This is not Reya’s first Christmas, but it is the first Christmas that she has some awareness of. She refers to all the Christmas decorations in store fronts as “chrissy-mas mess” and is so delighted by it all. She knows about snow, and snowmen, and christmas trees. She hasn’t quite got to grips with Santa Claus, and this is something I’ve been thinking about for some time now. How do I feel about this? What the purpose in perpetuating this fantasy for my child? Is this lie worth it? What do my children gain from this?
As a hindu, I love celebrating Christmas! I do recognize that ultimately, christmas is a religious holiday, but I would never let something like religion stop me from honouring it respectfully. Some of our closest family friends are Christian, and growing up, we would celebrate all our Christmases together. It is still, to this day, such a lovely part of my childhood memories that I look back on fondly. And I do want Reya to experience that too.
When I examine the weight of these memories more closely, it is clear that Christmas enriched my life. Traditions of celebration enriched my life. Family enriched my life. The thrill of opening presents as a child, enriched my life. Santa Claus in particular, however, did not.
I do understand why parents would want to “lie” to their children about Santa. The intentions behind this falsification are so good. We want to delight our children, we want to connect deeply with them, we want them so soak up the wonderment of the Christmas spirit, we want to preserve their innocence, and most importantly – we want them to be happy!
I am by no means anti-Santa Claus. Reya might decide she absolutely loves him and see him as an essential part of the visual representation of what Christmas means to her, along with the Nativity, snow, snowmen, Christmas trees, Christmas lights, carol singers, churches and so on. I would welcome that. I am simply choosing not to make Santa the center of our Christmas traditions. I am choosing not to make gift exchange the center of Christmas.
I know there are many ways to do life, and many ways to be a great parent. I don’t believe the way I do it is the best way and by no means is it the only way. I’m always open to questioning myself and changing my mind. It took me a whole year to figure out what kind of Christmas tradition I want to create for my family. So if, when she’s a little bit older, Reya finds herself with a friend who does believe in Santa, I would encourage her to protect and preserve her friend’s sweet believing heart. I hope she grows up with that kind of emotional maturity and consideration for others.
I simply wish to provide another perspective, because I believe there is a more honest way to connect with our children during this festive season.
Santa isn’t real?!
The main argument against being honest with our children is that- by taking away Santa, I’m taking away the magic of childhood. However, it occurred to me that childhood is already inherently magical, even without an adult’s intervention. I don’t need to create any kind of fantasy world for my daughter. In fact, all I really need to do, is simply allow her to bring me into her mystical world. My daughter brings me into her magic every single day. When she throws a leaf in the air and calls it a bird, when she brings me an empty cup and tells me it’s “hot coffee” – I recognize that she is bringing me into her precious world full of whimsy and wonder. If she hands me a banana and tells me it’s a phone, I pick up the banana and I say “hello, it’s mama!” –I don’t need to tell her “This is not a phone! This is a banana!”
Her fantasy world never concerns me. I have yet to meet an adult who believes a banana is actually a telephone because their mother never corrected them when they were 2 years old. This is her a play, and for a child, her play is her life’s work, and she plays so hard and so well!
Focus on cultivating tradition
So instead of creating fantasy and magic for our children, what can we do?
Focus on cultivating traditions.
Looking back, tradition has been the fabric of my childhood. It is what makes an adult reminisce nostalgically on their childhood memories, as imperfect as it may be, and still feel as though they were secure, wanted, cherished, and nurtured. Traditions can be so simple but create such a great impact when practiced consistently over the years- a movie night with popcorn every Friday night, breakfast for dinner on a weeknight, mother-daughter coffee dates once a month, a particular movie you re-watch every year, sleeping bags in our parent’s bedrooms, camping, taking the same photograph every christmas and so on and so forth.
Traditions are a world that we can bring our children into. We don’t need to keep the magic alive. If we keep tradition alive, the magic and wonderment will come.
Tis the season of giving
Christmas is a season of joy and and giving, but as a child, I don’t remember ever thinking of what to give. I only thought about what I was going to get, and if I was satisfied with what I got. To shift the focus back onto the giving, I hope to get Reya involved in choosing and making gifts for our friends and family so that she can start experiencing the joy of giving too.
I suppose the fundamental logic that doesn’t sit right with me is the concept that if you are good (meaning – if you do things the way that is acceptable to me) then you will be rewarded with material gifts. If you are bad (and behave in a way that is unacceptable to me), you will not be rewarded. This type of behavior-centric punishment and reward approach rarely creates lasting impact. My intention for is for Reya to live her life in a way that is in line with her growth and evolution as a human being. For this, she needs to be sensitive to her intuition, her conscience, her consciousness and intelligence. Rewards and punishment tend to keep things on the surface level and stop us from going much deeper than that. Parenting exclusively with rewards and punishment is what create relentless people pleasers or self-destructive rebels.
An Honest Approach
An honest approach could be to tell our children the story of St Nicholas, who was a kind and generous man who lived a life committed to spreading joy, gifting and caring for others.
We can explain to them, how people were so inspired by this, that we decided to continue his mission and every year we too care for, and share gifts with the ones we love, and in that way, we become Santa for others.
Happy holidays, my friends!