A couple of years ago, I read a blog entry by a woman whose son had just “figured out” Santa. I can’t find it now, but the post was a lovely letter to her son in which she explained that he had learned something very important: You now know that magic can come from other people—that each of us and all of us can be bringers of magic to one another. I don’t resonate with magic language, but I think she’s right: it’s not that magic has ceased to exist. Instead, we are the creators of it. Something like that, anyway.
We don’t make a big deal out of Santa in our house. Santa brings a gift or two and fills stockings on Christmas morning, but we don’t write letters to him or visit him or anything like that. He’s everywhere this time of year, so they get plenty of indoctrination without our help.
When Caroline started inquiring seriously about Santa, I explained it to her in terms of Story. (Not a big surprise if you know me.) I told her the story of Saint Nicholas, and how Santa is a character that was inspired by a real person and has lasted all these years because it is such a powerful and beautiful story. Then I said that now she is in a different part of the story. She used to be one of the people who received gifts and joy from Santa, but now she gets to both receive that joy and give it to other people, most notably her siblings. So she helped pick out stocking stuffers for James, for example.
(I have no idea whether she got that, of course. I think there is some wistfulness there. But wistfulness is not enough to convince me that Santa is some pernicious lie that we tell our children. She doesn’t feel deceived, just nostalgic.)
This year both girls wanted American Girl dolls. We had already planned to buy new bikes for James and Margaret this year, and Caroline is still angling for a telescope, and for a variety of reasons, new AG dolls just weren’t going to happen. But a friend of mine found out about this and offered us her college-age daughter’s dolls—one for each of my girls, plus accessories. A few days before Christmas, we received two big boxes full of Felicity and Kaya and a wood table and chairs and a tea set and a horse and a tepee and books and more.
It really was overwhelmingly wonderful, and that was just my reaction!
This is a perfect example of what I tried to explain to Caroline—that the Santa story is a story we participate in—and we participate in different ways as we age. My friend chose to give some joy to two little girls rather than mothball her daughter’s toys, or sell them on eBay. And because Caroline knows the full story of Santa, I was able to share with her the origins of this year’s Christmas gift. Someday I will share the story with Margaret too.
On Christmas evening, I asked if they wanted to say thank you to Santa (or in Caroline’s case, “Santa.”) Since I know Santa reads this blog, I will include their video here. [One note of explanation: Margaret is going on about the Bitty Baby high chair because that's what Kaya sat in when the dolls had tea together. The other chair that Santa sent needs some repairs.]
I also want to say Thank You to Santa.