Another way I want to experience Christmas this year is through living the experience of Christmas in a new way. I went into ministry before I became a parent, and I'm a last-minute writer, so I haven't had weekends to do holiday activities with my child. I'm hoping to have more time to experience the joys of the season than I've had in previous years where ministry kept me working six days a week. My sabbatical rule: only work at most five days a week! :)
So in my experiencing of Christmas so far, we've gotten our tree up, and then I helped my best friend put her tree up last night--just assembling, not decorating. It turns out, I've learned, that fluffing out the branches of an artificial pre-lit tree can take even longer than putting up a real tree and stringing it with lights, if you do it right. While we did this, we had a discussion about believing in Santa. Turns out a similar discussion has been happening on the UU blogosphere between uuMomma and Paul Oakley (in a comment of his on Facebook).
My discussion was triggered by a comment I made that a lot of holiday movies seem centered around the question of belief in Santa, and that having this as a theme of the movies themselves may make a child viewing it open up the question of belief in Santa. The existence of people not believing in Santa in the movies points out that some people don't, in fact, believe in Santa, and might prompt a child to ask why that's the case. Some examples:
- Elf - We watched this recently with our Santa-believing daughter, which is what raised the question for me. It's not the main point of the movie, but Santa gets his sleigh stuck because the magic has gone out of Christmas, and it takes more people believing to get it back in the sky.
- The Polar Express - A little doubting boy is taught to believe in the magic of Christmas because of a special train ride.
- And, of course, the classic Miracle on 34th Street, where the girl, her mother, and all of NYC don't believe in Santa Claus, until they get their Christmas miracles.
There's a lot of debate about whether telling children the Santa myth is the right or wrong thing to do. I've had some good debates about it in various circles. I really believe there's good and bad both ways, and that no parent should be judged on their decision about this. We went back and forth about it ourselves, so I have a hard time justifying either perspective completely. Meanwhile, our child made the decision for us, and as long as she wants to believe in Santa, I'm content to let her.
Interestingly, and tangentially here, I've often said (and read other people who've also said the same for them), that I stopped believing in God when I stopped believing in Santa. (I consider myself an agnostic, now, but I went through an atheist period.) Right now, my daughter is also a firm believer in God. That may change, or it may not. I'm not trying to change it, and am okay with wherever her belief goes, outside of fundamentalism. When we responded to her about her stance of, "I'm standing up for God," saying, "Well, sometimes we say we're 'standing on the side of love,'" she firmly responded, "It's the same thing, Mom. It's the same thing." And, after all, who can argue with that?