As we approach the month of December, we all get into this magical feeling and live in a dreamlike state, counting on our hopes and wishes, dreaming of having them fulfilled. Grownups, like children, enjoy the celebrations, the Christmas shopping, the decoration, and the enchanting beauty of this month. We, as parents, get extremely excited and thrilled to provide our children with the best experience in meeting Father Christmas, or more known as Santa Claus! To our surprise, not all children get carried away with this myth, and keen questions are raised.
When my second son was not yet five years old, we were having a Christmas celebration with our friends just one week before Christmas. We agreed to have the children meet, decorate small Christmas trees, make their own gingerbread man cards, and sing some Christmas carols. At the end of course, we had someone dressed up as Santa and gave the children their gifts. It was a lovely afternoon and everybody enjoyed it.
That same evening, as I was tucking him in bed, with eyes wide open he asked me, “Maman, is Santa real…for real?”
I thought time has stopped for a while as I was thinking of the right answer to my son’s unexpected question. But at the same time, my mind was wondering why pose the question that early. Couldn’t he wait for a few more years just to live these wonderful sensations?
“What do you think?” I answered back.
Without hesitation, he replied, “I think he isn’t…Tell me, maman!”
His insistence about knowing the truth gave me no choice. I strongly believe that when a child asks about a certain topic no matter how embarrassing it is, I have to tell the truth. And so I briefly told him the real story of dear Santa Claus, and this is how it goes…
“Long time ago, in a village called Patara, there lived a wealthy family who had a son named Nicholas, They died due to an epidemic that hit the area leaving little Nicholas with his faith that he should care for the poor and share all his belongings with them. He dedicated his life serving God, and used all his inheritance to assist the needy and the poor. He loved children and many stories were told about how he used to throw golden coins into the houses. Maybe by chance or on purpose many of those coins were found in children’s shoes – which is where the tradition of hanging stockings on the Christmas trees came from. His death in December became a day of celebration of Saint Nicholas who came to be known as the gift-giver due to his unlimited generosity for the people. He became the symbol of benevolence and contribution to people.
By time, people changed this simple gesture into marketing and took advantage of having people use this time to buy gifts. Soon it became related to Christmas, and people’s imagination grew wild. Then they created an imaginary toy factory in the North Pole where sleds, elves, and reindeers waited eagerly for Santa to ride the sleigh and spread joy, merriment, happiness, and love into the hearts of children. ”
I tried my best not to include more details, as the topic is sensitive, but at the same time, I hoped I have satisfied my son’s shrewd curiosity.
“So, tell me,” I asked, “does it make sense to you now?”
He nodded thinking more seriously, “Then, why do parents lie to their children about Santa. Why can’t they tell them this story? I like it.”
That question took me off guard, but I also had to satisfy his thirst for knowledge without making any damage. So I simply stated that parents do not want to lie to their kids. Their main intention is to have them live a fantasy and magical moments that help in building their imagination. They only want their kids to be happy and enjoy such special moments. I added that now that he knew, he should keep this secret between the two of us, as we don’t want to spoil anyone’s belief about Santa. He agreed, but I knew that he will share it with his brothers.
I left my satisfied son in bed, feeling dizzy. My mind was full of so many open ended questions. Is what we are doing to our children good for them? Are we actually brainwashing ideas into their heads? Do we really need to invent stories about Santa, the tooth fairy, and the like to build their creativity? I never thought about it as “lying”, but children have a different way of thinking.
I know of a super dad who would arrange with his children a thoughtful surprise to Santa when he dropped by; a glass of water and a peeled clementine next to the Christmas tree. In their belief, the children knew that Santa would be tired, thirsty, and needs to rest for a while. That daddy would wake up very early in the morning, drink half of the glass and eat the clementine. His children adored the fact that they also shared something with Santa in return. That devoted dad followed this tradition every year for more than seven years.
On the other hand, I remembered my friend’s daughter who suffered a lot every time December came along. She was frightened that Santa might take her as a gift to a family who had no children. She suffered insomnia, insecurity, and cried her head off every time she saw a Santa. The only solution the mom had to do was to blurt out the truth in order to save her daughter from the terrifying imagination she has been submerged into.
So what is the right thing to do? Did we actually ruin the magic of this tradition since we have abused it in many ways? For example, nowadays you can find multiple “Santas” at the same time in the same mall! Moreover, many of them do not look like the real image found in books and videos! What makes things worse, is that we actually force our children to take a picture with one of those “Santas” where they will be crying, while we are pleased, and on top of that we ask them to smile for the camera!!
I honestly do not know, but I am aware that things are changing really fast every year. When I was around five years old, we used to have one Santa whom we were eager to meet, sit on his lap, assure the fact that we were really well behaved and have our gift. It was simple, straight to the point, and magical. I do not feel it is the same with our children’s generation.
Why can’t we truly teach them about the real lesson which Saint Nicholas has started with ages ago? Is our way of celebration showing them his magical side? His was all about giving unreservedly and wholeheartedly, and not about getting all the time more and more toys and stuff. That by itself is priceless.
Until this moment I do not know what the right thing to do is. So I continue to wonder and as my boys grow older, I continue to stress on the idea that we should persevere the belief in helping and thinking of others. My husband and I are in constant efforts in trying to make our children attain that magical sensation of brining joy and happiness to those who suffer in life and do not have the blessings that we enjoy. We try to explain that it does not have to be restricted to materialistic gifts. We want them to know, that like Santa, life can be wonderful, magical, and delightful when we decide to pursue that way of living and when we contribute to the needy with all our hearts. Yes, let them believe and have them merge the magnificent fantasy with the delightful reality.
With this merry season and joyous period, I pray for a peaceful future, and I hope our children will attain such an admirable aim.
Pictures: pinterest and personal