Column - The spirit of Santa lives onThis week I was asked one of those really, really big questions that a parent is never really prepared to answer – it was “the Santa question.”
This week I was asked one of those really, really big questions that a parent is never really prepared to answer – it was “the Santa question.”
It actually isn’t the first time the topic was brought up by my youngest daughter, now age 9. Last Christmas she told me that some of her classmates didn’t believe in Santa anymore. “That’s too bad,” was my reply, followed by the question, “Do you believe in Santa?” “Yes!” she said with no hesitation.
That was the end of it, until just a few weeks ago after a visit from a friend. “Mom,” my daughter said quite seriously after her playmate left. “My friend said there is no Santa.”
“Oh?” I asked. “What did you say to that?”
She was quiet awhile and then said, “I told her that I believe there is a Santa.” She then told me her friend teased her and told her that parents buy the gifts and put them under the tree and that Santa is just a made-up story. By the time she was done relaying this information to me, her brow was deeply furrowed and her eyes a little watery.
She didn’t ask me at that point what my thoughts were on Santa, so all I told her was that it’s OK to believe in different things than other people and it’s OK to not always agree with friends. After asking her how she felt when her friend teased her for her belief, I encouraged her to remember those feelings and try to never make someone else feel that way by making fun of their beliefs. That was the end of the conversation and I again considered myself lucky that I hadn’t actually been asked the “big” question.
Maybe it would never happen, I thought to myself. After all, my 13-year-old never asked the question. In fact, she’s never even raised an eyebrow when the topic of Santa comes up. By all outward appearances, she is a firm believer.
So, I put the conversation behind me and didn’t give it another thought. Probably not a smart move. I should have prepared just in case the question did get asked. But I didn’t. So when it came up again just the other night, I wasn’t ready.
We were talking about her day when all of a sudden she said, “OK, Mom. I have to ask you this and I just want you to tell me. All my friends say Santa isn’t real and that parents are the ones who put the presents under the tree. Is that true?”
I sat there looking at her, completely speechless and feeling a surge of panic. Before I could say anything, she added, “Just tell me if you are the one who puts the presents under the tree.”
“Yes,” I said, knowing it was time. “I am the one who puts the presents under the tree.”
I watched her face closely trying to read her thoughts. I didn’t see the sadness I expected. “OK. That’s all I wanted to know,” she said.
“Are you sure?” I asked. “Is that really all you want to ask me?”
“Yes,” she said. “I think I know everything else. Santa is a spirit – not a real person.”
“Are you OK with that?” I asked.
“Yep,” she replied. “Some of the kids don’t believe in him at all. But I believe in him, and it’s OK that you put the presents under the tree. I know that Santa’s spirit is real.”
And with that she went back to her game, leaving me amazed yet again by what we can learn from children.
A few years back I was part of a conversation in which someone said they thought it was terrible that parents lied to their children, encouraging them to believe in something as silly as Santa.
That conversation caused me considerable contemplation. Was I being unfair to my children by encouraging them to believe in Santa? Was it a bad thing? Just like the lesson I tried to teach my daughter last Christmas, I decided to accept others’ thoughts, but to follow my heart and continue keeping the spirit of Santa alive for my children as long as they wanted to believe. And so far, at ages 13 and 9, my children embrace the spirit of Santa, just as I still do.
Santa isn’t about the Christmas Eve visits or the plate of cookies or the presents. Santa is about wishing and dreaming and imagining and giving and sharing. What’s the harm in that?
He’s seen in the smiles the whole world is sharing,
He’s found where there’s friendship and loving and caring.
He’s felt in warm handshakes when people are meeting,
He’s heard in the cheer of a Christmas-time greeting.
His spirit’s behind all the gifts we receive,
He’s everywhere, always…to those who believe!
– Author Unknown