I love Christmas time. I love driving home in the dark, seeing people’s houses lit up with the most cheerful and intricate displays. I love walking through shopping centres, with their shiny, glittery decorations, colour everywhere, lights everywhere and I marvel at designers who have such amazing ideas. As I write this, I am beginning to realise that it is the cheerful, colourful lights that brighten up the dark winter nights that make me feel so joyful.
And of course there’s the build-up. The process of carefully choosing and buying gifts for loved ones, and hoping that when they unwrap their gift, it brings a smile of surprise and joy to their face. All very lovely!
Christmas has always been a magical time for me. I still marvel that approximately 2018 years on, we celebrate the birth of a tiny baby born in a stable. This baby’s incredible kindness throughout life and sacrifice at the end is a beautiful story, and one that I love. But for many people, Christmas isn’t really about this little boy, it’s about a completely different person altogether….known by many different names around the world, this person is of course Father Christmas.
I was under no illusions when I was a little girl, that Santa Claus was not real. That myth had been dispelled for me from a very tiny age. I had been told he was not real and that was that. It didn’t ruin my enjoyment of Christmas one little bit. We still enjoyed the warmth, the happiness, the special food (all different types of delicious curries for me, not a roast dinner), the presents (which are no way as extravagant as they are today – we belonged in an era when we were delighted to receive a selection box of chocolates!). It was still an incredibly magical time. I remember my sister and I trying really hard to stay awake every year on Christmas Eve to see if we could hear Santa and his reindeer on their sleigh, racing through the inky black sky – even though we knew he wasn’t real, a tiny part of us wondered if he just might be!
As a teacher first, then as a parent – I keep the magic of Santa Claus alive. When the children hear others whisper ‘Santa’s not real! It’s just your parents buying presents!’ I laugh it off. ‘Of course Santa’s real!’ and move on. I enjoy listening to the extreme lengths that parents will go to in order to make it seem real that Santa did come – the apps tracking Santa’s journey, the icing sugar footprints on the carpets and floor, the half eaten cookies and carrots that were left out for Santa and the reindeer, the dressing up as Santa and putting presents in rooms, the notes from Santa and Rudolph. I even have an app on my phone where Santa can actually call up my children and talk to them on the phone! All of this brought me immense delight until I read something that made me think twice…
Somebody has posted a satirical article about how annoying those children are, you know the ones, whose parents have told them that Santa Claus is not real, and they then proceed to tell everyone on the playground in superior voices what they have learnt. (I was not that type of child when I was little, I will hasten to add!) Often, the most interesting part of an article for me, is reading the comments section and as usual I was scrolling down to see what people had written. Most people had written comments agreeing with the article – but one comment in particular made me start to re-evaluate and question my own thinking. This person had posted how potentially harmful the lies were about telling your child that Santa Claus is alive and delivering presents, even though we know he isn’t alive anymore. That children look to their parents as people who will tell them the truth about the world – and if we maintain this façade – and when they realise that Santa Claus isn’t real after all – won’t they start questioning what else they were told and wonder if all that isn’t real?
I’ll be honest – my mind was blown! I’d never thought of it in that way before. And I reflected on my own childhood – Christmas was no less special because I had been told that Father Christmas was not real. I was fascinated with this character, and wanted to know the origins of his story – but I knew that ultimately Christmas was actually about Jesus, so the existence of this jolly man in a red suit didn’t really matter.
I also pride myself on being the one that my children can come to, for the truth about life – if they have a question, or a concern, or a worry – they can come to me and I will tell them. Having said that, my five year old discovered that one of her teachers was pregnant, and she asked ‘How did the baby get there?’ – I diverted her attention away from that query faster than snow melting in the Sahara.
I don’t know. I really don’t know. I suppose the lesson learned is – don’t read the comments sections of articles – it will only lead to you feeling bad about yourself. But more than that, I’m going to have to have a real think now. My feeling is that I do nothing drastic. I will neither encourage nor discourage the belief in Santa Claus for now – but if my own daughters ask me the dreaded question, ‘Is Santa Claus real?’ I’m going to have to share his ‘origin story’ and explain that he was real – but isn’t alive now. AND that they don’t need to share this information with everyone because lots of children still believe in him.
Meanwhile, the little girl inside me still loves films like the ‘Miracle on 34th Street’, and will always believe that there is a Santa Claus out there, spreading his seasonal magic in some way. As Dorey Walker says in that film…’Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to!’
And whether you believe, or whether you don’t, ‘Merry Christmas one and all!’