What do I do about the Santa Claus thing? I’m inclined to have Santa Claus, a tree, and the whole thing. My husband believes in science and wants only the truth, but will follow my lead. In our confusion we’ve left things off and sort of made no commitment to the holiday at all, which feels really bad. My son is still young and we have another on the way, so I’d like to figure this out soon.Not Scrooge!
Dear (definitely) not Scrooge,
This is a question that I find most parents struggle with in some way. Fewer and fewer families have these answers delivered conveniently wrapped in the bow of religious tradition, yet many families believe in either some form of higher power or in just the power of having traditions. Indeed, much of the research I have done on what makes children resilient suggests that rhythms that include seasonal celebrations celebrated year after year help our children develop all those things we want: health attachments, a sense of safety in the world, and an ability to withstand the harder times in life.
Indeed, “Magic is important for kids,” says Dr. Faith Cohen, licensed psychologist. It’s not what you expect to hear from a child clinical psychologist with a specialty in trauma.
“There is this switch that happens around age seven to nine from magical thinking to concrete thinking and they start switching out of fantasy play and magical thinking,” explains Dr. Cohen. “It’s a loss of innocence.” And it’s during this developmental transition that kids start discovering things: like tooth fairies don’t exist or Santa Claus isn’t real. I highly recommend you read more of my interview with Dr. Cohen. It contains this fantastic take-away…. “The tooth fairy and Santa Claus, these are just beginning magic. They are just ways that parents help kids understand the really big magic of the Universe. It’s not that magic doesn’t exist, it’s that it is so big that parents need help to explain it to kids.”
“If you didn’t have a since of wonder, magic, and awe.. how can you create? How could the Wright brothers have made the airplane, how would we have made a rocket ship that went to the moon, how would we advance in science.” She goes on to list art, music, and more. “What is magic?” she says. “It’s something that we don’t understand, that awes us; it’s fuel for the imagination.”
So, in other words, your children don’t need Santa Claus from you, but they will benefit from receiving the gift of magic and doing so will benefit your goals of creating wonder and your husband’s of creating future thinkers. In my house we are visited by the Gift Witch (“Just like Santa Claus but she comes whether you are good or not,” was how my daughter explained her.) We have also been visited by St. Nick (the Patron Saint of little children and the needy) who visits some schools and communities earlier in December. St. Nick often brings edibles like oranges and nuts and has less of the consumer taint of Santa Claus. We have also tried Kris Kringle which is derived from the German for baby Jesus: in other words sometimes it is nice to go more religious, rather than less, and get to the essence of what the winter time is about in almost all traditions: a time to bring a bit of lightness into the dark, to honour that which has died with the autumn and the seeds that will hold onto and nurture into the spring.
To learn more about different religious traditions celebrated around the world in the winter read The Real Meaning of Christma, Hannukah, Solstice, Kwanzaa and a Bunch of Other Awesome Winter Holidays Too. I promise you will get inspirations to create holiday traditions that are meaningful for your entire family (including your husband). And for a number of more practical ideas for how to bring these traditions–and more magic–into your holiday whatever your beliefs read How to Create Magic in Your Holidays
And it’s never too late to get inspired with last minute gift ideas that are meaningful, not junk. (And if I may be so shameless as to plug my newest book Green Mama-to-Be for yourself and any other expectant or new parents in your life!)