Santa, known as Father Christmas in my family, is a jolly man who every Christmas Eve travels around the world on a sledge pulled by flying reindeer delivering presents to good children while they sleep. He comes down the chimney leaves behind all sorts of wonderful gifts. It’s coming up to baby’s first Christmas, an exciting time and a time to think about our own family traditions.
Every Christmas morning I woke up with a stocking on the end of my bed, stuffed with small presents from Father Christmas. If we were living in the West, we would be surrounded by Christmas, but living in India, it’s our job to cultivate the spirit. Since leaving England, I have been learning about Indian traditions. I made it my mission to learn so I could understand my new family and the world around me. Now it’s time to think about how we can introduce our child to his other culture, the one thousands of miles away.
I don’t want to lie about Father Christmas, it makes me feel uncomfortable, for starters we don’t even have a chimney. I still remember how disenchanted I felt with life when I found out Father Christmas wasn’t really the person leaving presents in my stocking. Growing up in England, everyone at school was excited about Father Christmas, he was everywhere, it was easy to believe that he visited every child in the entire world. Wouldn’t this be confusing for our son when his friends don’t receive a midnight visit? Nevertheless, I still remember the unexplainable joy I got every Christmas morning. I want my son to experience the magic of Christmas, and deep down I don’t want to lose one of the very few family traditions I have, especially when my husband’s family have hundreds.
To Santa, or Not to Santa?
Well, I’ve thought about this extensively (probably too much) and came to a realisation. There is a ten day Hindu festival we celebrate dedicated to Lord Ganesh, the wise remover of obstacles. The tradition is that families bring a clay idol of Lord Ganesh into their home, bringing his spirit and energy into the house. It’s a huge festival here and you can feel there is something different in the air, and it’s festive magic.
Father Christmas, while not a God, was a 4th century saint. St. Nicholas, the patron saint of children, was a mysterious gift giver who left a bag of gold coins in the stockings of three young girls in need. Father Christmas embodies the spirit of Christmas (joy, charity, children etc.) and we will welcome him into our home. This is the way I plan to explain it to my children, symbolically and not literally, maintaining the magic and tradition whilst hopefully avoiding the metaphysical crisis I experienced when I was about seven.
There is something magical about Christmas, it’s not an actual man who can fly around the world in one night. It’s the twinkle in child’s eyes when they look up at a decadently decorated tree, the extra dose of generosity “just because it’s Christmas”, and the almost compulsory coming together of family.
Christmas magic does exist. Merry Christmas
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Hi Lauren, I felt similarly to you when I found out, also quite late, that Father Christmas didn’t exist as I had argued with many of my classmates who had stopped believing that my Mother would never lie to me. I didn’t speak to her for a week afterwards, feeling foolish and betrayed! However, I still enjoyed keeping up the tradition with my younger siblings and later with my own son 6 & gradually came to realise that it is part of the magic of a protected childhood and not a heinous crime! Nothing can replace the joy of feeling around at the bottom of your bed for that lumpy stocking, the shout of “He’s been!” from the next bedroom and the house next door, often at 3 in the morning & the excitement even on opening modest presents. You are right to want to keep up that joyous celebration which is all about giving, even in this materialistic age. We are getting our Christmas tree tonight and I am almost as excited as all those years ago, so my Mother (whom you know quite well 🙂 wasn’t the monster I briefly thought she was! Merry Christmas to you and your lovely little family xxxx
I think it is so wonderful that Rohan will experience the magic of the Christmas holiday. It is a very exciting and magical time for young children. I am sure you will enjoy Christmas just as much as little Rohan, especially once he is old enough to understand what is going on. Wishing your family a very happy holiday!!!
Christmas is an ancient pagan festival celebrating the winter solstice, which happens to be the longest night of the year in the Northern hemisphere. In the old days, in the UK, I believe they used to visit loved ones bringing coal for light and warmth. Later people gave one orange to children and handmade toys. In France, we have the tradition of making a “creche” with clay figures, representing the barn where Jesus was born and making an advent calendar for the month of december (with pictures, chocolate or toys).
In our family, my parents would encourage us to build a “creche” using our old toys (playmobils, legos etc…) close to the christmas tree. My dad would play his two only record of English Carols all day. We would try to make a puzzle, go for a long walk in the forest to find holly and mistletoe. We got presents in the morning and for lunch we would have a big family meal with extended family, with compulsory christmas pudding, and the French side of the family loved to hate it lol. In recent years I have hesitated in buying a Xmas tree, but since the town council is recycling trees to make mulch, I suppose it’s not so bad. I agree with you, Christmas is about light and love – it’s a European Diwali. Merry Christmas ! ❤
Interestingly, I remember being angry not that my parents had lied to me but that they’d eventually told me the truth and broken the spell. But I shall never forget the sense of wonder of those early Christmasses (I think we spend our adult lives trying to recapture it), and wouldn’t exchange them for worlds. I hope you’re able to make Rohan’s childhood Christmasses as wonderful as possible. x
I never got to enjoy Christmas in my childhood. But I enjoy it now. I really like the idea of keeping gifts for children. I am going to surprise my kid with gift on Christmas night. In this context there is lovely movie The Polar Express. The message is clear I believe.
Christmas is indeed magical! My Hindu family never celebrated it, we never did Christmas presents and they didn’t really understand the point of Santa – I got in trouble for telling the other kids at school that Santa Clause wasn’t real! But, even now as an atheist, I love Christmas. If I have kids, they will definitely have Santa and a tree. We’ll also take time to give to children in need. I think it’s a lovely time of year.
A bit of mainland EU history
The concept of Santaclaus originated from the Germanic lands of mainland Europe. Though the main story about St. Nicolas remained the same, here in mainland Europe its called as SinterKlass. And instead of coming from Northpole, this guy comes from Spain, where apparently St. Nikolas is buried. His minions are called Zwarte(Black) Piet and they accompany him and deliver gift throughout Europe. Unlike Santaclaus, Sinterklass comes to Netherlands in the early weeks of November and stays for 1 month till Dec. 5th.
The city of New-York was actually a Dutch colony. It was called New-Amsterdam and even today its suburbs like Haarlem, Brooklyn indicate suburbs of Amsterdam viz. Haarlem, Broekelen etc. The idea of Sinterklass got exported to New-York in that manner and today it has been repackaged by Americans and exported to whole world as Santaclaus. But the undercurrent is the same.
Thats the history.
P.S.: Lauren, can you do a comparative study of British and Indian Humour. Its since long there has been a funny post.
Merry Christmas and a happy new year Lauren!
We just had our first family Christmas together in India with several of our relatives (which actually turned into a two day dinner party executed with military precision with the help of our neighbors one of which is also a Brit). It was just magical and I am now about a dress size bigger and my liver hates me (time for a new year detox and diet and exercise regime?!)
While santa plays a big part as do presents (I have chosen to to santa route and Saira still fully believes!) two traditions are the most important for me. Number one: the tree – I never had a real tree growing up, it was always a plastic fantastic but always beautiful. As I grew older I found I connected more with the pagan festival of solstice and celebrating nature’s miracle of renewing again after Winter and continuing even through the coldest time in the form of the evergreen tree. Welcoming the tree into our home and honoring nature by decorating it, much like we decorate hindu deities on their various festivals is a big part of Christmas.
We celebrate on 25th (solstice is 21st) as number two: Christmas is that one time of the year when the whole country stops and takes time out to spend time with their loved ones and think also about the needy. Many of my friends in the UK spent their Christmas volunteering in homeless shelter and some in refugee camps in Europe.
I really enjoyed seeing wishes from my friends all over the world on my fb feed and skyping quite a few of them. While I’m not a Christian (much to the surprise of most people I meet in India who seem to assume all foreigners are!) I love the nativity and the message of hope and people gathering together to celebrate new life and give charity to the needy in the Christian story.
Christmas is a festival that can be enjoyed by everyone of every faith and I have absolutely loved sharing all my English recipes and traditions with my Indian friends and family and I am happy to say they enjoyed it very much! It was certainly a multicultural one – a Christian and Pagan tradition celebrated with my Hindu family with Muslim guests!
As for Saira- she had a great time and was spoilt rotten with gifts. Now she is going to sort through her old toys and clothes she has outgrown and gift them to the kids that live at the end of our street in tents and is learning that the best fun is in giving not receiving!
Another reason to santa is that you have a great bribe for kids to behave at least two months before and one month after Christmas!
It’s a most wonderful time of the YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAR!!!
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