I heard a nasty rumour the other day. My son informed me that someone told him that Santa isn’t real.
It’s not a new story: “I’m not sure if there is a Santa or if moms and dads just spend a lot of money to buy toys.”
I remember hearing that one myself. As if I could afford to buy all that stuff. The child has to understand that it’s magic, not money that makes Christmas. If it was money, our Christmas would be darn depressing.
I can understand kids doubting though. A friend showed my kids some magic tricks the other day and they were both wowed and cynical at the same time. I suppose that’s the same approach my nine-year-old is taking to Christmas.
I, of course, assured him that Santa is real, though I did acknowledge that parents sometimes help out by buying some of the things the Elves can’t make. They know that, because we’ve bought toys every year to donate to other families.
My daughter completely understands it: “Santa’s elves can make stuffed dolls and trains but not always the things on TV,” she explains.
My daughter believes completely in Santa’s magic. So much so, that her Christmas list is impossibly creative — a real mermaid tail she can wear in the water, fairy wings that make her fly, a rainbow blanket that lights up like stars … this is what happens when you make your kids doubt commercials and advertising but believe in Santa and magic.
And it’s a beautiful thing. I would rather my child believe in fairies and flying than the power of the Barbie Dream House.
My daughter wanted to know if Santa was the same person that St. Nicholas was and how he has managed to live so long. So I explained to her that when someone is that truly loving and caring that what they do never dies, even if they do. And that with some magic tossed in, anything is possible.
What gets to me, though, is the adult Santa deriders. The people who insist that I am doing my children a disservice by telling them about Santa, or that Santa makes the holidays all about toys and not about spirit. And then there is the very worst accusation — that Santa is a lie and by telling children about him we dishonour their trust.
Even if Santa is a lie, which I don’t believe he is, how would giving children the gift of imagination and belief in something beyond themselves — a shared fantastical history — be dishonouring children?
My children wave to mermaids from atop Signal Hill and chase fairies through wooded trails. They believe in snowmen that come to life and that if they loved their stuffed animals and take care of them enough they too may become real.
If they didn’t believe these things I would consider myself to be dishonouring them. If I didn’t encourage the magic and wonder of a world beyond themselves and what they can see I would be raising them wrong.
Santa has been delivering toys for a couple hundred years now, around the world, and before that in a smaller fashion.
Obviously, as his technology has developed he has been able to spread his good cheer beyond the confines of the Dutch communities he started in. And yes, sometimes parents help, just like sometimes parents have to point out that silver mermaid hair floating in the waves or the flash of fairy wings in the woods.
Our children are told lies every day when they view advertisements, or when they learn their history in school from only the dominant or oppressor’s view. Or how about in science when they are taught facts that are later proven untrue — do you still believe that Pluto is a planet?
If the rumours about Santa are true, I suppose that makes me a liar. And I am perfectly fine with that. I’m OK with showing my kids that some lies have value as long as they don’t hurt anyone or mislead them into doing something regrettable. It’s a lesson, as they get older, that they need to learn anyway.
Eventually, children grow up and become doubtful and cynical and question all their truths. But just because they do that, it doesn’t mean that that it is their sole purpose to do it or that we need to rush them to the end of that journey.
Perhaps their purpose is to take us back down the road from cynicism and doubt to belief and wonder.
When we tell our children about Santa and help them believe in magic and mystery, we are opening them to a world of truths beyond anything they will learn in school.
I’d rather my children know about the potential of spirit and human co-operation that the potential of plastic and human consumerism.
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