What do you think when you see a man dressed in a red suit ringing a bell in front of a store or sitting in a mall holding a small child on his lap while restless children line up to meet him? Do you see Santa and smile, fondly remembering your childhood, or do you see an impostor?
What is the truth about Santa?
I recently overheard a conversation between two five year old children. It might have been considered an argument or a debate as understood by the very young, though neither expanded on their views. The conversation simply went as follows.
Boy: Santa doesn’t exist, it’s the parents.
Girl: Santa is real.
Boy: It’s the parents.
Girl: He’s real.
Boy: It’s the parents.
Girl: He’s real.
This continued until I said, “(Boy’s name). Stop!” and he did.
I thought about this a lot in the few days since I overheard the exchange of words. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. I wondered why it upset me so much and finally I came to understand what was really bothering me. It’s the lack of empathy, or perhaps more of a lack of acceptance.
Empathy is the ability to understand the feelings of others. Though neither child seemed to want to understand how the other was feeling, it doesn’t really seem as though empathy is the right word. The casual observer would not notice any great emotion in either speaker as each was simply stating a fact as they saw it.
Acceptance is a willingness to tolerate different views. That seems correct. Neither child was accepting what the other was saying as a legitimate belief. Of course they are only five years old, but I feel I missed an opportunity for them to learn acceptance. I have concluded that Santa is a great way to teach both the young and old the concept of acceptance.
As I thought about Santa, I reflected on the conversations I have had with other parents as well as with my own offspring. Here is but a small sampling of how people feel about Santa. Of course the names have been changed for the usual reasons.
- Jenny was sad and disappointed as she told me about her daughter coming home from kindergarten. “Susie asked me if Santa was real. I asked her what she thought and she looked at me and said, ‘Mommy, I know you don’t lie to me, is Santa real?’ Well, I had to tell her he’s not real. I don’t lie to my child. I just wish she could have believed for just a little longer.”
- Susan does not have children, but she is outspoken about her opinion that the idea of Santa is not good for children. “Just think about the song, he sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, what kind of pervert is he?”
- Robert thinks Santa is just a marketing tool to get parents to spend too much money on things their children don’t need and the parents can’t afford. It is a waste and it encourages children to be materialistic.
- Carl’s family doesn’t exchange gifts. They believe Christ is the only gift needed.
- Sara doesn’t celebrate Christmas because she is not Christian. Santa has never been anything but a funny character in stories she heard in school.
How I justify having allowed Santa in my home:
- I remember my own offspring asking me if Santa was real. I never felt I was lying to them when I said I believe in Santa. I consider Santa a concrete image that embodies the idea of compassion, love, sharing, and joy. Santa brings happiness along with gifts. Toys for Tots is but one example of proof that children do get presents that do not come from the parents. I never lied to my children, and they outgrew Santa in their own time
- I do not think of him as creepy even though he is always watching. He is simply, magically, aware of the heart of the child in the same way as a higher power, angels, or our deceased loved ones. He is not a monster under the bed or hidden in the closet.
- Yes, Santa is used as a marketing tool. Businesses want to make a profit and they will use any tools that work. It’s up to the parents to control their purchases and decide what is actually needed or appropriate. Some years I went overboard in the gift giving, other years were sparse. The offspring were generally happy either way.
- Yes, Jesus IS the reason for the season and I agree Santa is not a replacement for Jesus. In our home Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus, Santa brings us gifts to share his joy in the day.
- There are likely some awesome celebrations in this world that I have not enjoyed. I do love to hear about them in stories.
My elementary school was a mixture of Jewish and Christian children. I don’t remember arguments about the truth about Santa. As I remember it, everyone seemed to understand that Santa went to the homes of children who celebrated Christmas and someone else gave gifts to the children who celebrated Hanukkah. We all enjoyed playing with everyone’s toys and each other.
It is not important to believe in Santa, but it is important to believe in something. We may believe in a higher power or not and there are a multitude of ways to worship any higher power. Very few people share exactly the same beliefs. We are inherently free-thinkers and quite capable of coming to our own conclusions in life.
While it is important to believe in something, it is equally important to understand why we do. As long as we fully understand what we believe and why, the beliefs of other should not cause us pain. We need to accept the beliefs of others, not change them.
I wish to tell the two children I met the other day could understand that the boy’s family doesn’t believe in Santa, therefore Santa doesn’t come to his house. I don’t know if he celebrates Christmas or not, but his family has their own way of giving gifts and sharing love. The girl’s family does invite Santa into their home and that is a part of how they celebrate Christmas and share gifts and love. Neither way is right or wrong, they’re just different and that is okay.
Please share this to start your own dialogue about Santa. Do you believe?