Tuesday, December 8, 2009

My Santa Story

I remember the Christmases of my childhood very vividly. The tree that stood next to the fireplace, the greenery that was perfectly placed on the mantle, the nativity that was arranged by my hands - all of it seemed so magical. I would always wake up far too early with eagerness on Christmas morning. I would softly walk down the stairs...stop halfway...and peek to see if the presents had arrived.

And the center of my world - for this one night - was Santa.

My mom went to great lengths to make sure he was as real as he could be. The wrapping paper was always the prettiest from him. It was even wrapped neater. All the presents I asked for, I received.

If I ever questioned his existence, I was always told he was real. I was never asked, "What do you think?" And believe me, he was very real. Even as I grew older, and others didn't believe, it didn't matter to me. I held on to what I thought was true. Probably much longer than I should have to be honest.

The summer before I entered the fourth grade, I finally asked my mom...one more time...if Santa was real. I'm not sure what prompted this conversation, but she finally revealed to me that he was not real.

And even though this may sound over-dramatic, I'm explaining exactly how I remember it. It really was that "traumatic" to me at the time. I felt my heart began to beat faster. It seemed like everything I knew to be true was just not true anymore. I cried and cried. And even the days that followed would find me crying if I thought about it.

It was a big deal to me.

Now, I realize that not every child is this way. My sister, for example, just brushed it off as if she always knew. I remember asking Josh once if he remembered finding out about Santa, and he doesn't even remember how long he believed.

For years, even as a child, I felt guilty for asking for so many "things" because I instantly realized that my parents were the ones who had to buy them for me...instead of the free for all that I thought I was receiving. I was never told to limit my requests, so I didn't. And when I thought about everything I had opened as gifts over my short lifespan, it seemed so overindulgent. I felt like I didn't have the chance to thank my parents for giving me gifts because I didn't know THEY gave them to me.

Christmas seemed so empty to me for many years following my revelation, and that feeling was really difficult. There are times when I still can feel that emptiness, and I know it's because of the memory I have of suddenly realizing what I thought to be true...was not true.

So for those of you who know I don't "do Santa" with my children, I thought you might want to understand the background of it. It's not really anything religious/spiritual (even though I suppose I could discuss that side of it). It's more of my personal story that keeps me from incorporating Santa into our Christmases. I have a hard time seeing Santa everywhere. And even though the kids see him everywhere - on shows or in decorations - they understand he is pretend - like Buzz Lightyear.

Because of my own experience, I decided to tell my kids the truth right from the start. I just had to. And I know I am not the only adult who has experienced the same feelings as a child. You can read about others online, but I met a woman (used to go to church with her) who actually began questioning the deity of Christ as a teen and into her early 20's because of the untruth of Santa. When my parents do not tell the truth about one thing, what about other things?

Sound over-the-top? Like I said, not every child experiences it this way. But what if my child would? I'm not willing to take that chance.

For a lighter take on this subject, read this blog. The comments are interesting, too.

20 comments:

accesskas27 said...

I agree with you 100%. I know this is a very controversial subject even among christians, but for myself I just can not bring myself to lie to my child and tell them their is a man named Santa who sees them all the time, knows what they are doing, and gives them gifts if they are good, and then one day tell them he isn't real, but God who sees them all the time, knows what they are doing etc.... IS real.... i want them to know they can trust me 100% to tell them the truth. Christmas is just as magical and wonderful at our house without Santa... the children wake up excited.... not because Santa was here, but because it's Jesus's birthday. We bake a cake for Jesus and sing, and then we open a few gifts.

For those of you out there doing Santa please dont' think I am judging you because I am not... we are all different and we must do what God puts in our own hearts to do. On this subject I happent to agree with Chrissy, it wasn't because I had a bad childhood experience, but just because I just can't bring myself to do it.

F&F Mali said...

I agree, too. Unfortunately, I agreed too late and little man is already a believer of santa. I read the "Stuff Christians Like" post yesterday, too, and wondered just how much D is into santa or if maybe (hopefully) he just thought he was a character or make believe. No such luck. Last night on the way home, he was talking about santa and I asked "so do you think he is real or is he like Mickey Mouse?" "Oh, no, mom, he is real" he said. My stomach dropped a little because I just hate that at some point, no matter how brief the moment, he is going to know that his dad and I lied :(

I don't remember when I stopped believing in santa and my experience wasn't tragic at all. But if I had it to do over again with D, I would make sure he knew that santa was make believe.

Nel said...

We believe in Santa at our house. But Corey and I neither one had a tramatic time when we found out he wasn't real... I just remember how cool it was when Santa came to our house and then how much fun it was to continue it with my brothers and sisters. And to this day still do stockings with my family!

I don't judge anyone who does or doesn't do Santa - just simply hope that kids who don't believe don't ruin if for the kids that do!

Jackie said...

wow. i do like when you described your past. quite a story.

Mindy said...

Wow...

I don't remember when I found out he wasn't real, but I remember still having fun with it because my brother still believed (he's 3 years younger than me).

But, after reading this and the other post you linked to, I just realized my brother truly believed in Santa for many years... and now he doesn't believe in God.

Kathy Semler said...

I have very wonderful memories of listening for the reindeer's hooves on our roof on Christmas Eve, visiting Santa (I thought the Santas at the malls were helpers but couldn’t wait to jump on his lap for a picture, your Dad wasn’t too crazy about it when he was real young, but he changed his mind soon), leaving out cookies and beer, (our Santa, your Grandpa liked a beer instead of milk with his cookies, LOL!!), reading "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" to your Dad and Uncle, and some other traditions associated with believing. I don’t remember how old I was when I found out that there was no Santa and certainly never thought my parents "lied" to me. I may have been disappointed, I really don’t remember, but not resentful in any way. I think Santa makes Christmas that much more magical for a child. And at that very young age, it is all about the magic I think.
Of all the things that send a person into years of therapy, I doubt seriously that finding out Santa isn't real, is one of them. Just because we can remember how we felt at a particular moment in childhood - disappointment, whatever, doesn't mean that it was significant in the grand scheme of things. The pains - mostly small - of growing up, are part of childhood. Divorcing parents? Abuse? Living in a car? Death of a parent for a young child as your Grandmother had happen to her when she was 6, losing her Mom the day after Christmas Day….. Those are real childhood killers. Finding out Santa's not real? Not so much.

Mrs. Haid said...

Kathy, I have to disagree with the tone of your comment.

While I agree there are many tramatic things that can occur to a young child that are worse than finding there is no Santa, I think Chrissy's feelings need to be appreciated for what they are. Its not fair to run down someone's opinions when they share them so freely... because they are her experiences. I especially appreciate how willing Chrissy is to share her disappointment and fear that she cost her parents too much money. I think it shows that Chrissy has a humble heart.

I think anyone who is sensetive and very obedient to her parents is right to feel disillusioned when something she held as true is indeed false.

And as for me... I am not sure I want my son to believe in Santa. I want him to recognize it as a fun part of American culture, but I am not sure how I will teach him fantasy vs. reality. Don't worry... I won't ruin it for the rest of your kids!

Another thought... I heard someone at church refer to some prayers as Dear Santa prayers, in which people ask God for a myriad of wishes, and that is the only way they communicate with God. Isn't that interesting? How often am I guilty of that? LOTS!

Kathy Semler said...

Mrs. Haid - well, I don't like the "tone" of your message as well... I have a different opinion and different point of view especially since my Mom, even though she had a very traumatic event in her childhood, didn't impose her sadness on her children, she gave us our childhood and wanted us to have all the wholesome fun and excitement other kids had that we could, not take our childhood away from us because of a disappointment in her childhood, or put another way, our childhood was ours, it wasn't all about her. You don't know all the family dynamics and as for my tone, Chrissy knows where I'm coming from and how I feel about her; whether you like it or not is of no consequence to me.

Tina said...

Chrissy, I do also disagree with your view on Santa .... but you already knew that.
I believe it is o.k. to feel either way. But I think that it is alot about magic and make-believe for little kids and although I am sure your family has just as much fun on Christmas morning as we do - I also know how much I LOVED having Santa come.
That being said - we go about it a little different then your parents did - if Ryan asks about Santa we will not tell him there is a Santa (we have a few more years before this is a concern I think - but we have already kind of started it because we know a few families that don't "do" Santa and I am trying to prepare him for the what ifs"
But we teach him that Santa comes as long as you believe. That is why he doesn't visit some people's houses. Not just yours either - I have never told him Caleb doesn't believe. But people who don't celebrate Christmas, some adults, people who celebrate Christmas but don't believe in Santa, etc. There are many possibilities.)
But as soon as he asks if there is a Santa I will do what my mom did and ask him what he thinks.
My mother always let us come to our own conclusion. She always let us talk it out and convince ourselves one way or another. Even after I quit believing, I remember it being fun to pretend for my younger brother.
And I don't think it ever crossed my mind that just because Santa wasn't real, God/ Jesus wasn't.
We always had two distinct seperations between the two.
It was Christmas because it was Jesus birthday and we celebrated his birthday. But then Santa coming was just something separate- I don't know how/ why but it was just different and I don't know why I never doubted God -
But I think Santa wasn't even a disappointment to me, just something I outgrew.

So do you do the Easter Bunny, the tooth fairy, etc. ?? Just curious?!

And I also think we all just figured out who the anonymous posts were from...

accesskas27 said...

I don't think christmas should be about magic, it's supposed to be celebrating the birth of Jesus our Lord and Savior, and we are supposed to remember the most important gift of all SALVATION!!! Santa or not, our focus should be on Christ and we need to be teaching our children that, more than "magic".

accesskas27 said...

and i do wonder how christian parents who do santa.... teach their children the commandment "Thou Shalt not lie"... when is it ok to lie to your child and tell him something is real that you know in fact isn't??? i'm not trying to be rude... i am actually wondering this... any insight??? I mean we tell our children they should ALWAYS be truthful, but then we lie right to their face and tell them their is santa, tooth fairy, easter bunny...etc.... ???

Tina said...

I agree that Christ should be the center of Christmas, I am sorry if I offended you or gave you the wrong impression in some way....
But we do celebrate Jesus birthday.
We talk about it - we read books about it, we have a nativity and we celebrate in that manner.
But I think it is fun for OUR FAMILY to have Santa also and the magic that comes from Santa bringing presents.

I am sorry you were offended by that.

accesskas27 said...

ok last one. :-) found an article that helps express what chrissy and I are talking about

Question: "What should parents tell their children about Santa Claus?"

Answer: Although Santa Claus is a mythical figure, his creation is based in part on a great Christian man named Saint Nicholas of Myra, who lived in the 4th century. Nicholas was born to Christian parents who left him an inheritance when they died, which he distributed to the poor. He became a priest at a young age and was well-known for his compassion and generosity. He had a reputation for giving gifts anonymously, and he would throw bags of money into people's homes (and sometimes down their chimneys) under the cover of night to avoid being spotted.

Nicholas passed away on December 6 sometime around the 340s or 350s AD, and the day of his death became an annual feast in which children would put out food for Nicholas and straw for his donkey. It was said that the saint would come down from heaven during the night and replace the offerings with toys and treats—but only for the good boys and girls. There are many different versions of the legend of Saint Nicholas, but all are the inspiration for the jolly, red-suited gift-giver that we now know as Santa Claus.

Many Christian parents are torn as to whether or not they should play the "Santa game" with their children. On one hand, he makes Christmas fun and magical, leaving wonderful holiday memories for years to come. On the other hand, the focus of Christmas should be on Jesus Christ and how much He has already given us. So, is the story of Santa Claus an innocent addition to Christmas festivities, or is he a subject that should be avoided?

Parents need to use their own judgment in deciding whether or not to include Santa during the holidays, but here are some things to consider: Children who believe that the gifts they receive Christmas morning are from a magical man with unending resources are less likely to appreciate what they have been given, and the sacrifices their parents make in providing them. Greed and materialism can overshadow the holiday season, which is meant to be about giving, loving, and worshiping God. Children whose parents are on a tight budget may feel that they have been overlooked by Santa, or even worse, deemed one of the "bad" boys or girls.

An even more troubling aspect of telling our children that Santa comes down the chimney each year to leave their gifts is that it is, obviously, a lie. We live in a society that believes that lying for the "right" reason is acceptable. As long as it doesn't hurt anyone, it is not a problem. This is contrary to what the Bible tells us. "For the Scriptures say, 'If you want to live a happy life and good days, keep your tongue from speaking evil, and keep your lips from telling lies'" (1 Peter 3:10, NLT). Of course, telling our children that Santa is real is not a malicious deception, but it is, nevertheless, a lie.

Although it is probably not typical, some children honestly feel deceived and betrayed by their parents when they find out that Santa is not real. Children trust their parents to tell them the truth, and it is our responsibility not to break this trust. If we do, they will not believe more important things we tell them, such as the truth about Christ, whom they also cannot physically see.

accesskas27 said...

sorry tina... i didn't want to sound rude.... i think I got worked up from a different comment :-)

Tina said...

That's o.k.
I try to let them believe without lying to them......
When they ask for the truth I will tell them.... if they can't come to a conclusion by themselves.
But I will continue to let them believe even though I think you make some good points.
I don't mean to be rude to you or Chrissy or Bethany - I respect your decision.

accesskas27 said...

Same here... and it is hard... I think this subject may be more controversial than most people might think. :-)

Mrs. Haid said...

I like the article. Can you cite where you got that from, accesskas27?

Also, Chrissy, its so cool that you have this many comments! You are on your way to being a McMamma!

accesskas27 said...

Mrs. Haid... it was from gotquestions.com

Jessica said...

Wow, so I just read your post Chrissy and all the comments. What a controversial subject you chose. :)

I was never a big fan of Santa, I never even remember believing in him, I remember my Mom and Dad getting my presents for me and that was all the excitement I needed as a child.

I am still undecided as to how I will approach it with my children. My in-laws still give their adult children presents from Santa, even though they know it's not from Santa. I personally think that's kind of silly. I even gets things from Santa via my in-laws now!

I'm not going to make a big deal about it with Alexis at this point. I probably will wait to put out her presents on Christmas morning, but I'm not going to tell her Santa came to our house. I think she should know that Mommy and Daddy bought her presents for her.

It was very interesting to see all the different opinions!

Felicia said...

Great topic...even though it can get heated. I think its great for everyone to express their feelings. Chrissy, again this has helped to know we aren't the only ones out there that dont do a big deal about Santa or any at all. For a little bit I thought I was being a terrible mom for not making a big deal of Santa. Have a blessed day!

P.S.--We do not judge anyone that does, it is a personal decision that I think everyone has the call to make for their families.

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