Anya’s preschool is writing letters to Santa and otherwise celebrating the secular commercial iteration of Christmas. I just don’t get why this myth is perpetuated in any setting where you don’t know everyone’s financial situation and religious beliefs. Or even their views on commercialism and manufacturing practices.
Religious beliefs, to some degree, are obvious … it’s not a really big Sikh holiday, for instance. But even within the subset of Christian Americans … the secular version of Christmas can be offensive. And, hell, when I was a kid I thought Christmas absolutely sucked for Jesus – could you imagine how bad your birthday would be if it was celebrated by giving everyone ELSE presents?
Financial situation — the Santa story is that you won’t get what you want if you aren’t good. All the good behaviour in the world isn’t going to make a hundred bucks show up for a family with an empty bank account. Maybe their income and expenses mean the family barely subsists. Maybe an emergency sucked up the family’s spare money. If good behaviour means you get the toys you want, not getting the toys means you were bad. And that’s a terrible lesson to be conveying to young kids who are already disadvantaged due to financial circumstances.
Commercialism — this is the one that applies to me. I don’t like thing presents. Some are thoughtful and well used, but a lot of wastes of resources that take up space. I much prefer to plan a special experience for a celebration. Spend time together, do something unique, and you don’t have to find storage space for anything when you’re done. Telling my kid that presents should be tangible things — and that you can consult this toy flyer for ideas — is offensive. This isn’t to say Anya has never gotten a tangible present from us, but it’s part of an experience. Go ice skating and here are some ice skates.
Manufacturing — beyond the “be good or else”, Santa has elves that spend the year making all of the stuff that constitutes Christmas presents. Baring incredibly conscientious purchasing decisions that are not the norm … the elf is some kid in a third world country, victims of debt bondage … sure you got the toy for a pittance, but that’s because the labor didn’t even get a pittance. The image of cute elves singing and making toys in some gingerbread cottage looking room is not the reality of international manufacturing. Your kid may not be old enough to understand the socioeconomic ramifications of globalization … but that doesn’t mean you need to tell them elves make their toys.