Sunday, November 29, 2009

Santa, Mikulas, and the Baby Jesus: part II

I loved reading all the comments on yesterday's post. Thanks to everyone who chimed in. More on the subject:

I agree with everyone who said that there's a pretty slim chance of a child being scarred by what they were told about Santa. I've never known anyone who was mad at their parents for letting them believe Santa was real. I also don't know any people who wish they had been told he was real. A friend emailed me today about yesterday's post and said a lot of really interesting things, including, "In the end, I think that it doesn't matter either way. No one seems especially traumatized one way or the other that I can tell. I can't think of anyone who hates their parents for how they handled it or who, as a result, has a lack of faith in other things or whatever. It just seems like some childhood thing that comes and goes with no damage."

That's the theory at least. Anyone know anyone who feels Santa trauma?

Santa and I met in Turku, Finland back in 1998 while he was scraping ice off his car.

This same friend had this to say about Christmas gift giving:

"If we didn't buy presents for anyone over seventeen
, it would solve lots of problems. Why do adults need to exchange gifts? Aren't we old enough to buy our own crap? If we could somehow only give each other presents when we have some thoughtful idea, without anyone getting their feelings hurt, that would be great. The forcing and expectation is what ruins things: especially when sometimes people say they don't want or need anything and they actually mean it and we get them something anyway. C and I make fun of the diamond commercials they run every year, when the TV tells you what diamond thing you're supposed to get your wife this year.
If I ran Christmas, kids would get gifts and adults would get warm feelings."

I liked his ideas there, especially that last line. This friend and I were talking on the phone this afternoon about how the real fun at Christmas, once we're all grown up, is getting gifts for the kiddos. Last year, Abe had a bunch of stuff to open up just because we found it so fun to wrap things up for him and watch him open everything. We like to give kids gifts. That's just how it is. But it's easy when they're only a year old, like Abe was last year, and pretty much oblivious to what was going on. Now he's a wizened two, and we really don't want him to get sucked into the "I want, I want, I want" vortex. So I really liked the idea Christina had about the five gift tradition: something you need, something you want, something to wear, something to read, and something to share. I might even be inclined to make it even simpler. I like the idea of recycling gifts too (from thrift stores and hand-me-downs). My friend, in the same email, also wrote about what he thinks is the best holiday and why:
"...That's why I'm currently thinking
Halloween is the best holiday. There's a minimal effort and a large payoff. You get some costume (sometimes the cheaper the better) and buy a sack of candy and you're pretty much ready to go. You can decorate as much or as little as you want and no one will judge. It's more of a community thing than Christmas is. The movies are more fun. There's nothing cheesy or saccharine about Halloween: it's kinda hip actually. You're not hearing about it everywhere you go. No religion is involved (except for those who wrongly think there is). There are a variety of ways to celebrate. Kids can be kids and can be cute. No one is wanting to kill themselves. Satan's blessings are everywhere.
Even probably a better holiday--but in its case, only because of the promise of Christmas. You have some turkey dinner or whatever and see some family and you start getting excited about Christmas and pulling out Christmas records and thinking about shopping: but you're not sick of everything yet. You're not wanting to kill the next actor in the next Christmas commercial selling a Samsung Blu-Ray player. But then Black Friday hits and someone gets fatally trampled at Wal-Mart and the true spirit of Christmas comes alive."
Seven of the nine lined up Christmas morning, ready to open presents.

I get what he's saying (please, don't be offended by the comment about religion. And the "Satan's blessing" is a joke). I realized tonight though that I have all kinds of emotion attached to Christmas, like no other holiday. On my walk with Abe this afternoon, we walked past a house that was being decorated. The owners were playing Christmas music from the front porch, and as Abe and I sat there on their front steps talking about the decorations, I got all choked up. Tears welled up in my eyes from hearing some Christmas song playing; I don't even remember what it was. But my childhood appeared right in front, conjured by the music, the way it did when Max scratched his name on the side of his boat in Where the Wild Things Are.

I am very lucky that I had a happy childhood and bunches of happy Christmases. I bet there are a lot of people who didn't. For me though, probably because of all the happy memories attached to it (and not just because of the gifts), Christmas is still my favorite. My high school best friend's favorite holiday was Halloween, which I never really understood, maybe until now as it was just explained in my friend's email (not the same friend). It got me wondering what you all think the best holiday is and why? Anyone out there nutso for Valentine's or St. Paddy's Day?


Amy B. said...

I can say, just from my own life experiences, that Christmas never has been about gifts or the commercial value. It has been about the feeling of belonging, being together as a family, understanding the importance of spending time reflecting. That is what I want for my kids...and I feel like that is what we've taught them. They get great joy in putting decorations on the tree, listening to Christmas music, and sitting together with cups of hot chocolate. Our kids only receive one or two gifts on Christmas. That has never been the focus. I think a lot of that comes from the fact that, growing up in West Africa, I only ever received one or two gifts for Christmas (and they were usually handmade by my mom). So, it was never an expectation. I like keeping life in perspective like that. But, I can say that our kids believe in Santa (although Elijah knows the truth, but still keeps it under wraps for all the other kids in the family). One of the aspects of Santa that I don't like is that kids are taught to believe that somehow they are "favored" over other children...such as children living in poverty. Why doesn't Santa visit them? Hmmmmm? We've explained to our kids that we are to be Santa's translates well into being the hands and feet of Jesus too. That is far from sufficient, I know. But, like your friend...I've never known anyone that would say they were traumatized by knowing Santa's true identity. I also don't like the fact that 99.9999% of the time Santa is a white guy. I would love to find a Santa of a different ethnicity this year (but I think my odds are slim). I explained to my kids this year that Santa can have any color of skin and any color of hair because Santa is Santa to ALL kids. But, then my analogy breaks down...and I'm back to the fact that Santa really ISN'T Santa to all kids. Oh least it only last until they are 8 or 9 and then you can have more mature discussions on the subject. OK...I've written a book.

mama becca said...

I love this post lori :).
i love halloween too... it's the best... awesome memories, community coming together... all that good stuff.
i just agree with everything you and your email buddy said. Just makes sense to me. I remember figuring out that santa wasn't real... i was 5 or 6 maybe? and i just LOVED being in on the adult secret, and loved pretending for my brothers. No scarring here :). I think if we don't place too much seriousness on the traditions, and make them fun and magical for kids, it can be really cool. In the end we focus on the beautiful event that we're really celebrating, and the festive merriment is transferred over to the REAL reason for it all, and hearts are warmed, people are loved.
that's the point, i hope :).

Emma said...

I love the idea of second hand gifts from freecycle or thift stores. I actually tried to get as much of my daughter's clothing this year from Freecycleas I could. While we got a lot of stuff passed on to us, I did a terrible job resisting the cute baby clothes in stores. I have been mulling over the idea of asking people to bring hand-me-downs instead of gifts at the kids' birthday party but I don't know how to do that without offending people. Lots to think about.

Gretchen said...

I loeb you and your friend. Also? I completely agree with the discussion regarding gifts for folks over 17. I think you guys should make that happen. Is there something I could sign?? A petition? A check? Something?

I hope to call you tonight. Or tomorrow.

Gretchen said...

And also? Favorite holiday- Thanksgiving.

Erin Sager said...

I do think there is something a little magical about Christmas, people seem a little more friendly and happy. I am sad each year when it is over, but have to admit St. Pattys is my favorite day of the year. I never feel that great the day after, but am always counting down the days to MArch 17....

And lets get together, it has been way to long, miss you guys!

Claudia said...

This is a terrible thing to admit, but I have SUCH happy memories of christmases as a child... because of tbhe presents! My mother was wonderful at picking gifts and we always knew that there would be fabulous stuff under the tree for us. Not hugely extravagant, but ... generous, is probably the word. They didn't really buy us 'stuff' apart from christmas and birthdays, but i just LOVED getting presents on those days. That should probably bother me mroe than it does. But there was the year of the bike, the year of the teddy bear taht I just loved even thought I was technically too old for it, the year of the harmonica.... ahhhhh. Happy memories. Shallow, but happy :)