Sunday 23 December 2018

WHEN DO KIDS STOP BELIEVING IN SANTA CLAUS?                                         

When our two daughters stopped believing in the tooth fairy tale, we knew that Santa Claus would be the next tale to be shattered.

Of course our children weren’t stupid. We told them that when they stopped believing in Santa Claus, we would stop hanging up the stockings on the mantel above the fireplace. They were in their mid-teens when they finally told us that they knew all along that we were actually Santa Clause.  

When I was eight years of age, I was told were babies came from, I didn’t believe that at all. I said that I wasn’t that gullible. However I still believed that Santa Clause was real. I finally discovered who Santa really was when I got up in the very early hours of one Christmas morning to go to the toilet and spotted my mom placing goodies in our stockings.                                          

Every parent who buys into any part of the canon of holiday mythology—the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus and their cousin, the Halloween Switch Witch knows that Christmas morning is coming.

Did we lie?  No. we didn’t lie because it was a harmless lie. How much of what our small kids are told is true in spirit, based in centuries of religion, mythology and legend.   In Christmas time, it is also based on our desire to see the expressions on their faces Christmas morning when they discover what is in their stockings.        

Some kids may be ready for the fact that "Santa is more than one jolly fellow—some may not. If they are old enough to know the truth, we can tell them that the story is a myth based on the spirit of giving and the joy of both receiving gifts and giving gifts to those we love. "Santa comes to those who believe" that it  is our mantra for every Christmas morning.

The legend of Santa Claus can be traced back hundreds of years to a monk named St. Nicholas. It is believed that Nicholas was born sometime around 280 A.D. in Patara, near Myra in modern-day Turkey. 

Santa Claus is generally depicted as a portly, jolly, white-bearded man—sometimes with spectacles—wearing a red coat with white fur collar and cuffs, white-fur-cuffed red trousers, a red hat with white fur and black leather belt and boots and who carries a bag full of gifts for children. This image became popular in the United States and Canada in the 19th century due to the significant influence of the 1823 poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas" and of caricaturist and political cartoonist Thomas Nast. This image has been maintained and reinforced through song, radio, television, children's books, films, advertising and Santas in department stores and malls during Christmas times.

Santa Claus is said to make lists of children throughout the world, categorizing them according to their behavior ("good" and "bad", or "naughty" and "nice") and to deliver presents, including toys, and candy to all of the well-behaved children in the world, and coal to all the misbehaved children, on the single night of Christmas Eve. He accomplishes this feat with the aid of his elves, who make the toys in his workshop at the North Pole, and his flying reindeer, who pull his sleigh. He is commonly portrayed as living at the North Pole, and often laughing in a way that sounds like "ho ho ho"     

When our children and grandchildren are with us Christmas morning, I ask my smaller grandchildren if Santa visited them. They reply. “He gave us presents.” Then I say with an expression of surprise on my face. “I thought he only visited good children.”  They reply with “We are good children.”  I then reply with an expression of surprise on my face. “Really?”

Father Christmas dates back as far as 16th century in England during the reign of Henry VIII, when he was pictured as a large man in green or scarlet robes lined with fur. He typified the spirit of good cheer at Christmas, bringing peace, joy, good food and wine and revelry. As England no longer kept the feast day of Saint Nicholas on the 6th of December, the Father Christmas celebration was moved to the 25th of December to coincide with Christmas Day. The Victorian revival of Christmas included Father Christmas as the emblem of 'good cheer'. His physical appearance was variable, with one famous image being John Leech's illustration of the "Ghost of Christmas Present" in Charles Dickens's festive classic  A Christmas Carol (1843), as a great genial man in a green coat lined with fur who takes Scrooge through the bustling streets of London on the current Christmas morning, sprinkling the essence of Christmas onto the happy populace.

n the Netherlands and Belgium the character of Santa Claus has to compete with that of Sinterklaas, Santa's presumed progenitor. Santa Claus is known as de Kerstman in Dutch ("the Christmas man") and Père Noël("Father Christmas") in French. But for children in the Netherlands Sinterklaas remains the predominant gift-giver in December; 36% of the Dutch only give presents on Sinterklaas evening or the day itself (December 6th whereas Christmas (December 25) is used by another 21% to give presents. Some 26% of the Dutch population gives presents on both days.[19] In Belgium, Sinterklaas day presents are offered exclusively to children, whereas on Christmas Day, all ages may receive presents. Sinterklaas' assistants are called "Zwarte Pieten" (in Dutch, "Pères Fouettard" in French), so they are not elves.[20] In Switzerland, Pères Fouettard accompanies Père Noël in the French speaking region, while the sinister Schmutzli accompanies Samichlaus in the Swiss German region. Schmutzli carries a twig broom to spank the naughty children.

Saint Nick is described as being "chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf" with "a little round belly", that "shook when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly", in spite of which the "miniature sleigh" and "tiny reindeer" still indicate that he is physically diminutive. The reindeer were also named: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Dunder and Blixem (Dunder and Blixem came from the old Dutch words for thunder and lightning, which were later changed to the more German sounding Donner and Blitzen. Then the reindeer with the red nose was added to the reindeers pulling Santa’s sleigh.

Do parents explain how Santa can visit the millions of homes around the world in just one night?  They don’t even try. They can explain why Santa is so fat. He eats all the cookies left for him on the mantle above the fireplace. Then comes a time when our children are old enough to ask why Santa isn’t fatter after eating all those cookies, year after year.  Try answering that question.

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