It’s Christmas Eve, and I’m just finishing up a big plate of vegan canelloni that my husband and I made, as per my parents’ tradition of Italian food the night before Christmas. My parents and brother are back in the U.S. so I’ll be spending tomorrow with the in-laws, doing a pretty low-key lunch. We made some choc chip walnut cookies to take.
And that right there, is the extent of my holiday spirit and interest in tradition of any sort. There’s no tree or tinsel anywhere to be seen in our apartment, and we’re not exchanging gifts. I’ve been pretty vocally “Bah Hambug” this year. Beyond the obvious fact that we’re both Atheists I can’t help rolling my eyes at the excess, waste and frivolity that goes into the month of December.
And after bemoaning the holiday to a few people who know of our pregnancy I’ve started hearing things like “Oh, well that’ll all change next year.”
Here’s why it won’t.
For starters, Pickle will be all of 5 months old. I can’t imagine that in between washing nappies and all-night feeding sessions, I’m suddenly going to feel this maternal need to stick a pine tree in my living room, and I doubt Pickle would appreciate the effort.
But ok, once Pickle’s old enough to understand the season, I still don’t see any elaborate celebrations in our feature. My favourite parenting blog Offbeat Mama has a great post on how to handle questions about Santa. I fall very firmly in the camp that no, we will not pretend Santa is real. Surely Pickle will learn about Santa elsewhere, but if questioned on the subject we’ll simply say, “Some people believe this story is real, but we know that it is just a fun made-up story.” Kind of like how we’ll handle discussions on the bible.
(I’m only half joking there. I believe imagination and creativity are beautiful things, but I also believe in teaching science, reason and logic. And religion and science tend not to go hand in hand.)
I think it’s basically setting myself up as a parent to look silly at best, and to be a liar at worst. Beyond that, the lesson of Santa Claus is a false one. The idea that you get lots of presents if you’re good and coal if you’re bad is simply false. The kids unwrapping dozens of expensive toys on Christmas Day are unlikely any more well-behaved than than families less well-off. Some kids don’t get to open any gifts. It’s not because they’re bad. It’s because life is often unfair.
Now there are some lessons that may be more or less appropriate depending on age, but I think discussions of privilege can be had anytime in the right context and are far more valuable than the lesson “If you’re good, you get a reward.”
If one day, Pickle really wants a Christmas tree for some reason, we’ll probably oblige. But there will be no photos on Santa’s lap and we’ll likely still keep the gift-giving to a minimum. Instead we’ll use the time to focus on spending time with family, eat a lot of pasta and cookies, and maybe even introduce some charitable traditions. Isn’t that what Christmas is actually supposed to be about anyway?