Almost yearly, I get asked how to handle the “Santa issue” with children. One of my students told me she was writing a paper on the evils of perpetuating the “Santa myth”. This caused me to stop and reflect a bit on how we can help both adults and children cope with Santa.
I imagine the image on this page brings back the idea of the traditional Santa, what he should like and what he should be wearing. A little fat elf, with an infectious grin and a nose that looks like a cherry. Black boots, red and white suit, reindeer that fly and a sleigh full of toys round out the image that most of us grew up with.
Now, I am a firm believer in being honest with our children and I still believe in Santa Claus. When my son was around 8 years of age, he came to me and told me he no longer believed in Santa Claus! He then challenged me to “tell him the truth” about Santa. So I did.
“Roo (my son’s nickname), do you like getting presents on Christmas?” He nodded. “Well, you do realize that you don’t have to do anything special to get them, other than being as good a person as you can, right?” He again nodded. “Well, Santa is about giving to others just because it is a good thing to do and you do it without asking for anything in return. Santa is about treating all children the same and showing them that there are good things to believe in and to work towards. Now I’m not going to say that there is a little elf flying around the world with his 8 tiny reindeer (9 including Rudolph), but I believe in the spirit of Santa and therefore, I believe that as long as we give to others out of kindness and not expecting anything in return, then Santa exists.” I did not go into the history of Santa, or that he has existed in a variety of ways in different cultures for centuries, I just left it at the spirit of giving. (Saint Nicholas was an actual person, after all.)
Well, my son gave this some serious thought and he later came back to me and stated, very seriously, “Mom, I believe in Santa. It’s ok to have Santa because of what he stands for.” If we understand what the holiday and Santa are really about, it’s not a lie, it’s a personification and thanks in large part to the Coca Cola Company (something good came out of marketing!), we have the image we see most commonly during the Christmas season. I realize this is a complex issue for many people, but what if we make it harder than it has to be? How about simplifying this Santa issue so that it doesn’t remain an “issue”?
If you are asked about Santa, or want to help parents you know handle the Santa question, this is the approach I suggest.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!