My parents maintained that Santa Claus came each year when my siblings and I were young. We wrote letters to him and enjoyed opening surprise presents that magically appeared between the time we finally got to sleep Christmas Eve and the time my lazy parents finally crawled out of bed Christmas morning.
The Christmas Spirit was, to me, that happy surprise. I knew I wanted to share the feeling with my children.
“Time to write a letter to Santa,” I told my oldest when he was able to understand asking and letter-writing. Together, we crafted a sweet request for basic toys and holiday candy. His eyes lit up at “wights!” and “pwesents!”
Not many years later, he asked, “How much (money) do we get from Santa for Christmas?” He’d figured certain things out early on but was bright enough and kind enough to keep up appearances for his younger brothers.
Still…. he also cottoned on to the idea of a max out-of-pocket to aim for as well. I didn’t love it.
Round about the third year of all of them writing a list of presents that looked closer to an Amazon order, I interceded. “I don’t like this method at all! It’s like a shopping spree, an itemized request, or a ransom note!” (The last comment being motivated by my third threatening to light the fire under Santa if he should fail to bring the robot he wanted.)
They, in turn, were confused. Christmas was a time that I told them Santa would bring about $X in presents and they enjoyed getting as close to that figure as possible. What I saw was them mentally check off each item they opened Christmas morning. Once or twice, the scene was even like that of Dudley Dursley’s fit when he only had 36 presents instead of 37.
I saw no magic.
All the commercialism of Christmas sours me by July anyway, but watching my darlings murder my happy surprise moment made me want to toss the lot and have them serve up soup over at the homeless shelter.
A neighbor of mine expressed a similar sentiment. Hers, being older, didn’t enjoy the benefit of Santa anymore anyway, so she began a more frugal, service-driven Christmas. I couldn’t do the same, but knew I was hating the holiday and I didn’t want to.
Last year, I told my darling children they could make a generalized list and what they got they got. I told them I was getting them each one surprise present from parents, and one asked-for gift of $X.
This year, I’m thinking of the same. After toy commercials and Wal-Mart ads, however, that soup kitchen is looking mighty tempting.
I’m curious what others’ experiences are, and how they’ve handled it. Do your children turn into itemized gluttons December the 25th? How do you Christmas?