Thursday, December 6, 2007
Santa Claus and the Gingerbread Army
After my post on Advent, some of you asked what our family does about Santa Claus. Since today is Saint Nicholas' Day, I think I'll tackle the subject. I know there are debates out there about whether or not parents should "lie" to their children and make them believe in someone who doesn't really exist, and I have no intention of getting involved in those debates. I grew up believing in the jolly fellow with a red hat. He was an important part of my Christmas experience until my loving older brother pointed out that Santa's handwriting looked a lot like Mom's on a piece of paper from Dad's desk. (He got in trouble for that one.) My husband's family did not do the Santa Claus thing, and we both seemed to turn out just fine. At least I think we are fine; we don't need therapy for any lingering Christmas issues.
With that out of the way, I will say that we have chosen not to do Santa Claus in our family. As we have become more interested in church liturgy and celebrating the seasons of the church calendar, we find that there are already plenty of people and things to celebrate. We have an Advent wreath and Jesse Tree Banner for Advent, a special breakfast on Santa Lucia Day, slow decorating throughout December, putting the ornaments on the tree and Mary and Joseph in the stable on Christmas Eve, waking up to one present under the tree and Baby Jesus in the creche on Christmas morning, small gifts every day for the twelve days of Christmas, and a galette des Rois to eat and the wise men joining the nativity scene on Epiphany. With a list like that, we don't have room for Santa Claus.
Today is Saint Nicholas day, however, and I decided to teach Calvin a little about the man that inspired the Santa Claus legend. On Tuesday, I made gingerbread dough and refrigerated it overnight. Yesterday afternoon, the boys and I rolled it out and cut and baked gingerbread men. (The actual tradition is spice cookies baked in a Saint Nicholas mold. Too hard for me!) Much to my surprise, the dough recipe made an army of gingerbread men. We had a ton of fun decorating them with icing and M&M's this morning and delivering them as gifts to friends, in the spirit of St. Nicholas. We also read a book about the real man's life. I even had the boys leave out boots last night, and they found a clementine and a Cars car for each of them this morning. (For more about the Cars obsession, read this post.) If you want to know more about Saint Nicholas and ways to teach your children about him, go here.
So that is how we do Santa Claus in our house. So far, Calvin and Hobbes really have no idea who the guy in the mall is, and they greet questions of "What is Santa bringing you this year?" with a blank stare. I am hoping we can keep it that way for a while, lest we become those parents, whose kids send classmates home weeping because they insist that Santa isn't real.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on Saint Nick. Did you have him in your home growing up? What traditions do you have surrounding Santa Claus or Saint Nicholas' Day? What do you plan to do with your own children? If you don't do Santa Claus, how do you handle that around other children who do believe in him? I'm looking forward to reading your ideas. In the meantime, I'm going to take down that gingerbread army, one cookie man at a time. Run, run, as fast as you can, little man. I'll still get you.