Is There Any Real Value in Santa Claus?
It’s that time of year again, and depending on your age, your level of excitement varies. The under ten group are bursting with joy, gleefully anticipating the numerous gifts that will come their way. The over twenty-five age group may not be as excited as we try to tally and balance the budget to finance the many gifts that family, friends, and co-workers are expecting.
In all this joyful chaos, as parents we are constantly bombarded with the subtle and not so subtle hints about what our kids expect to see under the tree come Christmas morn. It was during one of those begging sessions with my 8-year-old about those darn Pokémon cards that I was forced into introspection. In the quest to get rid of him, I told him that if he kept bothering me, Santa may just ignore him this year. He promptly responded, “Santa? That fictional character!”
Now being a Caribbean native, the tale of Santa was not so easily swallowed growing up. It has something to do with no snow and houses without chimneys, we just can’t relate. Also with schools that all have Christian affiliations, Christmas was about the birth of Christ, and not some dude in a red suit.
Living now smack in the heart of a commercialized Christmas, I am forced to analyze my association with good ole St Nick. In the spirit of full disclosure, I am a sucker for ALL things Christmas, it is hands down my favorite time of year. It just occurred to me this year, that all things Christmas for me did not include Santa Claus, and I have not perpetuated the fable of Santa Claus to my kids.
It was from this premise that I decided to analyze if there existed any real value in the belief of Santa Claus. Santa is seen as the Rewarder to children for being ‘nice’, for demonstrating good attitudes and acts of kindness for an entire year. Secondly, there is also the notion that kids need something to believe in, something ‘magical’, that inspires them to believe in impossibilities and occurrences greater than themselves. Lastly, Santa exudes a level of philanthropy that is admirable. Here exists a person whose sole mission in life is to make the lives of children all over the world better by distributing tokens.
On the surface, all the traits attributed to Santa and the tradition seem very admirable and indeed worthy of adopting, but let’s delve a little deeper. Santa encourages our children to be ‘nice’ all year so that they can get something. That seems to be at odds with the basic principles that we try to instill in our children. We teach them to be good, treat everyone well because it is the right thing to do. We do our best to teach them to be kind and considerate, treating people with respect, not expecting to get something in return, but because we believe these are important values that our children should possess.
The belief in something ‘magical’ has its roots in our effort to encourage our children to persevere even in the face of impossibilities. Somehow we draw a correlation between them believing that a man piloting a reindeer drawn sleigh, delivering millions of gifts around the world in one night, will allow our kids to have a greater faith quotient. That is because believing in what cannot be readily seen is indeed faith, and it would appear we would love that belief in Santa will somehow translate to our children having greater faith in themselves and their abilities to achieve the impossible.
Lastly, the least controversial trait of Santa is his philanthropy. Any person who would devote their life to pleasing kids is indeed a hero. Not to mention how he roots for the underdog in Rudolph, when his shining red nose wasn’t so hip. (The underlying lessons of bullies in this scenario is for another discussion).
I must state emphatically that I believe in every parent’s right to expose and instill in their own children, the traditions, and values that they deem appropriate and beneficial for their offspring. After all, parenting is personal and private. Having said that, I would like to hone in on the word ‘tradition’. The word tradition means the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation. This would indicate that whatever ‘traditions’ we expose our children to, it is with the intention of it being perpetuated from generation to generation. While the myth of Santa may on the surface seem harmless, the underlying salient points are a matter of interpretation. My hope is that whatever ‘tradition’ we adopt, we are cognizant of the values they embody and are comfortable having our kids being associated with said values. This requires careful thought and deliberation, but our ultimate goal IS to become conscious and deliberate parents.