Monday, December 10, 2007

The World's Biggest Fib

I am not a fan of sending out Christmas cards. But I do I love getting them. Last weekend I got a newsy Christmas letter from an old high school friend and enjoyed every word. Last weekend I also typed out the rough draft for our Christmas card which is so brief that it will be sent out on a postcard. It contains one sentence about our family's goings-on. I have a really hard time sending out a newsletter about our family. I feel like I'm saying, "I know I haven't talked to you at all in the last year, but now that I have your undivided attention, let me tell you how happy we are and how perfect our life is." As I have already explained, I do NOT feel like that is what our friends are saying when we get their Christmas letters. Don't ask me where the double standard comes from. I just feel like a narcissist at Christmastime. That's all.


Right now Grace is sitting at my feet singing, "You'd better watch out, you'd better not cry..." I'm astonished. Not because she's singing--she does that a lot. But who taught her the words to THAT song? I didn't. I'm still in a quandry about the whole Santa thing.

This year Brad and I have been discussing whether or not to actively reinforce the Santa myth. Brad says it's not a big deal to lie to your children about Santa and that he doesn't know anyone who was emotionally scarred when they found out the truth. Frankly, neither do I, and that's not part of my case against Santa. My mom says that by telling my daughter the truth about Santa I will rob her of the essence of childhood wonder. I don't want to do that either. And I don't want Grace to be the kid at the lunch table who spills the beans to all her little friends either. But I am still up in arms over the matter. And this is why:

I understand and like the idea of Santa Clause. He represents selflessness, love, kindness, compassion--everything good in humanity. Hey. Wait a minute. Don't those characteristics sound really familiar? Don't they remind you of the person we mean to celebrate on Christmas? Why have we invented someone who in every important quality is identical to Jesus Christ? Isn't that sort of distracting from the real purpose of Christmas? And if you're tempted to stop me here and call me a kill-joy, straight-laced, religious fanatic, hear me out. If you want to argue that by refusing to perpetuate the Santa story I will be stealing my daughter's sense of wonder and fun, I beg to firmly disagree [Mom!]. When I was a Santa-believing munchkin I asked all sorts of questions like, "How does Santa live forever?" "How does he get around to everyone in one night?" "How does he know what everyone wants?" "Why does he deliver presents to everyone?" "How can he really know if I'm bad or good?" "Why doesn't he just let us see him? Then everyone would be good." To which my parents and teachers responded with various fibs. And eventually, I discovered they were fibs and, I'm happy to say, sustained no permanent damage. Mostly. But interestingly, if children were asking the same questions about Jesus Christ, the answers are not only fantastic, but they are true. Wouldn't those truths actually reinforce childhood wonder and make it last? It seems to me that the existence of a make-believe Santa makes the end of childhood an inevitability. I remember my Mom telling me that Santa was just a nice story, and I thought, "I'm a grown-up now. I know their secrets." And for me, anything magical and the story of Santa were one and the same. Since Santa was fake, there was no real magic. But if we start kids on the amazing story of Christmas and Easter, there never has to be a let-down. We could tell our kids in all sincerity: "Jesus Christ really will live forever, and so will you. He knows the things you want and need when you pray. He can see you all the time and He knows when you're being bad and good, and I don't have any idea how He does it. But isn't it amazing?" It seems to me like the gospel wouldn't be as boring and as practical as I so often see it if I had been introduced to it that way. I just don't understand why we have to make up lies about some fictitious character when the story of the true Giver of Gifts is so much more amazing, magical and just... better.

But I still haven't made up my mind. I mean, apparently my daughter's childhood is at stake. Any thoughts?


  1. When my parents told me Santa wasn't real I asked, "So is Jesus fake too?" My mom just answered "no." Oh, okay. Nice to know. I don't remember it being traumatic or anything, and it didn't affect my developing faith in any way.

    As of now, I'm planning on perpetuating the Santa myth with my kids. I have great memories of my parents staging a whole big "hearing Santa on the roof" thing with presents that he "dropped" running away, trying not to get caught, trailing out the back door. But I know that could all change once I actually have kids.

    As for the Christmas letter, you could send a funny one with obviously made-up stuff. One of my aunts did that once, and it was hilarious.

  2. Just enjoy the Santa thing. We don't make a big deal about Santa. He's there. It's fun. No biggie. We try to incorporate Jesus's birth in there somewhere and hope something sticks. We use Santa as a bribe and that seems to work. "Okay, I'm going to call Santa and tell him not to bring your presents if you don't stop hitting Jimmy with the Nerf baseball bat."

    Our Christmas letters are always short, too. One or two sentences about each person. I get nauseated reading about every person's wildly acclaimed accomplishments. I mean, c'mon. Get real.

    Love you!

  3. Elise, I'm totally with you on the Santa thing. I will whole-heartedly support you if you decide to NOT lie to your children. I think we've actually talked about this before anyway but I definitely agree. Jesus Christ is way cooler than Santa any day and I plan on letting the school do their thing and then telling my kids the truth when they come home with questions. The point of Christmas should be centered in Jesus Christ.

  4. lol. "cooler." Never heard Jesus described that way outside of Young Life. lol. Well, Mom's already taken care of the Santa thing. I guess Grace has caught the Santa bug. Oh well. I'm pretty sure my faith survived. And Jamie's obviously did (thanks, Jamie!). But I'll support you, Brittany if you are straight up with your kids. I won't even get mad if they tell mine. :)

  5. Lise, I've been thinking about this and I think depending on how you talk about Santa, he can be used as a type for Christ. C.S. Lewis talks about slipping by the "sleeping dragons of reason" with his Narnia books, allowing children to understand the magic of christianity through the magic of other myths. Christ just happens to be a myth made fact. I love that you think about these things! You're the best!

  6. When my kids start asking questions about the reality of Santa, I figure they are ready to hear my version. I tell them that Santa was a real man (he was) and he died a long time ago, but people wanted to continue his work, so now there are billions of Santa's helpers all over the world.