Monday, 25 November 2013

The trouble with Santa

From wikimedia commons
It's still a month away, the C word.  So I feel I can be mildly (another c-word coming up) cynical.

But I've got a problem with Santa.

Three stories:

Last year, a friend of mine's husband was away for a few days in the middle of December.  I saw her for a quick catch up during that time, and she pointed out that her sons had seen Santa more that week than they had Daddy. (Four times as it happens: two toddler groups and two different nursery parties).

Also last year I was chatting to L about Christmas generally. She was asking about Jesus and we talked about the nativity story. 

Mummy, she asked me is that true?
Well, Jesus was a real person, but we don't know how much of the Christmas story is true.  Some people believe it all, but other people believe different things.
And what about Santa?

You can't do comparative religion with Father Christmas, it turns out.

And then there's the story, probably apocryphal, about the child who, when he found out the dreaded truth, burst into tears of betrayal: "But Mummy, you lied to me".

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not going to tell my children it's all a lie.  I'm not that uncaring about every other child in their classes for a start, and even cynical old me likes seeing their little faces on Christmas morning; but I am increasingly thinking the whole thing is a bit, well, odd.  

Don't you think it's rather a weird thing to do?  Where does it come from in the first place, this big conspiracy?  What difference does it make if the presents come from people who they know and who love them rather than from a fat white man in an odd outfit?   It's strange, too, that when we are increasingly advised to be honest with our children at all times (within the parameters of what they are capable of understanding) we all, or almost all, unthinkingly perpetuate this untruth.

But, and despite the oddness, I won't tell them, and I will keep hedging my answers with "What do you think?" and "Well, who fills the stockings then?"; the same stockings that I will also keep hanging up by the fireplace.  I will keep reading the Night Before Christmas and The Empty Stocking (which I love, even with my cynical hat on).  And I will keep hoping that, for the next month at least, they'll be slightly better behaved as a result...

But at the same time, when they do find out, I'll be ok.  I just hope they will be too.


  1. Oh for heaven's sake, I wrote a really long comment, and it got gobbled up. What is WRONG with Blogger these days?

    In a nutshell... I never wanted my kids to believe in Santa. But they did anyway. I found the whole Santa thing very odd (as you do), and had NO idea before I had my own children, that it was such a big THING. I wanted to go with the "it's fun to pretend" approach, ie let them in on the joke, and then all keep it going together. But to varying degrees, and for varying lengths of time, they have all believed. My 9 year old still does, even though I mentioned this year something about "shopping for stockings".

    I like the idea of saying that Santa is a "real" person, and telling the story of St Nicholas, and where the tradition of filling stockings came from.

    1. Two comments (stupid blogger) deserves two replies...

      So to this one I will say that what I find most odd about it, and what I am sure is different from when we (I) were children, is how often the "see" him.

      He's like some sort of minor celebrity round here - will turn up at the opening of an envelope. We don't (won't) pay a fortune to go and sit on his knee in the garden centre, but he turns up for free at the school, the nursery, the toddler group, the turning on of the Christmas lights....

      Somehow my children (it's that wanting to believe thing) have resolved this as "the Santa's that turn up at places aren't real, but the one that comes down the chimney is".

      But if they've got that far then why are all these men bothering to dress up in the first place?!

  2. Oh, here's the original comment - if you can be bothered to read double the whittering.

    I never believed in Father Christmas (older sister who was scared of the idea of a strange man coming into her bedroom in the night did it for the family). I planned not to do the whole Santa thing with my kids. I was going to make sure they knew it was a story, but that "it's fun to pretend". Weirdly, they all went through many years when they wanted to believe, and managed to convince themselves. Peer pressure is stronger than parental truthfulness, apparently.
    It's a conspiracy (another c word) that proved tobe bigger than me.

    So I found myself in a grey area, trying to maintain my "it's fun to pretend" stance, whilst (a) not pissing off every other parent in the vicinity, and (b) allowing my children the freedom to believe, since they seemed to want to. It's been very odd. My 9 year old still believes, though I really haven't encouraged it for years. This year I even told her I was shopping for stockings, and she STILL believes. She said "what do you mean? shopping for stockings?" so I had to say "well, you don't think Santa does all those stockings without a little help from the parents do you?" It just felt too cruel to disillusion her in one fell swoop - which just proves my point. It would have been better if she'd accepted the "it's fun to pretend" line all along, rather than now be faced with disappointment, disillusionment, and loss of trust in parents.

    Of course being married to a philosopher doesn't help. What is truth? and all that.

    1. I think this is really interesting. I'm sure many of the children in your 9 y o's class know by now, so I wonder what she's saying when *they* tell her it's not true. Maybe she has the strength of character to tell them she believes nonetheless, in which case I'd be very proud!

      And what did your parents do about all the other children in your school when you didn't believe?

    2. My mother can't remember it being an issue. But then she also says that none of the 4 of us ever had tantrums as a toddler, or were difficult or grumpy as teenagers.

      I think the interesting thing is what a huge revelation it all was to me when I had children. I had no idea that there was this big deal about who believed and who didn't, and not spoiling it for children (and - more significantly - their parents). I probably put my foot in it endlessly with my oldest, before I caught on.

    3. Your mother is clearly a wonderful woman, who raised perfect children.

      We did have it, so I did know. I just never really thought about it.

      I do also think that they "see" him much more often these days, which I don't think helps.

  3. Also wrote you a lovely comment but Blogger ate it. Upshot was that I didn't get a shock realisation but gradually worked it out and then pretended for my parents' benefit that I still believed for a couple of years (in case present supply was disrupted by Not Believing).

    1. Stupid blogger.

      I don't remember finding out - so either it was a complete non-event or it was so scarring I've blanked it out. I do remember conspiring with my little sis not to tell our brother though.

      Which thinking about it was uncharacteristically nice of us considering how horrid we were to him most of the time.

    2. Husband worked out that Santa didn't exist, but then - playing along - said he'd seen him in the night. Thought he was just doing what the grown-ups did, ie pretending Santa exists, but was roundly laughed at - and scarred for life of course.

      Just another reason why I wanted my children to be in on it as a shared joke.

    3. Parents can't win, can they?

  4. Watch miracle on 34th street with them to help with the whole 'so and so in my class said its not true' thing. Don't worry about the whole 'it's odd' thing. It will pass, and quicker than you will like and the problem resolves itself. I finally sat down and told my daughter when she went to high school for fear she would be ridiculed for believing. Turns out I spoilt the entire game for her. I think sometimes things are best left, they have a habit of sorting themselves out.

    1. i'm not worried about it, I just think it's all rather weird. Though I do refuse to tell a bare faced lie, so my answers to questions on the subject are getting increasingly creative!

  5. I feel your pain. I have friends who are Christians who made it very clear that Santa didn't exist but that Jesus was real. They were worried (fairly, I think) that their children would stop trusting them on the whole you-can't-see-them-but-they-do-exist front if they found out that they were lying about Santa. I don't intend to do that - H does believe in Father Christmas and I think it's sweet. I guess we'll deal with the fall out as and when it happens...

    1. Does Jesus come down the chimney? I always get so confused on these things...

    2. If I find a baby in my fireplace on Christmas morning, my faith in all sorts of things is going to be shaken...

    3. Doesn't the stork build the nest on top of the chimney? Santa could pick up the baby on the way down.


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