Interfaith Parenting Pitfall: The Santa ConundrumMorgan Shanahan
This morning, my friend Laura hosted a “Santa and Me” party at the Americana at Brand…which if you don’t live in Los Angeles, is basically like they took Main Street from Disneyland, populated it with designer shops, and plopped it in the middle of a major metropolitan area. So, y’know…awesome.
At Christmastime, it snows there. Which is novel because it doesn’t snow anywhere else in The Valley. (By the way, do you read Laura’s site? You should. She blogs about all sorts of unexpected things at Hollywood Housewife.)
Anyway, Dee and I took the morning off of regular life, which included work, preschool, and our being [mostly] Jewish, and listened to Christmas Carols in the rain while we cruised down the freeway to Glendale to mingle with some of our favorite blogland friends. Because, let’s be real. Those pictures are a childhood milestone. This is THE SANTA. It’s at minimum a two hour wait to meet THE Santa on a regular day, and here Laura was inviting us to do it at our leisure and with refreshments? Don’t mind if I do.
The aforementioned rain had moved the festivities off of Santa’s front porch and in to the mystical Barnes and Noble that’s conveniently North-Pole adjacent, where we were greeted by not only Laura and her family, but the luminous Heather (my fellow Babble Voice at More Spohr) and her crew, plus Delilah’s future mother-in-law Jess (of IRockSoWhat) and her son Wyatt whom Delilah immediately wanted to show her stuffed dog wearing bunny ears, so…so far so good.
Except, as I mentioned, our family is mostly Jewish. My husband was raised Catholic and I’m not in the business of forcing people to relinquish beloved life-long traditions. So the slant on Judaism that Delilah is being raised with is slightly different than my own more traditional-yet-still-reformed upbringing. Mainly in that it includes a Christmas Tree. But…as I realized this morning, while we’ve discussed raising a Jewish daughter in an interfaith marriage ad nauseum over the years…we’ve never actually talked about how we planned on dealing with Santa Claus. So, while Delilah lives in the world and is familiar with him in the same way she is with Mickey, in that he’s a character in movies who apparently also has a house you can visit to see him in the flesh, I’m not sure she understands the concept that he’s the guy putting presents under the tree and naughty and nice and all that jazz. Or rather, that the whole “Santa” thing is a generally accepted concept and not just the plot of the DVD she refers to as “Christmas Mickey”.
It really wasn’t until I was talking to Jess about how excited Wyatt was for Santa, and how much they’d been prepping him on the idea, that I realized I’d missed a key element of this whole “taking the kid to meet Santa” thing. I just didn’t know. I never celebrated Christmas. Santa was a non-issue in my house. My earliest memory is feeling like I was in on a big secret with the adults where Mr. Claus was concerned…which makes sense because “Santa visits all the kids but YOU” seems a little harsh, even for us Jews.
Thus it simply didn’t occur to me to prep Delilah for our Santa visit. So while Wyatt jumped gleefully in to Santa’s lap, Dee clung to my leg and repeated “I don’t want to take a picture.” I guess she figured that with Mom and Dad covering Hannukah she could afford to offend the keeper of the Christmas gifts.
The thing is…I have no real issue with my kid believing in Santa Claus. I’m open to other opinions on this, but it’s been appropriated by so many cultures at this point it doesn’t feel like much of a religious issue to me at all. We’ve already gone so far as to have a Christmas Tree, and I’m sure my husband, sister-in-law, and mother-in-law have plenty of Santa-related traditions they’d like to pass on to the next generation, regardless of the fact that she will have a Bat Mitzvah. On the flipside, Delilah attends Jewish preschool and I’m not sure how long a belief in Santa will survive amongst kids who, like my young self, are already in on “the secret”. On the flipside again, will believing in Santa confuse her more than having a Christmas tree? I honestly have no idea how to proceed with this. (I guess I could start by consulting my husband. But he’s at work and the internet is right here at my desk!)
As for the photo op, ultimately, Santa leveled with me: “We can do the crying photo, but I think that’s all we’re going to get today.” I was already batting 1000 so I figured a crying photo would at least be a photo, and I lifted a protesting Dee onto the old man’s lap. That guy was good. Santa asked her what she wanted for Christmas, and being the practical girl that she is, she listened to my urging that she might as well tell him since she was already sitting there…allowing us to get this sweet shot, which is already part of my mother-in-law’s Christmas display: