They were doing Santa Claus' job and I knew at once they wouldn't be doing his job if he existed to do it for himself. Although they never knew I saw them, I never believed in Santa again. I felt betrayed. It was hard to believe Santa had betrayed me since he didn't exist. So I knew Mummy and Daddy were the frauds.
I lost trust in my parents' credibility and I haven't liked Santa Claus since.
I probably wouldn't have wanted to raise my children believing in Santa anyway, but when I became a believer in Jesus Christ at 19, my commitment to the only Source of "every good and perfect gift," who is a jealous God and will not share His glory with another, cinched my convictions. An invisible Being who was omniscient about motives and actions, omnipresent at least on Christmas Eve--an eternal Being who could reduce himself supernaturally to fit down a chimney, who answered prayers and performed miracles--was definitely competing with my God for His glory. Perpetuating the lie was idolatry.
I knew the person of Santa Claus was based on St. Nicholas, who was good to the poor. It didn't make any difference. I didn't want my children finding out one invisible, omniscient, omnipresent, eternal Being we'd taught them to believe in was a fraud. Wouldn't they doubt the other One, the real One--the One who could supernaturally fit Himself into a manger, even into a woman's womb? Wouldn't they doubt us, the ones who had taught them myth and truth side by side? Wouldn't they throw the Baby out with the blarney?
But Rick, my first husband, didn't see any problem with including Santa Claus in our Christmas. Santa had been a fun part of his growing up. He dismissed my concerns as groundless. Of course our kids would be able to distinguish between J. C. and S.C.!
So on Christmas Eve, we'd send the kids to bed early "so Santa could come." Sometimes Rick got them really excited as they lay there trying hard to sleep, by telling them he could hear hooves scrabbling on the roof or distant whinnies. In the morning, a couple of the gifts would be labeled "from Santa." For my part, I downplayed the portly elf. I avoided Santa-decorated wrapping paper and figurines (except for the one where Santa, hat off, kneels before the manger). I still do.
I don't know when I realized the kids were playing the game with us--as a game. Maybe it was the first time our daughter spoke into the lull after she and her brother had emptied their stockings: "Oh, I think Santa's coming back! He forgot something. Mom and Dad, I think you'd better leave the room."
When we came back, our own stockings were bulging with all our favorite treats: nuts and sugar-free syrup for Rick, peanut M & Ms and marinated artichoke hearts for me. We gave Santa big hugs by proxy and the tradition was set.
Time passed. Now our children were teenagers and the only child in the family was their cousin Andy. One Christmas morning when Andy's mother Linda (Rick's sister) went into the living room to turn up the furnace and turn on the tree lights, she discovered that the bichon frise had chewed through the wrappings of a package containing something edible and had ingested a good chunk of it (with no effects on him at all).
It took all of us to convince a dubious Andy later that Prancer had eaten the left rear panel of his new chocolate Ferrari.
Somehow, through it all, the kids grew up believing Jesus Christ is God and Santa Claus is a game. I underestimated them. They're not confused and their faith survived intact. And each year I add an angel or manger scene to the branches of the Christmas tree.
First posted Dec. 19, 2010