Sunday, December 23, 2012

on why we don't do Santa.

Santa does not come to our house. Take a deep breath, I know, I know.  It's going to be okay.

Andrew and I actually had decided not to "do Santa" before we had children. Before we went through our tortuous journey to become parents to Daniel and Lily. And then after they came home, in July 2011, it made perfect sense not to do Santa.  Here's why:

1. Our children celebrated Christmas in Ethiopia before they came to us. Santa, who supposedly flies around the world visiting all children, never stopped either at their family's little home, or at the orphanage. In fact, they may have never gotten a Christmas present before coming to America. So how to explain that without resorting to the "you haven't been good" thing. Santa forgot? A bunch of beautiful little children in an orphanage? I don't think so.

2. We want to keep the focus of our Christmas celebrations on the magic of the holiday, on the teachings of the baby who was born, on the joy we find being together.  NOT on presents.  I know that Santa is part of the magic for many, many families. For our family, we just couldn't reconcile one story with the other.  Beautiful baby Jesus would have a hard time competing with Jolly Saint Nick. Kids are pretty easy to bribe, and Santa's got a big ole bag of goodies. Baby Jesus has got Love Thy Neighbor and Turn the Other Cheek. Not going to convince a 6 year old boy.

For an inspiring take on taking Santa out of your holiday, read Jen Hatmaker.

3. Our kids, especially Daniel, are very sensitive to Truth. Our son has had plenty of nasty surprises in his life, and possibly some really terrible lies told to him.  We try to be vigilant in always telling him as much of the truth as we can. We almost never lie to him, even when we know the truth will be upsetting.  In fact, I'm having a hard time coming up with an example beyond trying to skirt around explaining some of the vocabulary in the hip hop songs he now loves.  So if we are vigilant all year, why then launch into a big story about a magic bearded man who flies around the world giving toys to good little children (but who somehow can't land in Ethiopia?)

4. The idea of being good is a tough one for us.  There are probably many of families who omit the harshness of the Santa story- who explain to their children that Santa gives presents to all children, no matter how many time outs they've had that year.  But, the idea that Santa judges kids and demands goodness is a pretty strong part of the narrative, and one that would really mess with our kids. First of all, if we go by Santa's rules, Lily would get a huge pile of coal. (Has any 2 year old ever not?) Secondly, our son already has a hard time distinguishing good behavior and rule following with being a "bad boy".  Even though he really is a great kid, in his mind he also would deserve a bag of coal.

Here's the funny part: I explained to Daniel that Santa is a wonderful fun story that lots of people believe in. I talked about how that story is based on a real person, Saint Nicholas.  I reminded him not to be rude and shout out "Santa's not real!" to his friends. Then he went to school.  And came home telling me that no Santa is real, mom, EVERYONE says so. (Side note: War on Christmas? I don't think so.)  So, you know... best laid plans and everything.

There won't be any presents under the tree marked in poorly disguised handwriting "From Santa", like there was in my childhood.  I think we'll have enough magic in our holiday though. To me, just having our two children from across the world is plenty magical.

Happy Christmas Everyone!

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