I know I’ve said before that I’ve been more tolerant of the whole Christmas spirit thing this year, including even voluntarily listening to Christmas carols when I didn’t have to. I’m actually enjoying the whole thing beyond my usual love of the fresh scent of real pine trees and warm twinkly lights.
I’ve come to realise that part of that is because of Hawkeye. Our son is very excited about Christmas this year, even though he still doesn’t quite grasp the concept. He was moderately excited last year. Back then he was still trying to just get out the syllables of “Christmas” out of his mouth in a remotely recognisable shape. He pointed out trees and babbled. He didn’t cry at Santa, though he kept a wary and suspicious distance, perching on my own lap instead of with Santa for the family photo.
This year, he points out every single Christmas tree he can see whenever we’re out and about exclaiming “It’s a Christmas tree! It’s a Christmas tree, mommy!” And if I don’t acknowledge the said Christmas tree he gets demanding until I do so. Sometimes we even say bye bye to the Christmas trees visible in people’s houses as we’re walking past.
He remembers Santa. Frighteningly, he has over the past year even remembered where he saw Santa (my office), though he knows Santa is also going to come to creche. This year the office children’s Christmas party is early and so he’s going to get his first Santa visit this weekend.
The only part of me that gets mightily peeved at the whole thing is the “What’s Santa going to bring you this year?” I get that Santa Claus is a big deal in predominantly Christian countries, even though the religious traditions have been commercialised beyond recongition. But I want him to grow up with the magic of Santa without being single-mindedly hung up on Santa’s presents. For me Santa Claus, St. Nicholas, Grandfather Frost (Дед Мороз), etc…. these are all manifestations of the spirit of the holiday season. It’s about family, and love, and comfort, and joy, and happiness. A time to appreciate people in your life. It’s not about an abstract mythological creature bringing you the contents of the toy catalogue.
I know it will be a while before my son is old enough to try and understand that. I don’t expect him not to get excited about presents. But those are presents that should come from the people in his life who love him, not from a fictionalised person. Achieving this sort of understanding, or even just creating a climate in our family where this understanding can be fostered, is like walking a really high tightrope while being pulled in all directions and a stiff breeze trying to blow you off. “What’s Santa going to get you?” is on everybody’s lips. Police officers who stop to say hello when my son points to them ask him. Friends ask him. Waitresses in cafes ask him. Everybody asks him.
Thankfully, because he’s not quite old enough to get this yet, his most frequent response to “What’s Santa going to get you this year” is usually “Christmas tree!” which is a pretty nice answer. I know this won’t last long however. It’s not just commercial overload and marketing and TV and shops and magazines. The weeks after the holiday season, when all the shops move on to the sales and then the hearts come out a month early for Valentine’s day, everyone who’s anyone wants to know one thing from children “So what did you get from Santa?” It sort of makes me want to scream and sarcastically tell them that he’s bringing peace on earth and good will to all men (if only).
But since that’s quite rude and obnoxious I settle on the next best thing I can think of: