Monday, November 12, 2007

Santa who?

This is the Christmas I've dreaded since Z was born. She's three. She's a preschooler. And she's got friends with chimneys, stockings and jolly fat men on their minds.

Friends who believe. In Santa Claus.

Last week we were speeding down I-294 when I heard, "Mommy! Mommy, there's Santa!"

She'd seen the man in red on a carpet billboard.

"I'm going to look for more Santas, okay Mommy?"

She didn't see any more (it was the first week in November), but I felt the first twinge of Xmas anxiety.

How long until Z finds out that Santa's not just another colorful cartoon character like Frosty the Snowman, but the bearer of gifts? I can't just tell her Santa's a fake and let her spill the beans to all her little buddies. After all, I remember telling a first grade friend that in fact her parents were putting presents under her tree. She burst into tears and I'm sure her mother had words with mine.

Growing up in an intermarried family with a Jewish mom and formerly Methodist dad, we celebrated Chanukah and a sort of improvised Christmas. We'd hang our socks (or tights if we were feeling greedy) up and wait for my mom to stuff them with oranges, Chanukah gelt, bath cubes and the toiletries she'd collected from airline flights and hotel rooms. Then we'd sneak downstairs and fill our parents' socks with pennies and homemade gift certificates. If I ever believed in Santa, I don't remember it. But I liked raiding my stocking for treasures.

Now that I'm married to a another Jew, I don't feel comfortable celebrating even the most secularized of Christmas traditions at our house. Which means there's no reason to indulge in any Santa Claus fantasies.

So what to do? My instinct is just to explain to Z that Santa comes to some houses, but not to Jewish ones. I'm hoping she'll understand that different families have different traditions, and while her friends might decorate a tree and wait for presents from Santa, we light a menorah, eat latkes, play driedel and exchange gifts with our friends and family instead.

Cross-posted to Chicago Moms Blog.