I can think of almost as many arguments for Santa as against him. Santa does seem to put the birth of Christ on the back burner, at least for the younguns. We are definitely actively lying to our children, and we are encouraging consumerism and greed. How do those younguns decide what to ask Santa for? They watch commercials on TV! Advertising has a powerful pull on American culture in general, and I hate to think that I would willing push Cara in that direction. Right now, we stick to Veggie Tales and Sesame Street videos, but I am very much aware that I cannot shelter her from advertising forever. And then there's the whole traumatizing experience of discovering the truth about Santa. One of my students said (and I had never heard this before) that she felt GUILTY when she realized that her parents were giving her all of the "Santa" gifts because she hadn't done anything to deserve them. Wow. Very few of them reported feeling angry or betrayed by the lie, but several said that they kept up the guise of belief because they thought it made their parents happy. Hmm...one good lie deserves another...
HOWEVER, Santa cultivates magic and imagination in childhood. It's almost like playing a special game with children. They are so in awe of the magic and anticipate the big event with such joy. Who really wants to take that away from a child? Doesn't Santa encourage childhood innocence in a way? Anything is possible...the American dream...or something? All of my students adamantly protested when I said that I was considering not playing along with the Santa thing. They seemed to think that it was a right of childhood almost, something with few to no harmful effects. And then there's the tradition of sitting on Santa's lap every year. My mom has a hilarious picture of my sister when she was maybe four years old. As the big sister, I sat on Santa's lap first, and he asked me what my sister's name was, and so I told him. When it was Allison's turn, he said "hello there, Allison," and she turned to the camera with an adorably shocked face and said, "he knew my name?!?!?!"
|this moment of cuteness would not have been possible without the big fat Santa lie|
In the grand scheme of things, I don't think it matters. Santa belief is really only possible when children are too young to remember a whole lot, and at that age, they can't fully process the meaning of the birth of a Savior anyway (not that the groundwork shouldn't be laid). When I think about my most memorable Christmas, it was well after the Santa myth had faded for me. I was in the 8th grade, and my school's junior BETA club was sponsoring a trip to New York City. Who is crazy enough to take 50 middle schoolers on a bus to New York? Really? Anyway, I really, really, really wanted to go. All my friends were going. My parents told me that they couldn't afford it, and I understood. I never went without a need met, but I knew we didn't have extra money to throw around, so I accepted this explanation. On Christmas day, I got up earlier than my brother and sister and went downstairs to check out my stash. In my stocking was an envelope and in that envelope was a plane ticket that my mom had made. "Trip to New York" it said. And I cried. I actually went into my parents' room and woke them up crying. I had never been so surprised and never felt so loved. I'm not sure a future Christmas will ever be able to top that moment for me. And none of that was Santa.