Friday, November 12, 2010


So I realized this week that Thanksgiving is a mere two weeks away. In fact, as of today, it's less than two weeks away. Last year we spent Thanksgiving at my dad's house here in town, and so we had no responsibility--a good thing considering we had a baby who was only a month and a half old. This year, though, we're hosting David's parents and some good friends of ours, and we'll be doing most of the cooking. I've never cooked a Thanksgiving dinner before, so I'm a little nervous. One of my projects for next week is to create a detailed list of what I need to accomplish each day leading up to the big event, so that I don't have to worry about getting out the china or figuring out a centerpiece on the same day I'm trying to roast a turkey. I'm excited, though, to start a tradition of holidays in our new home. Frankly, it's what I've always wanted.

Even with Thanksgiving still ahead of us, though, I'm already looking ahead to Advent and Christmas. I am determined this year to get my shopping done early. I have a tendency to put it off because I dread going out and facing all the commercialization head-on, and then I end up stressed out that I haven't finished. It too easily ruins my Advent and pulls my focus away from higher things. How do you tackle your shopping without letting it take over the season?

Here's my other big Christmas question: How do you handle Santa in your family? We've decided that we're not going to "do" Santa in our house. David and I both had "Santa" bring us gifts, and I honestly don't have any memory of the point at which I found out Santa wasn't real; it must not have been traumatic. Nevertheless, I had been dubious about doing Santa for Nate when a conversation with Arwen sealed it for me. She explained that her parents had never told her and her siblings that Santa was real, but that Christmas had always been magical anyway. As she grew up and her friends learned the truth about who was bringing them gifts, she saw Christmas lose some of its luster for them. Meanwhile, it always remained as special as it had ever been for her.

That means a lot to me. I don't want Christmas to ever become less special or less wonderful for Nate. More importantly, though, I want Nate to trust David and me, and I fear that if we basically lie to him about something like Santa (even with the lovely intention of giving him a fun experience), there will come a time when he wonders what else we are lying to him about.

I have two big worries about this arrangement, though. First, I wonder how we will explain to Nate that he cannot tell other children that Santa isn't real. I certainly don't expect other parents to make the choice we're making, and I don't want my son to the the one to burst any child's Santa bubble. I figure, though, that this question could very well come up even if we were telling Nate that Santa was real, if he happened to be among the first of his friends or classmates to find out the truth.

Second, I worry that there's a chance that he'll resent not having the Santa experience if all of his friends believe in Santa. I hope that he will have enough other special traditions around Christmastime that he won't miss the guy in the red suit. I can guarantee that the child won't lack for presents, and we still plan to give him a stocking--he'll just know who the presents and the stocking actually came from. We also want to do small celebrations--probably including small gifts--for Saint Nicholas's feast day and for Epiphany. And, of course, we want to try our best to keep the focus on Christmas as a religious celebration, so that he doesn't think about it as a day that's primarily about getting gifts.

I know we can get away with not thinking about this again this year; after all, Nate will only be fourteen months old. But a friend of mine sent an e-mail this week with information about a local store that was offering free photos with Santa, and I had to explain that Nate wouldn't be sitting on the big guy's lap. It's been on my mind ever since.

Did Santa bring you presents growing up? How did you react when you found out he wasn't real? Did you learn from your parents or from a friend? How are you handling this in your family? If you're not doing Santa, have you gotten any pushback from other family members about it?


Elizabeth said...

You reminded me to dig out my old Thanksgiving schedule - this is why it's nice to have a blog for ages and ages. :)

The santa thing. Hmmm. I am thinking hard about the christmas/santa thing. I think I am coming down more on your side of things but Erik is not sold, so it's kind of confusing as to what to do now. I do know that Christmas right now isn't how I want it, and I am trying to figure that out. I think I have a lengthy post on it brewing somewhere upstairs. But yes, Santa and the lying feels weird to me as well.

claire said...

Regarding the Christmas shopping: I do the vast majority of mine online, and it saves a ton of time (and most of the sites I go to offer free shipping). Also, my husband and I don't do much gift exchanging, and we try to keep it simple for my son, which helps to keep the shopping manageable.

Regarding Santa: I share a lot of your concerns. My son is going to turn 3 in January, and he knows about Santa to the extent that Santa is a character. But we don't tell him that the Christmas presents are from Santa, and I try to refer to mall santas, etc as "Santa's Helpers". I have ordered him a book about St. Nicholas, and plan to teach him the story of St. Nicholas and how it inspired the tradition of gift-giving at Christmas. Then I'm going to explain that anyone who gives gifts is "santa's helper". It will take him years to grasp all this, but I feel that he'll never get the impression that I've been lying to him.

infertility just sucks said...

This is so interesting to me because I never had that feeling that my parents lied to me, maybe because they never actually admitted that he doesn't exist and a kid never threw it in my face.

When I asked them at some point they simply said, "Well, if you don't believe in him I guess he won't come next year," and I was particularly naive and didn't even ASK this question until I was 7 years old.

And at that point I think I was able to recognize Santa for what I think most parents mean him to be: a nice addition to Christmas that the young children can look forward to and that parents enjoy playing, so my brother and I went with it.

To this day, I still "believe" and Santa still visits me and I'd like to think that I'm not any more screwed up with the idea of gift giving or being grateful because of it. (Santa does stockings and one unwrapped gift at our house.) My mother was HUGE into thank-you notes though so maybe that helped.

It's so interesting to me to read about things like this because I', realizing that I tend to view it in a much more simplistic way. Santa's fun and I like fun things so why not?

I certainly get where you're coming from too though, because in the end I really think there's no possible way to do Christmas "wrong" as long as your family enjoys it and it's right for you.

I am re-reading this and it sounds JUDGEY, but I don't mean it to be. ACK. I just like Santa! I believe!

Salome Ellen said...

What Arwen apparently didn't mention was that we never said "Santa isn't real." What we did say was that Santa was the way some people remember the very real Saint Nicholas, who liked to give gifts. Our Christmas eve celebration for decades has consisted of three readings in this order: How the Grinch Stole Christmas, A Visit from Saint Nicholas (the actual title of "The Night Before Christmas",) and the Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke. So I guess what I'm saying is that we let the kids enjoy glimpsing/hearing about the cultural Santa while pointing them to the truths behind it. And since we never claimed he wasn't (deeply) real, they never said that to their friends. It was more "our family likes to talk about Saint Nicholas."

claire said...

That's brilliant, Salome Ellen, and that's pretty much the approach that my husband and I plan to take.

@ Infertility: First of all, I'm so with you on the infertility issue! Also, I personally didn't think that your post sounded judgey. You make some good points.

Erica said...

This year we got everyone in our family the same gift - a kodak photo book of Anna's first year. But besides that I always save the hassle w/ Amazon mom rules!
Anyway, this is great, thinking about the Santa thing. I'm going to discuss w/my husband.

Tirienne Anne said...

First of all, I had never even thought about Santa as lying, but it totally is! I always really loved our family traditions and thought Santa (as a modern commercial figure) was just weird. Now he's a weird lie!

Secondly, I want to point out that you and David are really good parents. You're raising a respectful, obedient boy who will obey you enough not "to burst any child's Santa bubble." Also, I can tell you, as a kid, that I didn't see my family's way of doing things as wrong, it was just how we did things. I'm sure whatever way you guys choose to handle the situation Nate will love that tradition as a kid and cherish as an adult. Yes, you are that good.

One more thing, Santa photos? Always cheesy, you made the right decision on that one.

Sarah in Ottawa said...

Not only did our family have Santa Claus, we also had "La Befana", an old Italian woman who delivered gifts to children on the feast of the Epiphany (my Mom was born in Italy). I never felt that my parents had lied to me, as they always tied both into feast days (granted that St. Nick came to visit a few weeks after his) and our primary focus was the birth of our Lord.

Irrespective of your ultimate choice, I hope that you'll have stockings to open. That is such a lovely tradition!