we give all our loved ones gifts (unlike that old Santa tradition).
Photos with Santa… who, in our family, is just a fun guy in a costume!