When I was in the second grade a Jewish girl in my class told me there was no such thing as Santa Claus. I was crushed. There was too a Santa Claus. Where did I get all those toys from every Christmas? Who ate the cookies and drank the milk I left on the dining table? I couldn’t wait to get home and tell my mom what the mean girl at school said. I’d tell my mom that she had said this only because she was Jewish, and since she wasn’t lucky enough to get Christmas gifts, she was jealous. School was finally over and I couldn’t run home fast enough.
I told my mom what happened and what this evil girl said. My mom sat down and had me sit on her lap. She explained that the girl was right. There was no “real” Santa and she and my dad were the ones who bought the toys and put them under the tree every Christmas. “But what about the cookies and milk?”, I asked hopefully. Mom said dad ate and drank them. I slid off my mom’s lap and went to my bedroom. I felt hurt that mom and dad had lied to me. Christmas would never quite be the same after that day. I felt betrayed and a little foolish for believing in something that wasn’t even real. A little bit of my childhood had been chipped away. However it did explain alot. Like how one old guy could travel around the world delivering presents and be home before morning. Or how when I went to the mall with my mom we’d see several different Santas ringing bells and having pictures taken with children. Then I had an awful thought. If there was no Santa was it possible there was no Easter Bunny as well??? I looked in my Mom’s eyes and asked her. The look on her face said it all. No, there was no Easter Bunny either. What a cruel and heartless joke they’ve played on me. Oh the agony! The injustice of it all! Okay, so I was seven and didn’t exactly think of it that way so I’m embellishing here. But I promised myself that I’d never lie to my children about Santa Claus when I grew up. I could never be that cruel.
Many years later I grew up, got married and was pregnant within three months. I still vowed not to tell my kids the “Santa Claus” lie. Unfortunately, I had married someone who didn’t have any qualms about lying, even to his children. So I was stuck with the Great Santa Scam hanging over my head. What would my kids think when they found out it was all sham? Would they still trust me? Would they think everything else I told them was just one big fat lie? Or could I just point to their father and say, “Liar, Liar, pants on fire”. I couldn’t bear the thought of looking into those trusting eyes and telling them the truth.
My children are very close in age, so they all pretty much experienced the sting of the Santa scam at the same time. My oldest son started asking questions first. How could Santa have lived so long if he came to your house when you were a little girl? (Thanks alot son). How come we see so many Santas hanging around at Christmas time? How could Santa have enough time to visit every child in one night? Are there really flying reindeer? Why does Santa get me so many pairs of underwear every Christmas? I never ask for underwear but he gives it to me anyway. And on and on. Then one day my daughter asked similar questions. Their little brother was the only one not jaded by the Santa myth. He was to turn five that coming December and I had to come up with something soon or I’d still be playing this charade when the kids were entering College. Then I had an idea. An awful idea. I got a wonderful, awful idea. Then the true meaning of Christmas came through and I found the strength of ten moms, plus two. Okay, I borrowed this line from “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” but it fits here.
I admitted the lie in a round about way, but minimized the damage as much as possible. I sat all three children down and explained that Santa and his elves have so much work to do that it’s only fair for older children to receive presents from their parents and no longer from Santa. So, after the last child in the household turns five Santa stops delivering presents and Mom and Dad take over. So, technically this was still a lie, but all the good child psychologists say to only tell children what they’re ready to hear. This was more like what I was ready to say, but I won’t split hairs. But, then I told them about the true meaning of Christmas. I explained to them that once upon a time there really was a Saint Nicholas who was very generous to children and that’s how the concept of Santa Claus originally began. I said the real message here is the message of giving. I told them we’d start a new tradition of having each child pick a family member to buy trinkets to fill a stocking. We’d make it fun by picking names out of a hat and them keeping it a special secret. We also decided to pick a card from the tree at WalMart and buy the requested item for someone less fortunate.
I decided the Easter Bunny was on his own. I had no explanation for a six foot rabbit with no pants going around leaving candy in plastic filled baskets just so kids could rot their teeth and get cavities. And don’t get me started on the toothfairy. What kind of freak would gather up children’s teeth and make a necklace out of them? My kids never asked about them anyway. They probably thought the idea was as far-fetched as I did. But my point is the idea of Santa Claus can still have a valuable outcome if you transfer Santa story over to the spirit of giving. Starting new family holiday traditions can be an excellent way to enjoy time with young children that will last a lifetime. And hopefully those traditions will carry over to future generations.
Since Christmas once again is a mere four months from now I’d love to know how many readers pass on the Santa story to their children. When and how did you tell them there was no Santa? How did they take it? Do you remember how you found out there was no Santa?