Parenting and the holidays, and the magic in traditions like Santa Claus can be fun but simultaneously difficult to navigate. We are planning to travel this Christmas to be with my parents and sisters. We don't get to see them very often, so this Christmas will be extra special. The kids also will love celebrating with their cousins.
My family is a bunch of planners like me, so we've already talked dates, times, food, gifts, sleeping arrangements–and pretty much any tiny detail you can imagine.
Parenting and the Holidays: Keeping the Magic Alive
We will celebrate Christmas Eve at my parents' house and wake up there to open presents Christmas morning. This little detail led to the following exchange with one family member:
“Oh, Santa will stop here?” they asked.
“Of course,” I replied, adding that I already explained to my oldest that Santa knows where we are, so he will visit us at his grandparents' this year.
“Oh,” they said, adding they have always felt funny “lying” about Santa.
So we had the discussion about how I feel differently and wished I'd believed longer when I was little. Let's keep the magic alive! (You see when we were little, my younger sister asked my father if Santa was real. He said “no,” she told me, and you know the rest.)
“Weren't you disappointed when you found out?” they asked.
I was more thankful to have been given the gift of believing in the magic for as long as I did.
I definitely was not upset that we believed in Santa. I'd only wished I'd believed longer! Truth be told, it helps little ones catch on to the magic and spirit of Christmas that exists with or without Santa, doesn't it? The miraculous birth of a baby to save us and all? A divine presence of good that we can't see but is watching over us?
But let's focus just on Santa (along with the Easter bunny, tooth fairy and all). As we get older, life and all of its inherent realities can be harsh and cruel. I think keeping the magic alive for as long as possible during childhood is a wondrous, generous, fabulous, fun, hopeful, happy and kind thing.
Believing that someone exists who is so good that they know about you, care about you, travel to see you and bring gifts just for you in celebration of a wondrous holiday? What a wonderful thing for a child to feel, especially before they are old enough to realize there is someone like that. Learning to feel the spirit in something we can't see? Some might call the logistics a white lie, but I like to think of it as anything but–a gift, if you will.
Was I upset to find out Santa wasn't real? Was I upset with my parents? Of course, I was disappointed at first, until I realized Santa is still alive and well, just sporting a different outfit and going by a different name.
So are parents really the gatekeepers of the spirit of Christmas and other holiday traditions?
It can feel like a big responsibility for some parents, but I think we as parents should go easy on ourselves.
Moreover, instead of feeling guilty about perpetuating a fantastical tradition, think again if you tell a child Santa isn't real. For that, without clarification, is the moment your words may not be telling the whole truth and you may really be letting them down in more ways than one.
Santa Claus. Saint Nicholas. Kris Kringle…. The evolution of the Santa we celebrate here today has many folds across many miles. The history of this now plump and ruddy gift-bringer is rich. No matter how we celebrate and what name we give the holiday spirit, may we all believe and have faith in that which we cannot see but hopefully will continue to feel.
May we all feel the magic and spirit of the holidays and celebrate in our own meaningful ways, whether we are 1 or 101!
How do you handle Santa Claus, the Elf on the Shelf, and other holiday traditions?
Image courtesy of Flickr.