Monday, December 6, 2010

The Magic of Storytelling

Here is my (I hope gentle) response to M's post yesterday about the Santa Claus lie.

I understand the dilemma; I think I probably once felt the way you did.  But now I have a three year-old and everything is a bit different.  I'm starting (trying?) to see the world through her eyes.  And there is something magical about that world, about childhood.  It is a time of exploration, discovery and imagination, where everything is wonderful and anything is possible.

Santa Claus isn't a lie.  He is a legend!  He isn't about consumerism and commercialism.  He is about magic.  And love.  And hope.  Really.

There are historical origins of the mythical man - a folk legend but has roots in several different personalities through Europe.  But more than that, he is an important part of the ritual and tradition of Christmas.  Yes, to many he has come to symbolize the greed and materialism that pervades our culture and extractive exonomy.  But in truth he is no more commercial than the Christmas tree, Christmas lights, and Christmas presents.  Just as you can find Christian symbolism in those temporal things, you can find it in the figure of Santa Claus as well; a loving old man who is mindful of the poor and rewards people for their goodness?  Who performs a miracle (of visiting millions of homes on one evening and fits down everyone's chimney) and is filled with love and goodwill towards all people?  Santa is a good man, and embodies many Christ-like qualities - the perfect role model at Christmas time!

The thing is, Santa Claus is a great story, along with stories about fairies and little pigs and easter bunnies.  I think if you play your cards right, you can make Santa Claus reflect the values that are important to you and you can navigate away from Christmas being all about presents and greed.  Make it about faith.

So you know where I stand.  I don't advocate making Santa the center of the season, but he is a wonderful addition to the magic and mystery and joy that should be inherent at this time, no matter what your faith and religious beliefs are.  I know you want Christ to be the center of the holiday, but remember that Jesus understood the power of a good story and often taught in parables.  Perhaps Santa's story could be one of those parables, no?

In our case, Mayumi is love with the idea of Santa but the actual person is a different matter... notice the look of concern on her face?  Big jolly bearded man in a red suit?  Might be better left to the imagination!  (But after she received some candy from Mrs. Claus she changed her tune...)


Ye Stewart Clan said...

Okay. I love that. Santa Claus is not a lie. He is a legend.

eileen said...

Yeah, I like the idea of telling the story of Santa...without believing in him. We read stories to our 3 year old, and sing Santa songs...but haven't ever told him that gifts are coming to him from Santa.
We are trying to avoid the over commercialism of Christmas, and keep Christmas more centered around service and family...and becoming more like Christ, of course.
Mama Q you explain it well.
Why not learn from Santa?

MamaD said...

Hmmm - I'd be a little concerned about Santa if he had his hand on my hubby like that too. But all joking aside, I haven't really given a ton of thought to this - I guess I'll just take it in stride as Lucy begins to understand. But I was thinking of getting her picture taken with Santa - you know, for my blog that I never post to.

MaurLo said...

I'm with you on this one! We decided that St. Nicholas would be a joyful part of our Christmas celebrations. I loved believing in him as a kid (I still believe!). We haven't introduced him with reindeer, or coming down chimneys or "be nice or else" or all of the other common things that go with him, but we do tell them that they will get gifts from him on Christmas morning. We have read stories about him, and talked about how he (the original man)followed the Savior by giving gifts to those who were in need. We tell them that now, in his honor and in honoring the Savior there are others who act as Santa and bring things to our family in celebration on Christmas morning. Our family has its own Santa as do other families. One day they will find out that our family "Santa" is dad, but for now he is just magical to them. We shall see how it all works out...

MJ said...

This is a fantastic but a terribly hard topic! We don't really focus on Santa that much. They know that all the Santas they see in parades and in the malls aren't real Santas. They believe more in the magic and don't ever expect to "see" him really.

We did learn about St. Nicholas, the real man and how he died. Their response was--"Of course--Santa's a ghost--that's how he does it!"

You know, I never know if what I do is the "right" most perfect parenting thing. I just try to do what feels right and hopefully all will be well. I will say this, I believed in Santa with all my heart. And I was heartbroken when I learned he wasn't real. BUT, I do believe I have been able to retain the spirit of Christmas despite commercialism and the myth, more now than ever.
In the end, I think it's how we create magic around Christmas with our family traditions and how we model our beliefs that will make the most impact. I guess we'll see in 10 years. That's whats so hard about parenting, it's a longitudinal study!!

MamaM said...

Thanks for all the responses everyone. I think I'd still rather not have Santa be part of Christmas, but I know it's inevitable that he will be. So, like all of you, I will try my best to find the balance between having fun with the legend and focusing on the real reason for the season.

Missy Rose said...

what a wonderful explanation of why it's okay and good to encourage myth and imagination and BELIEF! in many ways, the story of Santa is training in belief. much more tangible that Jesus sometimes and HELPS teach us lessons in faith and belif. when i was a child i felt very jaded and hurt and lied to when i learned that santa wasn't "real", and have struggled with whether or not to encourage the tradition with my own children, but have done so because it is FUN and magical and all the things you said. you have summed it up for me better than i could have. thank you so much for sharing!