It’s a funny thing; a child could walk into nearly any primary school in Ireland and declare that God does not exist. There would be no hue and cry. If, however, that same child walked into school and declared that Santa does not exist, there would be uproar.
With Christmas nearly upon us, we need to acknowledge that not everyone celebrates Christmas the way it has traditionally been celebrated in Ireland. Not every child in Ireland will expect a visit from Santa this year. My own two daughters are among them.
There are a number of reasons why this is so. For a start, we’re not Christian. In Ireland, though, any declaration of non-participation is generally greeted with remarks about how much my children are missing out on. Oddly enough, my Muslim friends never berate me for my non-celebration of Eid, nor have I ever been chastised by a Jew on account of my non-observance of Hanukkah.
Another reason why I refuse to ‘do’ the Santa thing is that I have a policy of not lying to my children. Whenever they ask me a question, I do my best to answer them as honestly as I possibly can. I have this policy because I want my children to trust me.
Another problem I have with Santa that he only comes to ‘good’ children – and that if you are ‘good’ Santa will bring you your heart’s desire. What about the child who could not be better, but whose parent/s simply can’t afford to give the child what they want? What message does that give such a child – that they simply aren’t good enough? That Santa doesn’t care? And what of the child who keeps what they want a secret – believing the lies that Santa knows what children want? How disappointed will that child be on Christmas morning when they don’t get what they most coveted?
As children get older and more aware of the world around them, they learn about children who live in poverty, children who have little or nothing, and children who are starving. Why do those children not receive gifts from Santa? Are they ‘bad’ as well as poor?
In Ireland, if you don’t invite Santa into your home, you are viewed as odd – if you are white, you are considered even odder. People have accused me of ‘depriving’ my children. All children need something to look forward to, I am told. Well, mine have plenty to look forward to. Apart from their birthdays, we mark the coming of spring and a number of Hindu festivals. In fact, the school my girls attend celebrates Diwali with them every year.
My awareness of what other people tell their children has led me to be sensitive about what I tell mine about Santa. So don’t worry – your secret is safe. Just don’t call me mean-spirited or try to tell me that my kids are deprived because I don’t lie to them – okay?