Week 18: Survey says

Surprise! You love and hate Santa.

This week: A poem, the poll results, and just one post to read.

Illustration by Lisa Congdon

Let’s try?

A New Year’s Challenge I can get behind:

Don’t Hesitate

If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy,
don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty
of lives and whole towns destroyed or about
to be. We are not wise, and not very often
kind. And much can never be redeemed.
Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this
is its way of fighting back, that sometimes
something happens better than all the riches
or power in the world. It could be anything,
but very likely you notice it in the instant
when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the
case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid
of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.

–Mary Oliver

Reporting back: How you feel about Santa

Of the 26 of you who were passionate (or bored) enough to respond to The Santa Poll, there was a fairly even split between haters, lovers, and people who feel conflicted.

The words that showed up most frequently:

Lie/lying showed up 47 times, believe/belief 34. Fun six, myth six. Tooth Fairy, hate, and wonder: four each.

Number of people who mentioned variations on these themes:

  • I kept my mouth shut because we were told that as soon as you said you didn’t believe in Santa, the gifts stopped coming: 2

  • I tell my child, no way is some random white dude getting credit for the work I do to make your Christmas special!: 4

  • I will dodge the moments when asked about Santa and punt the question to my partner or I don't want to lie to my children, but my partner feels strongly that we should: 3+

  • [Classmate/brother] ruined it for me: 4, vs. Santa had the same handwriting as [our mom/the Tooth Fairy/both]: 3

My favorite response to “If you are a parent, what will/have you told your kids about Santa?”

Up until this year, my seven-year-old believed. But she'd gotten wind that the Tooth Fairy wasn't real from her cousins, and started pestering us about Santa...much in the same way I did to my mom back in 1989. We'd ask her, "Well, what do you think?" She never said much. One day, she kept pestering. "Do you want to know?" we asked. She shook her head. Then a few hours later she came up to us and whispered, "I know he's not real." We let it sink in. Later, I asked her if she was upset. If the magic was gone. "No, Mom," she said. "The magic of Christmas is giving to others." She paused. "I'm so glad he's not real. I don't want a stranger in the house. What if he tried to kidnap us? And besides, he'd be a bad kidnapper. Why would he go down the chimney? Why wouldn't he just walk through the door?" Now that she knows he's not real, it's freed us to up to have real conversations about our financial reality. She asked for a $200 LOL dollhouse. I told her we don't have that kind of money to spend on a dollhouse. "But let's negotiate," I said to her. "How about one Poopsie slime, two LOL dolls, a notebook, and a Chinese jump rope? See how much more you get?" She agreed. - Celeste

Arguments for:

I’m the oldest of my siblings and my parents enlisted me in keeping the magic going for the younger ones. I remember being proud of the responsibility to carry on the illusion for them, happy to be a “grownup” who could make the little ones happy. - Diana

My siblings and nephews and nieces love it. I think there's something magical about letting a child believe, even for a little bit, that there is a powerful force of good out there doing good things for other people. Despite the capitalistic undertones of the entire goddamn thing I think it's a type of moral modeling that happens where you can kids the importance of giving people things and doing kinds actions for other people. I also have nothing but good memories about Christmas so I'm sure I'm importing a lot of my own nostalgia into this. - Adam

Arguments against:

Ughhhhhhh. I hate Santa. I hate parents who get nasty at parents/kids who don’t practice/believe in Santa when the magic is inevitably ruined for their believing kid. As America gets less Christian, I’m curious to see what happens. Also having lots of feelings about that thing about not buying expensive gifts from Santa...

Last year my nephews all got iPads (why one house needs 3 iPads is beyond me) and they were in those super chunky cases that make them safe even at the hands of a 6 year old. One nephew literally threw his across the room when his dad wouldn’t let him buy tokens in a game. We were sitting on the sofa together and no other adults were paying attention at that moment so I felt like I couldn’t let that slide. I told him that he should be more careful with it because his mom and dad had worked very hard at their jobs to be able to buy this super cool iPad for him, and if he threw it around he was telling them that he wasn’t thankful that they did that for him. That stinker looked me in the eye and said “it’s not from mom and dad, it’s from Santa. I don’t have to be thankful!” I was absolutely floored. What the heck could you say in response to that?! - Prerna

[As a kid] I hated it as a Jew - felt left out of Xmas and felt the country was forcing Christianity to the exclusion of others. As I get older, I do see the point of celebratory, traditional, imagination...but I don't think it has to be a total lie. I think we can talk about it in terms of history and tradition, link it back to WHY it came about, and connect with its intentions. Keep what is important to the family and community. Forget the lies. Embrace the purpose. - Dana

I just love you people. I’ll send the whole set of responses to everyone who left their email address in the survey.

If you read just one (more) piece of New Year’s themed content…

Make it this one: Saying Goodbye to 2018’s Seesaw of Outrage and Numbness, by Deepa Iyer (posted to Medium; spotted via Trish Tchume). What are our roles? Who are our role models?

New Year’s message from On Being in Your Body (click to see the four-part post on Instagram)

See you next week.

Welcome, new subscribers! I launched this project on my 35th birthday. This is week 18 of 35, and I appreciate everyone’s understanding when I took last week off. Thanks for being here, and please forward to a friend if you think they’d enjoy it.