My oldest son was five years old, my youngest was three. The oldest loved to give his brother a hard time. It was December. There were brightly wrapped presents under a pine tree that I had cut down and brought into the house. This bringing a tree into the house was something I had grown up with. All my friends’ families did it, too. It had been going on for a long time in the USA. Even longer in Europe I understand.
The presents that were under the tree clearly came from people, but there were many more to come. These would be coming form Santa Claus sometime between the late night of December 24 and the early morning of December 25.
It would only be my youngest son who would be getting presents from the jolly old elf. This was not because my oldest son had been naughty. It was because he was a wise guy. The oldest never believed in Santa Claus. Never, not for a minute, as far as I could tell. I told him all about the wonder of Santa when he was two years old.
He stared me down and said, “You made that up.”
I was a bit crushed. Santa Claus had been so good to me. I wanted to share that magic with my son. I knew that he would figure out the truth eventually, but I had planned on at least a few years of delighting in his anticipation of Santa Claus coming to town. No such luck.
He did seem to understand that he should keep his “Santa is a fake” knowledge to himself, as his little friends might not want to hear it. He did a good job of that, but as his brother grew, well, his brother was more than just a little friend.
One night, several nights before the night before Christmas, I was reading stories to them both before bedtime. None of these stories had to do with Christmas. They just had to do with getting my sons to go to sleep. Out of nowhere, the oldest decided it was time to let his younger brother have it. “You know, Santa Claus is just a man who gets dressed up in a red suit.”
The younger without pause responded, “I know, I know all about that. Santa Claus is just a man, who wears a red suit and flies into the sky with reindeer to bring us presents.”
I was speechless. My oldest son didn’t know what to say next.
We decided to read the next bedtime story book.
After they both drifted off to sleep, I started thinking some more about Santa Claus. What was the problem telling kids that all their gifts came from people they knew quite well and knew quite well to be real? People who knew that sometimes children are naughty and sometimes they are nice and who wanted to give them a gift because they loved them, just the way they were and were becoming.
Santa seemed like mainly a device to try and con children that there are eyes on them, even when there is nobody around. Kids who do naughty and get stuff from Santa anyway might come to believe that they are excellent con artists.
Maybe the Santa Claus myth has such staying power because many men would like to be Santa Claus. I was Santa Claus once. It was really cool. I put on the white beard and red suit for a Headstart preschool class. I remember well the dreamy, adoring looks I got as I handed out gifts and took requests. They didn’t know me, I didn’t know them, but their was such love in the room.
Such love without any responsibility on my part. I just showed up.
It would be really cool to be the Santa that gets to fly around the world with reindeer. Elves happily making the stuff that Santa gets all the credit for dishing out. Mrs. Claus waiting with warm coca and cookies, when Santa is ready to take his boots off and sit by the fire.
I understand from Playboy Magazine cartoons that Santa is popular with many women, throughout the World, in addition to Mrs. Claus. Yes, it would be good to be Santa.
Please don’t tell your children that Santa Claus is real. Tell them that you have worked hard to be able to buy them gifts because you love them.
As they get older, you can tell them that Santa Claus is a marketing device, that seeks to separate giving from the gifts, to encourage trees to be cut down and owned, and to pretend that artificial Christmas trees are fine art.
Teach them that the Grinch, had the right idea. Santa has no good reason to say ho, ho, ho.
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