December 24th, 2013

To Santa or not to Santa?

That is the question.

Here’s an article about people who either grew up without Santa or decided not to foist the belief on their own kids. Their stories vary. But I’ve got a story, too.

When I was a small child I believed in Santa. That is, I did until one night when I was four, when my seven-year-old brother decided to have a little fun with me.

He called me to his room and went over to the window, pointed up at the sky and told me with great excitement that he could see Santa’s sleigh. “Right there!” he said, and pointed again, up and over to the left.

I looked and looked and looked, straining with every fiber of my being to see. Maybe the sled was very high up and looked very small? But try as I might, no Santa.

“Don’t you see him?” my brother asked. “Right there!” he said, pointing again with great insistence.

But it was no go. It was just the sky, the stars, and the moon, looking as they always had.

Finally he said dropped the act and intoned, “Actually, you’re not going to see Santa, because there is no Santa. He’s just pretend.”

“No!” I shrieked. I was used to his teasing, but this was going too far. No Santa? How absurd.

Outraged, I ran to my mother, wailing, “He told me there’s no Santa! Make him stop!”

Now, I suppose my mother had a choice. She could either claim he was wrong and perpetuate the Santa myth for a while, or reluctantly and prematurely tell me the truth. I don’t know which would have been better, but she chose the latter.

I must say the news was a bitter disappointment. And I did feel a sense of betrayal; why had they lied to me in the first place?

If I’d been older, or if the revelation had been less traumatic, I don’t think the whole thing would have bothered me. But this particular memory was sharp enough that, when I became a mother myself, although we spoke to our son about Santa we didn’t over-empathize it. Gifts at the holiday time came from people; Santa was someone you went to see at the mall. Oh, and we did have a tradition of reading aloud “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” every Christmas Eve. That seemed to be just about the right amount of Santa for us.

Ho, ho, ho!


10 Responses to “To Santa or not to Santa?”

  1. M J R Says:

    Just can’t see why Santa can’t be introduced as something/someone who’s “just pretend”, but who’s *fun* to pretend. (And we never ever spoil the fun for someone else who believes in Santa!)

    For Christians, telling tall tales about Santa may lead growing-up children to logically conclude, well gee, if it turns out there is no Santa, then logically it can turn out there is no God, or that Jesus is not the Son of God. We were very serious that when we tell them thus-and-such, they can trust what we tell them, no ifs ands or buts. Period. [to quote *that* dude]

    And so on. Please note this is my personal “take” on the matter; my children were never taught the fairy tale, and I’m glad we did it that way. No offense to others intended; we all do what we think is best for our children. This is what I and my wife felt was best *for* *us*. Your mileage may vary.

  2. expat Says:

    I think I just evolved out of Santa. He wasn’t overhyped by my parents.

  3. Santa Claus Says:

    You both missed me that Neo. Merry Christmas!

  4. Ymarsakar Says:

    Your brother would have been socially labeled horrible in Japan for doing that to his little sister.

    I can’t say I disagree with that either.

  5. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    How very sad. Your brother, though but a child still knew right from wrong and in his disappointment at knowing there was no Santa, he wanted someone more innocent to suffer, so that by comparison, his was less.

    Despite outward appearance, for the very young Santa isn’t about presents, they are but the icing on the cake. For the very young, Santa is about wonder and magic and unlimited abundance, optimism and horizons. That literally anything is possible and that the purpose of life is to fully experience joy and love. That is why prematurely learning the ‘truth’ of Santa is so devastating for it is a psychological ripping away of innocence.

    I figured out on my own (was ready to allow myself to see) ‘the truth’ about Santa shortly after I turned eight and when asked a few months later at Christmas, my loving Father handled that first ‘momentous conversation’ perfectly.

    No trauma, no despair, only a quite gratitude that my innocence hadn’t been ripped away and that I had been allowed to come to the truth on my own terms and in my own time.

  6. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    Here seems a good place and time to wish our host and everyone who frequents this blog, whatever their faith or lack thereof, the very merriest of Christmas’ and the happiest of New Years.

    And a gift, for what its worth; if its true that for the very young, Santa is about wonder and magic and unlimited abundance, optimism and most of all, unlimited horizons… then combine that truth with another; it is reported in Mark 10:14 that Jesus said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.”

    So, if “the kingdom of God” is made of [the mind-set] of ‘little children’ then reason dictates that it must also be true that “the kingdom of God” is made of “wonder and magic and unlimited abundance, optimism (joy and love) and most of all, unlimited horizons.”

    Hopefully, satisfying food for thought.

  7. neo-neocon Says:

    Ymarsakar and Geoffrey Britain:

    Well, he made up for it later by introducing me to really good poetry when he was in high school and I was just in junior high. He had some wonderful poetry teachers and wonderful poetry texts (see this).

  8. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    “If you don’t like poetry, all of this will probably strike you as rather odd and uninteresting. … But for me poetry is one of the quickest roads through the mind to the heart, and the fusion of both with beauty and grace.”

    As for myself, not at all odd or uninteresting. Though poetry rarely resonates with me, when it does, I stand astonished and in awe. I suspect I am too lazy to expend the effort needed to sift the wheat from the chaff.

    Here is one that does resonate for me;

    Wild nights! Wild nights!
    Were I with thee,
    Wild nights should be
    Our luxury!
    Futile the winds
    To a heart in port,
    Done with the compass,
    Done with the chart.

    Rowing in Eden!
    Ah! the sea!
    Might I but moor
    To-night in thee!

    Emily Dickinson; thought by many to be a virgin recluse. But that poem won me a lover long ago.

    Nor did I mean to imply that a 7 year old boys momentary insensitivity obviated the possibility of many other kindnesses.

    Often in life I find that the negative is balanced by the positive. Though I had a loving father, I lost my mother at five and somehow never escaped the emotional conviction that it was somehow at least partially my doing.

  9. Beverly Says:

    I’m so grateful my parents loved Christmas and creating the excitement and MAGIC of it all.

    It was a foretaste of the greater Magic we would meet later in life. And to those who think that believing in magic and wonders “harms” children: What harm? It hasn’t hurt anyone I know who had that lovely experience as children. I think it’s cruel to deprive children of it.

    I still feel some of that on Christmas Eve. Such wonderful memories: our parents were like a couple of kids about Christmas themselves, and had a ball getting us to believe in it all. One Christmas Eve, my big sister said, “Listen! do you hear the jingle bells? It’s SANTA CLAUS!” I listened along with her, but alas, I already really knew that it was Mom and Dad quietly filling our stockings in the den. But I played along with her, because she really wanted so much for me to still be in the Magic, even if she couldn’t.

    We always got the biggest (real, of course!) Tree we could stuff into the house. We’d go to the Christmas Eve carol service: everyone would get a lighted candle to hold while we sang Silent Night at the end with the electric lights out; then we’d scatter to our cars, shielding the flames with our hands, and disperse through the night, the candlelight still glowing in backseats. Mom always said the animals would talk to each other at midnight: under special dispensation from the Christ Child, they get to have that conversation once a year, while we are all in church.

    And of course Christmas morning was a blast, with each of us getting seven or eight great toys from Santa, and then all the wrapped presents from various grownup relatives.

    One Christmas Eve, our grandfather was still alive: he looked out of our (South Carolina) window and exclaimed, “It’s snowing!” We had NEVER seen snow on Christmas, and we went nuts. Yes, it was only an inch: but still! Magic, I tell you.

    Merry Christmas, everyone!

  10. Ymarsakar Says:

    I liked this blog post, but since he doesn’t circulate outside a certain special set of bloggers, I’ll introduce him here.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.


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