Dealing with Santa from 2009
Monday was the Feast of St. Nicolas, according to the church calendar. Every year we read an Advent book and the readings coordinate with the different feasts and celebrations on the historical church calendar. So Monday evening at dinner my husband read to us about St. Nicolas.
It really is a beautiful story. According to our book (there are many different versions, where I find they differ is in the details) this saint lost his parents at some point and inherited their money. With the money he did many good things for people who were poor. One famous story says there was a family with three daughters and they were very poor. So poor that the daughters might have be sold as prostitutes, and one night St. Nicolas came by their house and threw three bags of silver in the home. Maybe down the chimney... and maybe that's how the tradition of Santa coming down the chimney was born? Either way he did enough great things for people in need that the church now recognizes him as a saint.
Today is Friday, five days have passed since we read that story, and to be honest I was unsure how much Marin really listens to our evening Advent readings. There are beautiful pictures of historical art in the book and she likes to look at those and ask questions about what is going on in the picture. But today we discovered how much she is listening. The following conversation took place this morning in the car after we took Daddy to work.
* Part of our Advent reading gave the estimated birth and death dates of St. Nicolas (I feel this is important to note for the following conversation)
M: Mommy my friends last night..
me: Oh yeah A and W?
M: yeah they don't know that Santa Claus is dead.
Halt conversation as I pee my pants, swallow down my heart and carry on...
me:... what did you say?
M: they don't know he died a long time ago
me:...ummmm you didn't tell them he died did you?
M: no I just know they don't know
me: OK no matter what any one says about Santa we never say he is dead OK
M: OK, but what did Daddy say about him?
me: you mean what we read in our book at dinner?
me: (I'm really confused at this point as to how Santa is dead) well are you talking about St. Nicolas?
me: Santa Claus is the memory of St. Nicolas. St. Nicolas was a man who lived a long time ago and helped people with the money he inherited from his parents, or so the story goes.
M: but he's died now
me: well he lived a very long time ago. But he is not the same as Santa, so we don't say, Santa is dead. Santa is very alive to many people. So when kids talk about Santa you can pretend with them. Don't ever disagree with them about Santa because lots of families have different traditions, like we make cookies for Santa and know its pretend but mommy loves that tradition because its what she did as a little girl, even as a big teenager my family always had a big family night decorating cookies together and then we would pick our very favorites and put them on a very beautiful plate and set them near the fire place. Some families do other things like put oats and carrots in their yard, and other things to think about Santa, or as a way to celebrate Christmas. Santa is a tradition, and he is part of the holiday for people who believe he is alive and pretend, and for our family Santa is a reminder of how we, like St. Nicolas need to help care for people who do not have what they need. Santa is always there to remind us that God takes care of us, and gives us everything we need and even enough to help other people, the way St. Nicholas helped people.
M:can I write a letter to Santa
me: sure, there is actually a box at the Post Office for you to put it in
M: can I stay home today?
me: no you need to be at school today, but don't say anything about Santa. OK
We want to celebrate Christmas, we don't want to lavish our children with gifts, we don't want them to think its about getting, even though there will be things they get. Christmas is about a baby being born, a baby who changed the world. We don't want our focus to be Santa Claus, but he is a part of Christmas, even if you don't "believe" in Santa, he is part of Christmas. For us we want Santa to remind us of St. Nicolas and how he was deeply convicted to be concerned about poverty, especially children. Maybe he was the beginning of social justice? Or maybe he is simply there to remind us that Christmas is not about us, or our children, or Christmas Eve dinner. But St. Nicolas and Santa are there to remind us of that little baby who was born into poverty, in a barn, to a teen mom, came to change the world, and make things right. Maybe we need Santa Claus to be our reminder to take care of the people who need more than we do. This does not mean we don't also enjoy and take part in our own family traditions, in fact they should become more meaningful to us each year. The more I understand about Christmas the more grateful I become that we celebrate this holiday. That we have a time where we are supposed to have a family night decorating cookies, going to church rehearsals, planning a feast with friends. These are the things that should remind us how much our family and friends matter, and that we should take the time to slow down and do something for the people who need a little help.