We do Santa at our house. Not in a big way, however. We wouldn't bother taking the kids to sit on Santa's lap in the shopping centre and have their pictures taken. I wouldn't encourage them to write him letters with long lists of things they want to get as presents. But he does come on Christmas Eve bringing gifts, and we leave out food and drink for both Santa and the reindeer (beer, carrots, those little bags of oats that always come home from preschool or school, and yummy gingerbread shape biscuits).
For Chris and I, Santa is part of our childhood memories. I never went to see Santa at the shopping centre when I was little, but we did leave out our pillowcases each Christmas Eve for him to put our gifts in. Chris and his four siblings would go into the city each year especially to see Santa. He remembers feeling scared of going to see him in town, but not afraid of him coming on Christmas Eve. I can't remember when I discovered Santa was in fact a myth. It just seems to have been a gradual discovery over time, and I certainly wasn't traumatised in any way by it. I saw it as being part of the childhood magic of Christmas, one of those things that seems to fade as we grow older and we reminisce about fondly in our adult years. I didn't lose any trust in my parents over them having encouraged us to think Santa was coming.
Which is why I kind of don't get the arguments many Christians put forth about why we shouldn't tell our kids about Santa. You know the ones. It's lying to your children. Santa has his origins as a pagan ritual.
No, Santa isn't the main point of Christmas. Jesus is. And our kids know that. We have been reading through the Christmas story from our Bible and our Advent calendar for the last three weeks. We don't ever set out to tell the kids elaborate lies about what Santa does. He just comes to our house on Christmas Eve and gives us gifts. Maybe we're fortunate that our kids don't ask too many questions about how he manages to get in when we don't have a chimney and the doors are closed.
Our eldest child now knows that Santa doesn't really exist. I think that it was probably someone from our church who told him. That put me in a slightly awkward position at his school earlier this year when I was told by his teacher that he had passed this information on to another child in his class who was still a Santa believer. The Mum of the other child wasn't too happy, apparently.
I felt sad when I heard this. Santa to me is part of the magic of childhood at Christmastime. Another stage of life has passed for him. But for our two younger kids, I'm keen for them to continue to enjoy Santa as much as we did. Childhood is such a short time.
I was talking to someone from our church a few days ago who has never done Santa. Each year they choose a theme for Christmas (for example, this year it's Narnia, last year it was Transformers) and use that for gift giving. It sounded interesting. But I can't quite see Christmas without Santa.
And where do you draw the line on the pagan thing? If you're going to argue that Santa is a pagan figure, then why put up a Christmas tree which supposedly was originally meant to honor Odin, the Norse God? Or why let your kids read any books with fantasy like wizards, witches or talking animals in them?
This year, for our Book Club Christmas reading, we read J.R.R.Tolkien's Letters from Father Christmas.
I loved it, even though I have never managed to cope with Lord of the Rings in its written form. The edition of the book I found in my local library even had real envelopes in it with letters inside that you could pull out and read. And the illustrations were gorgeous. To me, it encapsulated all the reasons we do "do Santa."