Honoring Belief and Authenticity during the Holidays
I’ve written before about how we’re not going to do Santa with Kieran. It’s a year later, and we’re still not doing the traditional Santa route, even though Kieran is more aware of him now. Last year I read the following post by my friend Mandy of Living Peacefully with Children, and it really resonated with me. Read more about Mandy at the end of this post!
Before my husband and I had children, we discussed how we planned to handle various aspects of holidays. We aren’t Christian and don’t celebrate Christmas, so it only seemed natural to me that we wouldn’t bring the commercial aspect of Santa Claus into our home for the Solstice.
It wasn’t something I would miss. Not only was there the overly commercial aspect and the blatant lying, but I didn’t have fond memories of the jolly old man. I have the obligatory pictures of me sitting on Santa’s lap, tears streaming down my face at having been forced to sit on a strange man’s lap. At the age of four, I informed my mother that I didn’t believe in Santa Claus. I knew she left the gifts, and I wanted to appreciate her effort and thought rather than some mythical stranger.
However, my husband did have fond memories. He enjoyed the magical aspect as a kid and actually pretended to believe in Santa Claus long past when he actually quit believing in order to receive an extra gift. There were discussions. In the end, we compromised. We would discuss the spirit of giving with our future children and Father Time, a representation of that spirit, would leave gifts. I was a bit unsettled by this but recognized the need to honor my husband’s wishes, too. And then we had children…
Gazing into that tiny face, so trusting of us, we knew we couldn’t lie to him. We had no desire to break the special trust held between parent and child. So, life went on. We celebrated our solstice traditions and thought nothing more of Santa Claus or Father Time for five happy years.
The year our oldest turned five years old, he brought up the topic. We had read books about what other people believed and what other holidays people celebrated. We were surrounded by the commercialism of Santa Claus every time we went out.
One fateful day the question came. “Mommy, does Santa Claus exist?” There was an internal cringe, I’m sure. I explained that some people believed he did. Others didn’t. Some people believed in other forms of a spirit of giving. And then I asked him what he believed. He told me that he thought Father Time would leave presents for him and his siblings.
The morning after the longest night of the year, as we got up to open gifts, there were three unwrapped presents sitting on the sofa. My husband and I said nothing about them. We neither claimed to have given them nor that they were from Father Time. While we wouldn’t lie to our children, we also didn’t wish to squash any magic from what they wanted to believe.
The next year, at the age of six, he asked if Father Time was really real? I told him that I could answer his question and that the answer would be one of two – either yes or no. If it was yes, life would go on as it had and he would still believe. However, if it was no, would he be happy no longer believing? I asked him a hard question. Which was more important to him: knowing for certain what the answer was or believing regardless? He chose to continue believing, knowing that at any time he could ask me and I would answer truthfully, whatever that may be. His four year old sister piped up that she didn’t believe and that she thought that when I filled everyone’s stockings, I also left the gifts on the couch. I replied that different people believe different things.
Starting that second year, my husband and I, not feeling caught spur of the moment, came up with a tradition that we could live with honestly. The unwrapped gifts we leave out are now always some type of media for our family library, whether movies or music. It’s a tradition that we will continue regardless of what our children believe and one which we can feel honest about.
We now have four children, ages 9, 7, 4, and 1 1/2. Listening to their conversations about the subject is interesting. I still continue with my need to be authentic and refuse to lie. I also will not force my beliefs on someone else and tell them they are wrong. Honoring honesty and authenticity doesn’t have to conflict with honoring the magic of childhood.
Mandy is married to her best friend and is a stay-at-home-mom to their four wonderful children. She holds multiple degrees in the sciences and music and is a self-proclaimed research fanatic. Her love of learning plays a large role in her unschooling journey with her family and her volunteer involvement with various homeschooling and parenting groups. You can find her at Living Peacefully with Children, where this post was originally published.
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"Honoring Belief and Authenticity during the Holidays"
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