In the office the other day, we were talking about Santa, and I commented that if you don’t believe in Santa, you get underwear and socks for Christmas. (Though let’s be honest, who among us couldn’t use some new underwear and socks?) And the discussion turned to believing in Santa and when to tell your kids about Santa.
I told them I didn’t know what they were talking about. Santa does exist! Maybe not in the way that we think of him, as a guy flying around in a sleigh pulled by reindeer, but at least in the spirit of holiday giving.
Santa Claus evolved from Saint Nicholas (as well as other figures – I believe he is a combination of a few different gift givers, and I think his beard came from Odin). But Nicholas was known for his generosity, leaving gifts in secret. The most famous story is where he helped a poor man with three daughters. For the daughters to marry, they needed dowries. Otherwise they would never marry, and since women had no real means of making money during that time, they would have likely turned to prostitution. So Nicholas, under cover of night, delivered dowries for the girls in the form of three purses of gold, slipping them through an open window.
So to me, the idea of Santa Claus has sort of evolved from a guy who comes in and brings awesome toys to a fun time of gift giving. Secret gift giving can be a bit harder, but still a lot of fun to try, even if you get “caught” immediately. (Though maybe don’t try to break into someone’s house to leave gifts. That can end poorly. I’m not sure that Santa can get to you in jail.) I’ve found that I enjoy the gift giving more than the receiving. It’s so much fun to know that you’ve found the perfect gift for someone. And it’s not about what it costs, but it’s the meaning behind it. Some of the best gifts I’ve given have been the most inexpensive.
So maybe, if your kid stops believing in Santa, you encourage them that Santa does exist, but more in the spirit of giving. Because Christmas isn’t about receiving, it’s about giving and finding joy in doing for others.