‘Tis the season! Why not discuss our beliefs regarding Santa? One reason might be because this is a surprisingly controversial topic. But I am interested in sharing my little family’s developing traditions & hearing others’, so here goes:
We don’t do Santa. Don’t worry—this is a judgment call for my family, not yours. So many people have so many different beliefs about Christmas; I understand this is a grey area. I do feel a need to defend my position though, because it’s a popular sentiment that people who don’t do the Santa thing are somehow robbing their kids of the magic of childhood, or possibly destroying the season of Christmas altogether.
That is not accurate. If you could ask my son, he’d gleefully explode into 3-year-old chatter about the various joys of this holiday. I love Christmas. I am a proud sentimental fool; I love an excuse to make themed hippie cookies, decorate stuff, & take time to slow down with friends & family. I also believe in God & I love the story of Jesus's birth and life, so although I know there is some debate about when his birthday actually was, I love this season as a reason to genuinely focus on Jesus’ life, & the valuable lessons within his existence. Last year I was fascinated by a documentary about the three wise men & the possibility that they were Eastern religious masters who had foreseen Jesus’ coming, which is radical to me because I believe it’s all connected.
I can’t even listen to Christmas music without getting all tearful & tender-hearted about this lovely time of year. Trying to choose the best, sweetest book to help explain the concept of Christmas to my son left me sniveling in the aisle of the bookstore as I poured over the different interpretations of what the holiday is & what it means to the various authors. This is my child’s first cognizant Christmas; at 3-years-old, he is very aware of his surroundings, & he easily picks up on themes. I spent a lot of time this Halloween explaining why everything was covered in fake cobwebs, spiders, & skeletons. I now have a child obsessed with “spooky stuff.” I don’t take his questions lightly because he remembers so much of what I say; he takes it to heart & fixates on it. So this year I explained that the season is about Jesus’ birth & life, but also that it means different, diverse things to other people. When I was looking for a book to illuminate Christmas, I sought a simple explanation of the birth of Jesus & why it is that we give gifts at this time of year, because it’s important to me that Christmas doesn’t become known strictly as a consumerist, toy-filled holiday. I want it to remain a holy day.
What I strove to avoid completely were all the books focused on Santa, the toys Santa brings, & particularly the notion that Santa watches kids to see who is “bad” or “good.” Sorry friends, that creeps me out. I had forgotten until this year that some parents use Santa as a behavioral tool, but I am very uncomfortable with that manipulation of kids. It’s too conditional, & it gives the impression that good behavior is dependent on toys, not on making choices that are virtuous & healthy for everyone. I am trying to teach my son to be a kind, compassionate person because it’s what’s best for humanity, not because it guarantees that the man in the red suit who magically watches his behavior will bring him presents. I do think the historical Sinterklaas & Saint Nicolas are neat though, so we read about those characters, but I do not go out of my way to convince my son he is real. I don’t have any desire to do the work of creating & sustaining the myth. I know that parents who do the Santa thing aren’t maliciously lying to their children about it, but saying “Santa is real; he brings you gifts” is a fabrication, not a truth, & I aim to be honest with my child, so I’m just not interested in perpetuating that tradition.
I promise you no joy is being killed. With that said, my son still knows who Santa is, just like he knows this season calls for elves, reindeer, twinkling lights, Christmas trees & Christmas songs. I have told him that we will see some people in Santa costumes, just like he likes to wear his T-Rex costume, but they are simply dressed up to celebrate the season. We recently saw a Santa at the mall so I explained that some kids sit on pretend Santa’s lap & talk about the toys they’re excited to get, & I asked my son if he wanted to try it. He bravely marched up, sat down, & talked about the Cars 2 boat he so desperately wants. He also took time to mention some of his friends, who he calls his brothers & sisters. Afterward I asked him if he understood it was just a man in a Santa costume, & he said, “Yeah, but I still wike Santa.” Me too, buddy.
This Christmas we have done simple seasonal crafts, making snowflakes out of coffee filters & decorations out of red & green paper. My son helped me make Christmas Kraut & salt dough ornaments for gifts, & he’ll be assisting me with the rosemary-caramel corn I plan to give as well. He bursts into beautifully shouted versions of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” & “Jingle Bells,” but we avoid the songs that say, “He knows when you’ve been sleeping, he knows when you’re awake,” for obvious reasons. When the snow finally gets here, we’ll be making snow people & snow dinosaurs, ice-skating, & sledding. I hope to make winter landscape cookies sometime in between holiday festivities with family, & we’ll be celebrating Winter Solstice with some dear Pagan friends. I picked out one sweet book that explains Christmas in simple terms, including the tradition of gift-giving, & we’ve been reading it daily. Even without the debatably magical focus on Santa as he is known & celebrated today, our holidays are never lacking, but are enriched through other means, & are full of love & wonder.
What are your Christmas/winter holiday traditions? If you don’t do Santa, what do you do? Happy holidays everyone, & thanks for reading!
About Kristen Tea
I am a 27-year-old single, attached, informed, lactivist, intactivist, peaceful Minnesotan mother of almost 4-year-old Sun Ronin a.k.a Sunny Boy. I am an artist & lover of expression. I'm also a student with many things to learn, including nutritional therapy, lactation consulting, doulahood, yoga instructing, & more. I believe that unplanned pregnancies do not have to equal uninformed motherhood, & women have the power to restore humanity to everything we touch.