So, I have a dilemma. Now, it’s not a life-altering conundrum that keeps me awake at 3am, but it’s a dilemma all the same. My son has just turned three and this will be the first Christmas that he will properly be able to anticipate its approach, countdown the days on his advent calendar – actually, thanks to his grannies, make that calendars – peruse the toy catalogue, display his sticky, glittery creations on the Christmas tree and generally get stuck in to all things Christmassy.
But here’s the dilemma – what do I tell him about that big, fat man in a red suit whose knee I will probably force him to sit on at some point in the run up to the big day?
As a Christian, it’s troubling me somewhat. And I’m not sure whether it should. I know lots of families, Christian ones included, who will get out the mince pie and the carrot stick and put them on a plate for Santa on Christmas Eve. And before the kids fall asleep, they’ll read stories about Santa flying over the rooftops with his reindeer, and the presents that miraculously appear under the tree will all be from that bearded man.
And yet, I don’t see how I can say that Christmas is all about Jesus being born and in the next breath tell him that Santa only gives presents to good girls and boys. Won’t he end up totally confused? Will Jesus become the sideshow and not the main event?
And then, when he finds out that Santa, is, eh, fake (shhhh) will he start questioning other stuff we tell him? Like, the stuff about Jesus? I realise I can’t stop a bit of Santa-mania from seeping into his life – but I don’t want to encourage it. I don’t want to put out a mince pie, take a bite while he’s in bed, and then tell him Santa did it – isn’t that lying? And three year olds believe pretty much anything you tell them. But at the same time, I don’t want to take away some of that so-called ‘magic’ from Christmas.
How do I help a three-year-old to see that the tinsel, the Santa suit, the chocolate advent calendar and the presents are just for fun and that the real wonder, the real ‘magic’, can be found in the birth of a baby who came to find us and bring us home. Actually, I’m not sure it’s just my three-year-old who needs help with that one.