Can little children experience the magic of Christmas without the fat man? Should we say sainara to Santa? I don't know.
This year, we mesmerized our children with stories of a chubby old elf squeezing down the chimney and soaring through the night sky led by a magical red-nosed reindeer. We left homemade cookies out for Santa and carrots for his reindeer. We pointed out Mars in the sky and suggested it might be Rudolph's red nose. We read the Night Before Christmas and were awoken with a soft smile from our three year old and the sweet question "Has Santa come yet?"
Even as we did all that, though, I felt a little bit strange - as if I was lying to my children. When my five year old turned curious eyes to me and asked in a wonderous voice "Is Santa real?", I hesitated before answering him. After the kids went to bed, my sister shared that Rudolph was invented by Macy's to sell more consumer goods at Christmas time. It was actually Montgomery Ward's but her point was the same. Bill McKibben's Hundred Dollar Holiday: The Case for a More Joyful Christmas details how the current commercial holiday we know developed. Much of what we know about Santa and his bag full of toys was molded by marketers looking to sell more stuff. How magical is that?
Christmas should be a time to create memories filled with things we did and not things we got. I want my children to remember decorating Christmas cookies with their grandmother, playing with cousins, singing Christmas carols around a Bouche de Noel cake, going on a nature walk and leaving a gift for nature. Store-bought gifts should be secondary.
Is Santa contrary to everything I am trying to teach my boys? Can I encourage simple living with St. Nick hanging over my shoulder? If so, it may be time to kick Kriss Kringle out from under our Christmas tree.