As a child I loved Christmas. My father would tell me to write a “Santa List.” I imagined all of the possibilities – everything from horses to Legos to ski boats.
Mama and Pops would discuss the first draft with me. Their edits to the list were accompanied by explanations like, “Haley, Santa can’t hold a horse in his sleigh,” or “We talked with him and he (Santa) thinks this would be a better present — more useful.”
I should have realized then the charade my parents were playing.
After all, if a morbidly obese senior citizen can round the globe in a reindeer-powered sleigh and make innumerable pit stops, why can’t he bring me (and other kids) horses or boats?
Clausism, the belief that Santa exists as a human being, finds its premise in the strange logic that a human can function within our dimension of time though he performs a task that would likely take an infinite number of hours.
And, he is doing all of this while driving a flying sleigh lead by reindeer.
My parents fueled this belief in Santa Claus until I was eight years old.
Mental health professionals might consider my parent’s persistence on Clausism unhealthy, but outdone only by their allowing my sister to believe up to age 10.
I was told in April. As I watched Mama make dinner, I began waxing poetic about Christmastime. She looked up from her work and said my name in a frank but sweet tone. She explained the lie. The one about this farcical old fart who drives sleighs and gives gifts.
Though I was disappointed, I felt OK with both having been duped and being told I had spent eight years believing in a fake.
Though my little brain could not articulate the feeling, I think now the truth-telling was a rite of passage.
My parents realized my ability to compute the happenings of our reality: the ups and downs of work, leisure and relationships.
Looking back, my parents’ revealing to me the truth of Santa Claus was likely more difficult for them than for myself. They were actively admitting my loss of innocence to the realities of life.
If I was aware of paychecks, bills and credit cards, how could they allow me to keep believing in an ageless man with flying pets who once a year gives out free gifts?
It would have insulted the more acute intelligence my eight-year-old brain was beginning to express.
In some cultures the rite stating a child is growing up includes teeth being pulled out or body parts being cut off, so I do not think Western culture’s allowance of Clausism is all that harmful. In fact, it points to an interesting assumption.
Though we, as adults, refuse to believe in a supernatural immortal who flies through the heavens giving gifts, why do we allow our children to believe in him?
Parents have the tendency to place their own dreams and desires within their children. This is not necessarily wrong, as it can provide structure and a sense of usefulness.
So the question is: Does our insistence on Santa point to our own internal desire for a kind, immortal being who gives gifts based solely on his benevolent judgment of our goodness?