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In the Eye of the Beholder

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Photo: Microsoft Office

A delicious meal was coming to an end. And mitn drinen, Poppyseed says in a clear, and rather loud, voice,

Mama, is Santa real?

Now I have no problem answering my children’s questions. Given that we were in mixed company (i.e. Jews and non-Jews), I pulled Poppyseed aside to give her “the talk.”

Here is my explanation:

Santa Claus is an important part of the Christmas celebration. It isn’t our holiday so Santa isn’t real to us. Much in the way that Elijah visits our home during the Seder, but isn’t real to our friends who don’t celebrate Pesach. Because Santa isn’t part of our holiday, it isn’t our place to say if he is real or not. So if your friends ask you, you must tell them to ask their parents.

I did get a pinky-swear on that last part for insurance.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. Sunday, 28 November 2010 11:40 pm

    How well I remember my parents explaining to me that Santa isn’t real but I mustn’t spoil the fun that our neighbors have by telling them. I even brought them gifts that were left ‘by mistake under our tree’ (which we didn’t have). It never bothered me.
    Once, when we were about 9 I did tell my good friend (a Catholic) that Jesus was born a Jew. I hadn’t meant to upset her, I was just repeating something I knew for a fact but she was quite shaken up. Her mother told my mother that she came home and cried about that. I must admit it made me feel bad.

  2. Sara Bina permalink
    Monday, 29 November 2010 5:18 am

    This explanation will be filed oin the back of my head for when my children ask the same question …. Thanks!

  3. Former Reform Jew permalink
    Monday, 29 November 2010 8:03 am

    Risa, I don’t know what the Catholics are teaching these days, but my Evangelical friends drive around with bumper stickers that proudly proclaim: “My boss is a Jewish carpenter”

    They quite literally believe that Jewishness is next to G-dliness.

    As for the Santa question – the concept of some sainted human being giving out toys was more cultural than religious. The Santa image as North Americans know it was invented by Cola Cola!

    It’s not an actual Christian belief that Santa Claus exists. I think it’s an unfair comparison to Eliyahu Ha Navi, who is present at every Pesach seder and brit milah.

    I got the “it’s what they believe” talk the first time that I went inside of a Catholic Church and saw a life size, and anatomically correct , crucifix on the front wall of the sanctuary. It’s a rite of passage for a thinking Jew in a Christian country, I suppose.

  4. ositakoala permalink
    Monday, 29 November 2010 9:10 am

    Why beat around the bush? Santa Claus is not real! I was brought up celebrating Christmas but was never lied to by my parents about Santa Claus.

  5. Monday, 29 November 2010 12:54 pm

    The serious Christians I know do not tell their kids about Santa; “an American creation that was not born in Bethleem 2000 years ago”. In fact they tell their kids that they give their kids present as a way to show them their love when they celebrate Christmas.
    Besides some of them do not want to lose their kids’ trust by lying to them.

  6. Tuesday, 30 November 2010 11:31 am

    I think you handled that very well. It was an excellent explanation and I really like how you guided Poppyseed to not get in the middle of it if a child’s question comes up. A perfect balance of honesty and sensitivity.

  7. Wednesday, 1 December 2010 9:05 am

    What a great explanation. Certainly better than when I just continued to change the subject with LO.

    And because of the Yiddish you used and Santa, it reminds me of a joke…

    A little boy goes up to Santa and Santa says, “What’s your name little boy?” The little boy replies, “Johnny O’Callahan.” Santa asks him what he wants for Christmas. Johnny replies, “I”d like a red tricycle!” Santa says, “Well, I’ll see what I can do about that. In the meantime, see those candy canes over there? Take one.”

    The next little boy comes up and Santa asks his name. The little boy says, “Irving Schwartz.” Santa asks him what he wants for Christmas. The little boy replies, “I’m Jewish so I don’t celebrate Christmas.” Santa says, “Oh, well what would you like for Chanukah?” The little boy replies, “a fire truck, a race car, and maybe a puppy.” Santa says, “Oh, well I’ll see what I can do about that. In the meantime, see those candy canes over there? Nems tsvey.”

    (Geez, now that I just typed that all, I hope the Yiddish typed is as funny as when the joke is told IRL!)

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