Sunday, December 4, 2011

Hanukkah v. Christmas Smack Down, Part III (Yes, Sophie, There Really Is a Santa Claus)

I have been avoiding the fat man in the red suit.

I hurry past the North Pole, whenever I pass it in the mall. I avert my eyes when I walk by the bell swinging Salvation Army recruit in front of the grocery store.

I am so conflicted about Santa.

Mind you, I have nothing against him. In fact, that’s my problem. I grew up with him. I love the idea of him. What is more magical than the idea of someone who travels the world in one night, his sole mission to bring you whatever you want most? To wake up and discover, yes, indeed he came. The proof is under the tree. What was barren is now laden with gifts. Everything seems to sparkle.

But I still want Sophie to feel the primacy of her Jewishness. It’s something I struggle with every year. But this year I have a new challenge.

This is the first year that Sophie gets the Santa thing.

We were in Pottery Barn Kids and I surreptitiously made a holiday purchase for Sophie while she trashed the joint with some friends. As we walked out of the store, Sophie asked, “What’s that, Mommy?” indicating my bag.

“A surprise…”

“What’s my surprise?”

“If I told you, it wouldn’t be a surprise. It’s for Hanukkah.”

“There are no surprises for Hanukkah! Santa brings surprises. You’re not Santa. You’re Melissa. I can know what you bring!”

Interesting logic, but what really struck me was that she knew Santa brings surprises. Where did she pick that up?


He’s on the radio. He’s on my neighbor’s front lawn. And most recently, he was in her nursery school. Apparently, one of the teachers had been warning another child that if he didn’t behave, Santa wasn’t going to bring him any gifts. “He knows if you’ve been bad or good,” she warned

Sophie, who would make an excellent spy if anyone could get her to do it on purpose, reported this tidbit back to me. I think she was looking to have me weigh in. The whole idea of it disturbed me. In general, I don’t like manipulating behavior via the whole “he sees you when you’re sleeping” thing. For one, it’s creepy. Secondly, it’s passing the buck. If you don’t like the kid’s behavior, say so. Don’t make Santa the heavy. And third, don’t threaten something you won’t make good on/have no control over. Really, what is this teacher going to do, tell the parents to cancel Christmas because their kid wouldn’t sit in his seat?

I assured Sophie that despite her inability to sit in a chair, Santa was not going to stiff her.

Yes, Santa will be coming. I can’t avoid him for too long. He’ll be visiting us at Grandpa’s house, not ours, because, as Sophia understands, Grandpa is Christian and celebrates Christmas. And, not so secretly, I will enjoy it. Just as I have enjoyed participating in Christmas every year as long as I can remember. Truth be told: I want Sophie to feel the magic too.

As for Hanukkah, which we’ll celebrate several days before, there may be no magic, no surprises...

...but at least I’ll get all the credit.

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