ControverSunday: The holiday edition

Ho Ho Ho.

So now that we have all been steeping in holiday cheer since November 1st.. as the lights and music and gift commercials hit us in full force the day after Halloween… how are we all feeling about this holiday stuff?

This month’s ControverSunday is an open invitation to talk about anything holiday related that you find controversial. Haven’t played before? No problem. All you have to do is write up your post, toot-suite, and come over here for the link up. Don’t forget to grab your badge from Accidents. And then you are set! Didn’t have a chance to post? No problem! Join via commenting on others great posts!

Okay, now lets get to it.


Our Lady of Perpetual Breadcrumbs

The Arbolog

The Cheeseblog

Tortoise on the Loose

Ramble Ramble

I was thinking about what most bothers me about the holiday season. I don’t mean to sound like a BahHumbug.. I LOVE Christmas… it is just that when it comes to controversial holiday topics, there are a bunch. So this might turn into a couple posts. Cause here are the things I was thinking about.

  • The insanely long and drawn out season
  • The consumer focus and spoiling of our kids
  • How it must make everyone who doesn’t celebrate Christmas feel to have everything taken over for close to 2 months
  • Do you or don’t you ‘do’ Santa with your kids. (Kelly Naturally had a great post on this a couple weeks ago… check it out.)

If I wrote about all these things this post would be a couple thousand words or more. So I am going to pick two and then if the others aren’t covered by the other ControverSunday authors, or if the posts got me thinking and I have something else to say, I might post again next Sunday.

And the winners are……

The insanely long and drawn out season & Do you or don’t you ‘do’ Santa.

First off, the long season really bothers me. I get that Christmas is the biggest retail season of the year. And I get it makes economic sense to spread it out as long as possible. (Which also leads to people hiding gifts they bought in the first week of November, and then either forgetting they bought them or forgetting where they hid them and then buying more things the second week in December in a holiday induced brain fog.) I get that.

But I hate it. With. A. Passion. I used to work in retail. And if you think it is annoying to listen to the same Christmas songs for the 5 hours you spend in the mall over the course of the entire Christmas season, then try listening to them for the 300 hours you would listen to them while working overtime for the entire Christmas season. Barf.

And I love Christmas music. I love signing. I love Caroling. I do. But really. The moment the Halloween decorations are put away? I know in the U.S. I hear it is better because most don’t start ‘doing’ Christmas until after U.S. Thanksgiving. Canadian Thanksgiving is early in October, so we don’t have the natural season change over marker. But it seems to me that Christmas has crept up earlier and earlier on the calendar. American friends, can you confirm?

It just makes it not so special, in my opinion. I was appalled with myself that I decorated before December 1st. I usually try to wait until the 15th. Cause I like it to be special. I like to enjoy the music and the lights and the decorations… not get sick of them before the ‘big day’ ever arrives.

I guess that falls into the category of ‘pet peeve’; not holiday controversy.

Anyway. On to perhaps the more ‘important’ topic. Will we ‘do’ the Santa thing with Audrey?

Kelly writes in her post:

“Really, the spirit of Santa is okay with me. It’s more the concocting layers of false “evidence” (cookies half eaten, left by the fireplace, “footprints” in the snow, etc.), in order to convince children (who by their very nature are very literal and want to believe their parents) of the really realness of Santa, that rubs me the wrong way. I prefer to just treat him as part of the holiday landscape that he is, without creating stories; without eroding trust.”

So I guess the question is will we be eroding trust if we choose to keep up with the fantasy of Santa? I mean, I think Kelly has a point. It is a form of lying. And some parents go to great lengths to ‘keep the story alive.’ Is that fair? Will she be disappointed when she finds out the truth? I mean, by the time she is like 4 she will be able to google I suspect…. More so, will she feel betrayed by me?

I don’t know the answer. What I do know is that I think there are many many many kids who grow up with the story and myth of Santa and don’t end up with any trust erosion with their parents. Part of me even feels that part of growing up is realizing your parents are not perfect. Part of growing up is unmasking the mystery of child-hood and seeing the world for what it really is. Full of contradiction and, well, disappointment.

But should I engage in something that is an active choice to deceive?

So here is what I think we will do. Audrey can believe in Santa if she wants to believe in Santa. She will hear about it from other kids, she will ask what all the fuss is about at the mall. And if she wants to go visit Santa, then we will go visit Santa. *warning, I am about to get controversial here.* I am not taking her to see Santa until she requests it. I can only guess that if we took her this year she would flip right the heck out, as being placed in a strangers lap is not her idea of a good time. And honestly kinda makes me feel queasy– shouldn’t it be her choice to be that close to a stranger… not something I do for the sake of a picture? It just doesn’t seem to be very respectful to her to force her into that situation. (Really, I don’t mean to judge if you are all over the Santa pictures.. to each their own. It just makes me uncomfortable for my kid.) If she never asks to see Santa, then we will never go to see Santa.

If she asks to write Santa a letter or leave out cookies, then we will do that. And if she asks questions I will answer them as honestly as I can, while respecting that I don’t want her to be the bearer of bad news to all the other kids. I like Kelly’s idea of asking questions to let your kid come to their own conclusions. I will play along to the extent that Audrey wants to play along. I am going to try to take her lead. To me, that is letting her believe until she no longer wants to believe. I remember as a child knowing Santa wasn’t real, but playing along because I liked the idea of it. I never felt betrayed. But my parents never made a really big deal of it either. So I think that is our plan.

What about you?


9 responses to “ControverSunday: The holiday edition

  1. clara December 5, 2010 at 8:42 am

    Good for you for thinking about this when she is still so young! It won’t catch you by surprise like it did me. We have the same approach as you – if you’re going to believe, believe. I don’t think I will ever be the parent who fakes the footprints or leaves out the cookies. Also I’m pretty sure my kid can read lips so I think his days of Santa are numbered (and little brother will be close behind, as little brothers always are)

    I get what you’re saying about the holiday season being drawn out. Mostly my annoyance is related to being unable to do my “normal” shopping in November because there are too many people “Christmas” shopping. Like three weeks ago I needed peanut butter from Costco and I couldn’t get in the parking lot! Damn!

    Anyway, I posted too, kind of all over the map

    ps: I used to work in retail too and that Boney M album makes me want to slaughter things.

  2. Lisa Sunbury December 5, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    Here in the United States, it used to be the case that holiday decorations and Christmas music in stores didn’t start until the day after Thanksgiving, which is always the third Thursday in November. Not anymore. It now all starts the day after Halloween. I’m so glad I no longer work in retail, either. I’d be tearing my hair out!

    As for Santa Claus, I grew up believing in him, and we always put out milk and cookies for him before going to bed on Christmas Eve, and they were gone in the morning. I believed for a really long time, until I was eight or nine years old, and even when I began to suspect otherwise, I held on to the the pretense of believing in Santa Claus.

    I had a difficult childhood for a number of reasons, and when I was a young adult, before 100 years of therapy, I blamed my parents for a lot of things, but never for “lying” to me about Santa Claus.

    I did sit on Santa’s lap to have my picture taken, and tell him about my Christmas wishes, but reluctantly. I agree with you Kathleen, that no child should ever be forced or cajoled to visit Santa. This is a choice that should be left entirely up to a child.

    The family I am a nanny for celebrates Hanukkah, and does not celebrate Christmas.
    But for the past three years, they have helped me decorate a tree, and the children have hung Christmas stockings at my house, which I fill with treats on Christmas Eve. S., who is now 5, loves this tradition, and we’ve read “The Polar Express”, and “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas”, and watched The Snowman, together. We’ve also told her the story of the “real” Santa Claus, and the origins of the Christmas celebration. Sometimes she seems to believe in Santa, the way she believes in fairies, other times she has lots of questions. We don’t lie to her, but instead ask her what she thinks, or we simply say, “Some people believe….”

    I love your plan for taking your cues from your daughter. I don’t think you can ever go wrong listening to, and following the lead of your child. Part of what is so wonderful about the holidays is that they are a time apart from the ordinary and everyday hum drum. A time for family and friends, lights and decorations to brighten dark days, special food, meaningful rituals, sharing, generosity, and a little bit of magic. As adults, we get to choose what aspects of the season we want to focus on, and create meaningful ways to celebrate with our loved ones, and for that, I am grateful.

    • amoment2think December 6, 2010 at 5:50 pm

      I love the way you put that, “Sometimes she seems to believe in Santa, the way she believes in fairies”. I think this type of imagination is wonderful for a child and completely normal. Many children also have imaginary friends. Having a rich inner world as a child is part of being a child, in my opinion. But I also agree with the criticism of pushing your child to believe in something they are questioning and the over commercialization of Santa. It was interesting in reading all this weeks ControverSunday posts just how many of us are taking the ‘follow the kids lead’ approach.

  3. Mama Tortoise December 5, 2010 at 8:20 pm

    We must be on the same wave length! I wrote my post about Santa before I read yours – I promise! Here you go:

    I’m glad that you wrote about the long drawn out season too. I often wonder where the time went when we weren’t in a ‘season’. Most of our neighbours have decorations up all year – Halloween stuff comes down the same day Christmas stuff goes up. Then Christmas stuff comes down and Valentines Day wreaths go on the door. (Cheese! I mean, geez!) Then Easter and Canada Day…. on and on and on. I would like to go back to the 12 days of Christmas – just under two weeks is about my limit. Plus, with a one-year-old grabbing every decoration in sight this year, 12 days would fit my levels of patience!


  4. Ginger December 6, 2010 at 11:43 pm

    Well, I obviously agree with you about the length of time, since I posted about that very thing.

    As far as Santa, I’m conflicted–I loved Santa growing up, and even long after I knew the truth, Santa played a part in our holiday. But at the same time, I can see the arguments about the idea that you’re lying to your kid.

    I don’t recall being super upset finding out, but I also don’t recall doing things like photos with Santa, or leaving food out more than once or twice. And my parents definitely didn’t do a ton of elaborate steps to prove the existence, nor did they use Santa as a threat the rest of the year. So, you know, I loved Santa but my parents didn’t go overboard. So that would be the approach we would take.

    But, as I’m finding with most things, I’m going to try to follow Jackson’s lead. We’re not anywhere near trying to introduce the holidays in general, and we won’t do pictures with Santa unless and until he wants to (I don’t care enough about a silly picture to stand in that line unless he wants to). If he’s a “believer” we’ll go that way. But if he’s not, I’m not going to make him be.

  5. kelly @kellynaturally December 7, 2010 at 8:49 am

    Hi Kathleen! Thank you so much for linking to my post. We own several online retail stores – and – ’tis the season! So I’m up to my ears in work this time of year & hardly have time to read posts, let alone respond! So my apologies for the delay!

    I HAVE taken my children to see Santa at the mall – because they’ve requested to do so, but I do answer all questions with more of a “hmmm that’s interesting, what do you think” response than a concrete yes or no. I do believe the magic of belief is still there for kids, even with ultra-literal parents like myself. And I don’t want to be the one who bursts my kids’ bubbles. Like I said, I’m not a grinch about Christmas at all… I just don’t leave out cookies for Santa, because for me, that’s crossing the reality/fantasy line a bit too much.

    As for Xmas decorating, I don’t put up our decorations until after Thanksgiving (we’re in the US), and we take them down on Jan 1st as a part of our fresh start for the year. Some neighbors leave them up until Valentine’s day… that’s one heck of a long season, but hey, Christmas is a wonderful time for people, and I can’t fault anyone for wanting to hold onto that feeling.

  6. Perpetua December 7, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    Following the kid’s lead sounds like the best approach to the whole Santa business. I know awhile back I mentioned that we weren’t going to have Santa, but over the course of writing and reading everyone’s thoughts about it, I think we’ll do it. Not this year–E is too young. But if he’s interested, we’ll have Santa leave a present, and we’ll put some cookies out and write a letter (what I did when I was little, basically). There’s no way I’d go so far as footprints in the snow, though. I think it’s lovely, but a bit much for us.

    And a big NO to picture with Santa. I’m too much of a germophobe 🙂

  7. Pingback: I take it all back. The toddler is obsessed with Santa. |

%d bloggers like this: