Santa Lives - In the Joy, Wonder and the Spirit of Giving

by: Sara on 12/19/2013
Posted in: Guest Posts

Today's blog post generously comes to us from Wendy Brown, the author of Surviving the Apocalypse in the Suburbs and Browsing Nature's Aisles. I say generously, because she saw my post on Facebook lamenting about having to write one more blog before the holidays with a sick child at home and no clear ideas. And Wendy just said, "Need a guest blogger? Give me a topic."  I have to admit it felt like cheating, but as I have been trying to learn to accept help when offered and considering it is "The Season of Giving" I decided to practice receiving!

Not only has Wendy gifted a blog post to a tired mom, she also wrote about something I myself have been struggling with - Santa Syndrome. My son wants to believe so badly, but like Wendy's daughter he is wavering. On top of that he, like most people, hates to be lied to, so I have been afraid of telling the truth. I now have a more eloquent, thoughtful and noble "truth" thanks to Wendy!

My daughter turned eleven this year.  In our eyes, of course, she is still just a little girl, but the reality is that she is becoming a young woman, and part of that transition is to start to question those beliefs that she has always held.

As a bit of background, when Eric and I were young parents, we had discussed the whole Santa Claus issue – that is, do we or do we not teach our children to believe?  Part of our culture, especially this time of year, is to promote the magic of Christmas by offering our young people this iconic figure who will grant their deepest wish if they just believe.  As young parents, we weren’t sure we wanted to perpetuate that myth. 

Unfortunately, we failed to make a definitive choice, and instead allowed family members who adored those Santa traditions to teach our daughters that there was this elf-raised entity, who was always watching (which, in itself, is kind of creepy), and magically answered their deepest desires by bringing them those gifts they received on Christmas morning. We got swept away in the flood, and even after those relatives were no longer actively participating in holiday traditions, we continued.

Her older siblings are no longer asking those questions, having quietly, without discussion with us, their parents, determined that Santa is a figment.

Over the past couple of weeks, as the big day grows closer, my eleven year old has been asking that question, and we have been waffling about what to say.  Do we pop that bubble and say to her, it’s not real?  Do we ignore the questions and just let her come to her own conclusions?  Do we find some other way to explain this cultural phenomenon?

I decided to take a more active route with her, not to ignore her questions and not to continue to lie to her.  She is getting old enough to really be able to reason things out, but the fact that she is asking tells me that she wants some answers.

So, I asked her, “What do you think about Santa?”  And she told me that she thought Santa brought some of her gifts.  I asked her which ones.  She thought for a bit.

“I think he brought those candy canes that were in my stocking that one year.”

“The ones you didn’t like because they were too strong?”  She nodded.

I can only imagine that her mind found that gift, because it was incredibly unique and very different.  It was not the grocery store candy canes, but a gourmet style that used real peppermint as the flavoring – which is why they were so strong.  Of course, those were not something Mom and Dad had planted in the stocking. 

“When I was your age,” I told her.  “My friends and I decided that Santa was the Spirit of the Season.”

I explained to her that, when I was her age, my friends and I had decided that Santa was that little spark of joy and delight that was infused in this season of light and giving.  He is the energy that makes us smile at one another, even when there is a foot of snow on the ground, and we are slipping, and it is cold out, and at any other time of the year, we would be grumbling and gritching about the crappy weather or the insensitive lout who just pulled out in front of us in traffic.

I was not lying to her, and I was not trying to keep her believing in something that is not real. 

This season has been dubbed the Season of Giving, and the consumer culture we live in has grabbed that slogan and plastered it on every product that is being manufactured in an attempt to encourage us to spend more money and buy more stuff.  It is very easy to get bogged down by the extreme commercialism that this holiday has become and to allow one’s disdain for the culture of stuff to shadow that child’s wonder most of us once held.  It is really easy to become bitter.

It is just as easy, however, to take back that slogan by adopting an attitude of giving ourselves.  It doesn’t have to be about buying more stuff, because gifts do not all come in big boxes adorned with big bows and garishly colored paper.

“You know that family your dance team has adopted?”  She nodded.

 “We don’t know them.  I don’t even know their names, but we’re giving them a bunch of gifts.  That’s the Spirit of Christmas.  That’s Santa.”

 In the story, The Polar Express, the young boy rides the Christmas train to the North Pole, where he meets Santa, in person, and receives as a gift the sleigh bell.  As long as he believes, he can hear the bell’s jingle. 

My daughter may not believe in Santa as a flesh-and-blood man who lives at the North Pole, employs elves, and drives a reindeer powered sled, but she does understand that the joy of this season lies, not in having her every wish fulfilled, but in sharing, her joy, her wonder, and her giving spirit with others.

 And I think, she may just always hear that bell.  I do. 


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