Friday, November 07, 2008

Christmas without Santa

My kids have been very curious about the 'truth' about Santa for quite a while. Last Christmas, Summer was starting to question the whole Santa concept, but for the sake of the boys, I explained that Santa is the spirit of Christmas and spoke about that rather than the guy living in the North Pole with the sweatshop..oops, workshop of elves making toys. AJ was so into the whole Santa thing last year, and his excitement was contagious. However, he was a bit disappointed on Christmas morning when he didn't get the things he had asked for. I think he felt a bit ripped off by the man in the red suit who had said he would "see what he could do" about getting AJ a Nintendo Wii system, among other things.

But recently AJ decided to give him another chance and wrote out a huge long list of things that he wanted. Oh gee I thought, he's really going to be disappointed this year. But he was also questioning the whole concept. He wanted to believe but was listening to Summer and her doubt. I mentioned the whole spirit of Christmas theme again, but they weren't really buying it. AJ was hanging onto his belief in an effort to hang on to some of that childhood magic, but at the same time, wanted to be in on a secret that he was sensing was being kept from him.

I couldn't take it any more. As AJ's list was getting longer, the questions were coming faster. I had to weigh up major disappointment on Christmas morning after a big build up to the day in his mind, or bursting a bubble right here and now. When he asked me again "is Santa real?", I just knew that it was time. I took hold of his big balloon bubble and let the air out as slowly as I could. Summer was fine, just glad to finally know what was going on and her suspicions had been confirmed. AJ looked a little sad, but we all had a magical discussion about the spirit of Christmas. I shared stories of some of my childhood Christmas celebrations. We spoke about making Christmas more meaningful and how we could (now) focus on other aspects of Christmas besides presents. We spoke about keeping Christmas magical in other ways. The conversation turned around and we were discussing advertising and marketing strategies and how we can look at ads and see behind the glitz. Nicholas had been sitting quietly (a rather rare thing when he's awake) throughout most of the conversation and then added a rather involved comment on babies being given dummies/pacifiers and wondered why he had never had one. (?Don't know where that came from.) But we were able to turn that one back around to the Christmas discussion somehow. When I was speaking, Summer and AJ listened with such interest and respect. They did not interrupt me, or fight with each other and they gave each other the same courtesy when they were speaking. It's as though we all knew it was a significant moment.

Sitting there, watching my two older kids grow up just a bit more, was a very special time. I feel a mixture of sadness and relief and happiness that we can change the direction of our Christmas celebration to one that I think will bring a lot more meaning. It was a moment that I wanted to go on and on, but the children were getting tired and decided to go to bed. It will always be in my heart.


Rachel said...

You know, the whole Santa thing is a little funny. From the very beginning I never pretended he was real, I told my kids about St. Nicholas, and that he was a real person, and how Santa Claus is sort of an embodiment of his ideas about generosity and giving. We've done that every year, and yet they still insist on pretending that Santa is real. It sounds like you and your kids had a neat discussion, we need to have a similar one around here about what's meaningful in life in general, there's been too much focus lately on the material.

Annette said...

Rachel, I don't remember ever saying Santa was real, the kids just kind of picked up on the hype from other people, being out and about at Christmas time and movies. I just went along with what they had made up as it seemed fun for them. I like the idea to bring St. Nicholas into it more. I'm sure our own Nicholas would love that!