Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ruining Christmas

Usually I try to stay away from controversial topics.  Both in my blog and in my "real life" conversations.  I don't like to upset people.  I tend to be overly sensitive so I try not to say anything that might hurt someone else's feelings.  Until I feel really strongly about something.  Then I get on my soapbox.  I still try not to hurt any feelings but I just can't seem to swallow my disagreement.

Last year I avoided this topic because I know it will put me in the unpopular crowd.  This is a topic that seems to send people into a fury and I am vastly outnumbered.  I have been avoiding my blog because this has been weighing heavily on my mind and I know I can't write about anything else.

Finally here today I will break my silence.

First, though, a spoiler warning.  If you have any young children you might want to stop reading this out loud.  Turn your monitor.  Protect them from the horror I am about to reveal.

Are they gone yet?

Ok, consider yourself warned.

Here it goes.


The real title of my post was originally going to be titled, "Santa is Ruining Christmas."

See where I was going with that.

Please put away your pitchforks and torches for just a second and allow me to elaborate.

No, this is not one of those posts where I pretend I don't like Santa and then write some charming little story about how the true meaning of Christmas is somehow not complete without the jolly guy in the red suit.

Because I don't believe that at all.

Yes, I am one of those moms that takes all the magic out of Christmas.

Because I don't really think Christmas should be magical.

It should be miraculous.

Yup.  Keep the Christ in Christmas and all that.  Because really if you don't believe in Christ why celebrate the Christ Mass?

Not that anyone should be denied the holidays just because of religion.  I recognize plenty of people celebrate Christmas without celebrating the Christ Mass.

Perhaps we should rename the holiday.  Christmas for Christ.  Santa Day for Santa.

That would sure make things easier for me.  When someone asks my son what Santa is bringing him I can simply reply, "Oh, we don't celebrate Santa Day."

Then you could choose one or both to celebrate.  Because I do realize plenty of people celebrate both Christ and Santa.

I don't think the two are necessarily mutually exclusive.  I just think all the focus on Santa, and let's face it he is everywhere, makes it harder to direct the focus towards Christ.  Which is where I want it to be in my family.

I'm not trying to make any kind of judgement on how anyone else celebrates the holiday.

I'm just saying there will be no elves on my shelves.

And yes I know all about St. Nicholas.  We celebrate his feast day with chocolate coins in stockings.  We read his story and watch the Veggie Tales episode about St. Nicholas.  Next year I plan to focus more on the message of giving by putting "gold" dollar coins in the stockings to be used for buying little Christmas gifts for the rest of the family.  I tell my kids all about the Saint who gave to others.  I also tell them he is in Heaven with Jesus rather than flying around in a sleigh dropping gifts down chimneys.

Ok, now that I have had my little soapbox moment I can reveal what a total hypocrite I actually am.

My son believes in Santa.

Boo hiss.

I know.

And this is the actual reason I get up in arms about this whole thing.

Because seriously I couldn't care less about how everyone else chooses to celebrate.

But one thing confuses me.

Why does everyone else care so much about how we celebrate?

Why does it matter if I teach my children there is no Santa?

But it matters.  The rest of the world is absolutely obsessed with teaching my children that there is a Santa Claus.

This probably wouldn't be such a problem for me except for one thing.  My husband sides with the rest of the world.

When we got married this was our biggest disagreement about how we would raise our children.  That and homeschooling but I dug in my heels on that one and he agreed.  He dug in his heels on Santa.  So did I.

We ended up in a stalemate and I figured we would revisit the issue once we actually had kids.  Which we did.  Several times.  Without resolve.  Finally I told him that when our kids asked about Santa, I would just send them to him and he could lie to them.  Then he could be the one to comfort them once the whole bubble burst.

So, it kind of ended up with neither of us telling them anything.  Which worked at first.  Until last year.

Last year during the time leading up to Christmas I did my best to teach the kids about what Christmas is really about.  If I couldn't say, "there is no Santa", I could at least make sure they learned about Christmas as the feast of the birth of Christ.  We counted off days on the Advent calendar.  Read the Christmas story.  Watched Christmas (birth of Christ) cartoons.  Set up the Nativity set.  Talked about what Christmas was all about.  "Why do we celebrate Christmas?  Because it is Jesus's Birthday!"

I was pretty proud of us.  Until one day I asked my son the same question I had asked him everyday for almost a month.  (Not to mention any other references I might have made throughout the year.)  "Why do we celebrate Christmas?"  He looked up and me and shrugged.  Not daunted (and knowing full well he knew the answer almost as well as his own name) I decided to prompt him.  "Whose Birthday do we celebrate on Christmas?"  He looked up at me, thought for a second and answered.  "Santa Claus?"

ACK!

Where would he get this idea?

It seems that despite everything I am teaching him, the rest of the world is teaching him something quite different.

It is literally the biggest conspiracy ever.  Just watch TV this time of year.  Anything.  Even the news.  They all buy into it and propagate it.

Heaven forbid anyone actually say the truth.  That is is all a giant lie.  Or even say, "I don't believe in Santa." Out come the pitchforks and torches.  That person just ruined Christmas.

Ruined.

Ruined as in destroyed Christmas.  Because without Santa what's left?

Of course no one thinks anything of it when the cashier at the grocery store asks my child what Santa brought him for Christmas.  Or if he has made his list.  They don't worry about ruining Christmas for the "non-believers."  But if my child told another child he doesn't believe in Santa, I bet I would hear from the other child's mother.

Can we make a deal.  Don't tell my child there is a Santa and I won't tell your child there isn't!

But there never will be any kind of reciprocity.  Instead, if I tell people, "I don't teach my children to believe in Santa," I get shocked looks and remarks about ruining Christmas and stealing childhood and taking away magic.

I know it is my responsibility as a parent to teach my own children what to believe.  So, I'm going to try not to worry about all that and just continue to do damage control.  I am not going to "ruin" anyone else's Christmas.  I will continue to do the best I can without going totally against my husband's wishes.

I will keep asking my son if he believes everything he sees on television.  I will stress pretend versus reality.  Compare the Santa at the mall to Chuck-E-Cheese and other people wearing costumes.  I will teach my children all about St. Nicholas including the fact that he is in Heaven.  And most importantly we will talk about all the things that Christmas IS to us.  The Christ Mass.  A celebration of the birth of Christ.  A birthday party for Jesus.

I do have to admit some guilt of my own in the matter.  Every year I had been taking the kids for Santa pictures.  To me Santa was a backdrop and an excuse to get a yearly "professional" picture that wasn't as expensive as other options.  I thought if I didn't really tell them who they were taking the picture with they wouldn't know the difference.  Plus they were too young to understand anyway.  Right?  Too late I realized my own hand in adding to the confusion.


This year I decided not to do Santa pictures.  It seems Santa had other ideas.  He found us at a restaurant.  My kids literally ran from me into his lap before I even saw him.  Is anyone else disturbed by the fact that all a stranger needs to do to get access to children is dress up in a Santa suit?  Kids have been trained not to fear him.  Go sit in Santa's lap.  He's not really a stranger.  It provides a nice disguise if needed.  No one is going to think anything of a man dressed up as Santa this time of year.

"Santa" asked them what they want for Christmas.  They asked for a Lego Batman 2 game (which isn't out yet) and a pony.  Let's see if Santa comes through.  According to my son, "He has elves that can make anything in the workshop."

When we got home my son suddenly exclaimed, "Mom we have to take the screen off the fireplace so Santa can get in."  I said no.

Hook line and sinker.

Now for the biggest shocker of all.  Or you might have already figured this out.

I never believed in Santa.

Never.

My parents didn't do the whole Santa thing either.

It all becomes clear now, doesn't it?  I am just bitter after being robbed of my own childhood so now I take it out on my own children.  Sad story.  Such a shame.

Except I fail to see what I missed out on.

Really.

Christmas was still a joyous celebration.  We still had gifts under the tree.  We even tried to stay up late and spy so we could figure out how all those presents appeared under the tree while we slept.  My theory was that the UPS man made a late night Christmas Eve delivery.  We knew our parents put them there somehow but where did they get all those presents.  They couldn't possibly have been hiding them in the garage or something...

I was still a child.  I still had an imagination.  I named and talked to all the trees in my backyard for goodness sake.  I never opened a closet without holding my breath and feeling the back just in case Narnia was real.  I might even still check from time to time!  I don't think my imagination was negatively impacted.

I did miss out on the crushing disappointment of finding out that the guy all the grownups and TV shows and commercials and other kids and elves on shelves and the mall and the news and cashiers at the grocery store and fireplaces everywhere promised was indeed real, was in fact a huge hoax.  Joke's on you kid.  But when you grow up you should totally play the same trick on your own kids.

I know not all kids feel devastated.  Some do.  I would probably have been one of those kids.  I pray my son is not.

I don't really buy into the whole "kids just want to believe" line.  Yes, for some strange reason my son really wants to believe that what every rational adult keeps telling him is the truth.  Must be because he wants to hold onto the "magic" of childhood and has nothing to do with the fact that he really can't comprehend that the entire world would lie to him.

My parents didn't want to lie to us.  I'm not even going to pretend that is my reason.  I will be the first to admit I lie to my kids.  Where did that broken toy go?  I just don't know.  Perhaps it somehow made it into the garbage while you were sleeping?  All that extra Halloween candy?  Hmm.  Must have evaporated.

Though I do believe the Santa myth is a much bigger deception than hiding Halloween candy.

I could also see where a child could jump to the conclusion that if everyone is lying about Santa maybe they are lying about God.

I think I'll just play it safe on that one.

No, children.  There is not a Santa Claus.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, or Magical Santa Day to all.

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