I don't remember the exact moment I realized Santa Claus wasn't real. My parents had never made a big deal out of it, and neither did I. I wasn't sad or disappointed when I found out. Maybe I never really believed it in the first place.
Sometimes, my father would say, "I bought this for myself as a gift from Santa," but it was just a manner of speech, nothing more. So, when our children were born, my husband and I decided not to pass the Santa myth on to them.
Factual accuracy has always been important to us both: My husband has a Ph.D. in physics and I am the daughter of two scientists. We don't tell the children that Santa Claus brings gifts on Christmas. Instead, we tell them the real story of Saint Nicholas, the Bishop of Myra. When my mother-in-law said that her mom went to heaven, we told the children that people don't really go to heaven after they die. It may sound harsh, but that's what we do.
We have nothing against other families celebrating Santa. I don't believe it will destroy the relationship between parents and children, as a . We simply tell our children that Santa is something some people choose to believe in. They also know that sometimes it's baby Jesus or the Three Kings . Santa can be great for some families. It's just not for us.
Personally, though, I'm not so keen on the whole Santa Claus thing because it obliterates the hard and mostly invisible work that women (yes, mostly women) put into Christmas. It costs tremendous amounts of time and effort to think about, buy, and wrap presents. Some people prefer giving experiences to actual gifts, but finding meaningful ones is no less difficult or time-consuming. I know because it took me ages to come up with a fun workshop for my eldest daughter's seventh birthday.
On top of the presents, women are most often tasked with preparing the Christmas meal. Don't get me wrong: I am not a fan of huge celebrations, so we keep ours pretty simple. I don't buy that many presents and I try to outsource as much as I can to the grandparents.
I also know that the idea behind Santa is to give without expecting anything in return. But it's not like women, and particularly mothers, receive any appreciation for what they do on other days of the year either.
Instead, they do a lot of invisible labor: childcare, the everyday logistics of planning, driving kids to appointments, and doing chores. This is work that women pour their hearts and souls into, but receive little recognition, and certainly no money for. And on Christmas, when they're at their most stressed, that's the time when they should be appreciated and acknowledged the most, don't you think?
Children already think that dishes practically wash themselves, dinner magically appears on the table out of nowhere, and that invisible tiny gnomes wash their clothes and put them back, neatly folded, into their dressers. Of course, they see you washing the dishes, cooking, and doing the laundry but they can't seem to make the connection between these actions and their results. It's important to teach them that it's you who does all of these things and more—thus making invisible work more visible. And isn't Christmas the best time for this?
Instead of telling our kids Santa brought the gifts, we give credit where credit is due. We say, "This is from mommy and daddy," or "That is from grandma and grandpa." We sometimes let them pick gifts for other family members. That's how children learn the gift of giving: through actual examples, not some fat old man in a red suit.
And for those of you who'll surely tell me that we're taking away the magic of Santa, yes, we are. But there is plenty of real magic in this world. When I throw seemingly random ingredients into a pot and put a delicious-smelling meal on the table half an hour later, that's magic. Kissing ouchies and making pain go away is magic. Sitting together with our loved ones, enjoying a good meal and the sound of Christmas carols: that's magic too. The world can be a dark place, but these little flickers of hope shouldn't be ignored.
By not celebrating Santa, we're teaching our children to appreciate what we do for them, and to seek magic—real magic—in the world around them. By removing Santa from the equation we don't deprive our children of anything. We simply get rid of something they never needed in the first place.
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