I was just published on Woman’s Day with an article why we don’t do Santa in our family. As always, there are two sides to the discussion: on one hand parents say that believing in Santa would be lying to kids and thus endangering the parents’ relationship with them. Others focus on the magic of Christmas and the atmosphere of giving.
My point was a totally different one: that if I take the time and effort to think about and buy presents then I should be the one getting the credit. The same goes for the grandparents and everyone else who buys gifts for my kids.
But the real reason why we don’t celebrate Santa, which I’d left out in my article, is a different one, and it can be distilled into three words: because we’re expats. Of course, expats can celebrate Santa, but in our specific situation this could become somewhat confusing.
We live in the Netherlands which celebrates Sinterklaas, who is a Dutch character, loosely based on Saint Nicholas. The problem is with the timing. Sinterklaas arrives on a boat from Spain somewhere around Mid-November and leaves on December 5th. Then, in some countries, like in Poland, for example, St Nicholas is celebrated on December 6th – known as Mikołajki, or Nicholas’ name day. So what happens now? It is said that Sinterklaas goes back to Spain on December 5th, but maybe he loses the Zwarte Piets on the way, turns into St Nicholas somehow and really goes to Poland and all these countries that celebrate on the 6th?
And then, does he turn into Santa and comes back on Christmas? Or are they really two different people? As I said: confusing, and majorly so.
I’m from Poland; my husband is German, which means that Santa would often have to compete with other, just as non-existent beings for the honor of bringing the gifts. In Germany, the Christkind (Baby Jesus) is the one to bring presents. In Poland, it can be anything from Santa to Father Frost, depending on which part of the country you are. And of course, all over the world, there are plenty of other Christmas gift-givers, like the Three Kings in Spain, for example.
So how exactly do we combine all of these traditions? Usually, we’re so good at doing that: we speak all of these languages and teach our kids about Polish, German and Dutch customs. But when there is Sinterklaas, Santa, St.Nicholas and Baby Jesus, things can get confusing.
Moreover, as our families come over only 2 or 3 times a year, do we really tell our kids that, when our extended family makes such an effort to come over all the way from Poland or Germany and brought thoughtful gifts for the kids, that it was Santa? No, of course we tell them that it was grandma or grandpa.
We already follow some of the Christmas traditions. From my side of the family, we break the wafer, and we have borscht and dumplings for Christmas Eve dinner. Some traditions are worth keeping. And sometimes we analyse traditions and check whether they fit into our specific circumstances.
My father used to buy carp, the way Polish people do for Christmas. The fish would sometimes live in our bath tub for a few days only to be turned into a typical Christmas dish. That required tons of work, and my father was annoyed when no one ate it. So he stopped making it and everyone was much happier for it. The fish Greek style, though, remained in his repertoire, and it was delicious.
The same way, we had a good look at Santa, and decided that he would be too much hassle, and that we, as parents were not sufficiently involved in keeping it up, so we just let it slip. And just like that, one less thing to do for Christmas! Now, that’s some serious magic, I must say.
Again, I have nothing against Santa. But from many blog posts and articles it seems to me like he’s the only way to celebrate Christmas, which is definitely not true. Because if you look at traditions all over the world, you’ll see that there are many traditions, dishes, and carols. And no family is the same, not even within a culture. Not to mention the cultures who don’t celebrate Christmas at all!
Once you know all that, Santa becomes a choice: one that you can, but don’t have to make. We simply decided not to do it because among our Christmas traditions, there just is no place for Santa. It’s as simple as that.