Monday, December 24, 2007

I'll Try Again...

Either I'm not clear or none of my commenters are listening, so I'm going to try again:

The Santa myth...the story where a jolly fat man lives at the North Pole with elves and makes toys for children all over the world and distributes them in one night on a flying sleigh pulled by eight tiny reindeer. Remember that one?

Not the spirit of love and joy that comes with the season. Not family togetherness, midnight mass or quiet reflection. The actual Santa myth about the guy in the red suit. When does it end in your minds?

The love of family, obviously continues into adulthood and beyond. The gifts, the food, the decorating, etc. My question is when do you think it's appropriate to stop telling your children that a guy will be delivering presents down the chimneys of all good children in the world.

The Santa myth, like the shopping, has nothing to do with the purported reason for Christmas - to celebrate the birth of Christ. The Santa myth was incorporated into the Christmas story to make it more palatable to European pagans long ago. We still have the food and the gifts and the love and all that crap after the myth goes away.

My original point was this:

When your children start to become aware of the fact that the Santa story doesn't hold water...one guy, the whole earth, one night, flying sleigh, etc...do you tell them yeah, it's a myth about love and giving and stuff like that, or do you hunker down and deny, deny, deny.

And if so...when DO you 'fess up? When they're 15? 20? 50?

When is the right time to tell kids it's a myth?

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

A parent can not "fess up". No parent knows if their child has been naughty or nice all the time...............all the year. Only Santa knows that and, only Santa is the moral code and, when not denied he lives in the hearts of all. Why dissect Santa to death only coming from the guess who put your toys there thus taking what Santa is along with it? The dis appointment comes with that not a child figuring it all out and, keeping the moral / most important aspect intact and, those that are allowed to still believe well into their twilight of Santa.
Merry Christmas

Anonymous said...

Um, you aren't trying to tell me there is no Santa, right?

Because there is.

My kids tried to tell me this once, but I wouldn't hear it.

I still won't.

Kwach said...

It's not a rhetorical or moral question. It wasn't meant to call into question what lives in our hearts, how much we love our family or how giving our nature. It's a direct question. At what age is it appropriate to tell children the truth about Santa Claus, whatever truth that is for you?

It came up because we read a post from a blogger who's still very much invested in her 12-year-old continuing to believe ... REALLY believe ... in the physical manifestation of Santa Claus. That seems too old to us. At that point it seems to be more about a parent clinging to a need to keep their children from growing up than about Christmas.

When I was five or six "Santa" brought me the book "The Littlest Angel" and after we'd finished opening our Christmas gifts my mom took me on her lap, read me the book, and then told me gently and lovingly that there was no "Santa Claus". She explained that Santa Claus was the spirit of Christmas ... that feeling in our hearts that makes us happy and excited and makes us want to show our love to the people we love at this time of year. She explained that it's really our parents who put those things under the tree, because they love us the way the Littlest Angel loved Baby Jesus.

Why did she choose that particular Christmas? Maybe I was starting to ask questions. Maybe she didn't want me to hear it from the kids at school. Maybe she wanted to be the one to hold my hand and lead me into the next stage of my life ... the one where we still write "From Santa" on the gift but we all know who bought it and wrapped it ... and who loves us. It's not an imaginary guy, it's our own parents. Or, when we're parents, it's us.

The memory of that Christmas has always stood out as one of my best ... and one of my favorite memories of her.

We don't "kill" Santa so we can get the credit, but at some point it seems wrong to deny our children the opportunity to grow into thinking people who can reason and deduce and understand higher concepts than imaginary characters. In fact, isn't that the whole point of parenting ... to raise people who will be good adults who can reason and deduce and understand higher concepts than those of their childhoods?

I don't hate Christmas or Santa Claus. I love Christmas and I decorate our house with Santa Clauses. It's traditional and familiar and comforting to me and I have a nice collection of them. We still fill stockings. But we don't "believe" in Santa Claus in the way little children do. We know where stuff really comes from and we think the true spirit of giving is enhanced, not diminished, by knowing that it sometimes includes self-sacrifice.

The commercialization of Christmas and the myth of Santa as a giver of loot started after WWII and since then we've raised generations of children who increasingly grow up believing, clear into their adult lives, that the world is full of "stuff" they should get just for asking, and they don't have a lot of appreciation for the expense, even if it's their own debt they're creating. I'm not sure the whole thing has done society any favors.

And I have to say, I can understand a belief in God as the all-knowing base for a moral code, but Santa Claus?? A fictional character we only pay attention to for a month out of every year? Of course parents know about the naughtiness/niceness of their children. Every parent knows that their children are both naughty AND nice, and the point of parenting (and Christmas) is that we love them even when we know that.

Marl said...

Not having kids of my own, I can only speak from my experience with the nieces & nephews.

When they started school, there were a ton of kids who started the "there's no Santa" stories. They came home with a bazillion questions. It was at that point that we all had to explain about the spirit of Christmas, the good feelings around giving to others, all that.

A friend of mine has a kid who's now 9, who continues to ask the questions, but still believes. Her position is that, as the kid gets older, the "better" presents come from mom & dad, rather than Santa, because Santa's good presents have to be special for the littler kids. She suspects that this will be the last year that Santa comes to her house.

IMO, 12 is far too old to believe in the physical manifestation of Santa.

I figured out on my own at about 7 or 8 that my parents were Santa - as a good little baby dyke, I'd asked for a Tonka dump truck & bulldozer. My twin sister asked for Barbie & her kin. We both got Barbies. I knew Santa wouldn't be that mean...

Anonymous said...

But, it is a moral question because, the best way to keep those aspects of Santa intact is to let him exist. No need to tell any child it is a farce. That is projecting on the child. I'm sure your friends twelve year old gets it. Many happy homes have never spoke of Santa not existing. I was never told by my family. Just some un happy child who's parents dumped on her because, they found retail aspects more fundamental. She hung with us at Christmas from the moment her parents ended being jolly.

Finta said...

Okay okay okay, I will answer the question.

I don't recall having this conversation with my children. At some point they just knew. The older ones then had a lot of fun with the younger ones who still were believers.

I agree with whoever said this conversation doesn't necessarily need to happen. Different families and different kids are, well, different.

I do remember telling MY mother though. I thought at thirty something she needed to know the truth about Santa.

CEDARFLAME said...

You know what really pissed me off about Santa want I was kid? Well let me tell you. We were not the riches people in the neighborhood and I could not understand how come some of the other kids got really cool stuff for Xmas and we got clothes, and one special gift. Frankly I was pissed at Santa Claus because I thought he showed favortism toward the rich.

Then I found out there was no Santa, and I felt back for my father who worked so hard so we could have gifts and he had to give the credit to someone else.

Santa sucks.

Anonymous said...

I got clothes a lot when young as well and, so appreciated Santa giving me what I needed most. Then again, I was born a clothes ho. One of the young ones now in the family ask for clothes.I hope you choke on your Santa cookies after saying he sucks.

Anonymous said...

I've always tried to look at those that find it necessary to de mean and de value everything as instruments of change for the good. Boy have I been wrong !!! It's a rare thing when its nothing more than a bunch of self absorbed whining. As one response said and was echoed by the masses. Was it necessary ? I'm betting reader ship will drop dramatically.

Ev said...

Luckily, your attendance here is optional. Feel free to find a blog more in line with your DE values.

CEDARFLAME said...

Anonymous who told me I should choke on my Santa Cookies...I don't think that is a very good loving Christmas gesture. Just for that I am goint to bite all the heads off the Santa Cookies I see today. Love, Humbug!

The clothes we got were underwear and socks, are you a sock and underwear Ho? My point was, I don't think it was fair to my hard working father to have to give credit away for our gifts to some guy in a red suit that did crap for us the rest of the year. And the little elves, well they are just short slave labor. Put things into perspective will ya?

Kwach said...

To paraphrase a perfectly good adage:

Love us, love our blog.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but there's some readership I'd just as soon would drop off, if you get my drift. We don't do this for money, so we don't need the hits. We do this for our own pleasure and we're pretty confident that our readers enjoy themselves here, just as we enjoy ourselves on their blogs, or they wouldn't be reading. Complete agreement is not a requirement. But why anyone would spend their time reading people they don't like writing things that annoy them just so they can post something insulting seems weird. If thy blogger offendeth thee, cut her off.

:)

And Cedar, you've made our Santa point eloquently. I asked that fat bastard for a train set every year, and every year I got Barbie clothes. THIS year I finally got the train set ... from Ev, who loves me and knows me way better than Santa ever did! :)

But Santa did arrive on schedule at our house, just as he does every year, despite our derogatory posting about him. His visit was accompanied by the usual winks and grins from our adult children as they dug the goodies out of their stockings. The gifts, good food and fine fellowship flowed freely, as did the wine, followed by the naps.

And now all that's left is enjoying the good company and playing with our toys.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Anonymous said...

I was singing "Here Comes Santa Claus" to my not-quite-five-year-old grandson a few days ago. I finished only to realize he was looking at me, not smiling, but with a solemn expression. Then he said, "Grandma, I don't think Santa Claus is a real person. I don't think he's alive." Hmmm.

My daughter tells me he's never bought into the myth (and I'm not quite sure why I didn't already know this, since I see him several days a week during most of the year).

So I told him about St. Nicholas, who I said WAS a real person, a kind man who tried to help those less fortunate --- I told my grandson that our idea of Santa Claus comes from him. To emphasize that St. Nicholas really had been alive, I mentioned his mama and daddy, at which point O. wanted to know, "What were his mama and daddy's names?"

Damned if I know, and Google wasn't any help.

Jessie

Kwach said...

"Damned if I know, and Google wasn't any help."

All I could find was a reference to "Judis and Mary" as his parents, for whatever that's worth.

:)

Linda said...

The whole Spirit of giving and doing and reconnecting and the feeling you get when you watch It's a Wonderful Life (for the first time of the season), that's what I think Christmas is, or should be. Whether or not I believe that Santa exists, or the idea of Santa, is very much the same feeling I get from "Christians" who say that it is the Faith - the actual act of believing that makes either Santa or God "real." As hokey as it sounds - that damn Dolly Parton song comes to mind - "I believe in Santa's Cause."

Flippy said...

I will always believe in Santa Claus, and my parents have never told me that he didn't exist. I saw his sooty bootprint on the fireplace when no one in the family had boots that matched. I checked. Santa is real.

Honestly, I have a hard time believing that any kid has to be told that some guy can't fly around the world to every single house in one night. I would worry about a kid that couldn't figure it out for him/herself...or at least question it.

Although, I'm still sticking to the Santa is real philosophy, and I don't think my parents ever felt any resentment that Santa got credit for the stuff he brought us. Then again, we also got presents from our dogs.

Awww, isn't this sweet (or weird, take your pick)...a Jew defending Santa Claus, who ate her cookies & drank her milk (left in the fridge because we knew Santa wouldn't want it to spoil) and left some presents on Christmas Day.