I thought it might be possible to write a post that talked about how we celebrate Christmas without getting into the whys... because for me the why is a personal decision that Paul and I agreed on more than half a decade ago, although anyone who's really curious could read one of the previous posts I wrote on one of those Decembers past when I was feeling less sleepy and more ready to defend my stance.
Unfortunately Santa seems to be one of those hot button topics like breastfeeding and cosleeping, where any post on the topic, even one that's simply about one's own personal experience, can turn ugly fast. Because I think it is ugly to talk about how you think a strangers Christmas is going to be sad because they don't do thinks the same way that you do them.
Let me begin by reassuring everyone that Christmas around here definitely doesn't tend towards the sad.
It's joyous, with running and laughing and parents who are exhausted from staying up too late getting things ready and waking up at the crack of dawn, when those little voices start shouting to go downstairs.
In fact I have to admit, over the last few years since we've downsized our Christmas celebration by necessity, with fewer presents and more focus on Advent and preparing for the coming celebration, Christmas has felt even more joyful.
In the comment section of the previous post there was plenty of speculation about why parents who don't "do Santa" make that choice. Is it to be counter cultural and stand out? One reader claimed that it was a sign of being "helicoptery and hypersensitive," which honestly I'm not sure I even understand in relation to the conversation (or the original post).
But after reading through today's comments, with the guesses on why parent's who don't "do Santa" make the choices that we make I felt compelled to answer... because pretty much every guess widely missed the mark.
As I said in my earlier post I don't really feel like we don't "do Santa." Our kids learn about Saint Nicholas and we celebrate the feast of Saint Nicholas at the beginning of December. And we read stories about Santa and watch Christmas movies and treat the Santa and Reindeer myth just like any other fairy tale. We just don't insist that it's real.
Our reason is pretty simple. When we tell our kids that they should have faith in something that they can't see, we want them to be able to believe what we're saying. And while I've been told over and over again that no one is ever confused or has their faith damaged by having been told that Santa is real, I've also heard from a number of people who tell the opposite story.
Is it likely or even common? I don't think so. But it was something that we considered.
It wasn't, however, the factor that solidified the decision.
I've heard a number of homilies about how lying, for any reason, is always a sin. And when I imagined telling our kids that Santa had brought the presents I couldn't find a way to get around the fact that that simply wouldn't be true. I'm sure there are people that will think that's over scrupulous but I couldn't get past it.
When I sat down and really thought about it, insisting that Santa brought the presents seems absolutely harmless, but it also felt like lying to me.
People celebrate in different ways. I think the thing that I find the most disturbing about the way the conversation in the last post turned is that in this topic, which is so centered around imagination, falls short of imagining different joyous ways of celebrating the birth of Christ.
Christmas is joyful because of what it is. We celebrate Jesus' arrival on Earth, the birth of the Messiah who has come to free us from our sins. To believe that that celebration is somehow made less joyful because a family isn't telling their kids about a man flying across the sky in a sleigh drawn by reindeer seems to miss the point.
The modern image of Santa is fun, but it certainly isn't necessary to the celebration of the welcoming of our savior to the Earthly plain. I suggest continuing through this Advent season by resolving to give others the benefit of the doubt. Let's try to believe that perhaps others aren't making choices for their families to be different or stand out, but rather because they believe they're doing what's best for their family.