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A Santa Retraction

From the Macy’s Day Parade to Christmas Day 2020, I have watched a whopping 21 Christmas movies (actually, I think I might be missing something). The vast majority of these movies are ones that I have never watched. Perhaps it’s been on in the background, but I’ve never actually sat down to watch from beginning to end. This Christmas viewing list includes the following (in no particular order): Mickey’s Christmas Carol, The Muppets Christmas Carol, A Christmas Story, Home Alone, Elf, A Bad Moms Christmas, The Princess Switch, White Christmas, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Santa Clause 1 & 2, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Love Actually, Yes, Virginia, The Grinch, The Nightmare Before Christmas, The Little One, Santa Clause is Coming to Town, Miracle on 34th Street, and It’s a Wonderful Life. A few of these movies touched me, deeply. I had never seen Miracle on 34th Street or It’s a Wonderful Life. Both of those movies in particular left me in literal tears. Today, we marathon watch Christmas episodes from The Simpsons before putting aside Christmas movies until next year.

A few days ago, I declared our (my) decision to rip the Santa bandaid off by telling our children that Santa does not exist. I looked at it from realistic practicality. I detail my reasons in the post “There is no Santa and I am not a Grinch.” Outside of a couple of posts about Maggie’s condition, this post had the most traffic and launched quite the debate and push-back. My initial response was joy. People are reading my blog! I was also taken aback. Adults had such a visceral response to the idea of Santa. It surprised me and I struggled to understand why I had upset adults. As far as I know, I don’t have child readers.

In my quest to understand, I turned to Christmas movies. I am a literary nerd. I find comfort in stories, regardless of medium. Many of these movies illustrated what I had missing from my childhood experiences. I truly have no memory of believing in Santa. My childhood Christmas experiences were neither joyous nor normal. They were simply sad. Although I don’t recall anyone telling me that Santa wasn’t real, I always believed that. I also didn’t have any sense of belief over anything. I didn’t have faith because I wasn’t exposed to it. I always felt hollow and lost as a child.

The two movies that made the biggest emotional impact for me were Yes, Virginia and Miracle on 34th Street. In both of these movies, the children grapple with their belief or lack thereof in Santa.

As if the Ghost of Christmas Future boomed Hazel’s future before my eyes, I stared aghast at the kid from Miracle on 34th Street. That child was missing something, something difficult to name. She was a little adult, filled with the reason and worries that should be reserved only for those who have crossed the threshold of adulthood. Is this what a childhood without Santa looks like?

I watched Hazel entranced with images of Santa on the big screen. On our felt Christmas tree, she would excitedly pluck out Santa’s face, or the plush Santa ornament dangling from the Christmas tree, and show it to me with such a beaming smile. It was the same kind of excitement she reserves for Mickey Mouse, Baby Yoda, and Frozen. She may not understand the story of Santa this year, but she will next year.

After much self-reflection, Maggie and Hazel can believe in Santa as long as their little hearts see fit. I want them to embrace the imagination of childhood, and if that means believing that Santa comes once a year through the chimney to deposit gifts under the tree, so be it.

Merry Christmas.


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