Wednesday, December 7, 2011

NEWSFLASH: Santa and Elves Hate the Poor

I'm not going to say that I've spent a lot of time on the is Santa Claus real question, but there's a chance that I've meditated more on the whole Santa and elves thing than a lot of other folks. That's vague, sure. But I actually have no idea whether other moms and dads overthink Christmas like yours truly. Could be that every parent carefully thinks about involving Santa and his elves in the Christmas celebrations. (I just don't know, so feel free to weigh in.)

is santa claus real

For obvious reasons, it's been on my mind lately. The Babby can definitely identify Santa as iconography. Upon seeing a decoration on someone's house, for instance, she'll say, "I see a Santa!" I don't know, though, whether she recognizes Santa as a person, real or imaginary. I'm not even sure how to ask her without putting ideas into her head. At the moment, I don't think it matters much. The Babby likes Christmas, likes presents, likes the trappings of the holidays without really grasping any of the significance.

Re: Santa, here's the conclusion I've come to: 

If the Babby asks point blank is Santa Claus real, I'm going to say no. (If she's absolutely convinced Santa exists, beats me...) And we're not going to tell her that Santa is anything more than a game people play. Thus far, it hasn't come up. No one has told her that Santa will bring presents and for that I am grateful. If/When they do, we'll talk about how it's a fun part of Christmas that some people take more seriously than others.

You see, I've decided that I don't like Santa Claus. Isn't that just terrible? Aren't I just the grinchiest? The BabbyMama is just a mean ol' Santa hater! Why, you ask? Here are my five reasons for disliking Santa and elves and lumps of coal and Christmas lists and all that jazz.

1. Santa apparently dislikes poor kids. Why else would he bring them so little and bring rich kids so much? At a certain age, kids notice that kind of thing. Even if we, as a family, had all the money in the world, I still would not want to make our Christmas into an orgy of consumerism - so the Babby would still be wondering why Santa brought her so much less. (And I know a lot of kids didn't envy other kids' big Christmas hauls, but I did!)

2. Santa is not part of the home economy. Parents playing Santa are. Maybe I'm just a humbug, but encouraging the idea that presents come from nowhere - from magic or a workshop not bound by the household economy - seems like a recipe for disappointment. I mean, if Santa is magic, why can't he just make the sold out or uber expensive toy? I want the Babby to understand that presents cost money or time or effort, and that's what makes them valuable. Which brings me to...

3. Santa encourages unrealistic expectations. (Except in those oh-so-sad post office Christmas letters where the little ones ask Santa for things like a winter coat and a job for dad.) At what other time of year do we encourage children to make a huge list of things they want? Usually being greedy is a bad thing.

4. Santa is not a necessary part of the magic of Christmas. The truth is, I can never remember a time where I actually believed in Santa Claus. For me, at least in the early years I can remember, it was a game. I knew my mom was Santa, and maybe that's because we celebrated in the European style and we didn't have a lot of money. The magic was Jesus and the Nativity and in the decorations and the music and the parties and the specialness of the time of year. Not in a fat and jolly reverse burglar.

5. Santa isn't real, and I can't figure out how to lie about it. Don't get me wrong, the Babby is two so we do tell her little white lies with some frequency. For example, if pressed, I would say there's no candy in the house even though there is candy. If she asked me what the word holocaust meant - goodness knows where she'd hear it, but who knows - my answer would not exactly be the truth. If I was scared of a scary nighttime noise, I would still tell her that I wasn't so she wouldn't then be scared that I was scared. And yet, I just can't bring myself to say "Santa is coming" or "Santa is watching from the North Pole" or anything like that.

Yes, I know it's all in fun. And oddly, I don't have nearly as much of an issue with the Easter Bunny, though I don't know that I'll perpetuate that myth, either. As I said earlier, right now avoiding the whole Santa issue is easy. In the future, when it becomes more of a peer issue, it's going to get a lot more difficult. In part because I don't want her to ruin anyone else's fun. How will I handle that... who knows.

I'd love to hear advice from other parents who don't do the whole Santa thing!


  1. I was thinking about this recently too. We haven't bothered to talk about Santa with Everett, but he is only just grasping the idea of presents and thinks every house in our neighborhood that has Christmas lights up is having a party. And I'm fine with that. I have no intention of dragging him to a Mall Santa. Probably ever. I think that would freak him out too much and why exactly is that supposed to be a cherished memory for me? I can't remember having much of a Santa belief when I was growing up either. For me Santa was the spirit of giving, not a real person. And since I grew up in a not-overly-religious household the nativity was just another decoration to me. I never really believed in Jesus either. I suspect we'll be raising the kids to enjoy Christmas as a family togetherness and giving holiday more than anything. Then again who knows where I'll stand in 2 years when the boy is 5 and delving even more into his own imaginative world of magic.

  2. I love reading your opinions on Santa, mine are so different. I would like to respond to your bullet points :)
    1)I grew up super poor. not at the level where we received toys from charity, but close. I had friends who did receive toys from charity every year and they always got way way way more presents than I did. I asked for one thing from Santa and sometimes got it and sometimes I didn't. Sometimes Santa got us socks and stuff we needed some years he brought a toy. The toys Santa brought were usually not as nice or cool as what my parents got my sister and I.
    2)I have no reply to this. Kids don't think about the economy.
    3)Parents set up those expectations. If they allow their children to make that list of a bunch of stuff then they should expect to have to answer for those desires. Asking for one present and maybe an alternate gift is (IMHO) the way it should be done.
    4)I have a sister who is 5 years younger than me, I believed in Santa until 6th grade. I know that is very old, 11 I think. My parents planned elaborate "Santa schemes" to tkae the place or elaborate gifts. We have a Cyr family patron elf, Prokus K. Katrube, who would check on me periodically. He has an insanely detailed back story. Santa would call the house to ask if I had taken some of my piggy bank money to buy can goods to donate. Half eaten carrots could be found on the lawn as remnants from the reindeer on Christmas morning. Santa always left a thank you note for the milk and cookies in a handwriting that was not my parents or grandparents. When I think about the work my parents put into Christmas and the joy they shared in putting it all together, I think that is magic. On the other hand, I never believed in Jesus and saw the bible as nothing more than a storybook full of interesting characters.
    5) Why can't Santa just be a seasonal feeling personified? Even though I believed in Santa, I still thought of him as a spirit or even like a ghost, not an actual flesh and blood person.
    My question is this: Why do you feel that you must define Christmas for the Babby so strongly? Can she not explore the concept herself with you asking her questions?
    I find the Easter Bunny to be so ridiculous.
    I love how opposite I feel, I think your points are really great and work for you and your family. I have much respect for your parenting, I am just offering some different views. :)

  3. I couldn't agree more with this post! I would have to say that I didn't even think about other families' Christmas traditions until I was probably around 10 years old. I just kinda figured everyone else did the same stuff my family did. We each got one big toy which wasn't wrapped - that was the Santa toy. It was always something we'd been wishing for a VERY long time. One year I got a violin, another year a bike, etc. Such items were always used, but sometimes would have a fresh coat of paint. The rest of the presents were an accessory for the big gift, or clothes, or random junk. I didn't know that other kids got more than one real present until I was much older, and by then Santa was far from my mind.

    That said, it's fun to have family traditions, so I do plan to talk about Santa in just the silly-pretend-fat-man sort of way. We ran into a Santa at a coffee shop yesterday, and the Boy Toy was absolutely enamored.

  4. @Erin Oh, absolutely we will! In fact, we haven't gone to much length to define any of these things for the Babby. She'll see what we do, and as she gets older, she'll see what others do, and eventually she'll draw her own conclusions. I just don't want to introduce the concept of Santa as real - for all I know, she'll pick it up somewhere, and I haven't decided yet how I'll respond if she comes home absolutely convinced of Santa's realness.

    I think your family had some pretty cool ideas about how to make Christmas less consumerism-oriented :)

    And just to clarify, I didn't mean the U.S. economy, heh, I meant the home economy. Which kids should absolutely think about and be a part of, IMO. I do think kids, if taught about the economy, do think about it. We already talk to the Babby about how things cost money and if you don't have, say, coins for the ride-on toys at the zoo, you can climb on them but they won't move. One thing I do want her to understand is that gifts come from people - I think presents from people are magical in and of themselves, because they cost money or they cost time or effort or just thought.

  5. I agree with you 100%. I didn't grow up with Santa and I don't feel I missed out on any childhood magic. I am not going to tell my child a story about a jolly old man and an army of elves making and delivery her gifts when the reality is that her parents worked their butts off to provide them. I'm not going to browbeat her with it, but when she asks, I plan to tell her the's a fairytale like the books she reads and Disney movies.

  6. For me, it’s not about the greed, or the commercialism, or the economy. It’s about the powerful love that goes into making something magical for someone else. I would compare the act of “Santa” to coming up with a really special way to propose to one’s partner: the giver is thoughtful and loving, focused on the recipient’s joy and surprise, and sometimes sacrifices to make the moment as memorable as possible.

    I was raised by a single mother, an atheist with Jewish heritage who loved the idea of Christmas as a season of joy, childhood, and magic. We were on welfare and often received donated gifts--they were never very great. But my mother would save and scheme and plan all year to give us gifts from Santa. As an adult, that yearly production was one of the most affirming acts of love I can recall of my childhood.

    I could talk all day about how the “Jesus” aspects of Christmas are just as invented—not to mention exclusionary to other religions, despite Christmas being a national holiday. When we became a serious couple, our first and only major argument was about Christmas. Steven was raised in a conservative Jewish household and couldn’t see how Christmas could be non-Christian. It took convincing, but he embraces my Christmas—OUR Christmas—which includes lots of family time, a tree, stockings, a beautiful presentation of boxes and bows, and a sweet story about magical people who believe in spreading joy through giving. That message can inspire greed or generosity, depending on the emphasis and execution.

    It sounds like you’re arguing against commercialism, avarice, and bribery. (Be good, or no presents! Santa’s watching!) I don’t disagree; Christmas is a powerful idea that people really need to consider. And in our house? All the coolest stuff happens on Hanukkah, anyway. ;)

  7. We've ignored the Santa thing until this year, when it proved impossible. Being conflicted, I punted to my therapist, who gave me a great solution: explain that Santa is a story that has been told to children for a long time, and read a book about the different versions of Santa around the world. Entertain the questions as they come, but don't push an agenda.

    I love my therapist.

  8. I totally wish I would have said "no". Now, we're trapped somewhere in the middle. But I certainly think it deserves thought! I think sometimes we just don't think about these things!

  9. I remember feeling that something magical was going to happen on Christmas eve and how fun it was to think that Santa magically traversed the globe in one night, leaving gifts for everyone. Somehow those gifts appeared and I hadn't heard or seen anything. I was not aware of how much others got or didn't get. Kids are pretty self centered and, as parents, we can help set those expectations. Anyway, since it was a part of my childhood, I can't imagine depriving my daughter of that fun. Someone is going to ruin it for her soon enough and when I think she's ready to hear it, I will tell her the truth. I only remember one issue with the Santa thing. We are church goers and when I learned that Santa wasn't real, I wondered if the adults were just pretending that God was real for the sake of us kids. But I figured it out for myself in the end. I figured it was alot more effort they were putting into it and it was more than just once a year, so for me I could see faith in God was something bigger and real. Just my take.

  10. I grew up believing in Santa. My parents' took us to Breakfast with Santa every year, and I adored Christmas morning when I saw all the presents "Santa" had left me. It was a magical feeling, and I cherish those memories with all of my heart.

    When I grew up, and learned that Santa didn't exist, did I feel betrayed? Absolutely not? Did I hate my parents for lying to me? Nope. The fact of the matter is my parents' made Christmas so much more about family and being together and having yearly traditions that those are the things I remember. Santa wasn't the focal point. He was just something to be excited about.

  11. I think I always knew Santa wasn't real but it was the thought/magic of it all that I liked and seeing my little sister believing was fun for me. To each their own right? ;)


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