Christmas when no one believes in Santa
This is my first Christmas where no one believes in Santa. I’ve been having a hard time feeling Christmas-y.
My youngest broke the news to me over the summer. I don’t even remember how the topic came up – maybe it was during Christmas in July week at camp. I’m not gonna lie, I was relieved. He’s in middle school now and I wanted him to know the truth but wasn’t sure how to tell him.
I hadn’t even prepared any words about how Santa Claus actually was a real guy, a 4th-century Catholic saint who was remembered for giving gifts to children. I just asked him if he was okay with me lying to him for all those years. (He was.)
In the past, I’d had to be quick on my feet when one of the older two snooped, found gifts, and told the others that Santa is really Mom.
“No,” I sputtered (annoyed at the snooping).
“Santa just needs Mom’s help wrapping everything — do you really think he has time to wrap, never mind fly around the world in one night? He has to drop off gifts throughout the whole month of December!”
But last summer, it was just time to let it go.
Getting ready for Christmas when the kids were younger
I remember one day a long time ago when I decided to take inventory of all of the Christmas presents I had bought for my kids during one of my conference calls.
I put the phone on speaker (and muted it), hauled everything out from the various hiding places, and spread it all over my office/bedroom floor. Then I pulled out all the wrapping paper, tape, bows, ribbons, gift tags and boxes. Then I got overwhelmed.
I spent most of the day walking around or stepping over little piles of gifts. At lunch time, I wrapped the kids’ gifts that they had chosen for each other. Mid-afternoon, I had my Santa gifts wrapped. When 5:00 came, I realized that I better at least organize everything else before I put it all back in my luggage, hanging next to my garment bags, in the eaves of the attic.
I spent the next 25 minutes sorting the stocking stuffers, making sure I had the right number of Santa gifts for everyone else, and trying to balance out the items I was giving to my kids. I considered holding some of them back for upcoming birthdays, especially when I realized I had bought two of exactly the same Lego Hero Factory sets. Then I just tossed everything together in one bag. I’d have to defer that decision to another day. I had to be sure I hid all the wrapping paper, too – I wouldn’t want Santa paper to be found anywhere, not even the scraps that were in the trash.
Letting it all go
Now that no one believes in Santa, I can let go of all of the orchestrations of Santa letters, Santa gifts as opposed to Mom gifts, different wrapping paper, different handwriting for mom and Santa, cookies for Santa, the lists, and so on. (We never got into Elf on a Shelf, fortunately. I think that would have put me over the edge.)
My husband suggested that it’s time to remind the kids about all the gifts they get all year long, like hockey, a car, and a trip to Europe. He used to take his kids on vacation at Christmastime when they got older (they’re in their late 20s now), but we can’t do that because of people’s sports schedules.
Starting new traditions
I made a photo album that shows pictures of the boys doing fun things throughout the year and titled it “It’s a Wonderful Life: 2016.” Sure, they’ll also have things to open: one substantial gift each and a bunch of trinkets that I think they’ll like, which are related to their hockey, car, and trip, as well as a stocking (Must.Not.Go.Overboard.On.Stocking.Stuffers!)
For the first year, they’ll be going to the mall on their own (since my oldest drives now). If they want to do a pajama run and look at Christmas lights, they can do that themselves, too. My youngest has already wrapped all his gifts, by himself.
One of my boys isn’t bothering with his chocolate advent calendar. We did not put ornaments on the tree (yet. I know there’s still time.) — only lights and a star. We likely won’t get up at the crack of dawn this year. It might even be nice to have breakfast first!
Appreciating the entire season
I’ve been playing Christmas music in the morning before the kids go to school and in the car (for those who still drive with me). We’ve had our get together with our relatives and the boys have been receiving an influx of gifts and cash in the mail. They are still counting down the days, which I think is partially because they’ll be off from school, but also the anticipation of opening gifts is of course still very exciting. I hope it has more to do with knowing we picked out things just for them than it is the rabid frenzy of more-more-more that sometimes happens with little kids. I know appreciating the entire season has become important to at least some of them!
One of my friends posted on Facebook about how there are only a limited number of Christmases where her kids will live under the same roof before they’re off on their own. Because her kids are the same ages as my older two, this hit me hard. Time flies. Am I savoring the moments enough?
Another friend offered empathy and encouragement, agreeing it’s sad when no one believes in Santa, but reminding me that there are other things about the holidays to enjoy together, such as traditions.
We’re a long way off from the spiked eggnog my friend enjoys with her son (as in when hell freezes over, since I do not drink alcohol and it would be an especially hellish day if I ever picked that up again), but I can still enjoy making peppermint bark with one of my boys and helping them choose gifts for each other.
My mom used to say that the reason we give gifts is to honor the Christ in each other. Perhaps now that no one believes in Santa, feeling Christmas-y is more about remembering Jesus’ birthday and the real St. Nick than it is about the trespassing dude in the red suit.
With that said, one of the traditions I don’t plan to let go is the birthday cake for Jesus.
Happy holidays everybody and boy to the world!