Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Does the Grinch live on Silver Avenue?

Warning parents: if your six-year-old reads this blog, please have them skip this entry because we will be discussing the "S" word here (Santa).

"So, do you all have Sanata at your house?" This has been the million dollar question of late, due to the season. And despite a nagging feeling that I am depriving my kids of a rite of childhood, Diane and I have chosen to tell our children that Santa Claus (as perpetuated by the media and culture) is not real, that he will not be coming down our non-existent chimney, and that he will not be bringing them toys this Christmas (we don't talk about it quite that bluntly). We do tell them about Saint Nicholas and the things he did for the poor because of his love for Jesus.

The reason for our choice is that we are really trying to be intentional about making Christ the focus of our Christmas preparation and celebration, and Santa sort of gums up the works because he becomes the star of the show on Christmas morning. It's hard enough to stem the cultural tide of consuming and making Christmas so dependent upon presents; adding an expectation that even more gifts will be coming from Santa just seems counterproductive.

And yet I can't help but feel like the Grinch when I tell friends that, no, we don't have gifts from Santa for our kids. It's not that I catch any overt grief, but all of my reasons sound so self-righteous, especially when I say them to fellow Christians. "We really want to be intentional about Christ being the focus of Christmas." (Oh, so my Christian friends who do the whole Santa thing aren't focused on Jesus at Christmas?) "We really want to fight against consumerism." (Oh, so my Christian friends who do the whole Santa thing are just wasteful spendthrifts?) And the subtle implication of our Western culture is that if you don't get your kids amazing gifts, you might not love them as much as other parents love their kids.

Yes, there is something beautiful about childlike faith, about cookies and milk being left for Santa to nibble. There is something very sweet about the openness to wonder and miracles that goes right along with the Santa idea. But I want my children's faith to focus on the wonder of Emmanuel, God with us. On the miracle that the Lord loves them so much that He would come near, as a baby, a child just like them, in order that they might know God in the deepest parts of their heart and soul. I know that there is only so deep that this faith and understanding can go at a young age (heck, at any age). But what better time of year, a time of lights and giving and joy, to sow seeds of faith in Christ and to really embrace the adage that Jesus is the reason for the season. Perhaps there is a convincing argument that Santa doesn't hinder that at all, and that he even enhances it by opening our hearts to simple faith. I can hear that, but I can't get past the thought that faith in something that isn't true is perhaps faith that is misplaced. Growing comfortable in our decision make take some time.

I think the secret is safe with our kids – I told the girls that some of their friends will still believe in Santa and that they should not tell them otherwise, and Psalter with all seriousness said, "I will never, ever tell them."


Heather said...

we do the SAME thing...no Santa, just St. Nick

Michele said...

i did that, too. i told my kids that santa is make-believe and for fun (like the easter bunny and tooth fairy) and that it's really the parents who buy the presents, but that JESUS is real.

when they got a little older, i also told them that Jesus wasn't really born in december and that christmas was originally a pagan holiday. they seem to be ok with all that truth, and they still enjoy christmas. ;)

Ashleigh said...

If it's any comfort to you--even though I to this day have 20-something friends that are shocked and appalled by the idea of a kid that never believed in Santa--I never believed in him and neither did my mom, less because of Jesus and more simply because we both had parents that didn't want to lie to us. We thought all the other kids were silly for not realizing such an unrealistic story was implausible (hehe), and we both survived childhood.

If I have kids someday, I don't plan to do Santa with them, though like you said, St. Nicholas is someone I'd like to emphasize for SJ reasons. If your kids grow up this way, it'll feel just as normal as anything else, and they'll probably appreciate it, even if now, while they're young, they might compare with their friends and complain on occasion.

And Michelle, I just have to say, as a seminary student, I so appreciate your telling your kids about the origins of Christmas--it doesn't mean we can't celebrate it or that Jesus wasn't born, it just means the history of our holidays is a little more interesting that we usually allow it to be. Thanks for planting seeds in your kids to understand the complexity of Christianity!

My √úberjoy.... said...

I never want to be asked by my children if Santa is not real then is God must not be real either?
Have Eliza talk to Marschall he is dying to find someone his age that does not believe in Santa.

Jen said...

Have no fear, I don't think you are alone in that at all. I am already trying to set the tone with that: No Santa decorations or fictional characters allowed on trees, wrapping paper, etc. I'm trying to "ease" my family into the reality that my kids will have no Santa.

I also have a lot of baggage from feeling that I was lied to about Santa, and I do actually think that can carry over to how people think about Jesus and God.

But simltaneously, I'm learning that gifts do communicate a lot about love, and I wish that for all of my "Santa" gifts over the years had said "from Mom and Dad because we love you a lot" or "presents are given so that you'll understand how much of a gift Jesus is." Kind of weird that we get gifts and have no one really to thank for them. Maybe this is to psychoanalytical, but could you imagaine for a moment the pent up feeling that some more ego-centric parents could feel when they don't get a "thank you" or a hug for the gifts that they sacrificed for?

Yeah, I'm glad I'm planning on the no Santa-ness.

Rachel said...

"he's sees you when you're sleeping! he knows when you're awake! he knows when you've been bad or good so be good for goodness sake!"

but how else will you get your kids to be good over the holidays, marshall??!!

enjoy your decision. we've found that we get more flack from church-goers than non-church-goers... which is so interesting. more and more non-church-goers are dropping the bearded guy too. merry xmas!