Today after school, Lizzie was talking about library day at Kindergarten and “Silent Night” in music class. Then she mentioned Santa. Just a passing phrase, I don’t even remember exactly what she said. But his name was there and I had a choice: let the conversation go on to other subjects naturally, (and let her believe whatever she believes about him) or take that moment to teach her what I have always known.
I chose the latter. I was pretty confident in my choice. Lizzie, David and Lucy all three have amazing imaginations and a vivid fantasy life. But I also have a faith that I hope they grow to share and love someday too. I decided when Lizzie was a baby that I would treat imaginary creatures like what they are – extremely fun and yet also imaginary. Since I grew up not believing in Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, Santa or even going trick or treating at Halloween, I know it is possible to have a wild and fun childhood with a huge imagination without them.
The conversation in the car was so effortless and sweet.
“Lizzie, is Santa real?”
“Did you know he used to be a man named Saint Nicholas? And now he is an imaginary character that everyone has fun with every Christmas? He is like Cinderella or Mickey Mouse. We have fun playing pretend with them, don’t we?”
“Yeah. (giggle) And the elves too!”
“So what about the gifts, mommy?”
“Oh, you know those gifts are from mommy and daddy” (she laughs, remembering how she has never opened a single gift from Santa. I just never put one under the tree. It is just not our normal)
“And that guy at the mall? Does he really have a big fat belly, Mommy?”
“Um….maybe….the one last year that they got to dress up to be Santa was actually pretty skinny, wasn’t he?” (she nodded).
Then we went on to talk about how some people do believe Santa is real and we think that is a fun idea. I told her not to tell any of her friends what she thinks of Santa, either. You see, all of her cousins and most of her aunts and uncles all celebrate the “Jesus’ birthday” focus and I don’t think any of them ever really talk about Santa. I know for sure that her first cousins do not get Santa gifts either (they are both her age). It is just not our normal. But you listen to these 5 and 6 year olds play and you will hear the wildest, craziest adventures!
This is such a hard topic. Amy from Mom Spark wrote about it in 2008, a post that resonates with me today. In fact, I couldn’t have said it better. “I think Santa is so buried into America’s traditions and way of life, that we do not question why we do it and feel obligated to partake in the experience.” Ditto, Amy. Ditto.
And then Rachel from Following in My Shoes introduced Elf on the Shelf to her kids. She is actually having fun with the Santa fantasy with her kids and teaching them her faith. And that is awesome, I think she will have a blast this year with her Elf.
Me? I am going to keep encouraging the belief in the birth of Jesus as the focus, and also treat Christmas the way I remember it. It was a very educational time for me every year. I learned the history of Saint Nicholas. I learned the names of Santa in different countries and how to enjoy a variety of cultures. I learned that even though I didn’t believe in Santa Clause as a real magical being that gave me gifts, I accepted and enjoyed that my friends did, without arguing my point of view. And my imagination, while it didn’t have half-eaten cookies or spying elves, expressed itself in plays I wrote for my siblings and books I devoured weekly.
My kids do not believe in Santa, and I think they will be just fine.