Last weekend, we took my son to an art museum. Lest you think we're ridiculous, this Museum is part of Raleigh's First Friday's which is a FREE event where you get the opportunity to enjoy art, live music and more in downtown Raleigh venues. It is always a lot of fun, and children are totally welcome.
Well, the art museum had a special display called The Gatlinburg Special which is an interactive mini-golf course that glorifies that hovel turned tourist trap (because Dolly Parten) of Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The glamorized kitsch might have spoken to me, but it entranced my son. He saw some light up Santa's and immediately called (for the whole museum to hear), "Christmas! Mommy, Daddy, Christmas!" Which made the artist in residence crack up, but it baffled me.
I have no idea where my son learned about Santa. Last year, he was too young for Christmas television programs. I don't recollect taking him to malls or even a Wal-Mart that had a bell ringer. We don't have any Christmas themed books, and I don't even drink Coca-Cola classic. My husband thinks that our previous babysitter taught him, but I doubt that to be the case because they didn't put up any Christmas decorations because they were in the process of selling their house. I mean, this is still the best guess (perhaps she had Christmas themed books), but I kind of doubt it.
Anyhow, my son began waving a golf club rather manically at the Santa, so I had to take it away, and moments later he was distracted by, "Shark, Mommy, Daddy, Shark!!!! Mama Shark, do do... doo doo!"
In which we decide our traditions officially count
Creating traditions, I think, is an important part of building a family. I don't know why I think this, it just seems to me to be the case. I've never read studies on the matter, so I guess this is a condition of my upbringing or marketing influences, but either way, I think traditions are important.
Anyhow, when its come to creating our own family traditions, my husband and I have pulled a lot of Mulligans. No Christmas tree, no birthday cake from Dairy Queen, no Birthday or Christmas presents (well, we got our son one this year), no Mother's day or Father's day brunch or barbecue, no Easter brunch.
We can't even use the excuse of being exceptionally religious or spiritual, because we actually believe that God loves celebrations including Sukkot (Festival of Tabernacles) which is a fort building festival. I mean come on; surely, we should jump on this celebration bandwagon.
Now that it's clear that my son understands at least some of the best marketed aspects of the various holidays, it seems that my husband and I should be a little more serious about creating family traditions. At the very least, we should probably establish some sort of traditions for Christmas and Easter (and building a fort for Sukkot isn't a half bad idea either).
Not adopting the Santa Tradition
There are many traditions that I am happy to adopt, even if their roots are dubious. But we don't intend to adopt either the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus. To be totally honest, the Easter Bunny is freaky. Not adopting that tradition is a no-brainer for us. However, Santa Claus is a bit more of a debate. I grew up in a no Santa house, but my husband had a supposed Santa tradition. Of course, he was a Vulcan child, so he doesn't recollect actually believing in Santa.
I sort of assumed that we would do a fun little Santa story, and clarify from a young age that Santa is just pretend, and be sure to emphasize that the purpose of our celebration of Christmas is to celebrate God becoming man to rescue people.
However, I've recently been thinking about the message of Santa, and I have a beef with both the primary and secondary messages of Santa. On a primary level, I don't think that moral behavior should ever really be connected to receiving material goods and services. I really don't like using external stimuli to incite an inward change of the heart (potty training is an obvious exception here- we absolutely bribe our son to use the toilet).
On a secondary level, I also feel that we live in a culture where consumption and materialism are already rampant. Should I really feed my son a story that would only enhance the belief that this is good and right?
So I have these moral objections to Santa, but it's not as if my son won't know who Santa is. We'll probably watch some Santa movies over the Christmas season. He will undoubtedly hear about Santa from other kids, so if I'm not sheltering him from the complete presence of Santa, am I depriving him of the fun of the story? Am I just being a fun-sucker, or does not adopting Santa have any merit?
And if we're not adopting the Santa tradition, and we'll usually travel for Christmas, what traditions should we adopt? We have a nativity calendar, but since we'll usually travel for Christmas a tree seems cumbersome. Maybe a Festivus pole? Random Christmas lights? Gratuitous Christmas cookies?
I'm a wife, a mom, an employee, and a personal finance nerd who is devoted to spreadsheeting my way through life.