I’m pissed off.
Now let me couch this all first. I am not one of those ultra conservative right wingers always getting up in arms over not being able to say “Merry Christmas” to people. I understand the need for tolerance and acceptance of all beliefs and traditions. I live in LA and I think I know more people who don’t celebrate Christmas than ones that do. But this week, something just totally set me off…
During drop-off at the twins’ preschool, one of the little boys, who is Jewish, gets into an argument with another little girl telling her that there is no Santa. All of us sort of held our breath for moment until the little girl proudly replied, “Yes there is a Santa! I know there is! I saw him at the mall!” Phew. We all exhaled. Argument resolved, for the moment.
However, the next morning, the discussion took place again, only this time the little boy’s mother was standing there. The boy again announced that there is no Santa. The little girl again argued that there is. The girl’s mom turned to the boy’s mom and said, “Could you help me out on this one?” At that point the little boy’s mom, in front of all of the kids in the class, said, “Well, there is no Santa. It’s just pretend for Christmas. Parents leave the gifts.” The room gasped!
Christmas for 5 year olds is a magical time. They truly believe every bit of the whole entire thing. Their eyes are a blaze with wonder when they see Santa at the mall and hear how his reindeer are up on the roof. They work hard to be on their best behavior for most of the month of December knowing that Santa is watching them and keeping notes. And when that much anticipated morning comes when they rush to the tree rubbing away the sleep from their eyes to see the piles of gifts, it reminds us of the magic of childhood. In one fell swoop this mother pulled the plug on that magic for a room full of kids. We were in shock.
Word spread quickly thru the school. This was not an issue of Jewish vs. Christian. This was not an issue of expecting someone who doesn’t celebrate Christmas to embrace and celebrate Santa. This was about a complete and utter lack of tolerance, respect and consideration for someone else’s beliefs, traditions and culture. Tolerance goes a lot further than just allowing something to coexist. It also means showing enough respect to someone else so as to not diminish another’s traditions. Needless to say, there were many red faced pissed off moms driving off that morning.
I respect the fact that those who don’t celebrate Christmas might want to tell their kids the truth about what Christmas is so that the kids don’t feel sad that Santa doesn’t exist in their house, but there must be a way to do it without ruining the tradition for others. Here’s how she could have handled it. She could have told her son privately that we don’t celebrate it, that it is a tradition in other homes, but that we respect those families and never argue with them about whether or not Santa exists. That is what they believe. It is not what we believe. But no. That’s not how she handled it. So many of us spent the morning in damage control mode. I took the kids to the mall so that they could see Santa again with their own two eyes. “I don’t know. He looks pretty real to me.” Luckily, the magic returned to their faces as quickly as it was wiped away.