Another fun discussion post! Santa Claus! Do you know him? How do you know him? Have you raised your kids to know him?
My first memory of Santa Claus is abject terror. Not of the man himself, my parents were aware that we would not feel comfortable meeting Santa so they never did the waiting in line and putting us on his lap thing. But of my own failure in the eyes of Santa.
When I was 3 years old, my pre-school teacher said something about how Santa brings coal to bad children. She was a lovely woman and would have been horrified to learn how much I took that to heart. Heck, I’m pretty sure the original statement was more like “Some people say Santa brings coal to bad children, but I believe he brings presents to all kids”. But of course what I heard was “I am a BAD EVIL CHILD, and Santa knows it, and I will have no presents on Christmas and everyone will find out that I am BAD”.
Following child logic, I tried very hard to stop sleeping, including at naptimes, after that. Because what if I fell asleep, and when I woke up it was Christmas, and I had no presents? If I just never slept, it would never be Christmas. My parents first found out about this whole thing on Christmas Eve when, because of family visiting, they were sleeping on an air mattress on the floor of my room. And discovered their little daughter was laying there stiff as a board, eyes wide open, absolutely terrified that she would get no presents because Santa knew she was Bad. There was a serious temptation to just tell me “there is no Santa! He doesn’t exist! You will get presents because we bought you presents and they are already downstairs waiting for you!” But they resisted.
After that Christmas, I stopped being afraid of Santa. That was silly, of course he is going to bring me presents! He loves all children and loves me even more than my parents and when they are mad at me, then Santa still loves me and forgives me. Happy happy!!!! The Santa in my head was kind of a mixture of Miracle on 24th Street and A Visit From Saint Nicholas and Archie Comic Books. He lived in the North Pole, he had elves, but what really mattered is that he just loved and understood children in a special way because he wasn’t really an adult like other adults, he was just for kids.
We had a couple of Santa specific family traditions too, mostly for Christmas Eve. On Christmas Eve, my sister and I would write a letter to Santa and then throw it in the fire place to burn up and go up the chimney to him. Then we would put out milk and cookies and a carrot and go to bed. And in the morning SOMEONE WOULD HAVE TAKEN A BITE OUT OF ALL OF THEM!!!! So, proof. SANTA!
I didn’t have a moment when I “stopped believing” or “learned the truth”. The learning the truth part is silly, I figured out pretty young that a lot of my friends and even my parents didn’t believe in Santa. But just because they didn’t think he was real didn’t mean I had to agree with them, you know? As for “stop believing”, it was a slow journey from that absolute terrifying certainty at age 3 to a more sort of casual awareness that Santa was there to help kids who really needed help, but I didn’t need help, so he would never visit me or bring me presents. To where I am today, which is kind of a “I am aware that he is a creation of advertising campaigns and writers and a combo of pagan winter spirits and Saint Nicholas of Myra, but also SANTA!!!!!” I mean, who cares? So he is a mythical figure created by various influences and blah blah blah. But people believe in him! And if you believe hard enough, in some ways you create him as a real entity.
Where do you land on Santa? Was he an important part of your childhood at all? Or just sort of a guest star like the Easter Bunny? Were you scared of him ever, like I was? Do you have a big “stop believing” story or was it just part of growing up? And how are you raising your kids with him?