My stance on Santa has always been “no comment.” Since Christmas wasn’t my holiday, my parents were pretty straight up with me about the Santa Claus charade. But they encouraged me to play along with my non-Jewish friends until they outgrew the myth, and it was pretty big of me, I think, that I didn’t then scoff: “Told ya so.”
My Catholic husband has tried to convince me he didn’t feel let down when he learned Santa didn’t exist. “But your parents lied to you,” I said, convinced that his distrust of politicians and Hollywood executives stemmed from this Santa infraction. He shrugged. “It’s just fun,” he explained.
What is fun about deliberately misleading your children? Aren’t they devastated once they find out?
When we had kids, we wanted them to experience the holiday traditions we experienced ourselves. Latkes, candy canes, presents. You know…the good stuff without the beliefs. Except, according to my partner, for the belief in Santa.
Until this year, it wasn’t really an issue. The kids were so young, they had no expectations. Their peers didn’t know any better. Gifts were exchanged. Bright and shiny and brief. That was Christmas and Chanukah all rolled into one. Even Yo Gabba Gabba’s Christmas episode was devoid of Santa. And it was fine.
Now that Charlotte is five, and there are 24 other kids in her class, all with holiday truths of their own, she knows that this Santa Claus character is responsible for delivering the gifts. And she comes home with a list of her “needs” and “wants.”
NEEDS: banana, house, sunshine, boots, shirt, a heart. Aw.
WANTS: Walkie talkies, a teddy bear, candy and a phone. Yeah right.
“He’s not real, though,” she tells me as we settle in to read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.
“Then what is he?”
“He just dresses up for Christmas. His beard isn’t real.”
So I guess she believes there is a character named Santa Claus. But he doesn’t walk around the other 364 days of the year, doing mundane things like grocery shopping or gassing up the car in full Christmas regalia. One day a year he dons his red suit and beard and shuttles around the globe depositing presents. He’s not real, but on Christmas he is.
When “Santa” came to my 2 year old’s daycare holiday party (and scared the sh*t out of my kid, literally), that didn’t really help me avoid the topic of his actual existence. “Where’d Santa go?” Campbell asked, after he got over his fear and accepted the little Batman racecar with which St. Nick gifted him. Did I have the heart to tell him he called a car to take him to his next pre-school party gig and that he probably shoved his beard into a backpack between appearances?
Yet on Christmas Eve, after I wrapped a reasonable amount of presents and labeled them FROM MOM & DAD (not from a fictional character with twinkling eyes), I found myself playing the Santa card as the kids embarked on their nightly ritual of turning the apartment upside down in a last ditch effort to procrastinate turning in.
“Are you throwing crayons? I better get Santa on the phone and let him know…”
“I need cooperation in the bath, or I’ll have to tell Santa you can’t get any presents.”
“Bed. NOW! Or else Santa will skip. this. HOUSE.”
And in the morning, when we had to wait for my husband to get out of the bathroom:
“Can’t open anything until Santa calls us and tells us it’s time.”
So I get it. Santa is magical. He gets kids to bathe, go to bed at a reasonable hour and not give any lip. I’ll play along again. For that one night of peace and goodwill among our kids, it’s worth it.
Santa is real, if only to give parents a little part in the magical production of Christmas.
(“Told ya so,” I hear you saying…)
What’s YOUR stance on Santa?