Smile Politely

Ho Ho Ho: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Santa Claus

This is definitely The Preschooler’s first Christmas. He pulls out each ornament from storage with delight and screams “I WANT TO TOUCH IT!” when I pull out the expensive ones. He has his own side of the tree. He’s aware. And to top it off, some Santa Claus has bestowed a Candy Cane unto him also, and he’s now of course smitten with Santa Claus.

Last year I struggled with this sort of stuff, because although my parents rewrite history and maintain that we celebrated X-mas, I know we did not. We were Jews, we celebrated Hannukah, we had the five to six days of presents, we lit the menorah, and as a child, I tried to figure out just how Santa Claus would know to passover our house. I imagined giant blueprints or maps that showed him where all the good little Christian children lived, and I hoped that they all got the presents they wanted. I never felt left out or anything.

Until now. For some reason, I’ve been resisting the whole Santa Claus thing, and I’m not exactly sure why. I can yell all I want about commercialism, the greediness that getting stuff brings, the ridiculous excess of plastic presents The Preschooler is about to be given, and the connection with Coca-Cola (“LOOK! A SANTA DRINK!”), but the truth is I probably feel like some sort of poseur or outsider when it comes to the Man in Red. He seems foreign to me. And I know he’s as American as Coca-Cola.

The thing is, there’s no way to let The Preschooler in on the Santa Doesn’t Exist thing, because he’ll ruin it for the rest of his co-workers. They all believe. Besides, I’ve repeatedly told him that ghosts don’t exist and skeletons are not going to come out of his closet, and he doesn’t believe me on that. Telling him Santa doesn’t exist will just completely destroy my cred. In fact, my theory last year was that I was just going to tell him there were numerous Santas, because quite obviously there are — but this year, I think he’s expecting one of them to slide down the chimney. The kicker for me was this: “Mommy? How will Santa know where we are if we’re up in Chicago visiting our grandparents?”

My Top Reasons for Accepting Santa Claus

1. Being a practicing Buddhist, I’m obliged to acknowledge all religions and be nice to them. (Apparently I’m also supposed to dress nicely too; that’s what they told me when I got admitted into the program.) So I really have no problem believing that Jesus Christ existed. I’m fine with that, so why not the idea of Santa? (And I bought myself a nice maternity sweater for the Christmas party.)

2. Man was The Preschooler excited about that Candy Cane that he got. He was still talking about it several days later. We told him a couple months ago that he was going to get a baby brother, and he was slightly amused. The Candy Cane though, completely changed his life.

3. It could be worse. If you’ve been to the Netherlands in early December, you’ll see a sort of South Park-esque Black Elf cartoon wherever you see Santa Claus stuff. This is the figure of Zwarte Piet, or Black Pete, a Santa helper who, the story goes, will grab naughty children around Christmastime, stuff them into his sack and carry them off to Spain. Yes, most Americans are as aghast as you are when they first find out about this racist custom. But yeah, pot is still legal there.

4. We have a Christmas tree, albeit somewhat adorned with Buddhist ornaments given to us by The Husband’s mom. I’ve wanted a Christmas tree forever. I find them beautiful. I like shiny things. Why stop there?

5. I have always fallen back on fighting commercialism with commercialism; you can either have your Santa and your one day of presents, or Hannukah with the eight days. Let’s go with that for a little while. So we can explain to The Preschooler that Christmas is the birthday of a great teacher. And so we exchange presents. Hannukah is … just another one of the many celebrations where “my parents’ people” were persecuted and some miracle happened. But there are still people all over the world being persecuted now. They are all our people — the world’s people. Shouldn’t we wait to celebrate?

6. Santa seems to spread joy and happiness and hope — like Obama — and this is all a great thing. On top of it, you can always fall back on the “If you’re naughty, Santa won’t bring you a present.” I haven’t done this yet; I still play “The Police Are Going to Get You and Bring You to Jail” card when The Preschooler gets out of control.

Merry Christmas everyone!

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