Once upon a time there was a Christmas Crisis. It seemed like a normal enough day in December at the child care center I was working at. I did my rounds, checking on each classroom, planning the break schedule, entering payments, updating newsletters, and planning up coming events. Little did I know, down the hall in the pre-kindergarten class, Christmas was being destroyed.
If I remember correctly, the teacher gave me the heads up, but I didn’t understand the impact of that moment fully until this year and looking at my own little girl. Parents were devastated and upset and there was nothing I could do about it. The parent of the perpetrator didn’t care, she felt that it was everyone else’s problem.
There was a parent (who was also a staff member) who believed in not lying to her children. She told them there was no such thing as the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, Ralph the Night Hairdresser, and Santa. She believed everyone who perpetuated these myths were terrible for lying to their children. She also didn’t believe in making her children do anything they didn’t want to do. They didn’t have a bedtime, they had their choices and she wasn’t going to stop them.
Apparently, that morning, the teachers in the pre-kindergarten class had started Christmas preparations. She read them a story about Santa and had Santa crafts planned and all these “Santa” themed activities. The teacher had checked prior and all the children celebrated Christmas in the class.
In the midst of the Santa themed fun, the child of the aforementioned parent, announced to a room full of her four-year-old cohorts that there was no such thing as Santa. She explained that it was their parents that did it all and that Santa was a lie.
The teacher did as much damage control as she could, but the child spent the day going on and on explaining away Santa. By the time parents came to pick up, there was not a child in pre-k that wasn’t doubting Santa’s existence. Many parents were really upset.
I remember going home and feeling that she was wrong, her parenting had ruined Christmas for twenty-three four-year-olds and that needed to have some backlash. After a few days, it seemed to blow over, but reality, it probably never did.
Princess Pea has always LOVED Santa. It helps that her great-grandpa looks a lot like Santa. From her first Christmas, she was immediately enamored with the white bearded man in the red suit. When she was 18 months old she had no fear, and told Santa exactly what she wanted (drums). Last year, she saw Santa many times, and every time she became more in love with the idea of the magic of Christmas. It was also the first year that she seemed to understand that Santa came while she was sleeping.
This year she was so excited to write her letter to Santa and put up our tree. Being 9 months pregnant, Pea did almost all the decorating (all of our ornaments are clustered at the bottom of the tree). I sat next to her and wrote what she dictated to me in her letter to Santa. Afterwards she signed her name and drew a unicorn on the back. This is the first year where she really fully understands Santa and Christmas magic.
As I thought about it, I realized that the little girl who ruined Santa did more than just “share her truth”. She ruined the magic of Christmas for these kids. She also ruined the magic of Christmas for the parents.
Last year there was nothing more magical to me, then watching my daughter light up and glow with the magic of Christmas. It made me want to make her year special. It made me want to do things I didn’t want to do. It made every Christmas frustration and holiday drama seem silly and worth it. The magic of Christmas for parents comes from watching the joy on their little one’s faces.
I may have shared this before, but when I was a child, my parents let me “believe in Santa” longer than most kids. My brother will tease that I was 12 before I knew the truth, but it was probably closer to 8. I remember being 7 or 8 and all my friends knowing the truth about Santa and teasing the believers, but I wasn’t ready to let it go. I wasn’t ready to give up believing in magic, miracles, and let go of my childhood.
When Superman and I first discussed how we would do Christmas and other magical night visitors (like the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, Ralph the Night Hairdresser, etc) I told him how great it was my parents let me believe as long as I wanted. They let me have the wonder in miracles and magic of the night. He agreed that children need to have that opportunity to believe in the incredible. In his family, if you don’t believe, you don’t get gifts.
The other day I was on Facebook when I came across a post from a mom who was sick of Santa. She wanted to be done with Santa. She felt like it ruined Christmas, plus she hated that Santa got all the credit for her hard work. Of course, I couldn’t resist. I read the 178 comments. I became extremely depressed. 178 comments and all of them focused on how Santa is the worst part of Christmas. They all talked about how they don’t do Santa or they can’t wait to get rid of Santa. For me, it was like that little girl ruining my Christmas Magic.
Mothers went on about how the politics of Santa are the worst: How unfair it is that poor children only get a stuffed animal or something small from Santa, while wealthy children get gaming systems. They begin to feel that Santa must not like them as much. They go on about how having creepy home intruders watching them while they sleep is the opposite of teaching children to be safe from predators. They went on about how children with autism and other issues stress about being on the naughty list for being different. If you were to believe the 178 comments, you would believe that Santa was what is wrong with our society.
I am going to tell you right now, as grown-ups, we tend to project our concerns onto our children. We tend to plan ideas and worries in their heads. We tend to make more out of things that don’t need to be made into a deal.
My parents were never fabulously rich. There were many Christmases that I didn’t’ get things on my list, where my friends got easily $1,000 worth of gifts, yet I didn’t. I didn’t once feel like Santa loved me less. I didn’t once feel gipped by Santa. I was so excited by the magic that he came, that he left me something, that he drank the eggnog and bit the cookies, that he filled my stocking.
I know all kids are different and some kids do notice, but Santa isn’t limited to parents. Every year at Christmas, I remember going to church and hearing a story of some family that wasn’t going to have much of a Christmas, if at all. People would get together and using the guise of Santa, were able to share their abundance with those in need. The family in need then was able to have the pure magic and joy of Christmas given to them, through a secret Santa.
Besides hearing the stories, I ‘ve been able to see them happen. I’ve seen people buy turkey dinners, gifts, and other Christmas related things for families in need, wrap them up and through the magic of night, drop them off at those in need. That family finds the magic of Santa on their door.
Santa isn’t the enemy. Santa isn’t even what is perpetuating the “gimmie gimmies”. Santa gives us the opportunity to serve and love each other with magic and wonder and miracles.
This time of year isn’t about gifts, it isn’t about visitors in the night. It’s about the ultimate miracle- Our Savior, Jesus Christ, who was born and died and came back to save us all from our weaknesses and sins. He served and loved others. He performed miracles. He gave selflessly. He gave us the gift of all gifts. We celebrate Him by giving, by doing miracles, by sharing and serving. We keep magic and love alive, even if it is through a white-bearded man in a red suit.
Santa doesn’t have to be the enemy. Santa can teach us more about Christmas and the Savior than we ever knew.