The same thing is happening with Christmas and Santa. He's gone from being blissfully unaware that we don't typically celebrate in the warmer climates of India like we did last year to analyzing Santa's every move. And boy are there a lot of Santas this year! There are Santas on TV, Santas at our local tree lighting and Santas at our mall every single day since November. If you're asking yourself why having Santa at a mall is big deal, it's because we walk through the mall every day to drop Monkey off at school and to pick him up. I don't know who decided that putting a mall in the middle of a city was a good idea, but I can assure you it wasn't a parent with small children. Many afternoons as we walk home Monkey looks at the huge set-up around the mall's Santa. At first he looked with curiosity, then with understanding of the photographic going-ons there, and now he looks with longing. "I wish we could have our picture taken there" he says in a plaintive voice.
I am very fond of Santa, but I don't really want Monkey and Munchkin to get their picture taken with him at the mall. I'm not sure exactly why but maybe it's the commercialism. After all, not only can you buy an overpriced photo with santa, but an overpriced mug! A dish! A magnet! And a variety of items you don't want in your house, but your kids will beg you for all the same. I'm not a complete Grinch. I did take them to get their photo taken with Santa at the tree lighting, but fearless Munchkin was so scared of Santa and his tall elf that she burst into tears. In the photo, Monkey is grinning on Santa's lap and Munchkin is grimacing on mine.
In November, Monkey asked repeatedly if Santa was real. I was so distracted when he asked that I almost said, "of course not." (We've since told him that all the Santas around town help the real Santa.) He's asked me about how Santa gets all the gifts delivered (I explained that the different times zones allow him to deliver presents on time) and has stated, mantra-like, "Santa doesn't need a chimney" as if willing himself to believe Santa will make it to our fireplace-free home.
Every time Monkey asks a question (I get presents from the family AND Santa?) I realize that I can't be lazy anymore in my holiday-related prep. I have to take the holiday decorations out from storage and actually put them up on time. I have to buy gifts and sign them "Love, Santa." Lastly, I have to keep up the Santa Clause farce for not just another week, but for another few years until Munchkin figures him out for herself.
Despite my minimally successful dodging-of-questions, it does feel odd to lie to Monkey. After all, I have to agree that not only Santa is real, but also discuss elves and reindeer and what it means to be good. But today, I read this beautiful response written in 1897 to a girl named Virginia who had posed the same question as Monkey "Is Santa real?" to a newspaper editor. This answer reminds me that there are few things as special as a child's innocent, though brief, belief in Santa.
“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished."
I will listen to Monkey's questions about Santa Clause and the magic that he provides. For now, I'll just be glad that despite the millions of Santas he and Munchkin have seen that at least they didn't see these, fighting in the snow.
Happy holidays everyone!