21 November 2011

Things I'm Learning - The Whole Santa Deal

Christmas always blindsides me.

Here's the thing: I grew up in a home that did not celebrate Christmas, ever. We weren't Christian, we didn't celebrate Christian holidays. So for us it was just another day. No decorating, no gift-giving, no giant meal with family, no nothing.

This is not a pity party. We never had it, so I didn't miss it.

The first time I celebrated Christmas was in my mid-twenties. I was in my first serious relationship, and his family did Christmas. I went into Margaret Meade mode, nodded and smiled, and surreptitiously took notes. Christmas Eve, okay, got it. Christmas morning, oh, okay, I did not know that. Christmas Dinner, what the hell are these cracker things? And done.

Okay, good. I had a Christmas under my belt, and now I had it all figured out. I knew how to "do" Christmas. Wahoo. Check that off on the life list, I've got this shit wired. High fives for all my friends!

Here's what nobody tells you when you're on the outside looking in: Christmas is different for every family. There is no one way to do Christmas, and the traditions can vary pretty widely. The next boyfriend's family did things totally differently. I didn't know what was going on at all!

When HWSNBN and I started dating, I was experienced enough to know that I didn't know anything, so for the first year I sat and watched from the side lines. It's more or less the same every year: Christmas Eve at this cousin's house, Christmas morning with immediate family who aren't out of town with in-laws, Christmas dinner with extended family and close friends. Some visiting of elders between Christmas and New Year's. Okay. Ten years later, I'm pretty dialed in to the whole thing.

HWSNBN and I have never gone crazy at Christmas. In ten years I think we've had two Christmas trees. On alternate Christmases (my Christmases, which my family doesn't celebrate) we go away, usually to Paris, because in my heart of hearts that's where I actually live. Every year we agree not to get anything for each other for Christmas, and every year HWSNBN breaks the deal and I can't quite get mad at him for it, so I bake him a blueberry pie as a gift. Easy, right?

But having a kid? Changes everything.

Suddenly there's letting people know what The Imp would like for Christmas, there are children's Christmas parties, there are events at daycare, and there is Santa. I don't know from Santa. I'm totally baffled by the whole notion of Santa, frankly, and wonder how any of you that grew up with this mythical, magical figure could ever trust your parents again once you found out it was all a big lie. So rather than get it wrong, I have deferred all Santa dealings to HWSNBN. He's had an easy time of it so far, since with the exception of five minutes on the guy's lap every year, The Imp's been blissfully unaware of this whole fat-guy-gives-you-presents deal. But this year he knows there's a Santa - he must've heard about it from the kids at daycare. I have to admit, this makes me a little uneasy.

The Imp's first Christmas. Life was easier before he could talk.

I'm still determined to let HWSNBN handle this, but I feel like I should maybe know some background on this shady character. So please help me? Tell me what you tell your kids about Santa? Because I was the five year old that made all the kindergarten kids cry when I went to school and told them, "My mom says there's no such thing as Santa!" I don't think that's going to be the best way to approach this, somehow.



  1. There's magic in being a child. You don't look at the world with cynicism and there is a rose colour to everything. You're an adult looking at a childhood story, so I can see why it makes you uneasy. But as a child who experienced the magic that is Santa, I remember the excitement and wonder. I remember one Christmas at my grandparents and hearing the reindeer on their roof. I remember laying in bed, awake at 5 a.m. but being made to wait until 8:00 to go wake up my parents - after about an hour, I'd bravely sneak from my room to the tree and the feeling of absolute joy that Santa came has rarely been rivaled in my adulthood.

    I never mistrusted my parents when the truth came out and as an adult, I'm so grateful for the memories and joy their little white lie brought me. Also, watching my kids experience the magic is a gift to me. For brief moments, when I hear the pitter patter of their feet Christmas morning or the excitement of seeing that Santa ate the cookies, I experience it all over again.

    I'll be a sad panda when my kids figure it out.

  2. I continue to this day to believe in the idea that is Santa. Maybe not the actual jolly man with the white beard, but the idea based on St. Nicholas giving toys to the children. I still believe, even though commercialism has taken over Christmas, that the ideals of Santa are good ones. And I agree with Sharon that Santa is part of the magic of the Holidays.

  3. I'm not denying that Santa is part of the holidays. I'm saying that I don't know how or what to tell The Imp about Santa. I need practical details, people! What do I say to him? How do I explain who Santa is?

    If I thought Santa was a bad thing, this post would've been how I wasn't going to let my kid believe in Santa, not an appeal for help! :)

  4. I feel like most of my Santa memories and impressions came from TV. Other than the basics (red suit, north pole, 8 reindeer, toys for good girls & boys), you can probably get all you need from sitting and watching some holiday specials with the Imp.

    My favourites have always been Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.

    Hope that helps!

  5. Chances are, you don't need to say much. Anything you're not sure of saying, "It's magic," covers a lot of ground.
    In my husband's family, Santa put unwrapped presents under the tree. In my family, Santa put wrapped presents under the tree, sometimes a week before Christmas. I was sure they came from Santa, never questioned why the presents were there so early. My family did the Santa thing for Christmas, but we were more about the Jesus.
    Our son writes a letter to Santa: http://www.canadapost.ca/dec/santa/writesanta/default-e.asp
    If you include a return address, you get a reply back. We usually send the letter too late, oops, but again, "Don't worry, it's magic, Santa will know what you want," covers any anxiety.
    We put cookies and milk and carrots out for Santa on Christmas Eve. For some reason, one year, we left a half-eaten cookie. Son is convinced we don't bring presents, "Because you and dad could never leave a cookie half eaten."