Gender & Identity, Life

Santa tends to stand for consumerism instead of love, so should I teach my child about him?

To give without receiving is a noble act, and Santa gives without getting anything in return. I get that, but do the children who wake up to a Christmas morning understand this concept?

We don’t set up a Christmas tree nor do we hang stockings by the fireplace.

Santa doesn’t come to our house and my daughter sometimes wonders why. Her friends in kindergarten explain to her that it’s probably because she has not been a good kid this year.

It’s what they’ve been told by well-meaning adults, the media, their teachers: Santa brings toys to all the good little girls and boys…He knows when you’ve been naughty or nice.

What other explanation could there be?

Yet there are many places and situations where just being good is not enough to ensure a child’s basic human needs much less holiday gifts. My parents came from third world countries where Christmas wasn’t commonly celebrated. As working-class immigrants, they had little understanding or use for make-believe characters like Santa Claus (imagine Gru’s mother from Despicable Me).

Their income was modest and, at best, stable. It did not bother me when I didn’t receive gifts; it was enough that my parents were gainfully employed. Christmas was not even up for discussion.

I don’t mean to sound like the Grinch. I very much enjoy the festivities of the holiday season…the lights, the decorations, and the parties. And now as an adult, I have the autonomy to decide to what extent I want to participate in this gift-giving tradition. Increasingly, I notice friends and relatives who have grown up in similar circumstances now posting pictures on social media of their own beautifully wrapped gifts carefully placed under ornate Christmas trees.

Perhaps this is to make up for all the Christmases that they missed as children. I, too, have wondered if I should partake in the holiday gift giving at the very least with my own daughter. We certainly have enough means. My only hesitation is Santa Claus. My conundrum is simply this: should the gifts come from me or from Santa?

Santa Claus is not real (I apologize if this is the first time you’re hearing this).

This presents a problem for me because it means that I have to tell my daughter something I know is not true. And this lie is not as innocuous as you may think; it gets more involved. I will have to pretend to be Santa, surreptitiously buy her gifts, and anonymously leave them for her on Christmas Eve.

For this to be successful, everybody, and I mean everybody, must be in on it. If an older child “spills the beans” then all my hard work becomes less effective. It makes me wonder… what is the core value of this elaborate charade?

To give without receiving is a noble act, and Santa gives to children without getting anything in return. I get that, but do the children who wake up to a Christmas morning understand this concept? Perhaps the children of Metro Atlanta do.

Two years ago, I was moved by a video posted by UPTV where children from low-income families had to choose between a gift for themselves or one for their parents. Many of these children chose a gift for their parents over one for themselves.

These kids understood the essential concept of generosity at a young age.

If Santa were real, these children would surely be at the top of his ‘good’ list. I’m not advocating that children should have to give up their Christmas gifts, but I wonder how I can use Santa and the tradition of giving gifts to instill this altruistic quality in my own child. When gifts are plentiful, they seem to lose value.

Perhaps it’s the opportunity to give to others more than what is received that inculcates this virtue in people.

In the future, that’s what I hope to focus on with my own daughter: to give…to be Santa.