Christmas Traditions

There can sometimes be a clash of family traditions when you get married. Nothing major: just those things that your family has always done one way, and them another.

For my wife and I, there haven’t been that many … with the notable exception of Christmas traditions. And the only big one is around Santa. He’s like the big, fat, red, bearded elephant in the room.

We never bothered with Santa in our house. Mum and Dad didn’t believe in lying to us. They’d make a half-hearted attempt to mention him at about 7pm on Christmas Eve, with “the sooner you go to sleep the sooner Santa will come” line … hoping that we’d bugger-off to bed early so they could start drinking. They did indulge in the “leaving something out for Santa and Rudolph” thing, though. Apparently Santa and Rudolph like their Single Malt.

My wife, on the other hand, is all about Santa – particularly now we have children of our own. Writing letters to Santa, visiting some blatant con-artist from the rotary club in an unconvincing beard at the local garden centre, leaving a carrot out for Rudolph (even adding toothmarks to be found by our CSI-trained children) … all of that.

And whilst I personally detest it (and think we’re lying to our kids) I don’t say anything – because my wife is very scary.

Think how much time people spend earnestly convincing their children that Santa is real. Then, one year, they figure it out and they start to wonder what else Mum and Dad have been lying about. You’ll never be able to convince them about anything ever again.

“When we were kids, there were only four television channels. There was no iPlayer! Music was on cassettes – you had to rewind them after you’d played them. To tell the time we used to wear something on our wrists called a ‘watch’.”

“Yeah, right Dad. And Santa’s real too, isn’t he?”

I can’t help feeling (as an all-trained-up, card-carrying foster carer) that there’s a definite contradiction here, too. How do you reconcile teaching your children about “stranger danger” and good-touching/bad-touching, against a story of a magical old fat bloke in a dressing gown who visits you in your room at night and leaves you a present if you’re a “good boy”? Plus, from an entirely selfish point of view: I’m rather sick of Santa taking credit for all the crap I have to buy for my kids every year.

With all that preamble … let me tell you about last weekend.

On Sunday, I discovered my children sat at the table, writing on sheets of paper. Their mother was standing over them.

I looked over my son’s shoulder. “Dear Santa” it said. “How is Rudolph? I’ve been a good little boy this year …“. And so it went on.

My son is fourteen years old. He has been unable to communicate with me in anything other than bassy grunts for at least the last year. The puberty fairy (who I always picture looking like Johnny Vegas in a tutu) visited quite some time ago, waving her magic zit-wand with wild abandon.

“What on earth are you writing?” I ask.

He looked up at me, and rolled his eyes. “Mum says I have to.” he said. “She told me what to write. She says I won’t get anything if I don’t.”

Fourteen! I didn’t look at the list of what he wanted, but I bet it went like this:

Dear Santa. I would like:

  • a leather jacket
  • xbox games
  • to get out of this matriarchal totalitarian regime

That’s when I realised: my kids don’t believe in Santa at all – they’re just humouring their crazy mother.

For how long has this been going on? All this time my wife has been the orchestrator of the pantomime that is our family Christmas. Which makes me the chap in the green face paint and baggy silk trousers who always get boo’d when he appears on stage.

More concerning to think: how long will this continue? Because none of the rest of us dare question it.

[SCENE: A wizened old crone sits in her high back chair in her living room.  There are four urns on the mantelpiece, numbered sequentially. Best not to wonder what’s in them.]

Crone: Joel! Joel! Where are you? Come here, boy!

[Joel enters]

Joel: (Sighing) Here I am, mother.
Crone: Why aren’t you wearing your Christmas romper suit? You look adorable in that!
Joel: Oh, mother – do I have to? I’m nearly eighty-three! The other boys will laugh at me. I need to go to the Post Office to collect my old age pension!
Crone: Stop your moaning, or you won’t get anything from Santa! Go put your suit on, and then you can write your letter.
Joel: But Muuuuum. You could just look at my Amazon Wishlist!
Crone: Why would I do that? You mean Santa.
Joel: (Sigh) Yes mother …

Anyway, here’s to daft Christmas traditions! And don’t worry about having to tell your kids the truth about Santa – they already know. And they’re not daft enough to look a gift-reindeer in the mouth.

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