Please, don’t be annoyed: I’ve got one last thought on Christmas I would like to share, and then, I’ll promise, I’ll get over it. At least for something like roughly the next twelve months.
A week ago, a friend of mine was looking for input about whether or not to tell her children that Santa Clause or little baby Jesus bring(s) the presents. A lot of the people publicly giving her feedback made the point that they themselves had been told a lie of that sort and had very happy childhood Christmas memories.
I think that this is a stupid point. There are two likely interpretations for what was going on.
- Being told the Christmas lies was (fully or in part) what actually made them happy.
- Their having been happy children makes them remember their childhood in a positive way and the Christmas lie was just an insignificant part of that childhood.
They were obviously all convinced that 1) is true, and that being told that there is gift-bringing version of baby Jesus has actually made them happier than they would have been with a nice little “Look, mummy and daddy got you a present”.
I advised my friend against it. I am strongly convinced that 2) is true. I don’t think that happy children become any happier because we tell them fantastic lies about some presents under a tree. And I think that by not telling those lies, we might do them a favour. The reason is that one day, they will find out. I will never forget how betrayed I felt when I figured out that the whole thing was a hoax and that everyone in the room had known.
I am even prepared to go further: I think very often, when we find kids cute because of what they do or believe, we take some pleasure in how stupid (in a cute way, of course) they are. We often tell children idiotic stuff and then wait for the moment when they realize how idiotic it is. When we tell them that they’re not there any more because they are hiding under a blanket, we are putting them to a test: We are testing when they will be smart enough to figure it out. But what if at some point, they are smart enough to realize that they have been put to this test and that they have failed it very often? That would be a point where a child could be ashamed because it feels as if it has been made fun of all the time. I think that a child realizing that Santa isn’t real can be such a point.