Sometimes Knights Wear Blue Jeans

Sometimes Knights Wear Blue Jeans

The other night I was in the basement doing laundry. I tripped and fell and must have cried out. Immediately I heard Dom’s chair push back from his desk in the office overhead and his footsteps pounding as he rushed out the door and down the steps. He helped me up, I’d only twisted my ankle and while it hurt there was no damage. But there was the sweet knowledge that he’ll always come running to me.

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  • People who feel that letting their children believe in fantasy characters somehow causes them to be unrealistic about the real world really annoy me.  It’s not like we grown ups don’t have our own fantasy worlds – why do you think movies and stars do so well?  I admit that some of my attraction to classic movies is due to an aura of something magical about that time.  As John Paul II noted in Veritatis Splendor, we all need to develop a sense of wonder.

  • Melanie,

    I am sorry to disagree with you. I remember growing up believing in Santa and I remember Christmas meaning little more to me than getting gifts. I also remember discovering at the age of 10 that there wasn’t any such person as Santa from girls at school and feeling like a complete idiot for having believed it. Now certainly not all people feel that way, but that was my experience. Looking back I feel that beliving in a mythical man from the north pole helped shift my Christmas focus from Christ to getting stuff. My husband never got as many presents as I did growing up but when he learned he felt sad and angry.

    We both fully support children’s imaginations and fantasy but do not believe Christmas is the time for such a make believe for our children, especially since Santa is not necessary for celebrating Christmas. We both fully respect other people’s decisions to disagree regarding their own children. But I must say I was quite taken aback and disappointed with your assumption that children who are not taught that a real person named Santa exists are therefore “deprived of fancy and wonder” and “live only in the sordid here and now.” There are many many opportunities for the imaginations of children to soar and flourish – not just Christmas.

  • Certainly I could be reacting to Santa as he was presented to me, but we do the best we can with what we know and what I was taught I do not think was good or fruitful. I don’t think there is anything wrong with children or adults playing make believe at Christmas provided they realize it is make believe. I was taught there really was a chubby guy at the North Pole with elves and flying reindeer and this was regarded just as factual as the birth of Christ. I find it inappropriate to equate the two both as realities central to Christmas.

    I am all for imagination and playing make believe. But when a child has a tea party and pretends to be a princess serving tea to her teddy bear, she doesn’t believe herself to factually be a princess and the teddy bear to truly drink the tea. There is a difference between encouraging a child to enjoy a fantasy they know to be a fantasy and telling them a fantasy is reality. When I read my children Charlotte’s Web I am not going to tell them that there actually was this spider that spoke and could write over at a farm in Iowa and it was carried in the New York Times about how she saved a pig’s life, but I certainly would enjoy imagining the story with my children and encouraging their imaginations to have fun with the story.

    Make believe and imagination are wonderful things. They introduce us the possible and teach us to relate to things we can’t see or feel. But I did not grow up knowing I was “making believe” there was a Santa. I grew up believing quite factually the whole Santa myth as reality. I think there is a big difference between enjoying such make believe and discovering a reality you had known for as long as you remember isn’t reality at all.

    I have nothing against the myth of Santa. Santa in and of itself is a good symbol of the spirit of Christmas. But a chubby man with flying reindeer and elves is not the meaning of Christmas and I think to portray him not simply as a mythilogical symbol for the spirit of Christmas or an embelished charicature of a living Saint is to place too much focus on a fantasy at a time when we should be focused on the reality of the Incarnation.

    I did post previously some comments on this subject on my own website, just if you are interested.

    The reaction I seek to prevent is failing to focus on Christ at Christmas and I think any child who has spent his Christmas’ joyfully celebrating the birth of Christ would, or perhaps should, not regret not having visited by Santa. Children and adults celebrated Christmas for centuries without any reindeer-flying elf-employing Santa.

    Again, let me say, I have nothing against the idea of Santa in and of itself provided it is recognized for what it is and not a reality.

    I’m sorry if I have repeated myself or rambled. I’m tired and probably should have replied in the morning but didn’t realize how tired I was until after I started typing. I certainly respect any parent’s decision on the matter regarding their own children but would hope, likewise, they would respect mine.

  • Well, like I said, “most children” don’t get angry. And I think perhaps children’s reactions depend on how parents have handled Santa and imagination in general.

    I understand that Santa can shift the focus of Christmas away from Christ. But it doesn’t necessarily have to do so. (And even if you don’t have Santa, you can still lose focus amidst commercialism, materialism and excessive gift-giving.)

    And I question your assertion that a real person named Santa doesn’t exist. Santa is just another name for St.Nicholas. We Catholics believe in the communion of saints and the feast of St. Nicholas is on the Church’s calendar on December 6. Children can quite easily make the transition from believing in “Santa” to understanding that parents are honoring the memory of St. Nicholas by imitating his actions.

    I should have added that it is key that Santa be used in service of a Catholic understanding.  Catholic parents should emphasize early on that Santa is St. Nicholas. You can use Santa as a means to talk about why we give gifts at Christmas and about the communion of saints. If you recall for children that the root of the Santa tradition is St. Nicholas’ sharing with the poor and perhaps incorporate some for of charity in your family’s advent preparations, then children will not lose sight of either the meaning of Christmas or of the meaning of Santa Claus. You need not buy into the secular culture’s version of Santa.

    And I didn’t mean to imply that all parents who choose not to celebrate the Santa myth deprive their children of fancy and wonder.  I am sorry that you took my words in that fashion. But I was reacting to the arguments of people on Rod’s blog and those I’ve seen elsewhere. These arguments that people use to explain their decision to ban Santa are quite derisive towards make-believe and misuderstand childrens’ need to live in a fantasy world. (Go read the threads on Rod’s blog and you’ll see what I mean.) Even the way they phrase it, saying that playing Santa is “lying” to children, gravely misunderstands the nature of children’s imaginative world. It’s like people who say that children who have an imaginary friend are lying. It misses something key in the way children interact with the world.

    I think that Santa, the Easter bunny, the tooth fairy, imaginary friends, fairies, all these features of childhood fantasy can, in fact, be stepping stones that lead children into a life of the imagination and that fostering such fanciful play can make it easier to believe in God.

    There are many, many different ways for families to celebrate the Advent and Christmas seasons in a way that fosters a Catholic understanding. And not all families have to use all of them. I’m still debating whether to have Santa bring treats on Dec 6, a custom that my family never celebrated, but which I think could be useful in connecting Santa more solidly with the meaning of Christmas.I especially liked some suggestions I’ve seen on various Catholic blogs that kids leave their lists for Santa then and that tie Santa’s gift giving with the child’s performance of acts of charity.

    I would ask why you think that Christmas is an inappropriate time for allowing children to make believe. Could you be reacting not to Santa per se but to the way Santa was presented to you?

    I also wonder whether some children who are not visited by Santa might have the same reaction you seek to forestall: some kids might be angry at being deprived of Santa Claus.

    Do what you want, of course. It’s your decision. But you might look around and see the various ways Catholic families harness the Santa myth in service to their Catholic identiy.

    Sorry for the long ramble, but I am rather passionate about the subject of Santa. It was a very cherished childhood tradition to a child who clung very tightly to her life of the imagination… in fact I recall my pre-teen self swearing a vow that I would never grow up in the sense of leaving behind an ability to play make believe. I was frequently at odds with my classmates who scoffed at those who held onto such things, was teased and tormented. And my response was not anger but a deep pity that they were cut off from something which I held so dear. 

  • Again, your response is rooted in how Santa was presented to you, the cartoon special’s fat guy with reindeer and the North Pole. But those trappings are not Santa, they do not define him and are not a part of everyone’s experience. Just because Santa for some becomes tied to excessive materialism and a secularized Christmas doesn’t mean that’s what he is for all people.

    My parents, for example, did a good job of connecting Santa to Christmas. There’s a reason that St. Nicholas’ Day got connected to Christmas in the popular imagination. It’s precisely that St Nicholas, like all saints, points us to Christ.

    To object to him as a distraction from the true meaning of Christmas seems to me to echo protestant objections to Catholic’s devotion to Mary and the saints as somehow leading us away from Christ.

    It is true Santa has developed many cultural accretions over time. But even with all the reindeer and the North Pole and all that,  the heart of the Santa story is still wonder and magic and generosity. What began with one man mysteriously dropping coins into a few girls’ shoes became a man who travels the world in one night to give gifts to all children everywhere. It’s as wonderful as the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. 

    The nature of fantasy is the suspension of disbelief, entering into the story and living it as reality. And on the level that counts Santa is real. The heart of the story is love and wonder. AndI just don’t see how that is harmful.