NB: This is the entirety of the column published in The Western Star. Because it was not available in their online version, I'm reposting her. I'll post a blog later about my thoughts writing this column.
“Readily A Parent” by Dara Squires
The Many Sides of Santa
Any public figure, whether celebrity, politician, religious figure, or hero becomes open to the scrutiny - sometimes scorn, sometimes adulation - of the public they serve.. Some of the most documented surrounds that public figure known in most circles as Santa Claus. He goes by other names such as Kris Kringle and St. Nick.
Because of all the exposure Santa receives, we as parents have to think constantly about what questions or controversies our child will overhear or read. It is all too easy for them to be exposed to ideas about Santa that go against our personal and family beliefs – whatever they are. We need to be prepared to talk about this with them. The only way to prepare ourselves is to know what they might come across.
The questions swirl about this public figure. Does he have magical powers? Can he really tell who’s naughty and who’s nice? And most importantly, does he exist at all?
There are books, movies, websites and documentaries dedicated to these questions. I am sure I have nothing new to add. It just may be interesting, though, to look at the various sides.
In this age of the internet, mass publishing and multicultural television, it’s possible our children could read or hear things about Santa Claus that we didn’t expect. As parents we are responsible for evaluating the ideas our children will be exposed to; we must be ready to present our own to them. Whatever our beliefs are, it’s important to understand the beliefs of others too.
Your believing child may have a classmate who doesn’t celebrate Christmas for religious reasons. Santa is one of the symbols of a Christian holiday. There are many non-Christians who neither celebrate Christmas nor believe in the existence of Santa Claus. Conversely, your non-believing child may be a minority in a classroom full of traditional believers.
A Baha’i family in Torbay says “we celebrate a different set of holidays. For that simple reason, our family doesn’t celebrate Christmas and Santa, except when we gather with friends and family to share in their celebration of Christmas.” They go on to state, though, that it is central to their faith to respect others’ beliefs, and that “the fundamental purpose of the Baha'i Faith is to seek to create unity. As such our family fully participates in the Christmas fun with our friends and family who are not Baha’i.”
You’ll often see many people of other faiths celebrating Christmas alongside Christians, most often in school where they participate in concerts and parties while still maintaining their own beliefs. They very rarely attack the beliefs of the Christians around them. And the opposite is true too. Non-Christians are rarely ridiculed for not celebrating Christmas or Santa.
Some Christians feel very strongly about Christmas and the celebration of Santa Claus. There are those Christians who celebrate Christmas but choose to leave Santa out of it. They believe he detracts from the importance of Jesus as the central figure of Christmas. To them, Santa is just another symbol of the secularization of a Christian celebration.
Some Christians do not celebrate Christmas at all. They believe it has no biblical basis - Jesus never having said to celebrate his birth. They see Christmas as a pagan holiday that was adopted into the Christian mind. Christmas, to them, is false worship and forbidden by the bible.
Then there are those who seek answers only through science. Because they cannot rationalize how Santa can fly around the world, with multiple stops, in one night only, it must therefore be impossible and the entirety of Santa must be a myth. By contrast, there are also those who use scientific theory to prove the existence of Santa Claus.
If your child types “Santa Claus” into a search engine such as Google, they may come across sites like Wikipedia that discuss the Santa Claus “myth.” Another result would be the official NORAD Santa tracker that not only reaffirms the faith in Santa but also tracks his “movements” in the days leading up to and including Christmas day. Further searches will present them with conflicting scientific proofs for and against the existence of Santa.
Hopefully your child will, at some point, ask you, the parents, what to believe. Hopefully, you will be prepared to defend your beliefs either way. After all, what’s most important is not your child’s faith in Santa or not, but his or her faith in you.
I’ve enjoyed reading your comments on previous columns. Please keep in mind when commenting on this column that children may be reading. You can contact me personally at firstname.lastname@example.org. And you’re always welcome to visit the facebook page at www.facebook.com/readilyaparent or the blog at www.readilyaparent.com