I have faced this dilemma many times, not just as a mother, but as a nanny, an auntie, and a big sister.
I believe in Santa Claus. I really and truly believe. I love every sappy Lifetime and Hallmark movie and am proud to admit it. I believe in the spirit of Christmas and the meaning behind the celebration. I believe in the possibility of goodwill, and kindness among neighbors, family, and friends, both near and far.
I am not so sure about the fact that the official kick off seems to be at Halloween, but that said I do believe. So, when your young child comes home with the big announcement that Santa does not exist, because Johnny on the playground says so, here is my suggestion for what a fine parent should say.
I sit the suspecting child down, and we discuss the story behind Santa. I take one part It’s a Wonderful Life, one part Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, two parts Miracle on Thirty-Fourth Street, one dash of A Charlie Brown Christmas, and a good chunk of Santa Claus is Coming to Town. I mix them all together and weave together my own version of Santa. I tell my children that some people do not believe in God because they cannot see him. But we have faith that he is there. The same is true for Santa. It is the spirit of Santa that exists. For our family, it works.
First I tell the children of Christmas in my house growing up. We were eleven children living in a small coastal town in southern California. My dad was a school Principal, and my mother stayed home. Money was not abundant, but I don’t ever remember it ever being an issue. Every Christmas, as if by magic, every wish we could ever wish for was granted.
Every single wish. When we awoke on Christmas morning, our living room was completely covered! From corner to corner, there was no place to walk, and no place to sit. Our eyes grew as big as saucers as we waited patiently by age to receive our loot. It was dramatic and gifts were given one at a time from youngest to oldest as each looked on and cheered for the recipient. Although we turned in lists at Thanksgiving, it just was not possible to have all of this stuff!
One year, the theme was sports, and so in addition to our own wishes, there was a ping-pong table, a basketball court, skates, skateboards, and tennis racquets… And so it was every single year, a new theme and lots of wishes granted. My Dad went all out, even having Santa appear on Christmas Eve. One year we cried our eyes out as we discovered our oldest brother kept his black converse high top shoes on as he played Santa. The memory never ceases to make us howl with laughter to this day. My Dad meant well!
And then I continue with my own crafted story of Santa.
Santa was once alive, and a very good man who delivered presents to all of the children in the land. But like all good souls, Santa could not live forever. So, he became an Angel in heaven. He was the best of angels with the shiniest of stars. It was God that wanted the spirit of Santa to live on forever in the hearts of people all around the world. So, God created a heaven just for Santa Claus. He called it the North Pole. The North Pole is staffed with other angels, and the elves are actually children who went to heaven too soon. (I use this because we lost a child, and this gives my children peace). No one knows better what a child wants than another child. So, the angel children live in perfect harmony with Santa Claus and God, and they choose gifts all year round for all of the children around the world. Of course, they do get to test them and play with them! The beautiful reindeer are part of the flock of animal angels. Oh yes, and I must not forget, there are Grandma’s and Grandpa’s and Aunts and Uncles, and sometimes even Mama’s and Daddy’s who work with Santa. They are all angels who believed in the spirit of Santa when they were on earth. There are no bad guys or grumpy sour pusses at the North Pole!
To make sure we remember the Spirit of Santa, God deemed his only sons’ birthday as the day we would celebrate the joy of giving to others. We choose to ask Santa for only three things because that is what the wise men brought the baby Jesus. This limit has always worked for my kids, and they really have to think about what they want. Before you think this is not enough, consider all of the gifts they get from relatives. It can really be too much!
The children often ask at some point why Santa doesn’t give to every child. But he does, I tell them. He instills the spirit of giving in those of us here on earth. As in the writings of Luke in the Bible, “To Whom Much is Given, Much is Required,” he asks each of us to share our good fortune with others. The spirit of Santa Claus wants us to reach out during the season to our fellow man and to lift those up that are in pain or are without. Every one of us can help I tell them, as we give new toys, and we give away our really good toys that we no longer play with.
When our eldest daughters’ became more aware of the Santa helpers known as mom and dad here on earth, they were thrilled to become part of the magic for their younger siblings. Now, all of the kids are in on the magic that is Santa. My thirteen year old son announced this year, that he would like to help others.
In the end it really is all about the magic of the season. It is after all the goodwill of people, the miracles that occur, and the hope of good times to come. Keep the spirit of Santa alive with your children!
Originally published in 2007
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