“She still believes in Santa?”, my relative asked about my youngest daughter. “When will you tell her the truth isn’t she too old?”
That was five years ago. My daughter was only 8 years old at the time and I thought “how sad to not want a child to believe”. At 8 years of age, my daughter was in good company of children who still believed. Our view was that we wouldn’t actually “tell her” but would confirm if she came to us having figured it out on her own…or when she enters High School…which ever comes first! We used that approach with our oldest daughter and that seemed to work well (who, by the way, had the entire thing figured out by the start of middle school!).
Myths and legends provide a backbone of our traditions. Believing is an important part of childhood and one of the many wonderful attributes that separates kids from adults. Whether it be Santa, the tooth fairy, Hanukah Harry, the Easter Bunny, or any legend, kids of all denominations do wonder about these stories and whether there is any truth behind it. The fun that surrounds the holidays when kids believe in these legends is truly priceless and creates some of the best family memories any of us could possible wish for.
Life is filled with mysteries we can’t quite explain. Much of religion is that way, in fact. Early beliefs based on children’s fables are one way for kids to learn to have a leap of faith and to have something to believe in. As a cultural Jew, I see only good in the lessons of Santa for my children. The spirit of giving and family, of trying to be good and do good for others…who can really argue that is bad?
As I’ve embraced the many family traditions from my husband’s Irish-Catholic family, I’ve learned how similar we all are in so many ways. In many fundamental ways, Catholicism and Judiasm could not be further apart. Yet at the core, they are the same. Our family beliefs are the same.
What do we tell our kids about the fusion of our family traditions and how we celebrate the holidays? For us, the holidays represent a celebration of family and heritage so we embrace the traditions important to both sides our families and have done so for close to 2 decades. Our house truly glows with a Christmas tree in one corner and many menorahs in the other. And, our holiday table reflects the foods that have been important to our families for eons with some new ones added in.
As for Santa? Our girls are now 13 and 16 and figured out the “truth” a long time ago but presents emerge every Christmas morning because “it’s tradition”.
If you want to know why this is my favorite time of the year it’s because of what I just told you. I love watching our girls get caught up in the magic of these holidays. If they can keep that holiday sparkle into their adult lives and pass it onto their children, that will someday confirm for me I did something right somewhere as a mom.