Spoiler alert: if you still believe in the big red fat man, you may not want to read any further.
The worst thing my six-year-old can call someone is a liar: he thinks it’s just about the most terrible thing a person can be. When he realises another child has been untruthful (especially if the fallout is at his expense) his handsome little face contorts into a mask of outrage “But he’s lying, he’s a liar!”
We speak a lot about the virtues of truthfulness versus dishonesty in almost every situation. While I absolutely empathise with his outrage, it does not stop me from lying to him myself: every single day at the moment.
My hypocrisy and the depths of my deception hit me the other day when I was organising the boys’ personalised messages from Santa online. While they played around downstairs, I sneakily and gleefully plugged in all the little facts Santa would magically know about them, along with photos he would have on file in his ‘book’ on them. I kept getting these twinges about my son’s face when he feels deceived; but I kept ploughing on.
Later, seeing their priceless reactions brought a lump to my throat the size of Texas: Santa literally swam about on the laptop screen through the ocean of tears in my eyes. Seeing the absolute wonder on their cherubic, awestruck faces upturned to the computer screen, their mouths slightly agape, all of it more than justified my ‘deception’.
You see, I don’t lie to them about this just because everybody else does it. I do it because I’m grateful that my parents gave the gift of Santa to me; because in doing so, they gave me the right to believe that miracles can and do happen and I want my children to feel free to do the same. The gift of Santa is a thing of beauty. It’s better than any gift we can put under the Christmas tree. What better gift can we give our children than to believe in magic and miracles? To believe in something they can’t see or fully understand; because sometimes it’s a beautiful thing to just surrender and believe.
Of course, Christmas is most definitely about much more than Santa and presents. We set up the nativity scene each year and talk about baby Jesus’s birth and that Christmas is his birthday. We sing Away in a Manger and The Little Drummer Boy and talk about what the lyrics mean. We read How the Grinch Stole Christmas so they understand that Christmas will still come each year even if there were (shock horror) no presents because the joy of Christmas is inside of us.