As the holiday season approaches, many caregivers of children struggle with the mystery of Santa Claus. While the idea of a magical figure delivering presents to children may bring joy and excitement, it can also create feelings of dishonesty and guilt.
The mystery surrounding Santa Claus always seemed peculiar to me. When I revealed the possibility that Santa may not be real to my younger cousins, my grandmother was not pleased. I believed I was shedding light on a secret, a potential reality, while my grandmother viewed it as a holiday spoiler.
When I became a parent, I felt obligated to perpetuate the Santa Claus tradition for our child. Although it felt misleading, it was a harmless act that added a sparkle of joy to our family celebrations. Besides, I had learned my lesson about not spoiling holiday festivities. Yet, as the years rolled on, maintaining the Santa mystery felt increasingly dishonest, particularly when faced with probing inquiries from my young truth seeker, who we had taught to value honesty.
Luckily, a more experienced parent and fellow teacher shared with me how to embrace the mystery of Santa. “Do not worry, I will send you the instructions.” she told me, “You are going to love Santa again.” The origin of this solution comes from Leslie Rush, whose family has been transitioning kids from receiving gifts from Santa to becoming part of the mystery for a few generations.
Once a child starts questioning the existence of Santa, it indicates that they might be ready. The caregiver takes the child out for a special time together and reminisces about what they love about Santa, about what their friends are saying about different kinds of Santas. Most importantly, the caregiver shares the times they have witnessed the child showing empathy and consideration towards others throughout the year. Explaining that the child’s compassion had grown so much that the child was now ready to embrace the role of a Santa Claus.
To become a Santa requires the child to identify a meaningful gift for someone outside of their immediate family and secretly leave it for them. The full story is in this Washington Post story; I share it for those of us who want the instructions.
It turns out we can embrace the mystery of Santa Claus, create a collaborative and joyful atmosphere for children and adults during the holidays while maintaining our own values of honesty and generosity.
Blessing to you all this holiday season,
Rev. Kimberlee Tomczak Carlson, Minister of Religious Education