Must it be Santa?

Image by Zanastardust

Growing up I loved Christmas. (Growing up I loved everything about childhood so how did I become such a cynical person? I suspect being married to the king of the cynics doesn’t help).

Back to the point: growing up I LOVED Christmas. I loved the magic. I loved the wait. I loved the houses decorated with Christmas lights that as a small, approved talkative child, my family told me to count as a means to shut me up in the car. A habit that turned into Christmas Light OCD. A habit I couldn’t break until I was 18 and had to close my eyes when I was in the car at Christmas to force myself to stop counting. Even now I break out into a bit of a sweat when I am in the car around Christmas.

Still, I loved Christmas and remember being filled with wonder and anticipation about Santa every year. As a result I held onto Santa for a really… really… really long time. That day, standing in Jenny Cowan’s garage looking at the bag of wrapped presents from Santa – a good two weeks before Christmas – proof of what Jenny had been trying to convince me of for years, I finally admitted to myself a couple hard truths I tried so hard to ignore: Santa wasn’t real and if Jenny was getting a bra for Christmas I probably needed one too.

I was devastated (on both accounts).

Since then I havent know what to think about the whole Santa myth. I mean, I had fooled myself so thoroughly. I remember as a child lying in bed Christmas Eve in a total panic and pain – because I had to pee. However, going to the bathroom meant I could see the Christmas tree from the stairs and OH GAWD what if I saw Santa and he took away everything? (Seriously, who told me Santa took it all back if you peeked?) I solved this problem not by believing what everyone else was already telling me but by asking my parents to move the tree downstairs the next year.

I always wondered what I would do when I had a child of my own. Do we go along with the Santa myth or do we raise the annoying child who goes around setting all the other children straight about this whole Santa Claus guy? (Also, why do I have to over analyze and make things so difficult for myself? Why can’t I just let things be what they are and not have to question everything to death?)

As a non-Christian I sometimes feel like an imposter with this whole Christmas thing. I know that there was a holiday here before the Church usurped it but I still feel kind of weird about it all. That being said there are things I still love about Christmas – the tree, the baking, the visiting, the watching It’s A Wonderful Life by myself while the Mister gags and makes snide comments from the other room. Of course, there are things that bring on the yearly panic attack that has me scouring the bathroom in hopes of finding expired anxiety medication but I’m not going to get into them right now because really, there are things everyone cant stand about Christmas.

So I was talking to my sister about my Santa dilemma. My sister who is almost 10 years older than me and who played a very large part in making Christmas special when I was a child and everyone else was bordering on adulthood and didn’t give a crap about Santa. My sister who repeatedly reminds me that she stayed up all night to put together the Barbie Western Star Camper I was getting one year because you don’t just shove a box under the Christmas tree – you assemble the toys before hand. (Plus I think we know who really wanted that Barbie Camper). Amanda said she thinks of Santa as a fairytale – and that right there just put it into perspective for me.

You see, I don’t want to deny Moira the magic of childhood because that time – that magical time where you aren’t completely tainted by other people unloading their emotional baggage on you – is so freaking short it isn’t even funny. I think by not playing along with the Santa myth I would be doing just that. Children usually come to these conclusions in their own time – for some of us it takes longer than others – and so I’m going to have to let Moira decide how long she is willing to believe. We arent going to go crazy. We are never going to be those parents who go into debt trying to give their kids everything. I suspect Christmas will still be a quiet event around here and I have more to say on that subject but for today it is enough to realize that Santa is coming and we had better be prepared.

  10 Replies to “Must it be Santa?”

  1. December 2, 2008 at 4:39 am

    I really enjoyed your writing in this post, Melanie. And I relate quite strongly to what you’re saying, what with being one of the chosen people and all. I cannot imagine doing the whole Santa thing with Jason because I never experienced that myself. It seems cruel to me, actually; is the magic of the lights (well, except for poor OCD-you!) and the spirit of getting together with people, eating food, and giving gifts not enough? It’s also weird because I didn’t think his first holiday would be spent with a bunch of goyim (though they’re lovely goyim); I really thought it would be just the three of us. I’m so glad we’re able to go to Vancouver and see family and friends, I’m just still working out the whole religion thing (and how I wish I could see some people in Calgary, too–especially since I suspect the Mister and I would get along great! I’ve never seen It’s A Wonderful Life, but I have a feeling I’d be laughing like crazy at the comments coming from the other room. Cynics unite!). And since Jewishness is supposed to come from the mother’s side, Jason is a little mensch! (Maybe his first word will be “oy”?)

    And may I request that if you have more to say on the subject, to keep writing about it? This sort of thing is always an issue for me and I like knowing I’m not the only one with “issues”.

    Anyway, well done! :~)

  2. December 2, 2008 at 6:44 am

    i agree with the last commenter. good script.

    i can really relate to this post indeed. i felt many of the same ways you did growing up and do now especially now that i have two kids of my own.

    it saddens me that they are 11 now and at that point where there is no convincing them that there may be that big guy in a red suit coming to our place. it’s sad really.

    the specialness if that is a word seems to be gone and all there is left is the commercialism and as a result, tragic things like what happened at the walmart in the US happens.

    somewhere along the line i believe that we have all lost the meaning so we need to make our own meaning if that’s possible.

    p.s. i got the same barbie western camper!

  3. phx
    December 2, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    I’m slowly creating a mix of Santa & Jesus for our kids. I still have trouble falling asleep on Christmas Eve, although now I’M the one who stealthily puts all the gifts under the tree after the kids fall asleep. 🙂 This year LB is old enough to start being aware of Santa, she even met him at the mall! And the trees and decorations we see leave her awestruck. It’s really wonderful. I’ve had to do ALL my Christmas shopping so far with both kids (and they’ve been great… I’m so impressed) and I tell LB “Now we have to find a present for Ciocia (aunt) Natalya” etc. So I hope she’ll get the idea that there is excitement to be had in the giving of special gifts to loved ones.

    I want her to have the excitement of setting out cookies for Santa the night before and seeing them eaten on Christmas morning, as well as the magical appearance of gifts under the tree. My parents would put the gifts under the tree after we went to bed (even when I was 18, I’d stay in my room and not peek even when I heard them putting the presents under the tree) and Christmas morning my dad would put on Christmas music and have the lights on the tree, but no other lights in the living room, so it was always this beautiful peaceful music that woke us and the magical glow of the tree that we first saw. I’m doing the same for LB and LG.

    But we also have a manger that LB sets up with my hubby… and I think I’m going to find a story that simply explains about Jesus’ birth so they grow up with a full appreciation of the holiday. (Which I’m sure my Roman Catholic in-laws will appreciate as well.)

  4. Amanda
    December 2, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    and lets not forget amputee ET…Santa brought you that one Christmas……even though Mum said you had enough toys in the cart, Greg and I insisted, and she relented….and pretty much after that we weren’t allowed to go shopping with her for your Christmas presents.

    Soooo, does this mean I can start Moira’s annual Christmas Barbie Collection….

  5. Charlotte
    December 2, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    That people have chosen to commercialise, bastardise, and Christianise a holiday that was originally about celebrating those you hold dear (by exchanging gifts) on the darkest night of the year and surrounding yourself with light (both literal – the yule log, and figurative – your loved ones) in hopes that the sun will return is NOT Christmas’s fault! And it’s not Santa’s either! 😉

    I personally LOVE Christmas. I have three seasons “Not Christmas” (Feb-Jul), “Waiting for Christmas” (Jul-Oct) and “CHRISTMAS” (Which starts Nov 1st and goes until the end of January). How I managed this I seems quite unbelievable. My father HATED Christmas and my mother simply turned it into an excuse to have an anxiety attack and feel sorry for herself. I was very quickly turning down that road of “cynicism” when I met some good friends who loved Christmas. Melanie, I still remember eating your shortbread cookies you made for me and how excited you were when you moved into your new house with a BANISTER TO WRAP GARLAND AROUND!!! :). I realised then that it was much more wonderful to have this in my life than not. And I went back to my solemn little house and I could suddenly make it through the holidays because I knew that what my mother and father had chosen was not the way I had to choose for me (or my sisters). I guess you could say I STARTED to believe in Santa when I was 15.

    That you want to instill a sense of wonder and magic about the world in Moira is wonderful. You’re sister has the right idea. We tell our children fairy tales all the time and most of the time it’s to relay a concept in a context they can understand. Santa becomes a concept of giving, of celebration, of excitement and anticipation and ultimately of whatever her parents, as the most important people in her life, bring to it.

    The world has terrors and ugliness, but it is also beautiful and wonderous as well. Moira will learn the ugliness of this world soon enough and when she does, she will have the joy and magic and beauty that her parents gave her to face it and combat it and, most importantly, love it.

    As a very important man once said – “keep Christmas in your way and let me keep it in mine” 😉 Thank you, Melanie, for keeping Christmas in a way that shows the beauty of the world. Moira is very lucky! (and so was I :))

  6. December 2, 2008 at 9:22 pm

    I debated and debated and then Mar was 3 and people started asking her about Santa, like “what did you ask Santa for?” and “what did Santa bring you?” So I guess I let it just happen, and it’s alright. I don’t go on and on about Santa, but he is a part of our Christmas.

    You’re right, childhood is over all to quickly.

    Oh, and when I was in the first grade, this nasty little girl in my class told me that Santa wasn’t real and I was so mad that I spit at her! Not like me at all!

  7. December 2, 2008 at 10:03 pm

    Lovely post! Dulcie is fully Santa-ized. I went with your thinking–let’s bring on the magic.

  8. December 3, 2008 at 9:24 am

    My Mum still insists that some of my presents come from Santa. She corrects me when I mention something given to me as a child “I didn’t give it to you, Santa did”. I find it endearing now, as at 35 we should be past that, but by continuing the little tradition it makes me feel like a kid again, her kid who still believed in Santa Claus. I look back with great fondness at those Christmas mornings when my Dad would “go downstairs to check that Santa came”, come back up to report that no he didn’t at which point we would tear by him to see our presents. It was fun. Those are great memories to me. And that is a huge reason why I love Christmas, the stockings, the lights, the decorations, the family and friends. The rum and eggnog with nutmeg. You are going to create the same special memories for Moira, and give her traditions that she will carry with her and remember.

  9. Jen
    December 3, 2008 at 11:10 am

    I love Christmas – I just hate the Mall Christmas that comes with it. Ross and i have decided to let Kale more or less form his own opinions, and I will try very very hard not to roll my eyes. I have also said that if Kale asks me directy? I’m not going to lie. Above all, we want him to learn that Christmas is about giving and family and not about getting toys.

  10. Wedge
    December 4, 2008 at 9:59 pm

    Christmas is the season of unfulfilled expectations.

    Snopes has interesting stats on it though:

    http://www.snopes.com/holidays/christmas/suicide.asp

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