At the risk of sounding Grinchy, I’m pretty far from feeling the Christmas spirit this year.
Not that that’s anything specifically new — I’m Jewish. And contrary to what the non-Jews will tell you, Hanukkah isn’t a major holiday. It’s a minor festival. And not like a cool music festival type of festival. You sing a couple prayers, light a couple candles, and if you’re feeling bougie and want to impress the people you invited over, you make some latkes and maybe serve some donuts. If you didn’t invite anyone over, the latkes probably aren’t happening. They’re a lot of work.
Then the kids get presents.
Presents are where the similarities to Christmas start and end. And to be honest, the presents are an assimilationist trick to counteract the whole Christmas thing. Traditionally, kids got a little money (gelt) at Hanukkah, usually with the idea that they were supposed to learn to give to charity (tzedakah) with it. Which is a pretty far cry from what most kids (including my own) get for Hanukkah. (Although to be fair, I told my family that all I want is gelt — adulting when you have a kid is EXPENSIVE.)
But I’m not here to explain Hanukkah today. I’m here to talk about the draft (only my parents laughed at that, sorry not sorry. They’re providing my gelt this year!).
I’ve actually run into a new problem — which probably isn’t remotely new to non-Christian parents, but it’s my first time experiencing it.
That problem is Santa Claus.
I get that most people love Christmas. What I don’t get is the inability to recognize that others may not celebrate the same holiday. And these random strangers are extending that insensitivity to my child.
Jacob saw a toy ice cream truck at the grocery store last weekend that we had no intention of buying him. It was too small for him, cheaply made, and neon pink (I have no problem with him having pink toys, but the neon made my head hurt). And because he’s two-and-a-half, he had a slight meltdown when we said no. On the scale of meltdowns, it was minor, but there were some tears and throwing his head back and wailing.
“Oh Jacob, don’t cry, I’m sure Santa is going to bring you that toy,” our previously favorite cashier crooned to him. “You don’t want mommy and daddy to buy it for you because what will Santa bring then?”
Jacob stopped crying and looked at her, interested. Thus encouraged, she continued. “See, it’s not worth crying, because Santa is going to bring you that toy!”
Hubby and I stood there frozen in shock.
Even if we celebrated Christmas, it was inappropriate. I read that fantastic article about why we shouldn’t tell our kids that Santa brought big gifts because it makes poorer kids feel like they must not have been as good as their richer classmates. And we were never going to buy that toy.
But doubly so for a child whose only exposure to Santa so far has been seeing inflatable lawn ornaments and asking who that man was.
Now before you accuse me of reigniting the “War on Christmas,” (which is total BS. Sorry not sorry again.) I have no problem with Christmas. Celebrate absolutely any holiday that warms your heart. And I let my kid go trick-or-treating despite Halloween technically having Christian or pagan roots (depending on who you ask). I’m not anti-fun. But for all of these people who want to “keep the Christ in Christmas,” I have to say, Santa isn’t it.
If I’m being honest, I already have mixed feelings about the tooth fairy too. I’m not sure I see the value in deliberately lying to your kids, only for them to later discover that you lied to them, rather than telling them the truth and building trust from the very beginning. And while my mom to this day denies it, when I *caught* her being the tooth fairy, she tried to tell me I was dreaming (and did all kinds of swirly hand things to “prove” it). And the fact that she maintained the lie the next morning (and today for that matter. I guarantee when she reads this, she’ll tell me that never happened) just made me wonder what else she and my dad weren’t being entirely honest about. Was the Mormon Temple really NOT Disney World and “you just can’t get there from here”? Did my Sesame Street tapes REALLY not play in my dad’s car? What else were they lying to me about?
While I don’t personally agree with the decision, I also am fully aware that I have no right to tell others how to live their lives or raise their children. So I know that the Santa lie is going nowhere. But I don’t quite understand why strangers are foisting it on my kid.
The day after we went to the grocery store, we were playing with Jacob and he announced to us that, “Santa is bringing me my ice cream truck.” Hubby and I exchanged glances, having discussed what to say at length when this came up after we both stood there frozen like deer in the headlights at the store. Then we patiently explained that Santa wasn’t bringing him toys, mommy and daddy were because we celebrate Hanukkah, not Christmas. Then we ordered the Little Tikes version of that goddamned ice cream truck while he watched us do it so we could make the point about *us* being the ones to buy it.
And we’re never going to that cashier’s lane at the grocery store again.
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy Festivus for the rest of us.