Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Santa Scandal

Our son recently began participating in a preschool class for a few special little guys. At our initial meeting with the teacher, she asked me if we "did Santa" since Christmas was coming up since they were planning some Santa crafts. I told her that, while we didn't really do Santa, we did celebrate St. Nicholas, who leaves little presents at our home on December 6th.

To prepare our son for "Santa" I simply told him that some people in America call Saint Nicholas Santa Claus (we noted how similar they sounded) and that sometimes they didn't get gifts on St. Nicholas day.

When I dropped him off last week, his teacher leaned into my car and told me the kids were talking about how Santa lives at the North Pole. Dash corrected them immediately announcing,

"Santa doesn't live at the North Pole. Santa's dead. He's in Heaven now."

She told me in all her years of teaching she had never heard that! Seeing my horrified look that my son had just unintentionally scandalized 4 of the sweetest little kids, she assured me that she changed the subject immediately and no one really understood what he was talking about!


B-Mama said...

Tex, this is hilarious! Poor Dash--he was correct, just too smart for our secular culture!

Karen said...

Can I have you son come over and tell this to my 8 and 4 year old daughters? Extended family forced Santa on me against my wishes 7 years ago when my oldest was a toddler. Doesn't matter how many times I tell my kids that Christmas isn't about the guy in the red suit, it just doesn't sink in.

texas mommy said...

I know, B-Mama, part of me was proud that he his statement was so historically accurate..and in his own words! Karen, I feel for you. It is a struggle. Maybe try to think about ways to use Santa to teach about generosity and sharing, etc. The St. Nicholas Center has great resources and book ideas about sharing the "truth" about santa: http://www.stnicholascenter.org

Right Said Red said...

Gianna said the same thing to us last year. She asked if Santa was dead because he was a saint. It was hard not to laugh. I simply let her know that Santa was a pretend character in the spirit of St. Nicolas (a man who really lived and loved the poor and Jesus). She seemed to get it, but then 5 minutes later asked me how Santa would come in our house if we don't have a chimney. Oh well! I fessed up but apparently she still "believes." I think the line between real and pretend is very faint at the age of 5.

Right Said Red said...

oh and B-mama, I wasn't able to comment on your photo below--absolutely hilarious! Mr. Red and I were cracking up!!! What a moment to catch on camera. Love it.

Kathleen said...

So what do the builders do with the whole St. Nick/ Santa thing. Regardless of what you call him, do you have some sort of mythology? Texas Mommy, it seems like you do St. Nick for the 6th but not for Christmas? I'm wading into this territory with slight apprehension and want the kids to call the man in the Red suit St. Nicholas, but feel like at the end of the day they are still going to ask about the Reindeer and the Chimney and the pole. It seems to me, either you go whole hog feeding the Santa story (obviously trying to not be materialistic) or you have to sit down with your 3 year old and say, "No Virginia there is not Santa Claus." Anyway, just wanted people's takes on how they deal with the Santa issue.

Olivia D said...

I like your story! You must be doing something right!

We just tell the children that everyone who gives presents on Christmas are Jesus' helpers (which is ultimately true, right?). So, they ask Jesus for what they want and pray to Jesus and ask for something special and Santa, or mommy and daddy or Grandma and Grandpa are the ones who deliver it. We do have the mythical figure of Santa in there, (but he is def. a side-lined figure at best) as well as celebrating St. Nicholas Day (which we present in a Saint form and talk about who he was). This way Santa can be present as well as gifts from everyone and it is all done in the spirit of Jesus birthday celebration and giving to others as well as receiving special gifts from Jesus.

Of course, my children are only 3,2, and 10 months so they dont ask those hard questions about saints being dead and chimneys begin too small, at least not yet. My 3 year old wants to know how St. Nick got in his room through the window...I just said that St. Nick must have opened it very quietly...easy, for now.

Jennifer Frey said...

Dear Builders,

I too am hoping for a post on how you ladies reconcile the story of St. Nicholas (an unmarried Bishop who favored children and the poor, who now resides in Heaven, and whose feast day is on the 6th of December) and the story of Santa Claus, a jolly fat man with a wife who lives on earth, plays with elves, and magically drives a sleigh guided by reindeer to come and give little boys and girls presents on Christmas, the 25th of December. Santa Claus seems to me to have absolutely nothing to do with Jesus, and St. Nicholas seems to me to have nothing to do with Santa Claus. These two stories run parallel to one another, and only meet by way of historical curiosities (such as certain traditions of Dutch Protestants). My kids are still so young that they really don't know what is going on, and so we haven't yet decided how to handle this. But I would like to know how each Builder handles this in her own home, and with her own family (whose members, if they are anything like mine, get really annoyed by the suggestion that we aren't going to "do Santa" with our kids, thereby killing all the joy of Christmas).

Seriously, ladies. I have no idea how to handle this.

Ruth said...

I wanted to share with all of you this article titled, "OK, Virginia, There's No Santa Clause. But There is God." It is by far the best essay on the Santa topic from a Catholic parent's perspective that I have read. (I must confess here to being in the pro-Santa camp). He offers some beautiful reflections on the how the magic of Santa prepares children for the mystery of faith - not everything real can be seen, not everything that is true is fully accessible through reason but requires faith. Please read it if you have the time, I'm not doing it justice!


I grew up believing in Santa and I honestly don't think I'm any worse off for it. I was never confused as a child about the real meaning of Christmas. I think that sometimes we can worry so much about doing right by our children that we don't have enough faith in THEM and think that's it's all up to US to do it all just right (that's another topic though!).

My women's group discussed this this month and one Mom said that she tells her children that Jesus asked Santa to bring presents to OTHER PEOPLE to celebrate HIS birthday. I thought that was perfect. She explained that she doesn't want to isolate her children from secular culture but rather strives in all ways to raise children who will be in the world but not of the world.

Happy Advent to all!

Kathleen said...

Ruth, thanks for the article. He seemed to articulate my sentiments and pacify some of my worries. I also recently came upon Tolkien's letters to his Children. Talk about feeding the myth! Very cute. http://www.amazon.com/Letters-Father-Christmas-Revised-Tolkien/dp/061800937X

Jennifer said...

Santa brings our children 3 gifts because baby Jesus received 3 gifts for his birthday from the kings. Although they don't receive gold, frankincense,or myrrh as their gifts. Interesting topic. Thanks!

JMB said...

I think the St. Nick/Santa Claus confusion at time can be seen like splitting hairs. The reality is, we live in a society that does celebrate Christmas with Santa Claus as an off shoot of the St. Nick story/myth. And I say myth because it is impossible to say for certain that St. Nicholas ran around putting treats in shoes. That tradition was devised by the Dutch living in the New World (lower Hudson Valley) in the 17th century. I live in what was once heavily Dutch (northern NJ) and you'd think we'd all be putting out our shoes on Dec 6, but nobody I know does it. The Dutch tradition has morphed into the general Christian tradition of Santa Claus. I can understand maintaining the tradition of Dutch Christmas if you are Dutch, just as my former Swedish au apair would celebrate St. Lucy's Day when she was with us. But why should Catholics be confused about this? The whole thing just seems silly.

Kyra said...

LOL, that is hilarious. Between dealing with peanut allergies, ADHD, "blended families" and cultural/religious differences, I really don't think preschool teachers get paid nearly enough.

We had two funny preschool stories just this week. My niece, who is three, is for some reason deathly afraid of Santa Claus. Even though everyone in our family is pro-Santa and everything that entails, we ended up telling her that "baby Jesus", not Santa, brings the presents, so she wouldn't be scared. So of course, she is in her secular preschool class and the teacher asks, "and who brings all of the presents?" and she yells, "baby Jesus!"

Then yesterday my son comes home from his secular preschool, and in his little book the teacher wrote that he had lots of fun in art class "spinning the dreidels" The conversation in our house:
"what's a dreidel?"
"I've heard of that before, I think it's like a Hannukah thing"
"oh. but what is it?"
"I guess sort of like a spinning top...?"
"What's the significance?"

One tradition we've always had since I was young is to bake a birthday cake for the baby Jesus on Christmas Eve, and we put our baby Jesus from the nativity on top. I guess as a way to remind us that the holiday is about Christ, not Santa and presents. Although it's not exactly historically correct since Jesus wasn't born in December, and also I don't know how Catholic it is to use baby Jesus as a cake topper...hm...

Jennifer Frey said...

I think it is a mistake to trivialize some parent's concerns about how we celebrate Christmas as a culture; nor do I think it is silly to celebrate the feast of St. Nicholas if you are not Dutch. Nor do I think worrying about how these two stories can be integrated is splitting hairs (especially since the evidence cited is historically inaccurate--the Dutch celebrated St. Nicholas as Sinterklaas on his feast day, not on Christmas, and they are not alone in leaving out shoes to be filled, this was a custom widespread on the continent, even in Eastern Europe. And the Dutch are certainly not alone in celebrating this feast, as it is celebrated by Christians all over the world).

At any rate, I do hope that the Builders will take up this topic. I know many Catholic families that struggle with this issue, and I for one read this blog in large part to gauge how other intelligent, faithful mothers work out these cultural contradictions in their own homes.

KL said...

I honestly don't see a problem with doing "santa" with children. I understand the dilemma of letting this time get materialistic instead of about Christ's birth, but I think we need to keep in mind that Christmas IS about celebration and that Advent gives us plenty of time to prepare ourselves and our children faithfully for Christmas Day. Like it was said, the line between reality and fantasy is so blurry at a young age with kids and and I really can't see a problem with letting there be a little fun and magic around this time of year. It seems that a lot of us try so hard to make our kids "Catholic" and pious when they're still so little that we sometimes miss the point. Since a lot of you don't do the whole Santa thing, do you get Christmas trees and hang up decorations? Where to draw the line when shirking every single thing that can be interpreted as secular? My husband and I both grew up incorporating both Santa and Christ during Christmas and I look back on those years when I actually still believed in something fun and magical as a truly wonderful time. Certainly to each his own here, I know all of these moms are doing the best they can, but sometimes I read this site and think, "lighten up a little." Ruth's comments were wonderful and I appreciate the link. You said everything I was thinking, just more eloquently. I don't see the "contradiction" here at all. I let my child have fun for fun's sake and we let her know by our own example and teaching when it is time to be serious and reverent.