This subject was one of contention in our house for a little while when we had our eldest.
You see, both Husband and I are a united front on this subject. Neither of us really see the point in figures like the Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny, it just doesn’t feel right.
Family members tried to persuade us to get more into the Santa thing, citing childhood wonder and so on but we argued; why can’t Christmas be special with presents from mum and dad rather than a magical figure?
We knew we wouldn’t be able to cut them out completely, these things are everywhere at certain times of year and once they started school the other kids would be talking about them. We accepted that we would have to acknowledge these beliefs, play along. That didn’t bother us.
The main point of our frustration was; we didn’t want our son basing all of his belief, gratitude and sense of enjoyment on one thing.
One thing which he would, inevitably, learn to be false.
There are children who believe so deeply in Santa that when they learn the truth, they feel heartbroken and betrayed. I want my son to learn the truth and feel ‘ohh, well that makes sense, but at least it’s still fun!’
Do you see what I mean?
We decided to acknowledge traditional magical figures hoping we could approach them as being like a game that was part of a tradition. We thought this would safely encompass the bombardment in commercial advertising without annoying us too much.
Now we’re adults, neither of us really remember if we believed properly in these things or being upset when that passed. Maybe we did, but all I do remember clearly is seeing it as a game. I remember going through the motions while ‘knowing’ it was just pretend but still enjoying the novety of it.
But the choice was not to be ours…
One day when our eldest was just two, he came home from nursery and started talking about Santa! It seemed that he had learned all about him from other sources, and from then on that was that.
He saw Santa in adverts and shop windows and loudly exclaimed ‘Father Christmas!’ He sat on multiple Santa’s knees at every single baby group we attended and at Nursery (seriously, the impersonators are everywhere!) When his Grandparents found out they were delighted to take him to a grotto. (I’ll give them that tradition, I hate those things!)
When we talked about the upcoming Christmas day plans and explained there would be presents he would declare they would be ‘from Father Christmas!’
We were disappointed, to say the least. Now don’t get me wrong, we aren’t Christmas haters who gave him a lump of coal. We didn’t tell him that it was all make-believe and to stop talking about it. We didn’t roll our eyes and tell him to stop being silly.
I just wish we had had the choice to introduce the idea our way!
The choice to include Santa into our Christmas traditions or not, as well as how much so, was completely overridden.
Could you imagine how disappointed children from homes who feel strongly against it would be when their parents told them no, you’re not allowed to believe like everyone else?
We made sure to explain to our eldest that Santa is, in fact, a fun tradition of Christmas. Like a cracker at the table or a tree to decorate. He ‘believes’ in Santa but we are not pushing the idea, we are trying to make sure to keep things balanced.
He is a part of it all but not the only, and certainly not the most important part.
We only give him one present signed ‘from Santa’ now and it is never his main present. We still decorate a tree, have presents, an advent calendar, and a big turkey lunch.
But, it was frustrating that we had to deal with Santa more like damage control, rather than introducing him in our own way.
Our main concern with Santa was the fact that these days he represents only one part of the holiday.
Unfortunately, the corporate machine has, mostly, transformed Christmas into a desperate competition based on who gets the best presents.
On the flip side, we are not a Christian family. For us, Christmas is not about the Nativity.
But that doesn’t mean it has to be about the presents, either.
For me, Christmas has always been about family. Growing up it was always the one day of the year everyone was happy. There was good food, family, jokes, games and cosy, pyjama clad cuddles watching movies about snowmen.
There were presents of course, and the giddy rush of ‘new things!’ all children love. My mother worked all year round saving up to give us a day she felt we deserved, but it’s not the presents I remember. The best memories come from the atmosphere. The family, the traditions, and the food.
It may not be possible to have Christmas without Santa, all I want is to teach our boys that the day is about more than that. I hope my boys grow up with fond memories of Christmas for the family gathered, the food eaten and the traditions we made together.
Not just the presents they open.