My oldest son is not quite three, and so doesn’t have that much of a concept of Christmas. However, that doesn’t stop the whole world and his wife asking him if he is excited about Father Christmas coming to our house this year.
Of course, they mean well, but Monkey really doesn’t understand. And to be honest, we don’t do the whole Father Christmas thing in our house. We talk about various worldwide traditions at Christmas, and of course the story of old St Nick. We talk about the religious traditions surrounding Christmastime. But teaching him that a man in a red suit will sneak into our house in the middle of the night with gifts for him, but only if he is a ‘good boy’? Hmm, I don’t think so.
I can practically hear jaws dropping as I write this. Believe me, I am no grinch. I get just as excited as the children do when Christmas comes along. However, I don’t have any memory of believing in Father Christmas when I was little and you know what? Christmas was still a truly magical time. My mother and I still left mince pies and carrots (and a glass of milk, of course) out for Father Christmas and his reindeer, and it was no less exciting just because I knew that Father Christmas wasn’t real.
Another thing that worries me is how he would feel when he inevitably discovers that good old Father Chrimbletide is just a myth. I don’t even want to think how embarrassing it would be for him to find out from, say, an older child at school, and possibly be taunted for a long while. True, not all children get upset when they find out the truth, but a sensitive boy like mine absolutely would. The well-laid plans of sitting him down to explain it when I feel he is old enough may well go awry if someone less understanding and kind beats me to it.
Father Christmas doesn’t have to be a real, tangible person in my child’s mind in order for Christmas to be magical and wonderful. Instead, we talk about the magic of Father Christmas and how the spirit of giving is alive in our hearts. And besides, who wants their children to grow up feeling like gifts are the purpose and goal of Christmastime? Who wants them to grow up feeling like they are only deserving of being a part of Christmas gift-giving if they are ‘good’?
I really can understand why people do choose to keep Father Christmas and I would never judge anybody for doing so. For us, though, the whole Father Christmas thing just doesn’t sit right. Unfortunately, Father Christmas has been taken and moulded by modern day society to be used as a tool to bribe children to behave better. When used in this manipulative way, he is a massive parenting cop-out and I want no part of it.