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In Defense of Santa Claus

by on November 27, 2013 6:00 AM

(Warning—this column is NSFC: Not suitable for children.)

The days following Thanksgiving take on a lot of different meanings. For some, it's the kickoff to the holiday shopping season.

For others, it's the time when football starts getting serious as teams get closer to bowl games and playoffs. For my family, it's the official start of Santa watch.

There are some families that have decided they've had enough with the old guy. They say that Santa is one of the main factors causing the consumerism that surrounds one of holiest days in the Christian calendar.

Some parents worry that telling their children that a man, a stranger, comes into their home while they sleep causes anxiety and fear in young kids. They also worry about the disappointment their children face when they learn the truth. Are we setting our kids up to distrust us after years of elaborate, and false, stories about the Christmas tradition?

To all that, I say "poppycock."

Christmas is about magic and fun. My husband and I, as did our parents, get great joy from helping our kids write letters to Santa and visiting him at the mall (although only to wave at him; my children aren't keen on sitting on a stranger's lap. That part is a bit weird and awkward). As a parent, there are few things as wonderful as watching your child's eyes light up when they see all the lights and decorations at Santa's Village. It's exciting to see Santa ride past our house on a firetruck on Christmas Eve.

It's comforting to them to know that this kind, generous man wants to make them happy. And since parents control the interaction, it's safe.

So what if it's just my husband and me staying up past midnight on Christmas morning to make sure the presents are wrapped and waiting for them in the morning? I know some parents complain that they don't get credit for waiting in lines and picking out the perfect bike. In my family, the biggest and best gift comes from us and is labelled accordingly. The smaller gifts — the books, video games, smaller toys — get credited to Santa.

My nine-year-old is wise to the set-up now, though he won't fully admit to not believing in Santa, just in case. But he thrills in reading books about Santa to my two-year-old and explaining to her how it all works.

I remember when I stopped believing. It happened over a series of years, in part because I found some of my presents hidden in my parents' closet. Then, my dad dressed up as Santa to visit my younger brother. I'm not sure if my brother was fooled, but I knew, of course, that it was my father.

Rather than feeling betrayed or disappointed, I felt like I had been let in on a secret. I would now help with the note Santa left behind on Christmas morning thanking us for the cookies and Yuengling. I'd tell my brother that I heard Santa leaving when he woke up and wondered if his presents were under the tree.

I would never tell someone else how to raise their children, but I will tell you this — I don't know anyone who resents the Santa myths they grew up with. Life gets hard as you get older, and having a few years of magic in your children's lives never hurt anyone.

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Holly Swanson is a State College-based freelance writer. She is on Twitter @statecollegemom and can be reached via email at [email protected]
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