There’s been a screenshot making the rounds on social media. I’ve included it below, so you can read it for yourself. It asks parents to stop giving their children expensive gifts from Santa, so poor children won’t think they’re less important or less valuable to Santa.
It seems innocent enough on face value, but if you dig in, it couldn’t be more political. It covers issues of religion, parenting, and socioeconomics all in one. A loaded bullet for sure!
As friends and family have shared the post, I’ve lurked, reading the arguments in the comments. Some parents think that children young enough to believe in Santa shouldn’t be getting iPhones and iPads. Some parents think other parents should stop coddling their kids. The list goes on and on.
A conversation on a family member’s Facebook feed caught my eye. One parent argued that we should stop lying to our children and do away with Santa. It wasn’t long before others jumped in to defend Santa’s honor.
Full disclosure… My daughter and I didn’t do Santa. Most of my family disagreed with my choice but respected my right to raise my child how I saw fit.
My decision started when I was in elementary school. I went in my Dad’s sock drawer–with his permission of course–to borrow a pair of socks. It was an 80s thing. I was shocked when I found our letters to Santa.
I had already suspected that Santa was fictitious, since each year in church we talked about Saint Nicholas, who was long dead. But this sealed the deal for me. I confronted my mother, who quickly made up a story as to why they had the letters.
Looking back, my mother’s reaction was pretty normal, but at that moment, I was pissed! How dare she tell me not to lie and then look me right in the eye and lie. All of the things she said to us when we lied ran threw my head. Did she think I was stupid? Did she just not care about my feelings?
In the years that followed, I naturally forgave my mother for doing what every other mother did to preserve “the magic of Christmas,” but I began to really examine whether or not I agreed with the status quo. (Shocking I know! 😛 )
For me, I felt like the current practices of Santa bringing children gifts encouraged greed and consumerism. It didn’t feel like a message consistent with the coming of the Servant King. It felt perverted somehow.
I liked the story of Saint Nicholas that we heard in church each year so much better. What could be more magical that three poor sisters getting to marry because of the generosity of an anonymous benefactor. Could anything have seemed like more of a miracle to those three sisters and their poor father?
I love imagination, and I always encouraged my daughter to see the world in a magical, living way, but what I wanted most for her was to see that the greatest miracle in this world is an open heart.
When our hearts are open and filled with gratitude and generosity, God is present, and amazing things happen. That to me was the real magic of Christmas–a magic that outshined all the fairy tales.
It was a deeply personal choice and like most counter-cultural choices created some interesting moments along the way. In second grade, I received a note from her teacher that Kelsey had told a classmate that Santa was dead. We had to have a conversation about letting people have their own truths. Interesting mom moment for sure!
It’s a choice I stand by though, because my daughter has a beautiful generous heart. At ten years old, when she received $200 in Toys R Us gift cards from her dad’s family, her first thought was to take her stepsister shopping. It was her money to spend, but she split it down the middle.
I don’t judge parents who want to give their children a Christmas myth or a morning with a tree full of presents. But I do think we need to make sure that the message of Christmas comes through. I think we need to reinforce that Christmas is the coming of a new covenant with God, the dawning of a new age of Peace and Love.
What are your Christmas traditions?