I was just reading over at Night Owl Mama's blog her post about Santa and her family's take on the whole Santa experience. At the end, she poses the question, "Do you believe in Santa? Do your children believe?" which I thought was a great blogging subject, so here goes.
Do I believe in Santa? No. But that is not to say that I am against Santa either. When I was probably around seven years old, I remember feeling absolutely crushed by the fact that there was this man, who flew all around the world, after making presents for every child in the world (because Santa was a kind man and gave presents to *EVERY child* - more on that in a minute) and yet, no one cared enough to give presents to Jesus. It was HIS birthday and everyone else got presents. I was crushed. I could not fathom the idea that someone who gave up so much (His Life!) for everyone (who would chose to believe) was so utterly abandoned and forgotten on His Own birthday!
This might also be the part to mention that I was the only believer in my immediate family. My mom and her husband were not believers and focused only on the Santa aspect of the holiday. My grandmother, however, was a believer and in part from her example, I came to my own personal relationship with God. But that's also another post for another day.
But anyhow, back to the story, I was completely distressed over this whole idea of Santa and my grandmother was comforting me. I was sobbing in her lap over the unfairness of it all and I asked her if Santa was real. I don't know what caused me to doubt that, but I just remember having to ask. And my grandma told me, "Honey, there isn't just one man who is called Santa. Anyone who gives of themselves, their time, their money, their talent, anyone who chooses to help another person, they are a Santa. So yes, there is such a thing as Santa."
It kind of sounds off to me now, but back then, it made complete sense. Maybe that is because she followed it up with the story of Saint Nick. Yeah, I am sure that's why it made more sense. But anyhow, she essentially told me that the whole North Pole-dwelling, reindeer-raising, rooftop-landing Santa was not real. But that did not stop the Santa gifts. It was a conversation we had once and we never discussed it again.
Now for the story about Santa giving presents to EVERY child... When I was growing up, if I asked for a gift that just wasn't possible for that year (either because it was too expensive, it wasn't a good idea for a kid my age, or wasn't readily available) it could be explained away by the fact that EVERY child got a present from Santa. You see, Santa gave presents to EVERY child. The children who had perfect or nearly perfect behavior got the presents that they most wanted. If a child hadn't been perfect or hadn't apologized for something that they had done wrong or really tried to fix the things that they had done wrong, well, they would still get presents too, but it just might not be the presents that the child wanted the most. Growing up, I never knew any child that didn't get any presents. I lived in a highly impoverished area (the poverty rate of my grade school was at least 90% of students) but the kids were often sent home with a bag (or parents picked them up) with presents for the kids "from Santa." It was a wonderful thing, really. I knew how hard off most of my friends and neighbors were, so I figured if we all had presents, surely EVERYone else must get presents too.
When I became a mother myself, my husband and I discussed at length whether or not we would tell Natty about Santa. We treated Santa entirely as a fairytale and the Santas at the mall and such? Simply actors. We focused strongly on Jesus' birthday as being the sole purpose of the season. And that was just fine with us and with our little Natty. We did tell him, though, once he started school (a private, Christian school) that he was not to tell any other child that Santa was just a fairytale, because some children believed that fairytales were real.
But somewhere along the way (I do believe it was my mother-in-law) Santa crept into our lives and our holiday. And well, over time, it has evolved. For the last few years, we have given "Santa gifts" that come in Santa themed wrapping paper and has a Santa themed gift tag and has distinctively different writing than Mom or Dad's.
Natty is 10 now and he mentioned Santa the other day and I looked at him and since it was just the two of us, asked him, "Do you believe in Santa?" and he looked at me, incredulously and said, "OF COURSE!"
Today, on the way home from the mall, my little four year old, Punky, was talking about Santa and how the North Pole is a different land than the one that we live in. I told her that it is a magical land. And she said, "Yes! Like Pixie Hollow!" (where Tinker Bell lives for those who are not in the know of all things fairy) I told her she was right, that it was like Pixie Hollow. Then I asked her if Pixie Hollow was real or pretend. And she said it was a pretend land. And then I asked her if the North Pole was real or pretend. And she said, "Real! No, pretend! Well, maybe it's kinda like pretend real," which I found adorable. We have never discussed the whole concept of Santa with any child except for Natty. But we watch the movies, we have the decorations, we give the presents, but we don't actually discuss it.
So, do my children believe? I haven't the slightest clue. And you know what? I like it that way.