Santa is dead
Posted on December 6th, 2012
eaches told a significant portion of the second grade that she does not believe in Santa Claus.
It is December after all, the time when many a seven-year-old heart turns to thoughts of presents and stockings and flying reindeer so, naturally, a conversation had sprung up about Santa’s impending travels. When one child shared that the hidden camera used to catch Santa’s visit to her home last year had failed to record his movements through her living room, the chatter became lively.
A quick move to validate Santa’s existence through a collective affirmation of belief was undertaken, spearheaded by an aspiring pollster who asked that all those who thought Santa was real should raise their hand. Which everyone did—well, everyone with the exception of Peaches, who raised her hand when the child asked (in so many words) if there were any dissenting opinions on the topic.
Her opinion was not well-received by her peer group.
“Did that make you feel bad?” I asked about the cross-examination and lingering discussion that ensued.
“Yes,” she said. But she did not cry.
Somehow we as parents have managed to stumble to this place where our daughter is the Santa naysayer, planting the seed of doubt about this culturally revered symbol of generosity and the innocence of childhood into the minds of other children.
We’ve never made too much over Santa. I’ve written about this before and you can read more about the path by which we arrived at this point here, but here’s the short version: through a combination of ambivalence and outright laziness, Santa is under-marketed in our home.
At the same time, we’re not forwarding an Anti-Santa agenda as a family either. We leave our merry friend of myth a snack for he and his reindeer to enjoy (usually) and a significant number of presents arrive—as if by magic—between bedtime on Christmas Eve and pre-dawn the next morning.
Yet somehow we as parents have managed to stumble to this place where our daughter is the Santa naysayer, planting the seed of doubt about this perfectly benign, culturally revered symbol of generosity and the innocence of childhood into the minds of other children. I wondered not-so-casually if I was going to begin receiving calls from irate parents.
“Do you believe in the Easter Bunny, bub?” Roy asked her from the front seat after Peaches told her story last night. “Do you believe in Mr. Pumpkin Man, whatshisname, who comes at Halloween?”
“Who are you talking about?” I asked Roy, irritated. Mr. Pumpkin Man indeed.
“I don’t know,” Peaches said slowly in answer to Roy.
“Some people make a choice to believe in certain things because it feels more magical to them,” I offered awkwardly.
“I can still believe in magic and not in a white man with a beard,” she said.
At bedtime, I told Peaches that I was proud of her for being honest about what she believed. It isn’t easy to be different, I said. Just thinking different things and having the temerity to share those thoughts can earn you the stink eye right quick and not many seven-year-olds have the stomach for it. But everyone gets to believe whatever they want to, I told her, in flying reindeer, in peace and in love, and there’s real magic in that.∗