I was talking to my dad yesterday and he mentioned that he’d just read my previous post on Santa Claus. One of the things that struck me while we were discussing the topic was his statement that children live in fantasy.
I suppose I was very lucky that my parents encouraged my imaginative play as much as they did. When I was quite young they told me that Jesus was my friend who was with me all the time. One day I evidently came into the house quite agitated and informed them I’d been having a conversation with my friend Jesus. It was more than just fantasy play, I’d had a true experience that was as real to me as anything.
I think often adults don’t give children enough credit. They can have quite a more sophisticated spiritual life than many adults in part because they live so much in the realm of fantasy and have no barrier of disbelief to bar them from trysting with the invisible world.
Perhaps this is part of why Jesus tells us we must become like little children. They have no problem believing in angels and fairies and ghosts and in God.
And perhaps that’s why seeing parents say they won’t keep the Santa Claus tradition alive for their children makes me so unreasonably angry. Because I have a suspicion that they are cutting their children off from a rich source of fantasy and wonder.
Most children who discover that Santa is helped by their parents don’t feel angry and betrayed. No, most of them are grateful that their parents loved them enough to carefully foster their lives of fantasy.
I feel deeply sorry for children who are deprived of fancy and wonder, who live only in the sordid here and now. There’s time enough to learn about the cold harshness of this world when they are older.
Which is not to say that children who live in fancy have no sense of good and evil. Indeed, the land of fairy is populated with witches and giants and ogres and dragons. But where it differes from our “real world” of everyday is that in fancy good triumphs over evil. The witch is burned in her own oven, the giant’s beanstalk is felled by a peasant boy, the dragon is slain by a knight in shining armor.
And in the final analysis which more clearly reflects the Christian understanding, the “real world” where criminals go free and evil wins, or the “fantasy world” where evil is always defeated?