It’s Christmas Eve and many will be prepping a mince pie for Santa and a carrot for Rudolph in anticipation of a strange bearded man tumbling down their chimney with presents in toe.
But, although it is a treat to see children’s faces when their living room is miraculously filled with presents and it is also fun for adults to leave ‘snow’ footprints and sneak into their little one’s bedrooms to fill their stockings, the only present Father Christmas brings each year is controversy.
I know, I know, I’m a scrooge, a grinch even. And yes, it is also easy for me to say I hate the Santa myth without having my own children, but I remember the year when I found out Father Christmas was a sham more vividly than the previous ones.
Aged eight, my parents had recently split up and my older sister was pulled in to help my mother wrap presents. It was this noise, I presume, that rumbled Rudolph’s reign.
Late at night, I awoke – it’s impossible to stay asleep on Christmas Eve! – and sleepily slipped on my slippers and dressing gown, creeping out of bed to find out what noise had disrupted my slumber.
As I edged towards our study from which the sounds were emitting, my stomach was awash with excitement (what if it was Santa?!) and nerves (what if…). Opening the door and rubbing my eyes in disbelief, I saw my sister and my mother, poured over wrapping paper and presents.
I gasped softly and was ushered back to bed, but it was too late, the dream was over.
Now, I don’t mean to sound dramatic. Christmas was, and still is, my favourite time of the year. When else do you have an excuse to overindulge in food and drink and see and spoil your favourite people?! But I’m not sure how much Mr Claus actually added to that magic – it was the family, the festivity and (I’ll admit) the presents that made Christmas, not some fictional character.
I can understand why parents want to maintain their child’s imagination or innocence, or just to save being the hatred of the playground, but depriving your child of the myth won’t mess them up or spoil them. Selling Santa isn’t an essential stage of growing up; it teaches children nothing, except from that a) they can get things for free b) some people get more than others.
Furthermore, there is something uncomfortable about the deception of children, especially by those they trust the most. It is actually slightly concerning that people find their child most endearing when having led them into a lie, a situation where they are ignorant and inferior, and the parents holds control over their beliefs… But, let’s not get too dark. We should not raise children believing in fictions which are convenient for them, to accept tales that go against logic, especially in the advent of fake news – it teaches them to be gullible and happy with a dialogue that favours them.
Similarly, children should know that their mass of presents would not exist but for hard-working parents who budgeted all year to give their kids what they most desired in the entire universe (although Daddy, if you’re reading, I’m still waiting on both the puppy and the pony).
And then, what about those parents who can’t afford the newest PlayStation 4 for Christmas? The ones who, as hard as they tried, could not get their hands on a Hatchimal? What do they say when their child asks them wide-eyed why their best friend got the toy but they didn’t? Had they been bad this year?
The truth is that Santa is not, and never has been, the focal point of the festive season. He is one player in the tale, but the core message should be one of giving, receiving and being thankful for it all.
So tonight, when you’re hanging up your stocking, save the Santa lies, please.