When it comes to the dividing line in the great Santa debate, I am firmly PRO-SANTA, and pro-holiday-spirit, and pro-magical-Christmasness for that matter. I have a somewhat biased stance on the Santa issue because of how I was raised. Growing up, I was never given the opportunity to have the magical Santa experience, which is why I’m going to make sure my kids get it. I’m kind of jealous of them too.
My brother and sister and I were raised in a religious home with some pretty strict rules. We weren’t Amish per se, but for a while, we didn’t have TV because it was “bad,” and I felt shamed by my church youth group for listening to secular music. You know, the usual.
My mom has since come a long way, and she’s apologized for the ultra-conservative way we were raised. I’m betting that if she could go back in time, she’d let us fall for Santa hook, line, and sinker. But if memory serves me right, Santa was contraband around my house at Christmas. He didn’t fit in with the whole “Jesus is the reason for the season” message, so his fat ass was left out in the cold.
My parents divorced when I was 10, and I do remember my dad still trying to half-heartedly make Christmas special. Of course, he didn’t have Santa on his side, but he did give us a bunch of small gifts that were tagged “From Jesus.”
While I guess it was well-meaning, or deluded, I’m not sure, it was also pretty confusing. When I was a kid, I understood quite a bit about Jesus because I spent every single Sunday in Sunday School. But no one ever told me that Jesus would come to my house on Christmas and give me every wish my little heart desired. Also, Jesus turned out to give pretty crappy presents. (Let it be noted that my dad was notoriously cheap.)
I want to make clear that this isn’t a knock on Jesus. I still believe in God and Jesus, but I’ve questioned religion big time and have drastically different beliefs from what I was told when I was younger. Also, I think Jesus can take a joke. I mean, if his masses of Facebook followers are any clue, He must have a pretty good sense of humor. (LIKE IF YOU BELIEVE IN MIRACLES!!!!)
So really, Jesus isn’t the issue in all of this, even though he got a totally bad rap from the crappy gift giver that was my dad. I think my bigger beef with all of these holiday shenanigans is parents that take the whole “Santa issue” too seriously.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot because I’m trying to figure out what we’re going to tell my sons in a few years as they start to understand Christmas. Obviously, we’re going to let them enjoy Santa, but I don’t think we’re going to try to lace every interaction with St. Nick with some kind of hidden agenda about whether a kid is naughty or nice.
Why can’t kids just enjoy something for what it is without an underlying lesson? My husband and I have heard other parents talk about how they’re going to explain Santa to their kids to help them understand the concept of right and wrong. Um, does it really matter? Do you think your six-year-old is even thinking that deeply about Mr. Claus? I doubt it.
Sometimes life just isn’t that serious. Sometimes it’s okay to believe in something because it’s fun and it gives you pleasure. Also, it isn’t lost on me that taboo Santa has a Naughty or Nice List, and judgy religious people often use the same motivation to get people to do what they think is right or wrong.
It’s a parent’s prerogative whether or not their kids believe in Santa—though I can tell you from personal experience that they may feel a little gypped 20 years down the road. But parents that have a special agenda for the holiday season that fits in with their belief system may want to take a beat and have a glass of wine while they’re at it.
But I digress… Maybe it’s because of my Santa-deprived childhood that I’m really into Santa Claus for my kids. I even read some comments from Mommyish readers on a prior Santa thread about older parents that still give their adult kids Santa stockings for the holidays. That made my heart melt, and I definitely want to do that for my kids in the future.
The holidays are supposed to be fun and not overly serious. I also think a belief in God can fit in well with the holiday spirit. For kids, believing in Santa gives them something to look forward to, so why spoil it? Gifts marked “From Jesus” may be taking it a little far.
(photo: Getty Images)