Christmas time is here again and as usual, Santa Claus is taking a beating. The age old question is debated fiercely across households on the planet: Should you let your children fantasize about the myth or hit them with the harsh reality of truth?
The fanatical St Nicholas haters have a variety of reasons to play the Grinch: Non-Christians consider good old Papa Noel as an unwelcome religious intrusion. But many Christians will tell you they abhor Kris Kringle precisely because he has pagan origins. Rumor has it that the Church “dressed him up” as a Christian Saint because he was competing in popularity with Jesus Christ.
Then there are those whose hostility to the Bearded One stems not from religious conviction but from being bombarded by modern-day child psychology quacks who blame every adult shortcoming on a “traumatic childhood episode”, starting with the Big Lie of Santa Claus.
Last but not least, there are those who cynically decry the fairy tale as nothing more than a ploy by capitalistic pigs to force unwilling consumers into a shopping frenzy at least once a year.
So after all this, is there anyone left on earth to champion the cause of Rudolph's poor owner?
Well… I for one will step up to the plate.
For those religious types, let me tell you that children do not adopt Santa Claus because he represents this or that order. Santa transcends all religions. He is more of a children's folk hero than a religious figure. And he touts values that would be welcome in any religion: Warmth, kindness, giving and goodness to name but a few.
As for those parents who think Santa Claus will be responsible for their kids' mental breakdown, let me just say: CHILL!… These are probably the same types who think buying Barbies will turn their little Chrissies into Stepford wives; Or that every single item in the kitchen should be organic. You know, children are not made out of glass. In fact, they are often much more resilient and matter-of-fact than their hapless parents, who often run to their analyst before choosing the color of their bedroom curtains.
I remember the day that I found out Santa was a fake. There is always that ONE kid in class, the know-it-all who wants to ruin it for everybody else. It was almost as if she was holding a conference, with kids gathered around her in a circle at recess, and giddily explaining that it was our parents and not some jolly old man from the North Pole who deposited gifts under the Christmas Tree every December 24th.
Was I upset? Yes of course! I went through all the grieving process starting with denial (“You're lying!”) then anger etc…but guess what? At the end of it all came acceptance. And I didn't stop trusting my parents. Quite the contrary.
At that young age, kids' past-time is to play pretend: whether it is pretend doctor, or pretend tea parties. I was just so surprised (and impressed) that my parents had been playing a pretend game with me all along. And I was grateful to them for playing it so well. I wish I could go back to those days when the world was so magical that you could actually believe in flying sleds and red-suited elves.
It was an all too short time. Don't rob your children of it. When it is time for them to confront the harsh realities of life, there will be plenty of time and plenty of concerns for them to stress over.
For those cynics who don't want to shell out the big bucks to Macy's or Toys'R'Us I just want to say: If you don't want to buy into the consumerism aspect of the holidays (pun intended), you don't have to! Be creative. Especially since children do not care about the price tag on those expensive toys and clothes. What they crave most of all is your time and attention. Have you ever thought that the best gift you can give a child on Christmas is to read them a bedtime story that you wrote yourself with them in mind?
I remember for one Christmas, my aunt took the trouble of actually writing an original story, and she had one friend make the illustrations, while another lent her his stereo so she could record the words. The result was so professional, she even bound it like a real book. The result? A unique and memorable gift (I am still talking about it after all these years aren't I?)
In these times where time is money, and no one has any to spare, it is tempting to throw an expensive gadget at a child and run as fast as you can to your next appointment. But the best gift you can give kids is your time. The sky is the limit, from giving them an “IOU” for an afternoon at the local children's museum, to giving them personal ice-skating lessons.
I am sure that Santa would approve. After all, it is not whether he is a real, living, breathing human being that counts, it is what he represents, which is the spirit of giving. It's up to you whether Santa really exists. Why don't you breathe life into him this Christmas?