I don’t know if I want Santa in my toddler’s life.

Should we let him in?

Hold on. Wait a minute. Take a deep breath. “What?!” you may ask. Hear me out.

I was raised, at times, in a Jew-“ish” household. I’d have gifts under the tree that said they were from Santa, but I knew it was fake, along with the Tooth Fairy, who I’d scrawl accusatory notes to: “I know you’re not real.” My stepdad took to driving to his mother’s house to use her typewriter to type back a response. Still, I didn’t believe.

Wait, what?. I had a tree?

Yes. My mother is a lapsed Catholic (a Chicana one from Texas, no less), and my father is per above, Jew-“ish,” more culturally so, from New York (Long Island, no less). But there remains a question as to if I’m “automatically” Jewish since my mom isn’t. But I look Jewish. Way more than I look Mexican.

As a child I lived with both of them, together, for about five years, then with one at a time until I was 18. I spent three years on the east coast with my dad and his Jewish parents. There, we participated in the occasional High Holiday, but to be honest, I don’t know much about being Jewish except for a love of whitefish, some crazy hair, a big nose, and the build of a woman meant to windmill potatoes on a Kibbutz. There wasn’t Christmas. In fact, on the east coast, Jews have a timeworn tradition of either working for their Shiksa friends on December 25 or going to the movies and eating Chinese takeout.

Then I lived with my mother and stepfather, whose family celebrated Christmas and had Santa. Then my sister-from-another-mister was born and BOOM – Christmas entered our house full force. All of a sudden I’m wrapping gifts with secret and separate paper for my sister on Christmas Eve. My closest friend’s mother would even pass along small St. Nick’s gifts.

When I lived with my mom, I’d light a menorah and mumble through the prayers. She’d give me gifts each night. My sister still makes me Star of David-shaped cookies.

Thus, my relationship to Christmas, and Santa, is one of amusement. I mean, being fat in my dad’s family is anathema, genes be damned, and now you want to let a fat white guy into the house? Are you kidding me? What if he’s a Republican anti-Semite?

Marriage didn’t make this any easier. I married a Quaker. Yes, Quaker. Not the people who make furniture – those are Shakers. He had Santa in that “well, there were always gifts under the tree that said they were from Santa” vein.

Now we have a toddler who’s conscious enough to understand that something is kind of happening. Last Friday we put up our three-foot, fake, pre-lighted tree from Target and placed some ornaments on it. “Happy Thanksgiving!” she hollered.

But does this mean that a gift under our tree should say it’s from Santa? Do we lie, tiptoe around for a few years, hoping she doesn’t find out and perpetuate the myth? Or do we jump on the bandwagon? The fine folks at Dadwagon have started a tantrum about this.

What say you? Take the poll:

–        MD

    • Jonathan
    • December 1st, 2010

    As a fairly religious person myself, I nevertheless think Santa can exist in a non-Christian (or post-Christian) context. A jolly old guy who brings presents based solely on whether you’ve been naughty or nice- what’s not to love? There are no crucifixes on his sleigh and he doesn’t spout bible verses. Just my two cents.

    • firstsmilesandtears
    • December 1st, 2010

    Good points, Jonathan. I forgot about the leverage I could use in future months during the month of December…
    – MD

    • Teri
    • December 1st, 2010

    the wonder of childhood passes all too quickly. if she’s enjoying the mythos of the “Holiday”, let her. soon enough she’ll ask the questions, but for this year enjoy the giggles, smile and innocent joy.

    besides, being a Jewish/Protestant cross breed myself, more is better. she may have more questions in the long run, but the faith she follows will be her own.

    • firstsmilesandtears
    • December 1st, 2010

    You raise good points, Teri. But what about when we let her down and she learns? Then we agree that we lied to be fun? I would love to find a way to have that joy without a myth, if that makes sense. But then it gets all philiosophical. But you are so right that it passes quickly. And hey, she might decide for us herself. Thanks for sharing!
    – MD

  1. Love the title. Santacon indeed. I guess I have to write my contribution to the Tantrum tomorrow, so this is all pre-formed, but I do wonder if Santa hasn’t really been made to pay for things that aren’t his fault. He doesn’t have good copyright control, so ever hoary trinket-vendor on earth can use his name/image to justify their horrible pitches to you. So now he’s the unwitting face of overconsumption and indulgence (he wasn’t even fat in a lot of cultures: a lean mischief-maker like Drosselmeier more than the lobotomized tub of lard he is today). I tend to agree with your commenter above: he could exist in a different context, perhaps, as someone who encourages good behavior with moderate and sensible giftgiving? Ah, who am I kidding?

    • firstsmilesandtears
    • December 1st, 2010

    Nathan: the joke’s on us. I look forward to reading tomorrow’s tantrum post.

  2. I mostly think of it as magic. When you are five Santa is amazing and fantastic and magical and it’s pretty awesome to make that happen.

    • firstsmilesandtears
    • December 1st, 2010

    Thanks, Meg. I’m just pre-crushed for when a kid reaches 5.5 and they realize it’s over… But maybe it’s worth it?
    – MD

  3. Great post, M, and great questions raised.

    I voted yes. I’m with Meg – it’s magic. In this day and age, our children so rarely have the opportunity and encouragement to simply believe in magic. It’s possible that I’ve watched A Christmas Carol one too many times, but in many ways, I still believe in that magic. I feel it at the holidays when people are focused on gratitude and community and celebrating our loved ones and looking forward to the start of a new year, and I cherish it. I want my daughter to feel the same magic that I feel and have felt. I want to see it in her eyes.

    And even though my heart breaks at the thought of anyone disappointing my girl, it’s a chance I’m willing to take. I don’t know anyone who was truly scarred by the truth of it – indeed, most of us pass the tradition onto our own children. And in doing so, we get to feel that magic all over again.

    But I am sitting here drinking a beer in a Santa hat, so perhaps it’s best to take the above with a grain of salt.

    • firstsmilesandtears
    • December 2nd, 2010

    Thanks, ALW. Well, if having Santa involves beer, I may be willing to rethink my stance…
    – MD

  1. December 6th, 2010
  2. January 3rd, 2011

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