SPOILER ALERT: If you don't already know about Santa, don't read any further!
I'm not going to tire everyone with yet another rant on the consumerism that surrounds Christmas - it's been done and most of you know where I stand by now. Another interesting thought around Christmas occurred to me this year - the Santa Conspiracy. Where does it come from? Why do we perpetuate it? I remember the year that I figured it out - and ever since then Christmas doesn't feel the same - the magic is gone and there's a cynicism that just kinds of pesters at me throughout the season. While I was at my mom's I watched some of the late night talk shows, which were all repeats of course, and caught this one intereview with an actress who was trying to be very careful about the way she talked about Santa Claus so as not to give anything away while she was talking about what she was doing for her family this Christmas. The host ended up making a comment that, if a child had been watching, would have given away "the big secret" and this actress was visibly upset that he did that after she had been trying so hard. Well watching this got me thinking about the things that we tell our kids - the lies that we work so hard to maintain. What is the purpose? We teach kids not to lie - that "honesty is the best policy" and "truth will set you free" and all of that - but we all lie all the time for a variety of reasons!
Due to the season, Santa is the most obvious example right now - we tell kids that it's his "helpers" that are working the malls and shopping meccas, or that "the elves are watching" their behavior to report back to Santa if they deserve gifts or coal. I've even known parents to go to great lengths to "prove" that Santa exists - leaving footprints, notes, and other evidence to be found the next morning. But let's not forget the tooth fairy, Easter Bunny and boogey man - just to name a few of the other characters we create for our children. Why do we do this? With Sants you can make a case that it's the magic of the season, the spirit of giving, blah blah blah... What about the actual magic of the season that this is when we remember that God made an effort to be in this world, this life with us. Why isn't that the magic of the season and the spirit of giving that we explain? Is it because we can talk about Santa in school and not Jesus - that Santa has given us a secular way of dealing with the holiday?
Why can't we find a way to teach our kids the holiday of love and giving without encouraging this belief that their behavior earns them toys? Why can't we be honest with them so that when they get old enough to figure it out they aren't disappointed or permanently suspicious of what grown ups tell them (of course, this happens anyway once they become teenagers anyway)? I love watching kids at Christmas - believing in magic, their innocence, the excitement, etc. - but I do wonder if that wouldn't all still be there without Santa Claus. And if it wouldn't be, what does that say about us??