We are a Santa family. So there you go. I think I've finally given up the battle in my own head about how to talk to Levi about the whole thing. I dabbled with coming clean about it all, looking up ways to explain it in connection to different folktales etc but generally speaking, we have just decided to let him lead the conversation about it and often just ask his own questions back to him when he ponders the reality of it all - allow him to come to his own conclusions (How do YOU think he get's down the chimney, Levi?). The thing is, he is only four, and already he can sniff that the whole thing isn't totally real.
No doubt he's our child.
I guess I just remember the magical stuff about Santa and Christmas as a child - the excitement, the wonder and the anticipation. With all the rubbish stuff going on in the world today, I'm happy to let the magic win over ethics on this one - there will be plenty of time for hard truths and dispelling myths, so on this one, the magic stays. In saying that, we do have a couple of guidelines around the whole topic to help ground things down and not get carried away:
+ We don't ever use Santa as a threat - he is not watching, he doesn't take gifts away, he is not a demi-god.
+ There is no naughty/bad or nice/good list. Santa doesn't have favourites and he thinks every child is amazing. Levi took a lot of convincing about this one because his favourite song right now is 'Santa Claus is coming to town' and IT SAYS HE'S GONNA FIND OUT WHO'S NAUGHTY OR NICE. What a weirdo song if you really listen... (if you're gonna listen despite the promise that he sees you when you're sleeping, Bruce Springsteen's version is actually pretty great).
+ We don't conflate the Santa story with the Christmas story - There are no elves at the manger, and Santa did not bring the baby Jesus presents. You may laugh, but I have heard otherwise very sensible parents get into a right mess with this one!
+ Following on from that - no big elaborate stories about Santa from us. The story comes alive how he sees it, and we stay out of embellishing and hyping things up.
+ Santa only gives a small gift to each child. I read this thing online about how detrimental it can be to have 'Santa' give these extravagant gifts to some children (from well-off families) and very little to others (from families who struggle), and we don't want to contribute to anyone feeling less-than or excluded so Santa gives small realistic presents in our house - anything else is clearly from us or other family members.
It's a minefield isn't it?
Anyway, a couple of weeks ago we got an invitation to go and meet the big guy himself and bring Levi along to Santa's Workshop at The Linen Green in Moygashel and what a DELIGHT that turned out to be. It really was the perfect thing to get us in the Christmas mood (and by we, I mean myself and Levi - Dave sat in the car and listened to football on the radio).
Being a bit of a nervous child, it takes him a while to warm up but the elves that greeted us in the waiting room and brought us into the workshop were so sweet and funny and they put any little bit of anxiety at ease right away.
Once our group was brought into the workshop room, the elves told us all to hide so we could scare Santa when he came in. To me, this was genius psychology because meeting the big guy can be a scary moment for any child, but this reversed the experience and the children got to give Santa Claus a fright! It's amazing how just that little change can make a huge difference to the tone of the event.
Santa gathered us all around his big red chair and read to us all a beautiful story about generosity and kindness. The children were asked to close their eyes and think about who they would like to be generous and kind to and then they went off to little stations to make some decorations to give to people.
While the making was going on, the elves brought each child (and parent) over to meet Father Christmas himself and he talked gently to them about Christmas wishes and (because of pre-arranged information given when you register!) was even able to ask Levi about how he was learning to ride his bike etc! Levi could not get over how he knew that. Magic, indeed ;)
After a while, we all finished up decorating and chatting and our visit was over. Santa had to go for a rest, ready for some new helpers to arrive, so we headed off for a coffee and mooch around the other gorgeous homes and interiors shops that The Linen Green has to offer.
If you live nearby, I would honestly recommend booking in for a visit to this Santa's Workshop before Christmas with your kids (slots available until Dec 23rd!). It's personal and has all the lovely little touches that make children sense the magic and wonder of Christmas without scaring them or pushing it onto them and the message they leave with is really centred around giving rather than getting. Better still, any profit made goes to the SVP & Salvation Army seasonal appeals this year. What are you even waiting for?!
Tell me then - what does the Santa/Father Christmas story go like with your kids? Have you had any tricky questions or felt uneasy about the whole thing at all? Leave a comment here or on the facebook page and let's chat more!
*We went to Santa's Workshop as guests of The Linen Green, but we absolutely adored the experience and every word here is authentic and true.*