We believe in Santa Claus. We love the jolly old man. I’ve noticed over the past year or so, he seems to be getting a bad rap in our country. Along with the poor Elf on the Shelf, last year and even more so this year, I see negative articles and posts. Now I’m not trying to convince anyone to change what they do with their family. Family holiday traditions are exactly that, meant for each family. But for those fellow moms that have a warm, special place in their hearts for believing in Santa, this is for you. This is for you to know there are other moms out there that aren’t looking to stray from the belief in St. Nicholas traveling down their chimney on Christmas Eve.
I’ve seen an array of negativity surrounding Santa, ranging from how wrong it is to spoil your children with too many gifts to how completely terrible it is to lie to them. In defense of St. Nick, he’s been delivering gifts for close to 2,000 years. Who are we to decide now that “gifts magically appearing” is wrong? It’s only really been the past few years that this negativity amongst parents (mostly moms on the internet) has come to light. “It doesn’t feel right telling our children lies.” We’re constantly looking for the next thing to change in child rearing, but the state of our country and our world doesn’t seem to be getting much “jollier” in recent years, so I say, sometimes it’s best to stick with the past.
In the past (and present), I’ve believed in Santa. When I think back to the very best memories of childhood and the fun I had with my siblings, I think a lot about Santa. The excitement was incredible. We’d be so excited Christmas Eve we’d all sleep in one room. We had to be sure everyone woke up at the exact same time. That time seemed to get earlier and earlier every year. The year we woke my parents at 4:30AM a new rule was instated: Christmas morning could not start before 6am. Waiting until 6am was the best part. We’d sneak down to the very last stair, just close enough to peek at the gifts. Sometimes if we really begged, we were allowed to look in our stockings before our parents woke up. Once they finally woke up, we’d tear into the gifts. My mom always had her video camera and my dad’s eyes were barely open. There’d be special codes from Santa to know whose gifts belonged to whom – like the color of the bows on the gifts.
I can remember gifts we got from almost every year I was a “true believer”: the years I tried to convince my brother that G.I Joe could play with Barbie “just on Christmas” or the year my other brother got his NY Giants uniform and wore the entire thing (even the helmet) all day. We’d examine the cookie crumbs Santa left behind and the half eaten carrots from Rudolph. We’d play all day and beg to sleep under the Christmas tree at night. We couldn’t believe how lucky we were to get so many awesome gifts from Santa. We were happy, thankful, spoiled kids on Christmas. We ate Christmas cookies all day and stayed up late. We all turned out just fine.
I eventually found out that the gifts were from my parents. Someone at school told me and when I asked my mom, she told me the truth (I was almost 10). I was shocked, not that my parents “lied” but that they would have actually gotten us all those toys! I wasn’t mad and never told my little brothers, rather helped my mom each Christmas Eve “guard the room” so they wouldn’t catch her setting up the gifts. It became a fun new thing I got to do with my mom, and I couldn’t wait unit the days I would get to “play Santa” for my own children.
My brothers and I still talk about the joy of our Christmas mornings and still can’t believe our parents got us all those gifts. Throughout the year, we got toys when we earned them from our allowance or thanks to a treat from Grandma, so it made sense that all those toys Christmas morning were from a jolly old guy who made them at the North Pole. None of us dislike our parents for telling us to believe in Santa; it’s not even something that would cross our minds. We are all extremely hard working grownups that value family, helping people and doing good. We are all happy. We all believed in Santa and we were all spoiled rotten on Christmas morning.
I’m going to be completely honest: for my kids Christmas is about the gifts (they range from 1-5). They make lists, try to stay on the “good list,” and most importantly we talk a lot about the birth of baby Jesus and how he is the greatest gift the world ever received. We read about the tradition of St. Nicholas—how he started giving gifts to children. We even celebrate his feast day. Keeping Jesus and the spirit of giving in as much of the conversation as possible is important and something I make a conscious effort to do. But keep in mind, these are tiny little people (those under 8, I’d say), and the messages of Christmas and it’s deep-rooted religious history are a lot to grasp, especially at a time when the excitement and anticipation of Christmas is being “counted down” on an advent calendar.
So why not just go with the excitement a little more, and worry about the “good child rearing” a little less for those 25 days? Let them be incredibly excited about Santa. As the parents, do good that they can see: read them books about the first Christmas, help your friends, and donate your time or toys to the poor. Don’t worry so much about the littlest ones in your house “turning out ok.” As they grow, they’ll see the good you do at the holidays; they’ll recognize that you give so much more (all year) than you receive, and they’ll pick up on it, I promise.
You see, the true belief in the magic of Christmas morning and Santa doesn’t last that long. Think about it like this: that magic of running down stairs and seeing gifts you believe were carried in through your chimney by Santa Claus and then tearing them all open in sheer joy takes about an hour on Christmas morning. You don’t really get the concept until you are 2 or 3, and then you have your doubts about it starting around 8 or 9. So realistically, as a parent, you get about 6 hours of seeing that true Christmas joy on each of your children’s faces. 6 hours. In all the hundreds of thousands of hours you spend teaching them right from wrong, what’s true and what’s not, when to give, how fortunate they are, to be grateful and not greedy, etc., take those 6 hours off. Let them believe in magic and toys and gifts. They’ll be ok and so will you.
I listened to my girls talking about Santa Claus the other night. Their joy and giggles could put anyone in the Christmas spirit. I thought to myself, Maggie is almost 6 years old. How many more years before someone at school tells her not to believe. How many more times will I see the true, magical Christmas joy on her face when she runs downstairs to see what Santa delivered. So you better believe we are excited for Santa to arrive in our house. We’ll be shocked by what Santa sent down our chimney, tear through wrapping paper and eat candy for breakfast. We’ll laugh, hug and thank jolly old St. Nick for the presents and the joyful Christmas memories.