Thursday, December 07, 2006

Right Down Satan Claws Lane

There's no Santa at the Dunbar's house. I'm anti-Santa. I don't think I'm anti-Santa in a killjoy-obnoxious-funsucking-religious-fanatic way. But, I guess you can decide that for yourselves and let me know how deluded I am.

First, let me explain one reason for being anti-Santa that DOES NOT apply to me. That is to say I am anti-Santa for reasons other than this. This is killjoy with a capital K. J.: Magic.

I'm a big fan of magic. Harry Potter? Check. Narnia? Check. Lord of the Rings (movies not books, I'm sad to say)? Check. Toothfairy? Fine. Made up bedtime stories about stuffed donkeys coming to life and my kids having crazy-ass magical powers? Youbetcha. I LOVE that stuff.

In fact, talk to me about toy making elves, flying reindeer and magical fat men in red suits in June and I'd rather like the idea. My main beef with Santa is timing. Why does he arrive the same night as Baby Jesus?

This is somebody who comes to us on December 25; he knows if we've been naughtly or nice; he rewards us accordingly; and when we get to be a certain age we stop believing in him, but keep pretending we do to keep up appearances.

Now, pretend you are three years old and guess whoI'm talking about: Santa or Baby Jesus? Or don't pretend you're anything--which person fits that description? There is confusion enough in the world about who Jesus is. We don't need Santa appearing on a cloud for every eye to see and mussing things up further.

If we need a little something to help explain who Jesus is and what He came to do...if we need an analogy of sorts...a friendly cartoon character to reflect Jesus' nature...I could get into that. But the fact that Santa comes at the same time and is so NOT thank you.

The other problem is one of American materialism and a sense of entitlement. This is such a big problem for me because it is my problem EXACTLY. I wish I had more money. I wish I had more stuff. I wish I had nicer stuff. It is my stray dog sin that follows me around and scratches at my door all the time. I pray about it a lot. I remind myself that my life would still be life with all it's joys and sorrows if I had $50,000 more or $50,000 les per year (though, frankly, the latter is a little hard to imagine). I refuse to let all this Santa business instill this in my kids.

What am I talking about, you ask? This question, that some well meaning stranger or friend asks my children at least once day, "What sorts of things do you have on your list for Santa?" I guess I did it when I was little, and my mom still asks me if there is anything special I want, but the idea of telling a child to sit down and write out all the things they want to be given? To walk through the toy aisles full of plastic crap they'll outgrow in a couple months and say, "which 10 of these things will make your holiday special?" It gives me the heebeegeebees. Because if those things (or some of them) don't show up on Christmas morning, then what? Do you really say, "you must have been naughty?" or make up some cock and bull story about Santa catching a flat or letters getting lost in the mail?

And then I start to think outside of my own family and at the community/world around me. When the poor kids in Phoebe's class say they didn't get anything...or not the conclusion then that they were bad? That Santa doesn't visit the poor because they are bad? Does being poor make them bad? Is that the same thing?

And I think of all the hours each week Paul spends helping people who come into his office to get out of debt, or to manage their money, or to make ends meet. And I think about those people feeling like they HAVE to spend all this money at Christmas to make it Christmas and then spend the next 11 months digging themselves out from under that.

I know I'm getting carried away here.

I like presents. I hope to get some good ones. I hope the ones I'm giving are received with happiness and enjoyed.

My kids know who Santa is. They think of him, I think, like Mickey Mouse. He's in movies and books and everybody loves him and talks about him but why would he come to our house on Christmas? We've come up with this answer for when people ask if they are going to get lots of presents for Santa. They say, "I know I'll get some nice things from my friends and family." I worked really hard to come up with that. I don't want to be in your face shouting "we don't believe in Santa!" and ruin anybody else's good time. And I get wierd looks-o-plent with that reply, but the kids have to say something when they are asked, and boy are they asked.

It's this sort of thing that makes me want to be a pioneer wife. I could make cornhusk dolls for the kids and they'd be so excited. Paul would get me fabric so I could make myself a new bonnet and I wouldn't even want for more. I know a time machine is not the answer. And I know I've been through all this before on the blog, but sometimes I feel Amerian culture just dragging me under.

I know some people do St. Nicholas. Some people have figurines of Santa kneeling and praying before the manger. Some people with the same beliefs as me choose to do Santa and that's fine. There's no law against Santa. But we decided to not do Santa at all. It seems to get harder and harder to manage as the wide world becomes more a part of the kids' lives. Since they can't talk about Jesus at school, all they hear is Santa (don't get me started on public vs. parochial school) . But, we'll stick to our guns and pray and believe that these kids are God's children even more so then they are ours and maybe save a little money for later therapy if being anti-Santa scars them for life.


Melanie said...

Gosh, put into words so perfectly some of the dilemmas I've wrestled with about Santa. This is the first year that Lucy has gotten really into the whole idea of Santa Claus, and it's been pretty startling to me to think about what we're doing here - I'm pretty sure we aren't helping her by confusing the truth and the story. I'm pretty sure she is doubtful, anyway, about the whole hoax...flying deer, man down the chimney, etc...she's sharp enough to know that isn't really possible. Anyway, thanks for putting it so well. For me the dilemma isn't so much what to tell Lucy...I don't have a problem telling her Santa isn't real. It's how to think about how we present this to the rest of the world - how to answer the Santa questions, how to keep Lucy from revealing the truth to the rest of the world of children, etc. I think you're right on about this thing, though. Thanks for writing about it.

emdunbar said...

It is akward for Phoebe and Mo when people talk to them about Santa. Talking about Santa in GENERAL is fine (like talking about Ariel or Pooh), but asking them about THEIR experience with Santa is uncomfortable. They haven't sat on Santa's lap (and who ever enjoyed THAT anyway? yikes) we don't have any Santa stuff at home...but having that little script about presents from friends and families has been really helpful. I haven't yet this year, and now that I think of it I will got talk to their teachers and explain where we're coming from. I'm a bit afraid that explaining it makes it sound crazier...but two out of our three school teachers go to our church, so it'll be fine.
I guess I have to chalk it up to early training for a lifetime of going against the cultural norm. This is what we do, even when everyone else is doing something different.

Hope said...

Well, we don't do Santa either and this is the first year where Sam is really inundated with Santa talk. What I don't get is that his Christian preschool teachers hype Santa up so much that he runs home to us to tell about Santa and ask when he's coming. I too don't want to be a killjoy, but I don't want Sammy to be either so I haven't even told him Santa isn't real. All I've said is that Santa doesn't come to our house because we buy our own presents for each other. Hopefully that'll be enough to get me through this year anyway. I'd be happy if Christmas were just an extended repeat of Thanksgiving and we did away with all the gifts altogether. I feel guilty about the money, I'm not a great gift-giver and I don't need anything. I like the parties and the dinner, that's a good time.

Melanie said...

Yeah...our Christian preschool does the Santa overload, too. It would be nice if they would help us out with that one, and at least be "santa neutral."

Carey said...

Wow. Just when I thought I was gonna get through the former part of the day having to think about Fresca. And Fresca only. I kind of like playing devil's advocate (so to speak). I don't really think about this dilemma quite as much as someone with kids, but I think about it. And, oddly, I think about it in relationship to my mother. She was a big proponant of Santa because she wanted my brother and I to believe in the possibility of Santa. And, if I can really think hard, I can make that sound a little like Cornel West arguing that there could be possibilities in the world that The Man doesn't want us to know about... Although, when I'm extremely honest, I know that it's about my mom being able to survive her own hell of a childhood by imagining another way of life. *I* believe that her faith in a loving God helped her a lot and somehow she managed to pass that on to me. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I think, in our family, Santa was more about my mom's needs than my brother or I -- and Christmas is still about that. The pressure for us to be happy. The pressure for us to LOVE our gifts. And I'm *so* not in that place anymore. For Christmas to be about the pressure to fix, in one holiday, all the crap in our lives. And fix it with stuff. And, I guess, Santa makes us more vulnerable to that. But I'm not sure. I do see a generational thing with the Santa-ness, though. The GenXers seem pretty anti-Santa. And I wonder if that's because we want REAL. And I wonder if our boomer parents were all about -- I dunno, the last throws of modernity or something. I'm sure somebody has written a dissertation on it. The Christmas thing is complicated. My own personal issue? Who thought that two weeks was enough time to a) sing the kick-ass Chrismas hymns/songs? And b) discuss God putting on human skin? This is yet another reason why I am going to create my OWN liturgical calander, thereby defeating one of the core purposes of having one in the first place. Ha ha ha! I am so postmodern.

Excellent topic!

jeremy said...

I don't like the idea of Santa because I don't want my kids thinking someone else spent all that damn money on them. Papa gotta get paid.

Melanie said...

Amen to that Jeremy. And hello to's been a long time.

Well, I kinda' broke it to Lulu tonight that Santa wasn't real. It wasn't horribly well-rehearsed, it just sorta' came up. She was verry upset at first when she believed that this meant no lollipop lip gloss or teddy bear (not sure why, but those are the gifts of choice this year). I actually think the whole thing made sense to her very precocious brain, though, because she had really wrestled with the reality of fat men down chimneys, flying wildlife, etc.

I won't get into the nuts and bolts of our discussion, but I feel good about it. And she is SUCH a fan of Mama and Daddy now that she realizes who actually gives the loot around here! There's nothin' wrong with that.

The best part was when she said, "Is Santa DEAD?" and her eyes filled with tears. I can't wait to get a phone call from one of the moms of her school friends who has had to deal with jr. crying b/c Santa is dead. I guess it's a good thing we're moving...