This year, I got asked a few times, ‘Do your kids still believe in Santa?’ and received quite a few shocked looks to my answer. ‘They never believed.’ What? Why are you stealing the magic of Christmas? What about the wonder and joy of the season? What do you have against Santa?
I’m quite fond of Santa. Here’s how I explained it to my kids: he’s a fun figure who has evolved in our cultural and literary history. He embodies generosity toward children and encourages good behavior. He’s like Thomas the Tank Engine and Bob the Builder.
Believe in fairies and dragons and magic. I do with my heart and enjoy suspending reality for a time. Hear the silent bell ring on the polar express and believe. Enjoy the thought of elves making toys and the stories and lessons you can glean from them like we do from Mother Goose rhymes and other fables.
Then, mindful of the phone calls I’d get from parents if they spilled the beans in pre-school, I strongly encouraged them to go along with it. They were in on the secret, but they shouldn’t tell the other children or it would hurt their feelings.
Rob and I are far too logical, and chances were (and have since proven) our kids would be too. So I had a hard time justifying a ‘bait and switch’ for the season. Here’s how the coming out conversation would have gone.
Yes, I know I sold you on some guy in a red suit, flying in a reindeer pulled sleigh, traveling past the speed of sound to visit all the children in the world in one night. But see, I was just joking. Really, there’s this guy, born of a virgin, who said a lot of cool stuff 2,000 year ago. He died, but 3 days later was alive again, so everything’s going to be ok.
The thing is December is loaded with holidays for various religions. It’s the middle of winter, cold and (for those not in this desert) bleak and dark. People, centuries ago as well as today, regardless of conversions, needed something to look forward to and celebrate getting half way through that darkness, cramped indoors, huddling for warmth. As Christians, we celebrate the birth of Christ, which probably actually happened in April. It’s like President’s Day, not on the actual president’s birthday but an annual reminder of what it took to have political checks and balances.
We enjoy the sparkles and decorations, drink egg nog, attend parties and yes, even sit on Santa’s lap if the occasion comes. We celebrate the birth of our Savior while our friends celebrate Yule, Hanuka, Solstice, and whatever else. Together, they all mean the same thing. The dark is almost over. Anticipate the new birth of spring. Be kind and generous with your neighbors during the lean times and look, with hope, toward the light.