On Saturday 1 December, my two four-year-olds woke up in great anticipation. It was the beginning of December and they could open the first present on their Christmas Calendars and there would be a piece of chocolate behind the door of their Chocolate Calendar - oh, Joy!
We had decorated the tree the evening before after they had gone to bed and the lights on it were lit when they came down to the living room screaming in unison "Is it morning? Can we open our first present?".
They opened their 1 December presents - a Christmas DVD each, WOW! Their Calendars are courtesy of their Mormor ("Grandma" in Danish) back in Denmark, so the presents are surprises to me also. She had definitely started the Christmas month off in style!
At midday we were off to the Christmas Bazaar in the village of the kids' school - there was mince pies, hot chocolate, gingerbread men- and women and the children were singing Christmas carols on the stage so beautifully - oh, Christmas Joy!
After the carol singing, Santa Claus came and the kids were all so excited, the noise level went up one or two notches and the smiles got wider all around. The children followed Santa up on the stage and shortly after, most of them came running back to their parents, as did my little girl, "Mummy, Santa needs £1 for my present"! The urgency of the request (one mustn't keep Santa waiting!!) made me just reach for my wallet and hand her £2 for her and her brother, but as she ran off I found myself somewhat perplexed... what had just happened?
I could not believe the organizers would arrange such a lovely Christmas Bazaar and go through the trouble of getting a Santa to come to give the kids presents, and then not even think to ask the parents for the money at the entrance - what sort of picture does that give all these children, most of them 4- and 5-year-olds who believe in Santa still, of Santa Claus when they have to hand him cash in order to get a present? I was disgusted, some of the parents around me agreed as I voiced my thoughts, some didn't seem to care one way or the other.
My husband and I have decided to let our children believe in Santa Claus. We entertain the idea by leaving out milk and cookies on Christmas Eve, by suggesting they could go on the Naughty List if they misbehave and on Christmas morning, one of the presents for them is from Santa. We feel this is age appropriate and that, once someone bursts the bubble for them, we will be able to explain the truth to them without scarring them for life. We feel that as long as they believe, that's just a little bit of magic in their lives, something we could all use from time to time.
I think, like most others I guess, that Christmas and especially the whole present palaver, has reached heights that are completely inappropriate for what is essentially a nice, Christian holiday and tradition, but every individual family has a choice in the matter when it comes to how this tradition is celebrated within their home and it has to be up to each parent to set the scene for their children's Christmas.
So, in my humble opinion, asking a child to hand over money to Santa to get a present is just plain bad taste. Forget for a moment that this could potentially burst the bubble prematurely for some of the children ("Mummy, why are we paying Santa Claus for the presents"), that's not even my main gripe. The story and origination of Santa Claus differs slightly depending on which country you are from, of course, but essentially Santa Claus is a saint and a selfless gift-giver to children all over the World, so for "him" to be asking children to hand over money for them to get their present, that's just taking the commercialization of Christmas one step too far.
So, Dear Organizers of Christmas Bazaars out there, please do try to preserve the magic of Christmas for the children a little longer - it's easily done, just charge the parents when the kids aren't looking! Merry Christmas x