Believe In Father Christmas!
"I don’t believe in Santa Claus anymore!"
I am ”only” a stepparent. But that means that actually this is my Season, for I am a Wicked Stepmother with a far-from-Ugly Stepdaughter. It’s official, and even after my divorce I was told by the minx in question “Well you didn’t divorce ME!...”
But for any parent (or just a stepparent) who has ever heard this heresy of “I don’t believe in Father Christmas”, it’s the sound of a shattering fantasy. We know all kids eventually cross this divide, and it’s an event of no small import. But at a younger and younger age it seems this mythical figure is being ousted – and it seemed unfair, wrong, and almost tragic that children as young as 5 and 6 are already entertaining doubts. Dreams are vanishing, innocence is being lost and the world is never quite the same again post-Father Christmas. Oh, he’s still there – in the background – but never in quite the same way. He becomes a marketing tool and a seasonal herald, rather than a mystical, magical figure of breathtaking awe and wonder.
That’s just too sad. Life contains so little wonder, why do we allow any of it to be taken away?
I remember the day when we had to place a note on the door of our house saying simply “Father Christmas- gone to Bristol” so he could still find us when we spent Christmas Eve with my parents. That’s magic. As was the face that said excitedly on Christmas morning “He got my note then!”
Faced with such a watershed moment, do we:
- legitimize this cynical notion,
- condemn it as hearsay (or even heresy!),
- prop up a failing and increasingly obviously illogical myth or
- merely gloss over it and let the quandary stand and gnaw away at them until one side or other wins out;
- Admit we don't believe in Father Christmas either?
Who Killed Father Christmas?
We can hold older siblings, other parents or teachers accountable, telling ourselves that somehow they have failed in the correctly diplomatic evasion of the subject, but this theory doesn’t hold water. Everyone I have seen pretty much takes pleasure in little kids’ endless list revisions and theories of exactly how Santa would invade their home despite the lack of a chimney.
So who are the culprits? Kids at school? The television? That Big Bad Wolf with no name The Media?
But the question does have an answer. And regrettably it’s the same answer as is damaging our children in a multitude of other ways. The media.
Our society is one where we raise up heroes and parade them for all to see, then delight in bringing them down in public. Our children bond with heroes and heroines of dubious virtue time and time again, only to have those very stars stripped from their eyes publicly and brutally. And Christmas is no exception. The same Father Christmas they believe will personally come down their own chimney (even if they don’t have one) is used to excite children into a consumerism frenzy is exposed time and time again advertising particular shops and products until even the smallest of kids wonder how he has time to make all the toys.
Who exactly hands our babies the apple-that-should-be-Rudolf’s from the Christmas Tree of Knowledge before their time?
Who is it that fails to respect the irretrievable innocence of belief in Santa? Who is so cold hearted they leave no mince pies for Santa Claus or Carrots for Rudolf? The same sort of nefarious person that can’t clap for Tinker Bell, that’s who.
Have a consumer spending frenzy. That’s fine by me. But leave the magic out of it. We don’t allow Baby Jesus to advertise the latest cuddly toys, so don’t let Father Christmas either.
And yes, cards on the table. Personally, I’d like the media to stop showing all behind-the-scenes footage of Father Christmas (Note to the BBC I would be very happy to accept the position of Director General should I be approached, and will happily furnish details of my other proposals on request).
Let’s let our children be children, and never show Father Christmas doing anything unpleasant, or that intimates he might not be hard at work in his toy factory at the North Pole at this very moment, with a stable full of fit flying reindeer outside in the snow being force fed rocket fuel and oats ready for 24th December. Let’s perpetuate this myth. It’s a good, wholesome one in a way that David Beckham or Batman or Barbie or Dora The Explorer simply can’t quite ever hold a candle to. And no, we do not need a Mother Christmas any more than we need a Virgin Martin. In My Opinion.
A Christmas Myth Worth Perpetuating
Parents and stepparents of the world, here is the CORRECT answer:
“It doesn’t matter, because Father Christmas believes in You, whether or not you believe in him.”
Did I say that? Will it work? Or is the average 6 year old far too devious for that flannel? Maybe it’s the truth. Do we in fact make certain Tinkerbell recovers because of our belief, however obligatory?
Why do we feel that obligation? I’m quite sure no one ever scolded me into persisting with this myth. Let’s face it, most of us don’t push the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy very hard. Indeed, nowadays, most of us aren’t a big fan of myths except in their allegorical sense (which is a sadness in its own right).
We like how myths and fairytales are used to convey ideas that are still somewhat mysterious to us but nonetheless recognized as “facts of life”. Like the Greek Pantheon or tales of Robin Goodfellow, they serve a function of moral instruction and acquaint us with nature as we find it, both in the world and in ourselves.
Why Father Christmas Is Like Knitting
My answer is, appropriately, an analogy. I believe in Father Christmas.
Father Christmas is like my knitting.
He is made out of knitted squares, knitted by my mother and grandmothers (and aunts and cousins) and theirs before them. He is created by families in the knowledge that this will keep little ones warm through rain and shine, through thunderstorms and measles and Christmas morning. This magical creation will always be a safe thing with which to enfold ourselves. We keep those blankets until they are in tatters, and may not be used any more (or may even be handed down to the dog), but once you possess such a thing, it can never to completely thrown away. Every strand of wool knits together one generation to the next with the hope that the delight and joy that has filled your heart can be transmitted somehow through the persistence in this ritual. In my belief and my knitting for a new generation, I somehow trust I can keep the fabric of life intact a little longer, hold one another a little closer, and know that warm light in the darkness is never far away.
Why Hold On To Father Christmas?
But what about this “Father Christmas”, Kris Kringle, Santa Claus, Santa Klaus, Saint Nick, Father Xmas or whatever you call him? Why is this illusion one we are so very reluctant to let pass away into childhood? Why must it be held onto long after it has ceased to be “true”?
We can ruminate on movies such as “Miracle on 34th Street” , but for all our understanding that the guy at the department store was just a proxy for someone we knew was far more mysterious and inaccessible, this is of no use when confronted with a child’s simple lack of belief.
So what exactly do we hold onto with the way we believe in Father Christmas, and why do we teach our kids not to let go of him for as long as possible - even at risk of being ridiculed by their newly sophisticated playmates?
It occurs to me that maybe there are a million different answers to this question. Maybe billions, because it’s an answer that isn’t necessarily made out of words. But it is an answer.
Will the Real Father Christmases Stand Up?
Father Christmas comes at the coldest and darkest time. It is a time when nature seems to have altogether abandoned us and cares not one whit for our comfort. He comes quietly when no one is aware and asks for no thanks, although he is sometimes said to have quite a big appetite for mince pies and sherry/brandy if you do leave snacks out (although Mum and Dad may appear a little green round the gills the next day).
I beleve that Father Christmas is our better selves, rendered immortal, persisting like the ultimate postal worker of enduring duty and affection, braving the brutal elements and the dark of night to fulfill a promise kept every year like clockwork. Without fail. He gets the job done, come what may.
I think that’s my answer. Father Christmas doesn’t ever fade into myth. With age we become him, and hope our children will be lucky enough to become him as well. It is no wonder we want people to believe in him. We believe in Father Christmas because he allows us to believe in ourselves.
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