A big thanks for this blog idea goes out to Rose, who wrote to ask me my thoughts on an issue I have been trying very hard not to have any thoughts about. Santa Claus. The Big Guy. Mr. Ho-ho-ho. As a Christian, she wonders, how do I feel about the beloved old elf of Christmas myth, and do I have any reservations about embracing the idea of Santa Claus on a holiday that much of the world sets apart as a time to celebrate the birth of Christ?
That question is probably easier to answer than the one I actually struggle with. As a Christian, I think every day is a day to celebrate Christ—His birth, His sacrifice, His resurrection, His gift to humanity—so while I love that so many people turn their eyes and thoughts towards Bethlehem during the Christmas season, I have no trouble at all with the other delightful traditions that accompany the merry shouts of “Joy to the World” and “Sale at JCPenneys!”
No, my dilemma is this: I teach my children to tell the truth, no matter what. A six foot saint with a bottomless bag from Toys ‘R’ Us, who sucks down millions of plates of cookies and thousands of gallons of milk in a single night (and yet, miraculously, hasn’t landed in the cardiac unit of the North Pole E. R.), doesn’t exactly fit the definition of truth, per se. And though I love the magical allure of believing the impossible, there’s a little part of me that feels disingenuous about enthusiastically spinning out Santa yarns for my own children. Sure, the construction paper Santa with the cotton ball beard that Katie brings home from school gets a place of honor on the refrigerator, and letters to Santa are written and rewritten with spelling help from mom. We watch Christmas movies and I join in on the chorus of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” with heartfelt gusto. Yet, like the government, I decline direct comment, neither confirming nor denying whatever assumptions the kids have made on the matter. Because, as hesitant as I am to deceive my children, I am also loathe to destroy the magic for them.
Katie’s A.S. complicates things a little, too. As I’ve mentioned, she has trouble with abstractions. She is such a concrete thinker that anything we tell her is etched in the Katie Lexicon as complete and exact truth. If we say that lying is wrong, all our later explanations of Santa Claus as an idea or a harmless allegory for the spirit of Christmas will fall on deaf ears. All she’ll remember is that we told her something that isn’t true.
I guess the way we handle the whole Santa Claus Conundrum hearkens back to a trick I learned in childhood: technical truth-telling. You know what I mean. It’s when your mom asks you if you snitched a cookie before dinner and you truthfully say “no”—because you know you actually snitched two. Likewise, when Katie asks me a question about Santa Claus, I artfully deflect:
“Mom, how does Santa Claus know if I’ve been good or not?”
“Well, what do you think, Katie?”
“Hmmm…maybe he has secret cameras all over the place and can see us all the time!”
“That’s an interesting guess.”
And so on.
I know it’s a little childish, but I’m straddling the fence for now. The day will come, I know, when Katie will ask me, directly and without equivocation, whether or not there’s a Santa Claus. And, because it’s what we’ve taught her, I’ll tell her the truth. But I see no need to hurry that day along—as we all know, it will come soon enough.