|The Burns family, picking out their Christmas tree a few weeks ago.|
As I promised, here is the first of two posts from Ryan and Molly Burns, close friends of ours that incorporate Santa into their Christmas traditions. It is mostly from friends like these that I have come to see that this really is an amoral issue. We don't do Santa, and whereas I used to see it in black and white, I now realize that there can is a lot of gray area around this topic. I asked the Burns a series of questions, and here's what they had to say:
What were you told about Santa when you were kids?
Our experiences were similar -- fat jolly man, chimney, flying reindeer. Neither set of parents went over the top (i.e., no hoof stomps on roof or reindeer dust in the yard), nor did either set use the "you better be good or Santa won't bring you presents" tactic; he came whether we were "good" or "bad."
How did you find out Santa wasn't real?
Ryan saw the present in the attic (age 8), and thought, "Oh, that makes sense. Of course it's Mom and Dad. Yay! I get a Nintendo tomorrow!"
Molly (age 9) finally just realized it, "You mean this whole time . . . . huh. I hope I still get my bike."
All that to say, we were not sad or angry; it was a natural progression for us both to figure out what was really going on.
Why and how did you decide to become a "Santa family"?
When our oldest was a baby and we were trying to decide, Molly read an article sent to us by a friend from a Reformed theological background, about how a child's imagination is a powerful thing. If they can imagine a world with Santa, elves, magic, etc., how much more can they dare to dream about a heaven where God reigns and all things are holy and right and just and pure. The argument was for fostering a childlike faith, but also the power of a child's imagination and the doors that "Santa" and his world can open, so we can better talk about Jesus and the real world and heaven.
What have you told your kids about Santa?
We have told them that he comes bearing gifts to celebrate Jesus' birth.
All other traditions and folklore they picked up culturally, whether it was from songs, videos, family members, schoolmates, etc. All the mystery and magic that surrounds the idea of Santa they came up with and shaped their own ideas of him. For example, our 3-year-old doesn't seem to care too much about him as a person; she's just glad he brings her presents. Our 7-year-old seems to enjoy the actual man himself when they run into each other once a year at the mall.
What do you enjoy about being a "Santa family"?
We both enjoy the kids' anticipation of his arrival as the holidays approach. We enjoy watching their grandparents talk with them and enter into their world and get excited with them. There is something childlike and innocent about their amazement at the seeming magic of it: "I asked for it, and he gave it to me!"
Has anyone told them that Santa wasn't real? If so, how did you handle it?
Yes, many times. We just ask them, "Well, do you think Santa is real?" Their response is "yes," thereby putting an end to any conflict.
Very recently, a classmate with older siblings told our 7-year-old that Santa was not real. She said it hurt her feelings, but after asking a few questions we think she think she was just sad at the thought that it was possible he wasn't real. If he wasn't real, she figured, traditions that our family does would go away, and that made her sad. She was sad that she wouldn't go see him at the mall, set out his snack on Christmas Eve, and receive a personal note from him on Christmas morning. She's still mulling this one over, and we found a book at the library about the life of St. Nicholas that may blow this whole gig up. We'll see how it goes.
Be sure to read Part 2 of this interview.