Saturday, December 22, 2007
The Santa Debate
Apparently this year is the year for parental debates....First circumcision, naming Graham, and now Santa. Now that the boys are a little older and Christmas season is here I have become more aware of what they are learning about Christmas and Santa.
The more secular and consumer driven our world becomes, the more Santa there is and the less "Jesus is the reason for the season" there is. With all the emphasis of companies turning Christmas into "Holiday Celebrations" it makes Santa stick out like a sore thumb.
I started to notice that the boys were suddenly talking about Santa and asking us whether or not he was going to come to our house and bring presents. You see, we don't actively talk about Santa at our house so the fact that they were getting super excited about Santa bringing them presents made me a little concerned. You think I'd have been a little more prepared to answer their questions but I still wasn't sure WHAT I wanted to tell them about Santa. Jon and had talked about it a little bit but I guess in my mind I didn't feel settled about what we had decided. I didn't feel like we had decided anything.
My main concern is that I don't want my children to believe in Santa so much and then when they find out he doesn't really ride around in a sleigh and deliver presents that they feel betrayed and then think that Jesus isn't real. It somehow seems a little sinister that we purport this lie. I also don't want to take away from what Christmas is really all about--Jesus, our Savior who was born. We tell the boys who St. Nicholas was and what he was about and WHY he delivered gifts to children. I want to tell them that Santa is pretend and doesn't really come to houses on Christmas eve. If they still choose to believe that Santa is real it is on them, not me. The only problem with that is that you don't want them to go around telling other kids that he isn't real. Although, I think that most kids will think they are crazy for not "believing" in Santa and will continue to believe it anyway. Only those that already doubt will be convinced.
The thing that bugs me most about Santa is that it is all about whether or not you are good or bad and that it (for some parents) becomes a way to manipulate their children to behave. Who wants to live in fear that they won't get presents on Christmas if they are bad? We wouldn't do that with our kids but it bothers me that it is sort of the ultimate expression of pluralism. As long you are good enough you'll get the good stuff.
Jon thinks I am being a little over cautious (as some of you probably do too). He thinks that we should not encourage Santa but also not discourage it either. So when the kids ask if Santa is going to come we should say, "do you think he will?". We aren't going to put any gifts under the tree and say they are from Santa. He thinks that if we blatantly come out and tell the kids Santa isn't real it takes some of the fun and mystery out of life. I see his point but I still feel uncomfortable with the idea of blantantly lying to my children. So far our strategy is to talk a lot about why we celebrate Christmas in the first place. We talk a lot about the Christmas story and have even gotten some children's books on Christmas.
Part of me wishes that we were some of the more countercultural Christians who don't exchange presents at all at Christmas or don't spend any money on the presents they do exchange. It would put more of the emphasis on what Christmas is all about but it would be a challenge to the kids. It feels like it is a little too late now to do anything that radical.
I have had lots of conversations with friends about the Santa debate and some share my concerns and some don't. Jon's point is that we both grew up with Santa and we turned out okay. We both believe in Jesus (although I didn't become a believer until I was in college). Maybe I am being a little paranoid about it all but I still feel worried about it.
What do you do about "the Santa debate" in your house? What do you tell your children?
****Instead of making a separate post I thought I would add it here. If you are visually sensitive while watching movies (i.e. freaky looking people) I don't recommend seeing I Am Legend with Will Smith. We went to see it not knowing that there were scary people in it and I couldn't get the images out of my head for days. ****