We are at the age where we have to make a decision about something very important to our family. It came up last year in a way that I hadn't anticipated. And this year, decisions must be made. We have to have a solid front, Jeff and I. There can't be any wishy-washy, undecided, play it by ear kind of thinking.
Santa Claus or St. Nicholas?
Santa Claus or St. Nicholas?
Last year, we talked about Santa. We saw him one time- at Jeff's company Christmas party. Teagan decided that all she wanted from Santa was a "big, big, big, big pillow and a big, big, big, big blanket." So Santa brought her a comforter for her bed and a king size pillow. But here is what I never imagined would be a child's reaction to the Santa story.
It's Christmas Eve. For weeks, we've been singing songs and reading books about Santa and Christmas. Bedtime comes and I give the standard parent line "Go to sleep as fast as you can! Santa can't bring your presents unless you are sound asleep!" A look of panic passed by her little face. Her big blues eyes looked up at me and said "Mommy, I don't want Santa to come in our house."
Oy. My logical and cautious daughter. Doesn't want a strange man to sneak into the house, doesn't like the idea that he's been watching her already. It is pretty creepy when you think about it from that perspective. I assured her that we could leave a note for Santa to just leave our presents on the front porch and we would bring them in that morning. Which we did. All of that is something of a distant memory for her. But it raised significant doubt about Santa Claus in my mind.
I gave up on Santa when I was 5. Through a series of egg events, I determined, on my own, that the Easter Bunny was a sham. I went to my mom and confronted her. She told me that I was right- there wasn't really an Easter Bunny. I left the room. I come back and ask... "No Santa, either? And no tooth fairy?" We still had stockings and teeth left under pillows, of course. And as we get closer to the holiday, I will share the story of my most magical Christmas. I still very much believe in Christmas magic and miracles.
I am leaning towards not pushing the "magic" of Santa Claus. I'm thinking, instead, teaching about Saint Nicholas and that the things he actually did are the things we celebrate by visiting with Santa and hanging stockings and so on. I've been researching websites and books on the subject. What I love about the idea is that it still allows plenty of stockings and gifts and sitting on Santa's lap. But it gives the legend some history, some explanation. Another way that I think about it is that I am already asking my children to stretch their imaginations when it comes to Christmas. I am asking them to believe that an angel came down from heaven and gave news to Mary and Joseph. That Mary got pregnant with God's baby. That she gave birth in a barn and that Jesus lay around in a feeding trough. That this was God's way of giving humanity His greatest gift- His son. That's a lot for a kid to take in when you think about it.
So if Christmas is about traditions... about celebrating something that happened a long, long, long time ago... about having belief in things that don't make a lot of logical sense...
But at the same time, I think of the time that Jeff dressed up as Santa for his company's Christmas party. This was before the party was hosted at the local country club- and the club requires that the company use their provided Santa. So Jeff had a huge advantage... he knew these kids and their parents. 2 little boys, probably around ages 7 or 8, kept hanging around Jeff's "throne" by the tree. Kept asking him questions, trying to determine if he was real or not. He passed every test and then he blew their minds when he mentioned each boys' father by name and said that he still remembers bringing presents to their dads when they were little. You should have seen their eyes get HUGE!
And then I flip flop again. We were strengthening lies to these boys... but at the same time, we were giving them an inkling of Christmas magic, I think. Because when they are adults and they are looking back, they will still have to kind of scratch their heads and wonder how that Santa knew the things he knew.
Saint Nicholas was a boy when his parents died. They left him a lot of money so he was a wealthy young man. Many of his friends were poor. So he would secretly sneak and drop bags of money or needed items in their homes in the dark of night. It is because of his secret, anonymous giving that the legend of Santa Claus was born. That is something I really like about focusing on Saint Nicholas. It really lends itself to the focus on charity, on compassion. Santa tends to feel more commercial. Santa tends to be about what I want. Saint Nicholas feels like more about what others need. Teaching my children charity and compassion is a main priority in my parenting goals. So do I lead with Saint Nicholas and bridge that to the legend of Santa? Or do I go with the masses and fill their heads with tales of a fat guy in a red suit who flies around in a sleigh with magic reindeer and gives presents to every boy and girl in the whole world in one night?
I'm gearing up for the holiday season. Be prepared for blogging about trips to the Children's Museum, the Zoo, and other holiday adventures. And also watch for entries about the charitable things that we do this season.
So leave me your memories of Santa Claus... your opinions on Saint Nicholas vs Santa Claus, how you handled it with your kids, how you handled the discovery that he isn't "real," and share if you've done something different altogether. Also share your favorite holiday compassion projects.