Saturday, December 10, 2005

De-Clausing the season

Sylvi turned the big 1-8 today. Yes, 18 months. She’s currently celebrating by having an animated conversation with the blanket in her crib, rather than actually napping as per the plan for this afternoon.

But earlier today, with my wife at work, the two of us accomplished a little of our holiday shopping. And somehow, we managed to avoid the ubiquitous chubby guy with the beard and red suit. This was a good thing, as far as I was concerned. My wife and I haven’t come to any resolution on how our household is going to handle the whole Santa Claus concept, and if we can avoid the mall for another two weeks, we will have succesfully diffused the issue for another year.

We actually have had one Santa encounter this season – a week ago, we took Sylvi to a symphony concert, which one could logically imagine would be a safe refuge from elves, reindeer, and the like. This, of course, meant that as a special treat for all the kids in the audience, Santa showed up at the end of the concert. Fortunately for us, Sylvi was significantly more interested in pointing at all the S’s in the program than she was in Symphony Santa, who for reasons that were unclear, was wearing dress shoes instead of his winter boots.

Part of it is Santa himself – being the Jewish half of a mixed marriage, I don’t really have a lot of Santa heritage to draw on. I was always the kid who would sit on Santa’s lap and, with a healthy dose of skepticism, made sure he knew I was actually planning on celebrating Chanukah, and thus, was just sitting on his lap to conform to a cultural norm. Though at age 7, I may not have put it into exactly those words.

But even if I had grown up among the goyim, I’m not sure I wouldn’t also be cool to the Santa concept. (The double-negative concept is a different story.) I mean, the idea of a munificent chubby guy that brings gifts -- asking only that children be good little boys and girls – is, on its face, not the worst thing in the world. I mean, hey – kids probably ought to learn that it pays to be good.

On the other hand, I’m not entirely sure about the other message that Santa sends – that if mom and dad save all year, take on extra work, and forego the more expensive, extra-lean steaks, then a fat guy in a red suit will bring the kids new bicycles. If the fat guy in the red suit agreed to babysit now and then, maybe I’d be more inclined to give him some credit.

But I also know Santa Claus is a cherished tradition in many households. And I would feel kind of bad if Sylvi was the only three-year old in her preschool that was going around and saying to the other kids: “Santa Claus? You have got to be kidding. What do you think your mom was doing in the toy department at Target last week? Buying herself a Lite-Brite? Don’t be so naïve. Pour me another apple juice, willya?”

So I don’t know. I’m seriously considering showing her the episode of “Friends” where the Holiday Armadillo explains the story of Chanukah – and presenting it as a factual documentary. She’d be the only preschooler yammering on about an Armadillo, but coming from our household, I imagine that she’ll also be the only preschooler yammering on about the Great Pumpkin and the Easter Beagle, so it’ll be par for the course.

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