We tried to be those parents. We tried to tell our daughter
that Santa Claus isn't real.
We knew that this could get her in trouble at some point,
that chaos would ensue if she destroyed the innocent faith of her kindergarten
classmates with a declaration of Santa-atheism. Yet we did it anyway, perhaps
to always tell her the truth about the world, perhaps to preserve the religious
focus of the holiday. Whatever our reasons, the project didn't work.
Early on she went along with our attempts. She even laughed
at the silliness of Grandpa suggesting we put out milk and cookies on Christmas
Eve. But as she matured to the more social age of four, everything changed. Her
assertions to her Sunday school class and preschool that Santa isn't real were
met with uniform disagreement; she was outnumbered. Every single other child
she knew believed in Santa, so the logical conclusion must be that her parents
were wrong. She informed us without hesitation.
But around the same time, my daughter decided that the
Christmas story--as in the whole Mary, Joseph, angels and baby Jesus tale--is
just too far-fetched to be real. So I was stuck with a preschooler who believed
in Santa but not in the Bible.
Strangely enough, I was okay with that. I didn't care that
the preschool constituency was against me; my daughter's conversion woke me up
to what it means to convey truth to her. I realized that our understandings of
truth are communally created--the truths I want my daughter to understand have
to make sense within the communal narrative of her world. The truth of the
Christmas story is about more than historical veracity. And the Santa story provides
space for meaning as well.
There will be time to explore the complexities of the
historical Christmas story, but for now I am content to work within my daughter's
understanding of the world to kindle faith and encourage a love of meaningful