I don’t think it phases my children AT ALL when I tenderly tell them Santa Claus isn’t real. I can’t imagine why they ignore me on this (sarcasm font in case you’re missing it). Hmmm…perhaps it is because he is actually at the mall, sitting on an actual over sized green velvet armchair welcoming small children to come sit on his actual lap and feel his actual fluffy white beard.
So yeah it’s true, I’m the meanie, scroogey mom that encourages her wide-eyed sugar plum fairies NOT to “believe”. #sorrynotsorry
Yet, somehow we found ourselves in the line at the mall yesterday waiting to see the jolly ole’ fellow so my children could tell him what they want for Christmas presents (A puppy, in case you are wondering. My daughter wants a puppy. And a crossbow for my son, thank you very much). It was all so very Miracle on 34th Street, what with their eager gift requests and me trying not to roll my eyes in front of the other kids.
I don’t hate Santa. I hate the mall. I loathe the mall. But I don’t hate Santa. Promise!
I’m just not that into him.
I love Christmas and the holidays.
I love tradition. I refuse to abandon my grandmother’s orange ice cream jello for family holidays, multicolored lights on the tree or watching my favorite Christmas movies every year.
I love wild imagination and wild wonder in children, especially my own.
I love the music (although admittedly I am more Vienna Boys Choir than Jingle Bells and Frosty)
So I admit drawing lines can be hard. We all, whether for ourselves or for our children, have to make decisions about where to draw those lines in life. Santa Claus, even with his jolly Ho Ho HO and giant sack of presents, doesn’t make it any easier. But the stark contrast between Christ and Claus (at least how we celebrate Old Saint Nick today) are just too, too great.
The squishy, luxurious, velvet chair at the mall feels out of place and almost offensive next to a simple manger in a cold barn.
The flying reindeer and elves are lots of fun and flash, but cheap and shallow and false compared to the poor shepherds’ awe, the magnificent angels singing and the beauty and faith of Mary – all of whom are centered around the miracle of God himself putting on flesh in the most vulnerable and humble way.
I get that these aren’t huge dilemmas, I mean I have a Christmas Tree and bake gingerbread houses every year, things that obviously have absolutely nothing to do with the birth of Jesus. But, like I said, everyone gets to draw their own lines.
Yesterday afternoon, when we had returned from our Santa encounter, the kids were out playing in the backyard, when I saw my son doing something he knew he was not supposed to do. I went out back and barely even had to put on my stern mommy face for him to burst into tears. I was glad he was showing remorse, but then through sobs he wailed out “Santa isn’t going to bring me any presents!”.
He obviously knew enough about the old man to have heard the whole naughty and nice shtick. While I will admit I am not above bribing my children, there was an important teaching opportunity here I did not want to miss.
Mommy: “So what is the consequence from Santa Claus when you are naughty?”
Zachary: (through more tears) “No presents”
Mommy: “That’s right. No presents. Now what is the consequence from God, when we are naughty?”
Zachary: “He forgives us”
Mommy: (by this point my preaching voice is in FULL effect…) “That’s right babe. I am so thankful Santa isn’t real, and that he isn’t the one deciding things because we would probably not get any presents! But God is different. God gives us presents even though we are naughty. He gives us presents BECAUSE we are naughty. He gave us Jesus on Christmas. I am so thankful for that. Mommy and daddy will give you presents because we love you, just as God loves us.”
They still love Santa. They still want to watch The Polar Express and sing Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer and that’s fine.
But I am hoping as they grow up in the world, their hearts will not be of this world. I am hoping that while they are free to enjoy and be entertained by the fun things of the holidays, they will be singing like the angels, pondering like Mary and bowing down like the Magi – entirely swept up with the gift of Emmanuel. God with us.