When my oldest daughter—now eighteen—was a wee little thing I went to great lengths to bring life to the magic of Santa. Just before bedtime on Christmas Eve we’d stand out on the lawn and scatter “reindeer food” so that Rudolph and his buddies would be inclined to stay and graze while the big guy scurried down the chimney. And then after my daughter was tucked snug in her bed my husband and I would go about the business of proving that Santa had indeed visited during the night. We went beyond building a toy wonderland beneath the boughs of the tree; our goal was to leave no doubt that Santa was real. To that end, we’d nibble on the cookies she left for him, being sure to leave a few crumbs behind. As if that wasn’t enough, we’d even sprinkle ashes into boot print stencils on the fireplace hearth, only to feign annoyance over Santa’s mess in the morning.
Fast forward fifteen years or so and you’ll see a whole different representation of Santa in our home. Rest assured that gifts still magically appear under our tree on Christmas Eve, but Santa’s presence is no longer the big production it was back then. In fact, as soon as our youngest child—now six—was old enough to be curious, we very matter-of-factly told him that Santa isn’t a living physical being, but rather a symbolic representation of generosity and kindness. Admittedly, it’s a much different story than the one my oldest daughter grew up believing. Here’s the thing, though: with the truth about Santa stowed firmly in his head, my six-year-old son refuses to believe. The truth, that is. He refuses to believe the truth and tries, instead, to lay out a case for Santa’s existence.
It’s a fine line to walk—our desire to be honest with him while still indulging his childhood wonder and fantasy. We don’t want to quell his imagination or his innate ability to believe in things unseen, but we do want to teach him that the center of Christmas is Christ and that nothing Santa might bring would ever measure up to that gift.
For now, when he comes to us with proof that Santa lives, we listen intently. We ask questions and encourage him to explain his position, but we stop short of delivering the blows that would leave him no room for doubt. Curiosity is a good thing. It can be like the wings that give flight to a wild imagination, love of education, and unwavering faith. And while belief in Santa might not hurt, we’re hopeful that the truth will go a long way in developing the attributes we most desire to instill in our son, and in all of our children, for that matter.
While Santa may not be alive and well in our home these days, we know what he stands for. And we’re doing our best to foster his spirit without building our holiday around him. Santamas, after all, just doesn’t have the same ring to it.