Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Yes Virginia, The Saga Continues



Dear Editor—
I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, "If you see it in The Sun, it’s so." Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?
Virginia O’Hanlon

So starts the famous editorial written by Francis P. Church 110 years ago this month. He goes on to say that little Virginia's friends are wrong. "They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age." It gives one pause to think what Mr. Church's reaction to the 21st century might be, were he here to see it. Is Santa Claus still real? Well, Newsweek hasn't yet proclaimed, "Santa is Dead", so I guess there's hope.


In my house, the controversy continues. My husband, a man of much romance but not an ounce of sentimentality, has decided to tell our daughter the truth about the Santa "myth",as he puts it. "There are plenty of other, more meaningful myths I want to raise her with," he proclaimed, although so far substitutions are not forthcoming. It should be noted that when Mr. Higgins learned the truth about Santa it was a traumatic event (insert your own instant analysis here). My own fact-finding about Santa was not only NOT traumatic, but is actually remembered fondly-a product of a childhood that is not known for many fond memories. In a nutshell, I read the truth about Santa in a fictional story in one of my mom's magazines. A young boy finds out about Santa, is disappointed but then learns about the true meaning of Christmas and responds by playing Santa himself. It wasn't award winning fiction and I can't really convey what it was that had such an impact on me. Perhaps it was the realization that my parents would go through such hard work to make me so happy and not take any credit for it. Especially since my siblings were so much older and I'm sure were threatened with their lives not to tell me. Whatever it was, the magic of Christmas never left me. Perhaps it's my fertile imagination. In 3rd grade, I wholeheartedly believed in Santa, gnomes and my parent's omniscience.What didn't I believe in? The Easter Bunny, Original Sin and my parent's veracity.


Somewhere in the Santa story is the essence of Christmas for me. Yeah, I know, it's a Christian holiday. It should be about the baby Jesus and all that. But if you read Church's entire response about Santa(and you should, it's a classic for a reason), it goes beyond Christmas and religion to the heart of what makes us human. "I still believe in the good of man" said Anne Frank. Sometimes, that seems as fanciful as Santa and his elves. Yet at work today, I saw a bunch of kids, who have access to the internet, Bratz dolls, Dr. Phil, and Youtube, in a word-kids who should know better-light up when they saw Santa. Santa the Biker came to our hospital this week and the kids went gaga. "It's a miracle!" one girl said, "Santa came in November!"


I think it's more than just the free toys. Most kids I know like the giving of Christmas, as well as the getting. When my eldest daughter was young, her school would have a day where the kids could go and buy cheap presents for their families. I'd give her $20 and you would have thought she was the luckiest girl in the world, able to buy presents all on her own without any parental input. And homemade presents? "I made it!" they shout proudly. If you've never been the recipient of small lump of clay decorated with garish stones and feathers and presented to you as a "paperweight", you are poor indeed.


I don't know where this leaves us with Santa at our house. My husband is still convinced that most people are disillusioned when they learn the truth about Santa. I'd love to hear your stories. I'd also like to win an argument in my house for once. So, if you want to tell your own Santa story, please leave it in the comments section. As for my little one, if she's anything like her parents, I have a feeling she's going to believe in whatever she wants to believe in.

8 comments:

PJ Geraghty said...

I'm ashamed to say that I don't remember how I learned the truth about Santa--probably from another neighborhood kid, kind of like how I learned what sex was.

I remember being especially concerned when (at the age of 3 or 4) we lived in a house that had no chimney...I didn't know how Santa would get in, and I thought we would be skipped.

My kids are 9 down to 2 and all still believe, I think. I suspect the 9-year-old will give it up this year or next, and I only hope I can convince her to keep her mouth shut around the others.

BreathinSteven said...

Hey TC!!!

For me, it actually started with the Easter Bunny...

It was the Saturday before Easter Sunday and I was a little under the weather... I'm uncertain how old I was, but I think around six or seven... I got out of bed because I was feeling poorly and wandered downstairs -- I knew my Mom and Dad were downstairs in the family room watching TV...

I turned the corner and my folks saw me standing there with my eyes as big as pie plates... THEY were filling Easter baskets while they were watching TV!!! There was a world of chocolate and jelly beans all over the family room (there are four of us...) And I stood there in shock... Though, I really don't recall truly being traumatized...

They gently explained that there was no Easter Bunny -- that they did this every Easter -- and that it would be nice if I didn't tell my sisters (all younger than I) about this... I think they also saw the gears upstairs working when my eyes got squinty -- I think they were prepared for the next question: "What about Santa?"

They told me they too were behind that...

I did get to snack on a few little tidbits before I went back to bed -- and on the stairs up, with one last little glimmer of hope I remember turning and asking about the Tooth Fairy (I was in the process of losing one, so this issue loomed large...) Alas, I was advised the TF too had helpers. But wisely I was advised that I was not to worry about my impending profit -- that I would still be compensated...

Oddly enough -- Years and years later I remember my youngest sister, 17 at the time, complaining to Mom about the fact that they still hid all of our baskets all over the house -- that, perhaps, they were old enough to simply leave them on the table or sofa on Easter morning... My other sister, two years older than the complainer, told her not to worry about it -- "Steve gets up early and finds them all anyways..." I was 21 at the time... I took crap from their baskets too -- I think I considered it a "finder's fee"...

My feeling is don't tell your precious little one -- leave the myth and magic come to and end by themselves -- there is a lot of joy in giving, as your older daughter found -- and there is even joy in receiving when you KNOW who the giver is -- but there still is an innocent, precious magic in simply believing good things happen a little magically...

Some of us, whether we're 21 and searching for Easter Baskets, or whatever, are lucky enough to believe that the magic is somehow always out there in this world and that, maybe, Santa is more than a myth -- he's a little part of every one of us...

Love,

Steve

p.s. Hey PJ -- you still have that neighbor kid's phone number? I still have a lot to learn...

Love Monkey said...

I have said this to my wife many times before but now I must say it again. TC is a reckless exaggerator. Wanton, even.

"Mr. Higgins learned the truth about Santa it was a traumatic event..." Urm, it wasn't 'traumatic'.

And though I haven't offered any for substitution I do offer that she is only 2 and there isn't much need at the moment.

The rest of this lovely, thoughtful and heartfelt post is part of the reason I married TC.

TC said...

I would like to submit that since I've become a writer, of sorts, that I'm no longer a "reckless exagerator", just using my artistic license.

And PJ, I just hope the neighborhood kid didn't get any of his facts mixed up, or you could have some explaining to do on Christmas morning. Or during sex. But with 5 kids you seem to have the basics covered.

Lisa said...

My children still believe even though I suspect that DD will stop soon. She is asking too many questions!

I was in the hospital one year before Christmas so my mom had me write him a letter since I wouldn't get to sit on Santa's lap and tell him my wish list. Well about 2 years later I found the note. I remember telling my mom I found it and she made me swear not to tell my younger siblings. I never did!

My one friend has the best story about her DD finding out about Santa. D was a single mom and one day she was out to lunch with her DD and mother. I don't remember what brought up the conversation but she admitted that Santa wasn't real. Her DD got real quiet and didn't say much after that, lost in deep thought. I guess as they were driving home her daughter says, "so I guess you've been lying about the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy also! What else have you been lying to me about?" D was devastated! Her daughter took some time getting over it!

geena at codeblog said...

I don't actually remember how I found out that there wasn't a Santa, but I distinctly remember going to ask my mom about it. I said that I heard that Santa wasn't real and was that true?

She looked at me for a moment then broke out in her mischevious "mom" smile and said, "Only people who believe in Santa Claus get gifts from him on Christmas. If you don't think he exists, then he won't stop here." I knew at that point that there was no Santa, but heck if I was going to admit it...

PJ Geraghty said...

*ahem* a point of order, if you please. I am responsible for the genesis of a mere four offspring. And, really, I'm only 50% responsible for those (Mrs. Geraghty, as I recall, was a more-than-willing participant in the process, at least at the beginning), which brings my responsibility level to only 2. AND...one was a bit of a surprise, so, I think only one of these kids is my fault. Problem is, it always seems to be the bad one, whichever one that is on a given day.

But, LM, TC is right. Artistic license is exactly that: a license...to exaggerate for humorous effect, even at the expense of the ones we love. That's why if Mrs. Geraghty sees this comment, she knows that I am held blameless because, after all, it's my own artistic license.

TC said...

Oops, well, I'm sure that after 4 even you guys lose count.

I quizzed several friends at work who had Geena's experience, for themselves and their kids. Now their kids are going to say they believe in Santa til they're 18.