Making people into Santas

I wrote two years ago about how Christmas is different in our house. We celebrate every December holiday we can think of: Hanukkah, Solstice, Nana’s birthday, Christmas…

And we try to temper the gift receiving with a lot of giving. When Peanut was almost two he focused on giving to animals at the shelter. When he was almost three he chose to give to the hungry and to animals at the shelter. At almost four we brought toiletries to the homeless, toys to shelter animals, and human toys for toy drives.

And this year he spent almost an hour with me at the Heifer International site, making people we love into Santas.

See, we’ve taught him that the myth of Santa is a story about a man who, a long time ago, gave a lot to people who need. (Yup, we’re the jerks whose kid told your kid that Santa is dead. Cuz he is, yo. His story of selflessness and charity is what’s important and if you’re still pretending that’s your business but I ain’t playing along.) We talk about how the pretend Santas around this time of year are roaming the scenes of capitalist excess to remind people to give to others. Our Solstice-tradition pine cone bird feeders give to animals who need food when it’s cold; and this year our gifts of animals and education to families all over the world make each of our loved ones feel that they can be part of the Santa myth of love, peace, and charity.

Because the more Peanut thinks Christmas is about giving, and the more he thinks about people who need, the better our holidays feel.

Happy Almost Nana’s Birthday, everyone!

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21 thoughts on “Making people into Santas

  1. Fantastic. I love the concept.

    I talk about Christmas Shopping in front of the kids. I tell them that “Santa” can give them 3 gifts each, but mostly people give gifts to others for Christmas to thank each other for being in each others’ lives, the important things they do for them, etc. So giving gifts to others is a way of saying Thank You. Christmas is one big Thank You party.

    Have you heard of http://www.Kiva.com?

  2. We give to Toys for Tots each year in honor of the 3 little babies we lost. My boys help pick out gifts they think their sister and brothers would really love. Then they help me deliver them to a location that takes the toys. They always tell the worker there about why they’re doing it. It warms my heart so much to see them be so giving and to truly understand why they’re doing it. They do believe in Santa but we focus more on the giving than the receiving around here too.

  3. Kiva is awesome. I am racking up different countries! WORLD DOMINATION IS IN SIGHT, YO!

    Stick an extra cookie on Peanut’s plate. Ho ho ho.

  4. Macondo, only if you hear only the good stuff. If you heard how I fell down on the job repeatedly today you’d be mortified. But thanks for supporting my good side. Makes me want to nurture it.

    Letmestart, thanks for the kiva.com link. Love it. I especially dig the navigation, the righteous payback stats, and the search function. That’s going to be our site for the next gift-giving holiday.

    Heather, we do toys for tots, too. How touching that your children engage the donation workers so they feel closer to their work.

    jc, you’re achieved world domination in my Universe. Reindeer got nothin’ on you, Unicorn!

  5. I’m with you all the way. We hammered in the reality to our kids just as soon as they could talk. Just remember to remind peanut that not everyone is as smart as he. If he overhears his friends talking about that jolly fat man squeezing down the chimney to just let it be. The last thing you want is for your kid to be the one who crushes other kids souls.

  6. I wish we had started out with this kind of pinko stuff. We do make a big deal about giving food or food-money to local groups, but we also fell selfishly into the trap of wanting to share with our kids the fun of Santa (against my sort of robot misgivings that it seemed weird to encourage that myth while discouraging religious myths), and now we’re kind of stuck.

  7. I’m just going to go ahead and be a Scrooge. Methinks I hate the holidays more now than ever. I haven’t done a lick of shopping — even for baby’s birthday, which is Sunday. We decorated, but I did so out of a sense of obligation. Ugh. I am a big, fat downer this holiday season. Bah humbug.

    But! Good for you on making it all about giving. If I get out of my funk, maybe I’ll try that, too.

  8. MacDougal, he knows different people believe different things and to some people Santa feels real and to some people Christmas is about their god. Somebody taught him the word hate, somebody else taught him the word stupid, so I’m okay with him teaching somebody else that Santa is a story not a real person. It’s the least he owes those rat bastards.

    Daryl, our intentions stemmed more from being horrified, disheartened, embarrassed when we found out Santa wasn’t real. Our parents said don’t lie, then they lied. So we were trying to make Santa magical without saying he was real. End result is totally pinko, though, you’re right.

    Inky, I just don’t want no mall SantyKlauz telling my kid to ask for a front lawn blowup snowman is all. ;-)

  9. Fie, the obligations and expectations and goddamned tinsel make December the hardest month of the year. I don’t blame you for your antipathy. Wish you had come to our holiday apathy party (next year renamed the Minimal Effort Holiday or “meh”). I would have given you a tall glass of your choice, a bag of organic cheese puffs, and a big comfy chair to watch the board games.
    You need a break, yo. And NOT a grossly overhyped holiday.

  10. @naptimewriting oh, I sympathize. It’s the revelation that we’re liars that I fear. I tend to be painfully honest to the point that it gets me in trouble (“do you like this outfit I got especially for our Valentine’s Day date?” “no” — I’m living that one down still many years later). So to lie about Santa while discouraging belief in other things I think of as myths kind of chaps my hide. We do sort of present it as a fun game to play, but I think we lean more toward deception than I’m really comfortable with. The hypocrisy of it bugs me a lot. In a moment of weakness, I gave way, and I’ll confess that I’ve enjoyed the Santa thing, but I dread the day it all comes tumbling down. My pinko comment was intended to be something like affectionate, by the way. :)

  11. Daryl, I absolutely took it with affection. And I’m not in ANY way calling you a liar just because you’re having fun with your children and the story of Santa. I think the magic of believing that there might be a way the laws of physics can be suspended and a jolly guy can make every single child on the planet happy simultaneously is a gorgeous myth. Gorgeous and worthy of the suspension of your otherwise brutal honesty. It’s worth the chance because it’s so sweet. And, chances are it won’t come tumbling down, for millions of people have believed then been told it’s a myth and then secretly still believe a bit. You really ought to cut yourself a LOT more slack. If it’s fun, and your kids find out some day and call you on it, your love and joy at the story will make them understand. Most people are not traumatized by the revelation, especially because they find out the gifts will keep coming.
    Just because I’m psychotically brutally honest doesn’t mean you need to torment yourself for bringing magic into your family. Magicians are lies, too, really. But they’re fun because those who believe are fun to watch, and those who know but still marvel enjoy the suspension of disbelief. Everyone wins. Magic and Santa get a pass for technical dishonesty. So do you (and everyone else who teaches their kids about a nice guy in a red suit.)

  12. OMG. I love the ‘meh’ party idea. I think I might have to appropriate that.

    I also love what you said about someone else teaching Peanut the words “stupid” and “hate.” Vocabulary revenge? So gratifying.

  13. You’re awesome. On St. Nicholas Day, I bundled up the boys and take them to a toy store to buy toys for Toys for Tots. This year, I also had them go through their own toys to donate the ones they don’t play with anymore. Of course, Evan tried to donate a lot more of Sean’s toys than necessary, and Sean wanted to give up the broken ones.
    So can you repeat how you taught Peanut to be so thoughtful?

  14. I remember finding you about this time last year and learning about your (Commie pinko hippie) Santa plan and LOVING IT and babbling to my husband about how we were going to do the exact same thing.

    As you said, millions of us heard the Santa story, learned the truth, and survived not only intact, but eager to pass the tradition along to our own kids. I’m not bah-humbuggy about Santa, but I really love the emphasis on giving (as opposed to getting) that you’re teaching your kids. For me, it’s less about the religion or the mythology and more about working against our Gimme Culture.

    I think next year, the MEH gathering needs to be teleconferenced.

  15. We subscribe to the Santa myth, however, for us, Christmas is totally about giving. Giving of our time and gifts for others. So happy that your focus is also on giving to those less fortunate.

  16. Rock on, sister. With you all the way. We are Baha’is, so we don’t really do Christmas anyway. And yes, our kid is the one who accidentally ruined Santa for a few kids in his school. Oooops. But we agreee. Holidays shouldn’t be about commericalism and getting lots of stuff. I love that you’ve instilled in Peanut such a giving spirit at a young age. This is a wonderful lesson that he will carry with him his whole life. Happy holidays! xoxoxoxo

  17. This and your post on how you never talk about your being thinorfat in front of your kids make me want 1) you raise ALL the children in the world or 2) clone you and put your clones in all the households, including mine.

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