Saturday, November 30, 2013

Why We Don't Wait Around For Santa

Act #334:  There are plenty of magical things about the holidays.

Note:  I wrote this three years ago, but much of it still rings true to our family, although there seem to be more questions about Santa this year. 

The cool dude with the beard.  Yes, that’s exactly what my 3-year old, Jack thinks of Santa – and we’re perfectly OK with that.  When people ask us why we’re not raising Jack to “believe” in Santa, here’s the thing – we’re not really raising him NOT to believe in Santa.  In fact we read books about Santa, we comment about Santa when we see him in the mall or in one of our favorite Christmas movies, “Polar Express.”  We’ve never told Jack {spoiler alert} that Santa doesn’t exist.  We simply choose not to perpetuate the myth that a stranger with no connection to our son whatsoever, will be bringing him an abundance of presents just as long as he promises to be good.

Come to find out, it’s not so easy to raise a kid in Berea, KY not to believe in the jolly old fella.  Before Christmas, people were constantly asking Jack, “What is Santa going to bring you?” and they walked away appalled when he responded by saying, “Nothing.  Mommy and Daddy already bought my presents!”  Even worse, after Christmas, when people asked, “What did Santa bring you Jack?” he replied, “Nothing.  Santa didn’t come to my house.”   I could just feel the pity and wrath of judgment piercing through my soul.  Based on these events of Christmases past, I thought it would be a good idea to try to articulate exactly why it is that we choose not to encourage our son to believe in the existence of St. Nick - so here goes:

1.  We want to teach our son that gratitude is just as important as giving itself.  We want him to have a connection with, and sincere appreciation for someone who has taken the time to give of themselves to him – his grandparents, family friends, his parents, and not someone he will never come to meet or know, or even be able to thank.

2.  We don’t want gifts to take center stage during the holidays.  We want to foster childhood memories that include holidays as a time to reflect on the importance of giving to others and being part of a community, rather than a year-long anticipation and build-up on the receiving of material goods.

3.  We want our son’s motives to “be good” to be intrinsic in nature, and not derived from a desire to make the cut on some fictional “nice” list.  As Santa himself would say, be good for goodness sake!

4.  And last but not least, I’m  halfway joking and halfway serious on this one – we’ll perpetuate the notion of Santa the day that we can explain to our son, why it is that Santa is so unfairly biased towards rich kids.

Have we killed the magic of Christmas?  Ruined our son’s childhood?  You be the judge.  This is what you’d probably hear (honestly) if you asked Jack what this past Christmas has meant to him:

Staying in a mountain cabin with baby Miles and Uncle Ronnie, making snow angels while daddy shoveled Miss Noreen’s driveway, seeing the national gingerbread house display in Asheville, shopping for 3 kids who don’t have a mommy and whose daddy doesn’t have a lot of money to buy them clothes and toys, seeing the model train display at the Children’s museum, eagerly anticipating the arrival of a brown paper package sent from Khun Ta & Khun Yai (his Thai grandparents), sleepover at granny's complete with homemade brownies and watching “A Christmas Carol”, spending Christmas Eve with pop and granny - his two living paternal GREAT grandparents (how special is that?), waking up every day for two weeks to mommy NOT rushing to get to work, cuddling and kissing on him, eating our traditional Chinese buffet lunch with our urban family on Christmas day.  Because at the end of the day, it’s not about the gifts, or the tree, or the turkey, it’s about being with people you love, and reaching out to others who could use a little love themselves. 

Now if that isn’t magical, I don’t know what is.


  1. Thanks Mae. Having grown up in the 'fun' of the fantasy of Santa and having now raised 3 children through and past Santa. I think it would have been better not to promote the concept. Virginia was pretty hurt that we had lied to her. !! There is probably a pretty constant hurt to all of the children that have this happen. It would be much better to really promote the things that you have listed and to understand the celebration for what it is: a gathering of loved ones in the dead of winter to know that we are there to help get past the dark and celebrate our time together. Have a Super Solstice! Ron

    1. I really like this, Ron: A gathering of loved ones in the dead of winter to know that we are there to help get past the dark and celebrate our time together. Perfect.

  2. I applaud each and every reason you give. Although I think it is crazy you need a reason to raise your child the way you feel is right in today's day and age.
    However, I love Santa! My kids are grown and they still know momma is all about santa. I think it is about the magic of the season, but I also believe magic is everywhere and not just during the holiday season.